April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 28 June 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440628-JWC-TC-01; CL 18: 90-93


Friday [28 June 1844]

Dearest—I had only time to address a newspaper yesterday—not that it takes much time to write such rags of notes as I send you—but yesterday before I had got myself thoroughly awake, which one does somehow with an admirable deliberation in this house—every one coming down to breakfast half asleep and continuing half-asleep till they go to bed again—it was intimated to me that I must get ready to go with my Uncle and four of the others on an excursion in an open carriage. And accordingly I had some twenty miles of driving thro very pretty country—and saw a “beautifullest village in all England,” called Hale, which is one of the Lions here—where there is the grave of some human phenomenon called The Child of Hale—did you ever hear of him?1 It was in the time of Charles IId that this Child lay down to sleep on a rock and awoke nine feet four inches high!! He was taken to court as a show and left the stamp of his hand on some lead at Oxford—the skeleton was raised some thirty years ago by people who considered that seeing was believing, and found of the reputed length— here is his tomb stone

ALT="JWC's drawing of the tombstone of John Middleton, the Child of Hale. The figure is a large centered oval."

We came home by a place called Speke Hall—built 15892—the queerest looking old rickle of boards and plaster that I ever set eyes on and queerer still was it in writing my name in the Porters book to see the last name there, in ink still pale, W. Graham Burnswark!—he had just preceded us by half an hour! My Uncle seemed to enjoy his pleasure-party very much— For myself these things always make me horribly sad—but I was the better for the movement I suppose. If I should live for half a century it will never I believe go out of my head when I am seeing new things that I have not her3 to tell it all to— We returned to dinner about seven and had Mrs Martin and that unleavened lump Miss Hunter4 at tea—surely a hundred thousand pounds was never more thrown away. She was working diligently all the evening making a sort of trimming for petticoats, which one can by for five pence per yard! the produce of her evenings labour would be about the fourth part of a farthing! indeed the works which I see carried on here fill me with sacred horror. I have need to think of you at your Cromwell to comfort my righteous soul over so much waste of irrecoverable time and limited faculty— I have not seen Mrs Paulet yet—she came yesterday—while we were away—and would find a note from me announcing my arrival on her return—neither have I called at the Choreleys5—I needed above all things to rest myself after that horrid journey—

I particularly beg of you not to let yourself be fed out of a cook-shop. and not to take long sleeps after dinner—that picture is the very beau ideal of human discomfort! neither are you to talk too much with these wits at Addiscombe— Oh I was so glad over Böltes new prospects she wrote me a little note herself the happiest of creatures— Thanks for the appohecary deus ex machina interposition on your behalf6 and also for Childs's envelope which makes me quite in love with him “The WORKING mens.” must be making you a hat— God bless you Ever your affectionate / J C


John Middleton Child of Hale was born AD 1578 buried in Hale church yard 1628 his grave stone is still to be seen. It was of prodigious size. Sir Gilbert Ireland. knt about 1617 took him up to the court of James I where he wrestled with the kings wrestler and put out his thumb—by which awkwardness he disobliged the courtiers and was sent back the King giving him as it was said £20. He returned by Brazennose College Oxford, which was full of Lancashire students and where his picture was taken and now exists. A likeness of this English giant is also preserved at High Leigh and one at Hale. His size is thus mentioned in Plots. History of Staffordshire.8 John Middleton commonly called the Child of Hale in Lancashire: his hand from the carpus (wrist) to the end of the middle finger was 17 inches long! his palm 8½ inches broad and his whole height 9 feet 3 inches—wanting but 6 inches of the height of Goliath, if that in Brazenose College Library drawn at length as it is said in his just proportions be a true piece of him On comparing these dimensions with the picture now at Hale—they were found to be an exact admeasurement. Some years ago when the late Mr Brushell9 was parish clerk and school master, the thigh bone or “os femoris” were taken up from the earth and were observed to reach from the hip of a man of common size to his foot.— There was only one place in which he could stand upright, in the cottage which he inhabited at Hale. The cottage now remains, and his bed posts of a very uncommon size were very lately to be seen. A descendant of his Charles Chadwick was living in 1804 and was above 6 feet high

Gregson's Fragments 10