July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO ISABELLA CARLYLE ; 7 August 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470807-TC-IC-01; CL 22: 25-27


Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, Saturday (7 August 1847)

Dear Isabella,

Thanks for your Letter, and Invitation to Jane, which reached us yesterday just as we were on the point of leaving Chelsea for the railway to this place: on our road we saw John at his Lodging for a moment, and he gave us the other Letter you had sent.— We are very sorry to hear of Jamie's being so troublesomely unwell, so painfully too. Tell him to be very careful of his diet, which I believe is the best part of the medicine in that affair: I should think too if he bathed in the Burn on a fine morning now and then, and washed very frequently and carefully, it might do good. The whole misery rises from the Stomach, from the Liver and Skin; the fruitful parents of misery in all manner of ways!—— I hope my good Mother's toothache is better: we were very sorry to think of her as suffering under that pain while we travelled northward;—but perhaps the pain, before that time, had ceased again, and all was as before: we shall hope so!

Jack was in good heart when we left him; very busy; getting well on with his Book; which will be a great deliverance to him, and a Book of some value too. He came to us soon after my Mother's Letter was closed; and we saw him also at his own door, as I said, next morning between 9 and 10.

We had an altogether prosperous journey hither; some 90 miles by the Liverpool rail, then branch off to the right (tho' still going north) about sixty miles more; after which an omnibus of 10 miles (going now straight to the left, or westward again) brought us to this place: “Matlock Bath” (about 2 miles from Matlock by itself, which we have not yet seen), and some 40 or more from Manchester,—as, I believe, I explained to my Mother last time.1 We arrived here about six o'clock; had some hawking about in search of “Lodgings” (not liking to try any of the “Hôtels,” tho' I believe we might have done there too), but about 8 o'clock we had got settled, and sat down fairly at anchor for one week at any rate. The place is wonderfully quiet for such a place; our little Lodging (three very small rooms) is quiet, and has a kind of rustic character in its bits of elegances, which rather pleases us. The butter this morning (from the people's own cow) reminded us of that of Scotsbrig.

This place “Matlock Bath” owes its principal existence to three luke-warm Springs, in which people pretend to bathe for cure of rheumatisms &c, and also to its being a place celebrated for its “fine views,” and indeed a really singular place, worth looking upon as one passes. The river Derwent, coming from North southwards, finds its way (in a very sluggish style for most part) thro' a huge winding chasm or cleft in a mass of limestone hills, which look as if shivered by earthquakes, or broken (from within) over one's knee; they rise in great cliffs just hereabouts near two hundred feet high, and leave almost no room, except just for the little river (about the size of Milkwater I should guess), and for a thick sheet of trees and bushes along their flanks, wherever there is room for a bush or tree. The entire valley or “Dale of Matlock” lasts for some two miles or more; but this which I called the Cleft or Chasm (where the sides are so precipitous) does not last quite half-a-mile, I think; and it is in this about the middle part of the “Dale” that Matlock Bath is situated. One of the strangest places in the world! May be about midway between Ecclefechan and Middlebie2 in point of size; but it nowhere sticks together; the houses are all perched, one here one there, along the western precipice (the eastern I think has none, nor is there any bridge thither, only boats) where there is space at all; you approach them by zigzag paths, often artificially cut: every house is far deeper in the front than in the rear, seen from the bottom they look like little bird-cages nailed against a wall, looking out from the bushes here and there. There is [a]3 road cut out by the side of the river, low down, and a kind of street for some little while there, but the rest is all as I describe;—mostly rather poor houses, inhabited by quarriers, miners &c (which was of old the one employment of the people); almost all the tolerable houses are for “Lodgers,” and there is a sufficient fry of “guides” &c &c. Enough of them and their place: in a week's time, if we do not grow to like it, we can lift anchor again, and set off elsewhither; and that is all we have to do with it at present.

Whether Jane will be persuaded to come to the[?] north according to your kind counsel I can not yet say: but if she prosper here, I am not without hope of persuading her. We shall see. Indeed all is very uncertain with us yet.

I send you the Address “Mr Pearson, Temple Terrace, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire”: I also put it on a cover, that some of you may send me a line to say how my Mother and Jamie are. And so good-b'ye Dear Isabella. Jane joins in thanks and regards of the kindest, to you and to them all.

Ever yours truly /

T. Carlyle