candlestick

January-July 1843


The Collected Letters, Volume 16


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TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 11 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430711-TC-JWC-01; CL 16: 258-261


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE

Llandough, 11 july, 1843—

My Dearest,

Did you get the little slip of paper insinuated, yesterday morning, after the Letter had been sealed? It struck me at breakfast that I had forgotten to explain the mystery of that horrid Basil-Montague “disappointment” in the Shower-bath,1 analagous to the muskets all refusing to go off in case of a battle! To meet every accident I will repeat it. Helen pulls the showerbath too high up; an inch too high will do it; the ropes, running a little oblique, catch as you will see, in that case, the ends of the cylinder which holds the water; wherefore it declines to turn: let it down an inch, it swashes off. By terrible experiments oft repeated, and by reflexion grounded on these, I made out the mystery. The little red carpenter was to blame. Shew it to Pearson, he will at once understand it:—he ought to, if not mend it, at least nail a bit of wood on the ceiling to prevent the machine from getting up too high: Helen will never learn to hold her hand, except by accident, till it is held for her. And now, you yourself, if you attend to me, can always secure a good splashing to your white shoulders, and the proper general submission under the shower-cataract,—you little cutty [mischievous girl]!— It was also a real distress and surprise to met that my legacy of Paper turned out so inconsiderable! Did you look in the red painted box? Certainly there was more there than you describe! If not,—alas, I was a fool, and had taken no heed.

From this Temple of Inanity you can expect no news; nevertheless I keep writing. Today no Letter has gone; but I have taken Time not by the pigtail, and there is to be a full sheet tomorrow ready for me. It is now past one o'clock: who knows but at half past two there may be another little missive from yourself after the Sunday vacancy. I shall at least know, and say, before I seal. Nobody less deserves a letter; for my replies, as I often confess, are by the nature of them zero in more words or fewer.

Yesterday, with a rational exertion of ill-nature, I briefly declined going for an Arcadian ramble to the coast all day, or indeed going anywhither; indicating that I preferred the green grass, sunshine and solitude among the trees and winds. The good R. in an instant cheerfully surrendered, cheerfully went off to his Attorney-office, and left me totally alone till dinner. I have not for long had a peaceabler day. The old black cobweb coat was warm enough for the temperature; I lay upon the grass on the brae-side, under shadow if I liked; read the critique on Accorombona2 (alas, Accorombona itself was done); read the Examiner; smoked my pipe, and looked out upon the waving woods, and felt their great deep melancholy sough a real blessing to me. At dinner and after it was different! However, I got away by myself upon the Pony and galloped thro' multifarious lanes, not without jumbling myself. The worst of all however is that you can get no tea here till towards nine at night, five hours after dinner; and then it is dreadful stewed tea, with blue milk,—and these three nights I have kept myself awake with it till I came in sight almost of three o'clock and the Undelectable! I decide now that I will take no tea more, if I cannot get some about three hours earlier,—which perhaps indeed I shall not try, so solemnly methodic is the arrangement of all things here. Stoicism and a draught of hot water will be supportable for a day or two. I have not yet got Thirlwall's answer, nor indeed do I expect it till tomorrow: but very probably, I think, about the end of this week or beginning of next, I shall make off thitherward. The “expedition into the Hills” with my good dull R. looks very questionable at present.

In fact this kind Host of mine is an extremely good man: can he help it if he is a wearisome one? He would so gladly be the most entertaining of men, did it lie with him! A most modest, timid, truly courteous man; with a certain wish to be king over all movements of men and things round him,—but who instantly desists, and withdraws into invisibility if you indicate never so faintly that the is like to bore you! I have nowhere seen a more perfect Piece of Mechanism, not even old Mr Bradfute;3 the history of his Day here might be written down in Almanacks the year before. From the hour when he issues, lean and gaunt but full of hope, thro' this window of the little reeky “study” so-called, and stalks along in flannel dressing-gown into the Shower-bath,—till as the clock strikes eleven, he snatches his little candlestick and vanishes,—it is all marked out in rigorous stages and courses of method, not to be varied from without pain. After showerbath, he walks “seven minutes,” on a scant path which he has hewn out for himself on the hill-side amid the trees and bushes: to go and to come takes “seven minutes.” He strips and dresses from the very skin and outwards four times every day. The arrangements of our household Hydrastisy4 (in which he loves to linger) would fill you with amazement. And then that mournful serenity of cheerfulness, like Arctic sunshine on the edge of eternal Winter, that long innocent nose, those lips smacked together, hiding as in a smith's-vice—almost nothing! And the screwed-up emphasis of what small unimportant speech there is:—a Henry Taylor without the genius! I could often almost laugh in the worthy man's face,—and yet on the whole how can I but esteem him; almost begin to like him, so good is he, so unweariedly polite and kind to me. At bottom, I believe the solution is that I ought to go about my business, as soon as convenient. It is unfair to stay as a man's guest whom you are like to laugh at: I feel it hourly a kind of treachery. I think I shall be off in the end of the week.

Accorombona is far the pleasantest thing I have yet fallen in with since I left you. A very gorgeous composition,—but somewhat too shewy, in diamonds, Bristol-diamonds,5 tinsel and the precious metals, for my taste! One finds it to be untrue, almost as an Opera: yet much is true, genial-warm and very grand. Vittoria herself is about the best of all Opera-heroines, a right divine stage goddess. Bracciano too is clearly her mate, as you said;—yet I could not but abhor that murder he did of the poor frivolous trembling creature: it is detestable. The sublime Song-of-Solomon passages did also somewhat transcend me. In fact, it is a grand thing, but Bristol diamond not a little of it. A thousand thanks to Tieck and the Coadjutor6 for such a gift in these latitudes. Alas, this morning I am reduced to Lyell's Geology, a twaddling circumfused ill-writing man; I seem to hear his uninspired voice all along, and see the clear-leaden twinkle of his small bead-eyes!7 However, I must persist a little.

Yesternight in my gallop I came, about a mile to the west or north west of this, upon a beautiful little hamlet or village, all hanging in a straggle on the two sides of a green chasm or ravine, with a white Church-tower atop: the name of it Llanblethian: here, as R. cursorily informed after my return, “a Mr Starling once lived, who wrote afterwards, as was said, in the Times!” By Heaven, I believe it is a fact; for John Sterling once described the place of his boyhood to me exactly as this is!8 A new interest is added to Llanblethian; I will go and see it another time before all is done.—— But now two o'clock being near, I will smoke and wait for Letters. A bathe I suppose comes next. The weather is grey but warm tho' windy. Before dinner I will ride, not after. Adieu Dearest, with ten kisses.

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11 at night. No letter from thee: only this from Alick Welsh, which cuts off the hope of Aberystwith. Unless there be some hope, from Carmarthen, of Coaches inland, I must go by Swansea; which will be, as it were, turning back.— I rode before dinner, did not bathe, and with great care, by means of a hint, got all the teas transferred to about 7 o'clock. The old Mother, I doubt, would suffer most, for R. seldom takes almost any tea.— My Dearest, how art thou going to sleep? Tell me, tell me! Directly after post tomorrow, we are off for the sea-side. Country evening is delicious. I had a walk thro' hay fields, and heard the corncraik. Good night! / T.C.