The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG ; 21 October 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521021-TC-JN-01; CL 27: 336-339


The Grange, Alresford, Hampshire / 21 Octr, 1852—

Dear Neuberg,

It is now high time I should write you some brief word to announce my arrival at least, and fulfil the trust[?] and the express engagement I lay under in that respect. I have been home in safety a week and a day; and have more than once remonstrated with myself in the matter. Let me seize the moment, therefore; and save at least so much from a day which (like its fellows here) is too apt to be wasted otherwise.

I got along beautifully thro' Verviers and the Walloon Country1 under the escort of your two friends; and met with nothing, all the way to Malines,2 to put me in the least into difficulty or inconvenience: at Malines I found an indifferent inn, “bad butter,” and ditto bedroom, in which latter, however, I managed to sleep, in successive pieces, a great many hours; a fact worth all other qualities in a room to me. Brussels and Antwerp seemed unadvisable after my late hour of breakfast; I sauntered the morning away in dull Malines, walking into the country &c, till 2 o'clock, and then, or rather an hour after, got into my Bruges3 train; dined at Bruges (rather miserably); tried to walk about the streets a little by lamplight, but couldn't for “commissionaires” at every corner offering their services to me;—finally got to Ostend;4 got fairly on board the English Steamer; and on this, after a sufficiently dreary night, was safely floated to the Customhouse Stairs, and turned out for my two hours ordeal there. In all my journey I had met with nothing so detestable as said ordeal in such circumstances was: however, it too ended; boats and a Chelsea Steamer were at hand; and in fine, between one and two o'clock, I got across my own threshold again; and thanked God that at least those travellings were over.— Jane seemed well; better than I have since found her to be: but unhappily the poor House, was still unclean with painters, upholsterers and their litter; so that the “repose” I had longed for was not to be found there either; nor till “Wednesday next” (that is yesterday now) was the perfect final clearance to be looked for. After some kicking against the pricks5 I agreed in the course of thursday that our invitation to The Grange was really in these circumstances a thing to thank the Heavens for;—a thing to be accepted, and put into practical action without delay. Here accordingly we have been ever since Friday last; in one of the loveliest green scenes and stateliest spacious Houses in England; with right pleasant people too in part;—alas, with all things, only with less possibility still of any solid rest than could be wished! I must take what is arranged. The unclean creatures, I strive to assure myself, are now fairly gone from Cheyne Row; and the house, in these very hours, must (I flatter myself) be getting washed from top to bottom. Early next week, we may hope to be there; and, under good auspices, to cast anchor and refuse all farther excitation or locomotion for a very great while indeed! This is the authentic history of me since I left you. My poor Wife has had a really miserable time of it with these house-operations, in my absence; I have not for seven years seen her look so worn and thin: however, in spite of a whiff of cold she has had since we came hither, I already see the good effects of free air, and the absence of housepainters, upon her; and expect she will rapidly recover herself, were we once home and at rest: and surely never again in this world shall any considerable “house-repair” be undertaken by her or me again, unless we lose our wits in the interim!—

Of London I send nothing but one glimpse in a walk up Piccadilly; whither I went, about despatching the Spanish Book to Magnus, as one of my very first jobs. The street was, as usual, in many places, getting new-paved; the day was dark, a still canopy of October haze and smoke overshadowing all things: what a contrast to Berlin, to Dresden, to Lobositz! I have yet taken no new hold of London; and only find it sooty as ever.

Here in the country we lead the usual strenuously-idle life, and hear of things only at a pleasant distance, and feel bound to treat them (in the English fashion) with contempt. Alas, I grudge the bright days of time one loses; for there is absolutely no saving of them here! We have agreeable enough people; notabilities, of a friendly nature, Thackeray &c, among them: the new American Minister, one Ingersol a Philadelphian,6 with his pretty Niece have just left us;—a strange exotic phenomenon, tho' intrinsically not to be objected to: a certain lady defined him as dreadfully incapable of silence or rest, “whirling about as if his pockets were full of hot cinders.” The truth is, he is yet all in a flurry with the amazing novelty of the thing (his own missive is said to be a sudden American job); he will certainly recover himself, being a man of good logical sense, by the aid of a little time. Parliament is to meet in a fortnight from this day; a fact important to people who have Townhouse and Countryhouse, and may be in straits as to the time of shifting; to the world at large it is not nearly so momentous. But all the world here is really in great excitement with a rumour which has just got out, that Lord Derby means to grant Convocation its desire, and actually let it sit for the arranging of matters connected with the Church!7 This is a far more stirring outlook than the assembling of a mere Commonplace Parlt and a ministry without plan or footing; and I rather conjecture to myself the news may be really true. All men of judgement regard it as the first stroke of the axe, first stroke of 10,000 axes, crowbars and disruptive implements, upon our poor old rotten fabric of a Church: but that wd be no reason with Lord Derby, who tho' said to be a friend of the Church, is probably without eye for such perils, and has a headlong blindfold way very much in the style of this strange step. It quite resembles his emancipation of the Blacks,8 and some other measures we owe to him. Not to say that he already sees himself in a minority, witht strength either in the country or the Parlt;—and, in fact, has no other dashing measure that he could accomplish, either for good or evil, except even this. We shall see! It is asserted (in the Times first, three days ago); denied, then reasserted: except from a very great distance, and as a spectacle that will make the winter exciting, it does not affect my wishes or regrets at all but, as above said, I rather do guess it to be a true rumour,—and expect the incipient destruction of Babel in consequence. Heaven's will be done!

Lord Ashburton had already decided on getting a copy of that Portrait of Fk by Graff, of which you heard so much from me in Berlin. I have accordingly written to Magnus formally that he is to set his man upon it; this little work I shall regard as a small conquest for England if we once had it. Lady Ashbn also wishes for a stock of German Historical or rather Biographical Prints,—Portraits namely of distinguished men (truly distinguished) of the 18th and earlier centuries. Thiers employed to collect for her Ladyship in France: but as to Germany? I know no course, except perhaps trying Magnus again;—and that, as he is about going away into foreign parts, seems uncertain.

Adieu, dear Neuberg; my paper and time are both done; and in fact I have no composure here, were all else in my favour, for writing. I look back on our journey as a strange dream, which nevertheless was a fact. When I contemplate your unwearied patience, helpfulness, adroitness and friendly imperturbability, I declare I am lost in reflexions and emotions, remorse by no means wanting among them!— Yours ever truly T. Carlyle

Jane sends her kind regards to Miss Neuberg and you; and in the former quarter I beg also for continued forgivenness9 and remembrances. Honnef, Rolandseck, and the two Cocks—ah me!