JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 24 September 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220924-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:165-168.
JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Ardachy—Fort-Augustus / 24th September —
My dear Sir
I was looking to the south and wondering if any living creature thought on me when your letter was put into my hand. Never did letter meet a warmer welcome. It was so unexpected and so different from any thing I have read or heard these many weeks!—not a word of hogs, cheviots, Falkirk-fair or the Caledonian-canal! You cannot think how well I liked it— My Mother and I have been here a month, and intend remaining another week. I anticipated much enjoyment from our journey hither but, Alas! the wind blew, and the rain fell, and I was cold wet and wo[e]fully sick— From Glasgow to Fort-William I lay on the deck of the Steamboat praying to be again on terra firma and heedless of the magnificent scenery through which we passed— Every thing is ordered for the best—had I been at all comfortable I should assuredly have fallen in love—deeply hopelessly in love with a handsome fascinating Colonel of the Guards who held an umbrella over me for four and twenty hours— You will wonder I escaped when I tell you this charming stranger is intimately acquainted with Lord Byron and enjoyed the friendship of our own de Stael— I never saw his like. He is all heart and soul—with the look of a Prince and the manners of a courtier— I could have wept at parting with him1—but I could not get at my handkerchief without unbuttoning my boat-cloke and that was inconvenient—
I am delighted with this country. My cousin's house stands near the top of Loch Ness, in the midst of a bright green lawn as smooth as velvet. The Tarffe2 flows down from Corryarrick through a deep wooded glen behind the house—and forms the boundary of this verdant spot. Steep wooded braes rise on the opposite side of the river. and behind these the vast range of heathy mountains that form the northern boundary of the Great Valley—a few yards from the house there is a bridge across Glen Tarffe the most romantic thing I ever saw. I sit there whole hours admiring Loch Ness with its gigantic ramparts of bold mountains— and the beautiful little Fort Augustus3 and the green braes where Cumberland encamped with his ten thousand men after the battle of Culloden— I have seen the ancient Castles of Dunolly and Dumstaffnish4 situated on bold rocks that overhang the sea— I have passed over the dreary moor of Inverlochy where Montrose and his gallant followers fought and conquered, and have admired the stern grandeur of its Castle, older than memory, where King Achaius5 signed the famous league with Charlemagne— I have seen Ben Nevis, the king of Mountains, and various other Bens, and Craigs, and Corrys; that I am neither learned enough to spell—nor poet enough to paint— I have skirted the chain of Lochs that lie in the bosom of the Great Valley I have read the ingrammatical inscriptions on Glengarry's Monument of the seven heads.6 I have visited the falls of Foyers of Tarffe of Moriston—in short (to use my highland cousin's words) ‘I have been at all the knows and dubs in the country’— Of all I have seen what I admire the most is Foyers— It is worth travelling a thousand miles to see the magnificent scenery around the fall—no description can convey an idea of its rude bold grandeur—while I stood on a projecting pocket between stupendous rocks that seemed to have been torn asunder by some horrible convulsion I shuddered as if I looked upon an earthquake—and had not one of our party drawn me from the brink of the rock I verily believe I should have thrown myself into the gulph beneath from absolute terror.7
I am glad to hear of your idleness. Had you been diligent I should have been ashamed to tell you how I have spent the last six weeks— Since I came to the highlands my time has been entirely occupied in visiting and seeeing sights—and for a fortnight before we came here I followed the King8 as if my happiness here and hereafter depended on getting a sight of him— I heard and saw much,—dressed walked and rode till my limbs could scarce support me, but as to reading, writing, or thinking, no body had any time for that— I enjoyed the bustle pretty well at first but my spirits were soon below changeable and I was heartily glad to get out of town— by the bye I have got a new friend.9 I intend filling a sheet with his merits so shall say nothing of him at present— During my stay in town I spent a week with Mr Terrot 10— I like him more than ever[.] I have something to tell you that will awaken your pity for me[.] The day I spent in Glasgow a cousin of mine came to spend the evening with us—In the course of conversation he said he had been at church that afternoon with a very interesting Foreigner whom he was sure I would like— I asked his name and the provoking wretch answered me with the utmost composure Baron de Stael!11— Will you believe it— I cried with downright vexation—to have been within a few minutes walk of a person I would have given all my rings and necklaces to see, and my own cousin to have been so fortunate who cares not though Madame de Stael had never been! It was past ten or I would have sent him in search of him that night—and so I left Glasgow in an infernal steam boat without getting one glimpse of Baron de Stael— I dare say you will not thank me for this letter it is so stupid and so illegible—there is not a soul in the house that can mend a pen— Do not write till you hear of me from Haddington for it is uncertain where I may be for the next fortnight—
Your very sincere friend