August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 5 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430805-TC-JAC-01; CL 17: 10-12


Scotsbrig, 5 August, 1843— (Saturday)

Dear Brother,

Mr Chorley and you, I think, would get a little taste of rain before you reached Sandon Terrace:1 I hope you neither of you caught damage by your hospitable escort of me. I heard rain pattering on the deck before you had time to be home.

As for me I at first in vain essayed sleeping in that upper shelf of the cabin; men were snoring, men were talking, men were drinking; it was the nastiest shop in all Nature: I was twice aroused from incipient sleep by some loud sound or other; and then, about half past three, gave up the attempt, finding that the ship was now about departure, and that I might have leave to smoke a cigar in the open air. Liverpool and the Sea and environs lay all grey-visible, the lights growing pale everywhere; no rain, but the world all wet as a sponge: I surveyed with many meditations the objects by land and sea, and thought of the good friends and complicated kind relations that existed for me in that region once all foreign. The cigar fairly over I returned to my shelf in the Ship's belly again, and there in spite of very fate did fall asleep for four good hours; reawakening to the sight of St Bee's Head,2 and one of the beautifullest mornings, which held up into a rainless, often beautifully brilliant day, and enabled me to pass the weary hours of hovering and hanging off in the shallows of the Solway with tolerable comfort after all. It was past five before we got to Annan-foot; neither Jamie nor any soul that I had ever seen before was there recognisable. The Letter which I put into the receiving office in Bury Street before 3 o'clock had not been forwarded (as I conjecture) to the General Office till the time for the London Mail: at least it had not got to Ecclefechan; for Jamie had an express over at the right hour in the morning, who found nothing! I got a glass of brandy and water, at Benson's,3 with a biscuit, for dinner; and then a Gig, which brought me up handsomely enough about half past seven to our Mother's door: she herself and Jenny running down to welcome me, as a right glad arrival tho' an unexpected one. This is my travel's history since we parted in the Clarence Dock.

Our good Mother seems wonderfully lively and cheerful, tho' she looks a good deal paler than when I was last here. She speaks about all things, about Alick too, in her old rational and peaceable manner. Jennie is active, orderly; has the children well under command. I think great improvement might be made in our Mother's diet, were there one of proper knowledge and authority here to do it. Isabella is weaker than when you went away; she lies mostly in bed; they have a wet-nurse for the child.4 Of Jamie I have not yet seen very much; he was from home last night, “buying lambs”; and did not return till I was almost ready for bed: “the price of lambs has fallen one half,” lower than he ever saw it before; he struggles along, be the price and prices what they may. Ben Nelson, as I learned from my Gig-driver, has lost his place (the Gig-driver knew not why at all), and a Stranger from Edinr is there in his stead.5

As for me I feel terribly smashed; and altogether decided, for one thing, on having rest now for a space, and doing nothing. You are partly expected here, desired here and there is still room enough for you. I said, it seemed to me likeliest you would go by Darlington and return before long thro' Carlisle. Perhaps this very evening there may be some news of you? If you be still with Mr Chorley, offer him my very kind regards for all his at[ten]tions6 to us. He seems to me a really superior man, who in spite of all obstructions will utter himself yet in some profitable way, if he have years given him.

I wish before quitting Liverpool you would go to the Tobacconist in Bury Street (where Arbuckle7 and we were), and buy me three shillings worth of their cheap cigars (“C.H.”s I think they call them); you get ten for a shilling: they are the cheapest going, and much better than any of the thrice-wretched “Havannahs” tapsters offer you in inns. Ten of them yesterday proved a real convenience to me. Also do not forget fusees!—

I hope, before long, some one of your many possibilities will ripen for you into the likeness of a feasibility; you will then, following it out in spite of whatever may obstruct, feel much happier than you do.

I am in no case to write; have already written fully three times as much as I counted on, and must cease now.

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle

My Mother is very proud of the two Books you have sent her; and is at this very moment deep in one of them, which I have cut up for her.

We have every symptom of a wet night!—