August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO EDWARD FITZGERALD ; 29 September 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420929-TC-EF-01; CL 15: 108-111


Chelsea, 29 Septr, 1842—

My dear Sir,

Had the weather held up today as it promised yesterday to do, the chances are I should have written, in time for the post, to request the favour of the Farmer's Gig at Crick tomorrow, that I might join you in the field, after all, and see with my own eyes! There is a horrible impressiveness in these jaw-teeth; a stern matter of fact that there was a Fight at Naseby, and that you are now on the very arena of the same. To think that this grinder chewed its breakfast on the 14th of June 1645, and had no more eating to do in the world, or service farther there—till now, to lie in my drawer, and be a horror! For one thing, I wish you would not open any more mounds till I can be there too: it would have been worth a longer journey to see those poor packed skeltons; that “last of the batch” (or first, first-buried, I suppose he must have been) lying flat on his back; and that one lying across the rest, jammed in, as you describe!1 Pray explain him a little better: was he atop, near the middle, or where? He must have lain north and south, I suppose, and you got but half of him, and that all indistinct.

I want no more bones, shin or other; but pray continue to send me as many details as you can; I will write only if I have something new to ask,—as I have at present, on one or two points.

Your sketches recal to me perfectly the physiognomy of the ground; I now see where I was, and that the house I inquire after was that in sketch No 2 which stands at the west end of Lodge Hill: this the Dr2 and I had agreed to consider as Dust Hill, which latter also we must have noticed tho' far off our route was past the Obelisk a little way; then down to the left by a field-lane (the first we could find, I think, and near a small three-cornered speck of something like plantation if I remember); down this field-lane we proceeded a pretty way; opening a gate or gates, and holding on with varieties of level, but without suspicion of new “Hills,” till I think we had come nearly to the bottom of the ground there, and saw Lodge Hill house (is that the name of it?) nearly opposite to us: we then scrambled along westward, without descending farther; by the roots of high hedges, rough dingles, briars and young wood, thro' ditches, sometimes on the edge of ploughed fields, and often on very spongy ground,—discerning at intervals what must have been the Sibbertoft road, and a good way to the N.E of that and of Lodge Hill house, a clear red distinct village, which I consider to have been Clipstone: we got at length into open field-paths or cart-tracks, and returned conveniently into Naseby right thro' the Farmer's Yard, as our last course led us! We were never on the proper side of the Sibbertoft road at all; nor I fancy within more than sight of Broadmoor and Cloisterwell, if even that. I mean to visit the place once more,—along with you, if you will let me in good weather.

But now for the questions I have in view:

1. Can you mark on one of these Plans3 where specially the place is from which you dug these two jaw-teeth? Is Cloisterwell the foreground of No. 3: the grave is somewhere on that, is it not?

2. The three buttons are altogether insignificant; but their “N.Y.I.” is becoming altogether a riddle to me. The names of perhaps 20 regiments are given in Books, and not one of them has any title even distantly resembling that, or, as it were, reconcilable with that. “Infantry” is not a word used much in those days,—and perhaps never in official language. The regiment is always “Colonel Something's of Foot,” Colonel Something's Tertia, &c &c. Yet N.Y.I. must mean something; there it is! Could you give me a clear stamp of it in wax,—and assure yourself that these 9 buttons were actually found on the battle-field, and did belong to a soldier.— I do not discern at present that there was a single York Infantry man there; Sir Marmaduke Langdale (on the King's left wing) had Northern Horse, some of whom I doubt not were Yorkshire men;—them (and not the King's Lifeguard) were they that Ireton4 beat up in Naseby the night before. They were not in the best humour next morning; wanting rather to be off towards Pontefract, to raise the siege there, and be within scent of their own hearth smoke—“N.Y.I.”? On the whole, it is but an inanity if one did know it: but riddles of that kind fasten occasionally on the inquiring mind!

3. Do not forget to give me the traditional name of the little Boy whom the Horseman flung gently out of harm's way into the cabbage garden. It is very pretty.5

4. Will you copy me the inscription on the Obelisk.— I trust in Heaven it was not you or any of your Ancestors that put it up!6 For verily I still must astonish myself that it did not stand on the battlefield, instead of a mile from it,—a vain rival to Naseby Steeple, which already stood conspicuous there. Let some charitable mortal clap an index hand upon it, at least, and write “Yonder!” Seriously I think some stone ought to be set up on the place where you dug the skeletons or thereabouts; and if I had charge of the Obelisk, I would pray to have it carted thither.

5. Were I not getting ashamed of myself, I would ask finally about the bells of Naseby Church: they were put up new some years before the Battle; one of them has on it an inscription Auspice regno, which fairly baffles my Latin, if Latin and sense are to go together,—unless it be a misprint of the vicar's, and the poor metal Bell carry on it Auspice Rege? How can the Kingdom be any Bell's auspex,—nay, for that matter, the King is straitened enough to be it!7

There runs in my head some sad feeling that I have not yet asked all; but at present nothing more presents itself, therefore you are free. Do not trouble yourself with these trivialities further than you like; for really to me also they are trivial, tho' I would ask them of Friar Bacon's brass Head,—a machine, alas, whose absence I must forgever regret, in this world!8

I adjure you should send me back my Sketches at least:—nay who knows but you will make more by and by! Red Hill, Oliver's supposed grave,9—one of the real graves as it now looks: all, and each would be welcome.—

Yours most truly, / T. Carlyle

Is it in the Farm House in Naseby Village that you now lodge, or where? Tell me also your man's name, in case I have any message to him in your absence.10