The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 8 August 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510808-TC-MAC-01; CL 26: 122-124


Gt Malvern, 8 Augt, 1851—

My dear Mother,

We received yesterday morning, I need not say with what satisfaction, Isabella's excellent account of things at Scotsbrig: our good Mother tolerably strong in her old way, “bathing in the burn” during the hot sun; and poor little Jenny safely thro' her voyage, which will be such a comfort to you and to everybody. I sent on the letter to Jack without delay; and he is probably reading it just about this time. From him too I have a short Note this morning, along with a Map and with the Chelsea Letters he is sending: all well; he “at the Museum,”1 attending to his affairs there.— As I have a few minutes at my own disposal, I will tell you what we are about here, and put an end to any anxieties my last hurried despatch may have left with you.

On Monday morning I was put into the regular Water Cure train of operations; and have diligently continued there ever since: all of which goes on as favourably as need be hitherto. I am also shifted into another bedroom, on the opposite side of the house, where I am quite out of the dog-and-cock partnership, and have free chance to sleep so far as Nature and my own circumstances permit: a great comfort indeed in comparison! Jane does very well, without Water Cure; by the mere aid of fresh air and quiet, with Nero (the dog) to attend her in little walks, and occassionally2 a hired cuddy when the road is too steep or long. Cuddies stand saddled for hire at all corners of this place;— “ninepence an hour,” and you give the little boy that drives you a penny.

It is one of the pleasantest countries possible. A great broad and long and most fruitful plain, thro' which flows a big river (some 2 miles off us here), called the Severn: this is the general character of the district, Plain or “Valley of the Severn”; I dare say it is 30 or 40 miles long; and here where we are (rather towards the top of said valley, & hanging on the Western side of it, it may be 15 or 20 miles broad. The richest tract of cornland in all Britain: millions' worth of yellow wheat is now waving on it far and wide; beautifully broken by trees and other spaces of green; the hundredth part of as much bread growing together I never saw before. Well, on the Western side of this Plain, there stands up abruptly a range of mountains (made of “copper craig” or something analagous) running straight north and south for a three miles, then branching off, chiefly westward in a confused manner: these are the “Malvern Hills,” the highest of them (close by here, top of it hiding above half the sky from this very window) is about the height of Criffell,3 and stands at the north end of the range; it is against the eastern side of this that “Great Malvern,” a smart modern place full of paths and trees, and painted “villas,” with a very old and beautiful Church at the bottom, is hung,—looking smartly towards the morning sun, and over that continent of beautiful wheat and green tracery above spoken of. The rock of the hills being of the kind I said, the water everywhere abounding is excellent,—equal in fact to St Cuthbert's well at Middlebie and far superior to anything else I ever tasted in England. This quality of the water, as well as the fresh mountain air, and beautiful outlooks and walks (for the hills are generally green and smooth like Burnswark, tho' so high), has made the Village a place of resort for wearied Townsfolk from of old; and now, by this Water-Cure, and the great repute of our Dr Gully, all is kindled into double activity; and there is such a building (of miserable Cockney “villas” and lodging houses) going on as you may conceive!— This will do for a description of the place to your imagination: our house is far down the slope, almost close upon the plain; about a gunshot below the old Church;—and, as I said, I look up against “Worcester Beacon” (the highest of these hills), and get no sun till towards evening.

The treatment consists of water, water! First, at half-past 6 in the morning (some have it at half past 5); a burly man, very civil in manner, breaks in upon you: you must instantly rise, and strip naked; he wraps you in wet-wrung towels then in abundant masses of blanket, all tightly stuffed round you as if you were a mummy with the mere head left out: this they call “packing.” It is really rather pleasant; for after an instant or two you begin to get very warm in your wet clouts, and yesterday morning (for example) I even fell asleep before the half hour was done. But at the end of half an hour, your ruthless bath-man returns, peels you naked again, seats you in a cold water bath, begins slaistering your back with his towels, gives you sponge and towel to do the like with your front; splashes and slaisters in this way perhaps for five minutes; the[n]4 rubs you dry and goes his ways. You huddle on some clothes and rush out to walk, being rather cold. After perhaps an hour's walking you return, to shave, dress, and breakfast at 8½ a.m. After that I smoke &c, and saunter about the lawns with a book. But at 12 there is a thing called “sit-bath” to be done: this is considerably nastier (to me) than “packing.” It consists, in fact, in sitting in a tub of cold water, up to near the knees and armpits (your feet are on the floor, over the edge of the bath or tub, and you have a blanket round your shoulders) for 20 minutes by the clock! This is a very surprising operation; and I cannot yet boast of having got to like it: however, it is very potent too; for the instant you are out of it, being surprisingly cold in the middle part of the body, you rush forth again to walk, and the bowels themselves are aware of the strange influence! By the time you are in again, and a little rested, dinner (2½ p.m.) is ready; very good plain dinner;—after which at 5 is another “sit-bath,” another long walk, and not till 8 comes tea which finishes. We are all in bed before 11, and tired enough with all this tewing and pluistering! But I do believe it will do me good, and that is everything.— The people here (Dr at the head of them) are perfectly excellent to us; and give us every reason for gratitude and contentment. Various acquaintances from London have turned up but these I rather avoid.— Dear Mother, I fear I have wearied you quite out with these descriptions; but they are over now, and need not return. Ask Isabella to write again, and thank her much for what she already did. Take care of yourself dear Mother!— Ever your affectionate,— T. C.