July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 8 August 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470808-TC-JAC-01; CL 22: 27-30


Matlock Bath, 8 August, 1847—

My dear Brother,

We got along very happily on Friday, all the way, having nothing to complain of from men or machines or heavenly elements; about half past 3 or 4 we were safe in Derby, worrying down a most hasty slice of roast-mutton and tough bread; after which a rapid whirl of some half hour, or not much more, put us down at Ambergate1 (where we saw your friends the Limekilns with windowed chimnies to them); and there a heavy-laden omnibus took us upon its back or into its belly, and in about an hour-and-half more, put us down at one of the Hôtels in this thrice and four-times world-celebrated Village of Matlock Bath. I say Matlock Bath; for Matlock proper is quite another place, some two miles farther up the river, and distinguished by nothing but a little cotton,—where we have not yet been. It was only by the accidental conversation of an ancient man sitting beside me on the Omnibus that I knew we had to stop here, and did not push on for the other fallacious goal.

We left our trunks &c under care of the Hôtel Boots, and proceeded straight in search of “private Lodgings.” Lodgings are moderately plentiful; nay I know not but the Hôtel, tho' a very little dearer, and what was more to us a somewhat noisier, might have suited as well for our purposes as the “private” arrangement. The three Hôtels are all fine airy houses, seemingly the best in the place; and Matlock is not Malvern for noise, but a comparatively very quiet place, tenanted by invalids, manufacturing ennuyés, and people generally who make no great din. However we did get private lodgings; moderately successfully, and without any difficulty: the place we first entered was this place, where we have ultimately fixed. Our accommodation is two upper rooms, or rather cells, to sleep in, and a first-floor room or cell to sit in; most infirm rustic apartments but done up with a certain “elegance of poverty”2 that rather attracted us: rent including extras, 30/ per week! The poor people have a skill in charging rent, while their brief hour is! For 2 guineas we could have had prettier and larger rooms, but with less appearance of quiet, and with landlordage of less promising physiognomy; and nowhere with so fine a view from the windows,—in that latter respect we stand unrivalled. As to household necessaries, Jane says they are a shade dearer than in London, and all procurable of moderate quality. For a week we shall do tolerably well here; a kind of sleep-week, in which we are to forget all the world, and be forgotten by it,—not so much as a Letter possible here till Tuesday morning; and every day a day in which one can walk or sleep, and smoke or read or dream and dawdle at one's own sweet will.— I have had, this morning, a considerable walk before breakfast, down to Cromford, past Arkwright's place and his two Mills; one of them, the Cromford one if I mistake not, the first erected Mill in England, and consequently the Mother of all Mills.3 Near by it is Willersley “Castle” so-called; a solid sumptuous-looking free stone Castle built by Arkwright, and now tenanted by his grandson.4 The Mother of all Mills, I was sorry to hear, had lost most of its water, by new mine-drainings in late years; and was very nearly fallen silent now, likely soon to go out altogether.5 I clomb also to the tops of fine breezy hills, by narrow stony paths; but had to make haste home again, and found Jane walking on “Temple Terrace” here, waiting my return for breakfast.

I will not trouble you with much description; but take this in the way of scientific increment of knowledge, if you like. The thing called “Matlock Dale,” about the middle part of which we stand here, begins as I understand somewhere below Matlock Village northwards, and ends at the south about Cromford (aforesaid), some two miles in all; and is a great yawning chasm, rent across a range of limestone Hills, watered by the flow of the river Derwent, a green rather foul-coloured stream, which may rank about the size of Milk Water.6 Both sides of this said Dale are very precipitous, and as is usual in fine limestone country, very vegetative, fond of producing trees, bushes, ivy, grass, wherever there is the smallest opportunity for a root. Both sides are precipitous, but the west, especially hereabouts, is most so, indeed almost quite sheer, just opposite our windows, a sheer whitish wall of rock, winding about, perhaps near 200 feet high, and all along well mantled with wood &c: our Village again stands altogether on the eastern side of the River; stands, or rather hangs; for you never, in this country, saw human houses so situated; all stuck along the steep, connected by zigzag paths, shrouded in wood, overlooked, they too, by bare cliffs;—at night with their lit windows you might think them caves of the Troglodytes, by day they are as Bird-cages, each hung by its nail on the green wall. The only platforms of any extent (and they not of much) are occupied by the Hôtels, three in number;—and a small patch of Street, for one little while, attaches itself to the carriage road, which runs close by the river, hewn out in many parts,—very far below where I now write. Such is Matlock Bath; a place for lounging; and for bathing in three lukewarm Springs (properly Tanks, where you use them), not warmer I think than about 60° of Farenheit;7 pale-greenish in colour, mawkish-insipid in taste, pleasant enough to swim in,—and according to my guess, probably not worth twopence for any complaint in the Nosology, except as the imagination may be solaced by them a little. Ohe, jam satis est [Now, that is enough]!8

The Address of this place is “Mr Pearson's, Temple Terrace, Matlock Bath”; we have only one post a-day to or from London, and that is your main one (pray attend to that),—arrives here about 7 in the morning. There are two posts to the North (it appears), but six p.m. is our one available hour for London. Jane is writing to Anne about the Post affairs: but will you also step down, and see that the three Newspapers &c are duly sent off. And then write us a word also about yourself and your affairs, while we still continue here.9 Our subsequent route is quite in the vague yet. Yesterday I wrote to Isabella; sent off a Newspaper to Jean.— Are you at Hampton Court today with Chorley?10 My remembrances to him. Adieu, dear Brother; Jane salutes you.

Yours ever

T. Carlyle