The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 5 August 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500805-TC-JWC-01; CL 25: 138-142


Boverton, Cowbridge, 5 Augt 1850—

My Dearest,—I will write you again a word today; tho' there is not much to be said, I fancy even nothing written in black on white would be tolerable from me in this remote locality. Pity that my hand is so unsteady;—but perhaps it will come in! Our Post too, goes past about “12 or 1”; so that to avoid giving trouble, I must take time by the forelock,1 and begin directly after breakfast.

I a little reckoned without my host, in regard to noises here: we are indeed quiet almost as Hades during the day; but in the night-watches, as I have found, there sing cocks not a few, sing asses, cattle pigs, as well as the small birds rejoicing on their sprays; and I have had some adventures with that department of my destinies! The night before last, after a day spent in temperate seclusion, in silence interrupted only by a bathe and a walk, and a minimum of evening conversation, I retired to bed; was roused by cocks &c, and the excessive heat and closeness of the room (invincibly close, tho' I had all the window that was openable open), after some 2½ hours; and slept no more, Macbeth,2—but passed the miserablest hours in trying vainly to do it, bathing, smoking, and such like, with the continual lullaby of my friend the Cock close at hand, supported by the general animal creation at greater or less distances! You can fancy what a day it was in consequence! However, we have got various improved adjustments made; have imprisoned that particular cock; agreed to have tea earlier, to &c &c;—by which means I went to bed last night with new hope; and did in fact sleep till six this morning,—six hours or so,—which you admit was not bad work. After that, finding little chance where I was, I decided on bundling out, and walking to the sea, and there despatching one of my jobs at least. Poor Redwood, tho' deaf, awoke as I stole past his room; spoke, got little answer; followed me nevertheless to the beach, and hove in sight just as I was getting out of the water,—in time to get the use of his bathing-cap, which I had for the first time worn today. The grey morning was very fine; the utterly solitary coast, the great eternal sea, the Hills of Devonshire (somewhat like Fife from “Comely-Bank” side, like enough to remind one of it) spotted here and there with sunshine, and yellow fields of corn:—altogether we made a good thing of it; and I decide to take that method in future when I awake too early. I feel better after breakfast; have a ride in store for me (an excellent useful little horse, a hand bigger than Harry3); and the prospect of a perfectly silent day, all to myself till half past five when dinner is. Enough, enough— O my Dear what a bulletin I am sending thee!

Well, not to forget the one point of business: I want you straightway to go and buy me a bathing-cap, and send it by return of post; that, we find, is the readiest and only feasible method. Rd got his, he says, in Albemarle Street (Piccadily), “the street next, eastward, to Hatchett's Hôtel”4 (or White Horse Cellar) which I compute must be Albemarle street; there, “on the left hand as you turn up from Piccadilly,” dwells an excellent old umbrella-maker,—mender &c, from whom the article in all varieties is to be obtained. Choose the biggest,—but indeed they seem to have an elastic runner both before and behind, so that they will ply to any head; and Redwood's itself would do for me well enough. I think it will not weigh above two ounces or so;—Goody will manage it with perfection, I do believe, without more said. Only you must take your Letter up written,—you can go to Miss Wynn's or the London Library, and seal it;—for the Post will go at half past five: at 8 next morning it will be in Cowbridge, and about 12 here. So much for that weighty matter. I have too much hair at present; and when the head gets fairly wetted, I hardly get it dried again under 3 or four hours of combing and exposure. Bathing is a “duty” I mean to neglect no day, as I have not yet on any day: the water is delightfully tepid; there is good smooth floor of limestone rock, if you choose well, for footing; and on the coast is usually to be seen nothing but cliffs, and piles of boulders backed by furze and scrags of weeds and brambles, and except quadrupeds (swine usually) no living creature at all. One ought to bathe in such a place and set of circumstances; there or never! On Wednesday I hope to have my bathingcap,—and a Note from my poor little Jeannie into the bargain. Reporting that she is not in worse than usual order, I do hope. Oh my little Bairn, be patient, trustful, patient, I swear to thee all shall yet be well!— — But now I must explain to you a little about our domesticities here.

