January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 18 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430718-TC-JWC-01; CL 16: 284-286


Abergwili, Carmarthen, 18 july, 1843—

My Dearest,

I have been in many “new positions”;1 but this of finding myself in a Bishop's Palace so-called, and close by the Chapel founded by old Scarecrow LAUD of famous memory, is one of the newest! Expect no connected account of the thing, nor of anything whatever today: I have not yet learned the airts [directions] of the place in the least; and it is a morning of pouring rain; and in one hour (at noon) the brave Bishop, be the weather what it may, decides on riding with me “four hours and a half” thro' the wildest scenery of the country, that it may not suffer by the tempestuous nature of the elements. The Post will be gone before I return. Take one word therefore, to assure thee that I am alive, comparatively speaking well; and that I think of thee here,—here very especially where all is so foreign to me. Heavens, do but think, I was awoke before seven o'clock, after short sleep, by a lackey coming in haste, to indicate that I must come and say my prayers in Laud's Chapel's of St John! I did go accordingly, and looked at it and at myself with wonder and amazement.2— Besides my table shakes;—and I have a word to write to John.

Yesterday at noon I had got handsomely away from Llandough,— the good old Dame,3 desired me “Thou please to give my regards to Mrs Carlyle”: I was taken in the “tub” to Cowbridge, and there the Mail came up: full all but one inside seat! I had to take that seat such as it was; the rather as it turned out that there was to be a vacancy on the roof in some 17 miles farther. It was very hot and disagreable inside; a huge grazier fast asleep; a destestable-looking parson with yellow skin and jet black tattery wig; and old burgher of the Town of Neath, very talkative, very innocent: to this latter I chiefly attached myself. Neath at last came, the end of the 17 miles, and I got out and had a cigar, and saw undeniably clear around me the face of Heaven and Earth. An Earth very tolerable; sandstone coal-country now, green sharp hills with wood enough, green fields ill-ploughed and cultivated, with ditto; houses plastered with whitewash; ridiculous Welsh bodies, all the women of them now with men's hats,—a great proportion of them looking very hungry and ragged. Swansea, enveloped in thick poisonous copper-fumes, and stretching out in winged desolation (for the copper-forges are of the last degree of squalor, low huts with forests of chimneys, and great mountains of red dross which never changes into soil), is a very strange and very ugly place: we dined there (on next to nothing except ham,—for I would not eat lamb); and then bowled along into the hills of the interior: no great shakes of hills, but as the road goes over the top of them all it makes them somewhat impressive. About 7 in the evening we plunged down by a steep winding way into the “valley of the Towy,” a dim enough looking valley—for there was a windy Scotch mist by that time,—with a river of some breadth and of muddy colour running thro it; and a little farther up, a strange bleared mountain city hanging in a disconsolate manner on the farther bank and steep declivity: Carmarthen at last! No Bishop's carriage was waiting for me: ah no, I hired a gig and flunkey, for which to this distance of two miles I paid 5/ and 1/6, 6/6 in all: there is a way of doing business!

Abergwili is a village of pitiful dimension, all daubed as usual with whitewash and yellow-ochre; it is built however like a common village, on both sides of the public road: at the farther end of it, you come to solemn large closed gates of wood; on your shout they open, and you enter upon a considerable glebe-land pleasance, with the usual trees, turf, walks, peacocks &c, and see at fifty yards distance, a long irregular (perhaps cross shaped) edifice, the porch of it surmounted by a stone mitre: ach Gott— I was warmly welcomed; tho' my Bishop did seem a little uneasy too, but how could he help it! I got with much pomp an extremely bad and late dish of tea; then plenty of good talk till midnight, and a room at the farther wing of the house, still as the heart of wildernesses, where after some smoking &c, I did at last sink into sleep till awakened as aforesaid. We have had an excellent cup of tea to breakfast; and I feel ready for a bit of the world's fortune once more.— My Bishop, I can discern, is a right solid honest-hearted man, full of knowledge and sense; excessively delicate withal, and in spite of his positive temper almost timid; no wonder he is a little embarrassed with me, till he feel gradually that I have not come here to eat him, or make scenes in his still house! But We are getting, or as good as got, out of that; and shall for our brief time do admirably well. Here is medicine for the soul, if the body fare worse in such sumptuosities; precisely the converse of Llandough! It is wholly an element of rigid decently elegant Forms that we live in; very wholesome for the like of me to dip for a day or two into that: is it not? For the rest, I have got two other Novels of Tieck, of which the admiring Bishop possesses a whole stock.4

O Duckie, I do hope thou will write to me this day! I feel as if a little friendly speech even “about time and space”5 with my poor Goody would be highly consolatory to me. Tonight I shall sleep better; tomorrow I shall be more at home; and the next day—? There is nothing yet settled about the next day. This morning however I have given out all my shirts to be washed (five of them now accumulated).

Coaches it seems and some kind of straggling chances and possibilities of conveyance, do exist till one get within wind of Liverpool: I think of persisting by this route; the mountains lie all upon it, which one is bound to “see.”— O my dear, how much richer am I than many a man with £3000 a-year if I but knew it! What is the worth of Goody herself, thinkest thou? God bless thee.

T. Carlyle—