January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 13 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450913-TC-JWC-01; CL 19: 189-191


Scotsbrig, 13 Septr 1845— (Saturday)

My poor Goody is whirling away southward, I have to suppose, in these dim hours, while I sit here giving her some Note of my arrival northward. We are strangely shovelled to and fro in this much too locomotive world!

It was above an hour after you left me before our beastly Steamship got its tumult consummated, and hauled itself out of harbour. In my life I have seen few more distressing and disgusting uproars;—indeed the whole voyage surpassed in discomfort for me any piece of travelling I have executed for years. We saw very near at hand the Vanity-Fair of Liverpool Cocknies,1 in full action near the Rock; tents on the sand, swings and whirligigs were very evident; squeaking of fiddles, popping of ginger-beer corks, and the other accompaniments were too conceivable. Hudson our Captain was engaged in clapping handcuffs on a drunk drover who had proved quarrelsome! Ach Gott! Bootle Church could hardly be discriminated from Seaforth, near which my poor Goody sat at hospitable tea:—but, in return, one of my fellow passengers in the Cabin proved to be that big Thomson the Cattle-dealer who once called at Chelsea with Macqueen;2 a Cattle-dealer grown several stones heavier, faced like Silenus,3 full of Dock-English and familiarity of which the thought was horrible to me! By him my “honoured name” was imparted to the Ships Company in general; and I had the strangest addresses; free and easy as in the Age of Gold:—my difficulty not to break into sheer vocal execration was considerable. Then our sleeping-room— But I will talk no more of it. The fact is I do not design to convey myself by that method again. I do not think a more brutal element of human Savagery could have been found in any part of British land or water. About half-past seven next morning I was right glad to see Jamie waiting for me at the jetty; we got to Scotsbrig before ten, and Jenny and my Mother had some tea for me (my first refection after Sea-forth);—and I have glided about ever since, or lain on beds or chairs when I could get it done; very much in the humour of Jonah (as I fancy it) when he found himself vomited from the Whale's Belly; exceedingly confused and uncertain what his movements ought to be. I have found Silence, however; that is one great point! Annan lay all dim and still as we passed thro' it; nothing audible but some few paviers at work on the street; all the way to Scotsbrig we met simply one living creature, a weaver making towards Annan with a cart and garron, seemingly for coals. He gave Jamie a pale smile, and fared on. At Midday I walked with my Mother to the moor: it really was as if Pan slept; the sun and sky were bright as silver, the seas and hills lay round, and noise of all sorts had entirely hushed itself, as if the whole thing had been a Picture or a Dream,—which in fact the Philosophers tell us it properly is. I slept indifferently well; but I feel still abundantly confused, and hardly know what I am writing.

My Mother looks feebler to me; I see her hand shakes considerably more: but otherwise she professes to be in fully usual health; is affectionately interested in all things as ever; has taken with ardour to the reading of Cromwell. Jenny is fatter, distinctly bigger and cheerfuller; a very active orderly nimble creature; has her two little girls all combed and trimmed; they can read their New Testament, the elder can even sew: a good useful distinct little figure.4 Isabella I have not yet seen: it is one of my tasks to go and transact my interview with her, for she cannot speak at all! Yet she superintends her household; has a lively eye upon all things, thro' the organs of a Niece, who understands her signs: she can speak, in the faintest conceivable whisper, but only by rising up from her sofa, and with a great effort. She lodges in her old place down stairs; rides a little on the ass with Jamie leading it; but “dare not venture above a hundred yards from the door”: poor Isabella! Jamie looks more sad and worn than usual: but otherwise things are going well enough with him. He will have no shearing for a week yet. Wull Easton5 (whom Jack will know) is building the stable; and all the doors are encumbered with heaps of mortar and stones. You can read what of this you like to Jack, and let him take it instead of news to himself.— I am lodged in the East room, where you used to be: my position now is sufficiently conceivable to Goody.

And now when shall I get your Letter? Alas, I believe not till Wednesday morning; a Waterbeck6 Post is the kind of arrangement we are now to go upon. I long to hear how you got away and home; what you have to say of Chelsea after the long absence;—what you think of it in comparison with Crosby!— Nothing can exceed my Mother's gratitude to you; your two Letters themselves had given wonderful delight,—most of them, I think, are committed to memory, have committed themselves on reapeated7 perusals. It is worth while to write now and then on such terms.

Dear Jeannie mine, I did not design to turn this leaf at all. Being unutterably stupid, as if half-asleep and with a head that aches, I will terminate for this day, God bless thee, dear Bairn.

T. C.

Has there come no Letter from Adamson at Dumfries about £150 he received? Nothing can well have gone wrong in it; but I expected word. This morning or hitherto there was no Letter of any kind for me.