August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO EDWARD FITZGERALD ; 16 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430816-TC-EF-01; CL 17: 49-51


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, N.B. / 16 August 1843—

Dear Fitzgerald,

Your letter1 found me amid the mists, rain-tempests, slate-chasms and other intricacies of a Welsh tour, on which enterprise I had embarked some weeks before. I have now got home to my Mother's Cottage; heartily tired, meaning to rest here for a week or two, and see what will come of that. All sight of waterfalls and such like, almost all speech of men, shall be far from me for a while! I do literally nothing: I saunter along the slopes of the high grounds, wide grassy expanses, bare of wood, tenanted only by sheep which need no shepherd, where all is silent, in this noble Autumn weather, “as if Pan slept.”2 At evening I can see the windows of Carlisle, twenty miles off, gleaming against the setting sun; and westward and southward an endless sea of mountains, not one of them speaking an impatient word to me;—and so I rove about, and like Alexander Selkirk, for the time being, am monarch of all I survey.3

My purpose to visit Naseby holds firm as ever. Nothing is fixed with me as to movements farther, except that I do not return to Babylon till this month of August and its heats be over. If your projects continue firm, perhaps the end of your “six weeks” might almost suit the time of my return southward: in that case it would be right pleasant for me to pause at Crick, and spend a couple of days with you at Naseby; terminating my travels in a worthy manner.4 But it is not worthwhile to alter anything on my account: if you have not returned as I pass, we will wait for some other opportunity. Write, some time soon, how it is. I shall be here yet for a week or ten days; here or appointed to return hither.

Were my travelling faculty a shade better, I should be tempted to run up to Dunbar;5 and see if on the spot it were possible, what by all books and study it has never hitherto been, to form some rational conjecture about the manner of the Fight there. I went about a hundred miles out of my way to see Gloucester and Worcester,—and made mighty little of them when I did see them! The “crowning mercy” 6 I could only look at from Severn Bridge, with a poor labourer out of work for guide, who “wished to God we had another Oliver, Sir, times is so cruel bad!” I wished it too, but knew not where to find him. One wanders in vain over battlefields and antiquarian wrecks seeking the man; he is not here, he has gone to his place7—and has left Peel Russel and compy behind him.8

Spedding's Brother wishes me over to Skiddaw and his Lake Country which is about forty miles off. It is uncertain whether I shall be equal to going. The charms of sitting still are great! Yet Thomas Spedding is a chief favourite of mine; I sit not still without regret. James S., it seems, is shooting partridges in Yorkshire, and shortly expected at his Brother's.

As to the Picturesque, I have been dreadfully annoyed with it ever since I left home. Not properly with it, for I rather like big rocks, high mountains, swift rivers, etc, as I suppose all mortal men since the beginning of the world have done; but the eternal cackle and babble about it from all persons, even sensible persons, in these times, is truly distressing to me. It is like a human being uttering to me, “Cuck-oo! Cuck-oo!” With a tongue that might speak real words. Far more shocking than you think!— This among other things attracts me rather to these bare solitudes: the grand meaning of them too is that God Eternal made them, that they are still solitary of all but the needful four-legged sheep!

Well; I bid you enjoy the Green Island,9 I bid you pray daily you could cure what is ragged and awry in it, by Repail or otherwise; 10 and forget not to say when you are leaving it.

Yours in hope of meeting,

T. Carlyle