August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING ; 21 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430821-TC-TSS-01; CL 17: 67-68


Scotsbrig, 21 August, 1843—

Dear Spedding,

Before your letter came, my Brother had taken another course; had sailed into Galloway to pay some visits there,1 and left his Yorkshire expedition still hanging. He is now here; speaks dubitatingly, by no means yet desperately, of a look at Keswick and you. Neither do I as yet give it up by any means; but my laziness, nay let me say my weariness is great! I have been two days at Dumfries on actual heat of affairs; and refuse otherwise to stir from my place, as if I were a mountain. Of course this mood will have to end. I need to drive into the Galloway wildernesses, a course of three days; it is the one vestige of what is called business that still awaits me here. Not an unlikely thing after that, were to fling myself into the current of some railway, and get home to Chelsea, at one fell swoop, longing that the 30 miles an hour were 300!— On the other hand there is a kind of call into Fifeshire, to old friends there,2 and places sad but ever-memorable. I want to see the ground of the Battle of Dunbar, and try if human nature can understand it. Oliver's battlefields are now almost all personal acquaintances of mine; the man himself is grown a personal acquaintance,—tho' alas, still a dumb one: he ought now to speak, or else hold his tongue forever. On Severn Bridge at Worcester an honest nutbrown peasant, of whom I was asking questions, said to me: “Well, I think, we need another Oliver, Sir; times is at such a pass!”— From Fife I should get home at once by steam.

The difficulty of Keswick is, whether we could come in one day? We have a stout free-going free-feeding pony of fair size, a tight enough rustic “respectability”: but we are twenty miles on the wrong side of Carlisle. The notion of staying all night at Cock Bridge3 is appalling! My Farmer Brother4 speaks well of the horse's capabilities: Mirehouse5 too, I think, is somewhat nearer than Greta Bank?— Fife and Cumberland, I doubt, will be inexecutable if taken both: I must choose one or the other. Why is there no wishing-carpet?6 Why must a man lie awake amid the horrors of inns and general contradiction of sinners? Why could we not be magnetised, packed into a box, and sent like “glass with care?”—

This is our vortex of whirling possibilities and pusillanimities; not yet fixed into any certainty; nor to be fixed till some contingencies declare themselves, and the mind of man then say to itself: “Now, thou sluggard, thou must decide now or go to the ditch or the devil!” I write you this account, lest in the interim you think me neglectful, oblivious, something other than I am. I would to Heaven there were a wishing-carpet;—but there is, in plain fact, none.

Within a week the decision will arrive, and you shall hear of it straightaway.

With love and regards to all, the Game-destroyer7 among the rest,

Yours ever truly /

T. Carlyle