TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 17 August 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470817-TC-JCA-01; CL 22: 34-37
TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN
Rawden, near Leeds, 17 Augt 1847—
From this halting-point in our pilgrimage, I fire off a short Note towards you; who, I doubt not, are very willing to hear how we progress. These two or three days I have wished to write; but never till now could fairly get out my blottingbook, or find a quiet corner.
Jane, I think, wrote to you from Matlock, how we were minded to have a look at the Peak Country of Derbyshire, and expected the Mr Forster of this place to join us in the expeditions Forster appeared duly on the Friday morning last; a most cheerful, honest, affectionate, long-legged young man, of really sociable, intelligent and every way polite, and agreeable habits;—whom I, glad to escape the lark myself, instantly constituted Captain of the expedition: so he settled all bills and waiters and etceteras, engaged all carriages, and managed, so far as might be, the whole business; leaving me to my own reflexions, and my own tobacco; which was a mighty benefit indeed. The weather too had suddenly dried up; and it kept dry and excellent just till we had done, and then began to rain again, which it has last night been vigorously doing: so that in all respects we were favourably circumstanced for our little expedition.
On the Friday we went to a place called Dovedale, a little rocky valley on the River Dove,—infinitely celebrated by Tourists;—which we looked at, without much criticism, and not without a certain degree of pleasure, especially as the drive thither and back was all along thro' beautiful green hollows and airy limestone heights, with their queer clean old grey villages (all trimmed and cleaned to perfection), their solitary mine-heaps (of lead-rubbish), saw-mills (of Derbyshire stone), huge quarry-chasms &c &c. We got back again safe by nine o'clock to tea at Matlock (it is some 12 or 14 miles off); and next morning we quitted Matlock for good,—towards Buxton, which is another much more frequented watering-place, about 22 miles nearer you. Of Buxton I will tell you various things when we meet: it is a place all elegantly “for the occasion got up”; seemed likely to be wholesome, lying high up among bare green hills;—and must, I thought, be the chosen home of Donothing Wearisomeness for all the Northern Counties. We dined at their “public table,” “saw the Manners” (as Tommy Johnstone says); and came away heartily glad that we had seen it all, and needed not, without other errand, go again to see it.1 A most elegant; and I should imagine most inexpressibly wearisome place!— Our next stage was to Tideswell (8 miles N.W. from Buxton), where I hoped to have found in the Birth-Register of the Parish the entry of “James Brindley, 1716” (the enormous Engineer Brindley, who made all the Canal-business in last century); but, after search, it was not there. I am to write, and try elsewhere.— From Tideswell, north 7 miles, in Castleton, a beautiful secluded old Village (1,000 years old or more) in the deep lap of the mountains; and close by is the most enormous Cavern in the world, called now, in polite language, Peak Cavern, but formerly in vulgar but expressive English The Devil's——i' Peak! To which latter name, if one could conceive such an object as the said “——,” it has really fair claims.2 A huge Cave, runs 860 yards sloping down into the bowels of the mountain, has running waters, pools that you go over in boat; now narrow vaulted like a tunnel, then expanding into great expanses like cathedrals (some seven hundred and odd yards below the ground): really a curious place, this Devil's—i' Peak, and seen without difficulty for a little money. Some rope-spinners have set up their wheels under the high vaulted entrance, and spin there rent-free,—one of whom, an eminent Methodist, we heard preach in the Chapel afterwards; or rather praying, it was, and very characteristic of its kind.3
But in fine dear Jean, to make my long tale short, know that we quitted Castleton and Derbyshire yesterday morning; came spieling [climbing], in our own hired “clatch” (a kind of Double Gig, such as the place yielded) over the hills to Sheffield and Yorkshire; drove rapidly thro' Sheffield and its sooty flaming mills, and screeching cutleries, to the railway station; and, just catching our train, were duly whirled away to Leeds (some 40 miles), and then with 7 miles more in a “neat fly” were safely lodged here, about dusk, on our hospitable Hilltop far enough from all the smoke, in one of the most hospitable, pleasant and quiet mansions, I think, within the Four Seas. I have not slept in so utterly still a place these many years. Forster is off after breakfast to his business (Mill, Warehouse &c) at Bradford some five miles distant; and here Jane and I are left sovereigns of the Mansion, with nothing in it but a quiet old Quaker dame of a housekeeper, and some maids &c who seem all to be shod in felt, so still and noiseless are they, and look as clean as if they had just come out of Spring wells: Really an excellent old House: it has belonged to some Laird in old days when Lairds still were; and Forster has thoroughly repaired and modernised it; and retires to this distance every afternoon, to be away from Bradford and its noise and reek, and sit silent or converse with quiet friends here. That is the end of our pilgrimage for the present; which surely has done very well hitherto. Jane was in unusual heart all the way; did indeed break down at Castleton, the night before last, and had to be brought hither to take her breakfast (towards sunset) yesterday, and to commence sleeping directly after: but she is now all alive again, and I suppose will do well, if well let alone now.—— For the rest, I have entirely and unaccountably lost James's Newspaper this week: it and my Mother's both! I received them both at Buxton; carried them all day in my pocket yesterday; saw them near Leeds, but could never see them again; they had hustled out of my Coat, which was lying loose. I send you an Irish Nation4 instead; which probably will do almost as well. My Mother's is a greater loss, for there was a smart review of D'Aubigné's Cromwell in it (filliping his foolish nose very handsomely out of that job), which I could have wished her to see.5
Today I will write my Mother a small Note, to keep her in peace about us; and pray do you immediately send off this to her, that she and Scotsbrig may know all the outs and ins: I will tell her to expect it straightway. And then with a little Note to Jack, merely to give our Address, I will conclude writing this day, and go out to have a ride, for there is a horse, and the rain seems nearly done.
You may safely write to us here; for I think we shall certainly stay a few days. Our future movements, except that I am coming Northwards by and by, are all undetermined farther than this point. Here we are to rest and be thankful for a time. I will tell Isabella to write too, for my Mother was not very well.
And so enough, dear Jean, for one day. You shall hear again in due Season. Jane salutes you all. I add no more but my blessing; and am ever
Your affectionate Brother
Address: / W. E. Forster Esq / Rawden, near / Leeds
You can send my Mother the Nation too,—but not till James has quite done with it.