January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 8 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430708-TC-JAC-01; CL 16: 246-249


Llandough, Cowbridge, Glamorganshire 8 july (Saturday), 1843—

My dear Brother,

You would find by the hurried word I wrote in the cover of Holcroft's Pamphlet whither I was bound on Thursday morning. We set off at the due hour towards Cardiff by a tract of sea which, I think, is partly known to you: the day was windy, but dry and moderately pleasant; so after an insignificant voyage of four hours we got safe into Cardiff harbour; and there I found my good Attorney in waiting, with a rough “tub-gig,” and one of the strangest old grey Welsh servants I ever saw,—a melancholy semi-articulate man, not entirely unlike “Cutty Wright” the Tailor1 changed into a mixture of ploughman and servant in grey livery: this artist whirled us along in our tub at a moderate rate over the twelve miles to Cowbridge, a village seemingly comparable to Lockerby,2 but of which I saw only the end, for we there turned off by a narrow preciptious country road, or track between two hedges, and did the other mile and half to Llandough without passing thro' the Cowbridge concern. A modest trim house, of about the capacity of a Minister's Manse, stood suddenly disclosed with roses and a little shaven lawn in front, in a pot amid little bushy hills of which the whole country seems to consist: this was Redwoods house; there did his old Mother in black Quaker bonnet and grey gown, an innocent simple old woman who seems to spend her whole day in reading the New Testament, receive us,—and instantly produce dinner, “which had been waiting for near two hours.” As it consisted solely of roast veal, it might as well have continued waiting, for my share of it!— The village of Llandough, if village it may be called which is hardly half the size of Middlebie,3 and the stillest place I ever saw in my life inhabited by man, lies on the other side of the hillock behind Redwood's house, and was hardly visible, except some chimney-tops if they happened to be pointed out.

I have now been here two nights; but have not yet recovered my clearness of discrimination, so strange is all to me, so still and dream-like;—add to which that I have slept but indifferently, and only today for the first time have begun to look about me with some composure, in a silent state. Besides it has rained almost incessantly, or at least in successions of lengthy showers. This morning I have sat, till it is now one o'clock, reading a Novel of Tieck's in the porch of the house, the rain falling round me, but all silent otherwise without and within;—a truly Mährchenhaft [fairy story] kind of outlook and position. The people of the house seem to have intercourse with absolutely nobody: they are as good as possible; considerably inclined to the wearisome, but have decided to leave me much in silence, which is all I want. The rain has ceased for the present, but will begin again soon. I have a horse standing ready, if I like to venture out; but I hardly shall, preferring Tieck and Nothingness in these circumstances. Redwood is over at his office in Cowbridge till 4 o'clock, which is the dinner-hour; I gave him to know yesterday that I had pressing need of silence: he, the hospitablest of men, requires only to know what it is that I want. He took me yesterday to the shore at St Donat's, some four or five miles off, thro' indescribably rough country road-tracks: there we found a drab-coloured sea, moaning hoarsely towards high limestone cliffs over endless expanses of smooth lime-stone boulders, no sand discoverable, a place ill adapted for bathing, unless you either plunged out into the deep water and swam, or sat down (as I did) at knee-depth, and let the waves break over you and bathe you. St Donat's is a small sleepy village like the others, with a strange old Castle, now patched into a farm establishment; the village lies sprinkled about in a kind of gill or hollow green chasm; very poor, very lazy, all over with odd pebbles, broken cart-shafts and unswept litter; dead-asleep, you would say, as I think all the hamlets here are. Over the water we looked thro' the scudding showers to your old region of Linton and Ilfracombe4 a pleasant outlook: something like the Lothians from Fife: the distinct localities, specific names of hills &c, no mortal on this coast seems to know. We are all a limestone country, all a somnolent country:—and I begin to ask myself, without yet answering distinctly, How I am to get out of it best! Unless I could learn to sleep in it too?

Bishop Thirlwall asks me towards Carmarthen to see him there: this my present host will not hear of till we have been “up three days among the hills,” about Merthyr Tidvill5 I suppose. Thirlwall, however, I have a notion to go and see. He is some sixty miles off this; in the direct course towards Aberystwith:6 if I could calculate on getting a Coach to Aberystwith and then a steamer from that to Liverpool, I should at once fix on that as the route. But nobody can tell me precisely here: I think however, that is my likeliest way. Failing that, I do discover that there is a steamer from Swansea to Liverpool: I can turn back from Carmarthen and embark at Swansea as a pis aller [last resort],—or mieux aller [better way]: land-route to Liverpool I think there is not any without going back to Bristol and beginning there.— Well, dear Brother, this is all I can say at present till I have learned farther. Thirlwall cannot receive me till after the eleventh, and with him I may stop perhaps a couple of days: then for Aberystwith or for Swansea,—for Liverpool by some route or other! I could like right well to meet you somewhere, at Aberystwith, in Anglesey,7 in Liverpool at farthest. But how can I bid you travel? You are still and anchored where you are!8— At lowest write to me instantly by return of post. I shall be here till your Letter come; in any case, it would be forwarded. If Redwood can learn nothing about Aberystwith for me, I think of writing to Alick Welsh at Liverpool. I have brought your portmanteau with me, shifting the Books into a trunk as I have no drawers allowed me here (so oblivious the good old Quakeress!) I find it a great convenience. The Coat you gave me (“Tweed” so-called) is a kind of factotum to me, beyond price in these climates! I brought a quite thin new one, made to measure, for wearing in hot bright weather: but there is no need of that yet.———

Bunsen's Note I have answered; my “Double,” I conclude to be the indefatigable Irvingite Angel of Albury; with a murrain to him! Thirlwall's Letter I have not yet answered. The Post is expected in these minutes; but he will bring nothing from you; only news from Jane perhaps, which if they are all right I may indicate by two strokes.— Did you write to Alick? My heart follows him over the waters, in these lonely hours, almost incessantly. My blessings on you dear Good Mother! Blessings with one and all

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle

The Postman is come; and there are no Letters good or bad. I heard from Jane the morning I left Clifton; busy painting the house &c. Write you soon! A Dr Symons whom I saw at Clifton recommended himself to you; one of John Sterling's friends.— Take care of my Mother!—