Boverton, as I found last day, must be about six miles from Cowbridge (a place not better than Ecclefechan), and is connected with it by a labyrinthic coil of very bad country roads or waste lanes and bridle-paths. What do you think, the Lord of it about 30 or 40 years ago was Wrentmore, the Father of the Attorney Wrentmore who lives in Cheyne Row!5 Perfectly certain: he was an English gentleman who came across and purchased it and took possession of the grandish old mansion or Chateau, which now stands here in ruins: one of his sons is a superior Farmer in this vicinity, a second our Chelsea neighbour, and the rest are gone over the world. The poor man, it seems, “had a foolish wife”; was himself not very wise, I doubt; he tore down ranges of superb stables that belonged to his Chateau (so firm-built, he could hardly get them down at), tore down superb porches, flights of outer stairs; nay at last deserted his Chateau, and built a new House nearby, no great shakes of a House, which the chief Farmer now occupies; furthermore he built (in spite of nature and his stars) a pier into the sea, intending that ships shd make a harbour there, and alas there was no highway in the rear of it for the country to call! In fine by the inspiration of self and wife he ruined or nearly ruined himself; and at length dei'd and did nocht ava'. The wreck of his old pier, mostly washed away still offers a kind of shelter to Redwood & me when we strip for bathing; his old Chateau (once a “grange House” of Cardiff Castle) stands black and mournful, a heap of ruined gables, on the brow of this wretched village; and the thot of him is really sad to me, when candidly construed. But is not this of the Cheyne-Row neighbour and me a coincidence?— — The rest of the village of Boverton (the Cowtown, of Cardiff Castle) excels in ugliness all the villages I have ever seen even in Wales. Happily it only contains some 40 or 50 souls, a most tiny village, and above a third part of it, I think, is in ruins,—unroofed and waste, part of it by fire 3 years ago, part of it by time 40 or unknown years ago. Redwoods Father, prospering in some kind of trade,6 purchased a moderate little Farm and house here;—whence my present date among other consequences.

The village itself lies scattered about in various points of a little Dell with an ugly muddy brook stagnating thro' it: poor dirty cottages for most part; and such a sluttishness and sleepy desolation of thoroughfare as is seen only in Wales: stones, old kettles, crockery fragments, rubbish of every description quietly flung out, quietly lying till the fulness of time. Were it trimmed up, and well fringed with trees, there could be few prettier villages, for the soil is fertile, dry, and there are rocky features enough; but left as it is, one wreck of thorny, nettly, kettly desolation: I never saw in Ireland itself so ugly a human kraal, or soporific clachan of idle Gaël. Our House stands quite at the end of the village (on the south height of the little Dell where it lies, the ruined chateau being on the north one), and is quite divided from it; looks another way, sheltered by walls and bushes, into the look of perfect country, and even with something of a lawn, which has various trees and fruit-trees upon it, and is carefully kept by scythe and besom: Redwood has judiciously turned his front the other way; walled up his rearward which lies close upon the road; broken out new windows (very grand and gothic) on the other side; in a little end house, which might be a kind of wing to us, are lodged his man and maid servant, and the Mother of the latter: a House of rather less accommodation than Puttoch, and not very well ventilated, or successfully arranged for anything but the seclusion of the owner. He commands a green foot path of his own to the neighbourhood of the sea; rides daily to Cowbridge, silently sits here on his return, and seems to know or concern himself with no mortal whatsoever. His maid is the queerest little body you ever saw; Recca (“Dumpy” Recca he calls her), a little black-eyed loud-voiced swifthanded Fenella7 of a creature, hardly above 3½ feet high, for she has a terrible crook in her back;—goes always with a “bit velvet tippety” or cloakykin, and is gleg as a needle, and very obliging and goodhumoured hitherto. She is at this time cutting off the sleeves of a flannel for me (I find I have but one here of that kind); will “wash” &c &c and run thro' fire and water for me, “if you like Sir!”— Unhappily my kind Host is “dreadfully dull”; and I sometimes feel as if in spite of every advantage he, especially if aided by Cocks, wd drive me quite to despair, and compel flight before my time! But we will hope better things tho' we thus speak. I hope to get a good ride today; and to be still better tomorrow.

And now how are you, dear Jeanny? Tell me, as minutely as I give you the example of doing;—kindly too, as your last little Letter in its brevity did. You feel so kindly to me; why, alas, do you ever belie that feeling, and hide it from me and yourself? Oh my poor Jeanny, I feel assured all yet shall turn to well again, if it please Heaven!—

Any way here is enough of writing for one day. The Post too announces that his time is about up. The Leader and the Examiner are both lying ready for an hour past. I have taken to Haxthausen8 again, and really accomplish a deal of reading in the free hours granted me here.— When does Geraldine come to you? Recommend me to Miss Wynn. Have you written to Mrs Austin? Perhaps I myself shall, today or tomorrow, if the Leader or Fuz prove not too attractive. Today's Post at any rate is over.9

God bless thee, Dearest: take care of thyself, and be good to me and to thyself: Adieu. I shall hear something on Wedy, and have the bathingcap.

Yours ever affectionate

T. Carlyle

The neighbouring Peacock (in a very moulty state), interloping in this lawn, left the inclosed which I convey to you like a good boy.