The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 9 July 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530709-TC-JWC-01; CL 28: 193-195


Chelsea, 9 july, 1853—

Tho' there is no chance of your getting this till Monday morning (thanks to the beggarly Agnewites1 of those Pharisiacal regions), and tho' it is now striking three again, I cannot forbear sending you, by the earliest moment, a word of counterpoise to that shocking despatch of yesterday,—less power to it, I now wish it had never gone! Poor little Jeannie: but what could I do? Fly for shelter to my Mammy, like a poor infant with its finger cut,—complain, in my distress, to the one heart that used to be open to me!

Well, I did get some good sleep last night, two good sleeps,—tho' at first I failed, and had to come and smoke again about 1 a.m., the Cremorne cannon (for I think it could not be rockets alone) having woke me “before I got to sleep.” But the Roncas had faithfully locked up their big Cock again; nay more, a beautiful deluge of rain was falling, which puts to silence such a quantity of vermin:—and the truth is, I am well today, and feel myself a new man, and the whole world new in some measure! This I could not but let the soul of a compassionate Goody know.—

My Dear, my Dear, what is that you have been about! I trembled in reading your Grey-Mare's Tail adventure: what on Earth could set you on such mad pranks? I cannot understand, from memory, the scene of your peril: I remember a Shepherd had been killed shortly before, climbing by the side or face of the Fall itself; but that is pretty nearly perpendicular; of course you could not be there, but must have been on the South side of the stream, I think? Thank God, you are out of it, wherever it was;—and take care you never again get into the like, in my time at least! I thank John too a hundred times, for his valiant goodness to you. And Nero, poor wretch of a Nero;—he came into my head last night, as I was struggling into sleep; the white barking glance of him, across the hollow-night of my imagination; and how he too would soon vanish, and his love of bones and of us be alike abolished in the black immensities: I started broad awake, and was heartily wae for even the poor dog, not to speak of human souls, dear to me, and strangers to me, all subject to the like great Doom. For it is great, tho' it is stern;—and the imagination can spread out all its wings, and take full sweep, in such an element; and there is Hope too, Hope forever; and broken bits of rainbow hang aloft over the immeasureable deluge and its mountain waves! Oh God the Maker; great God, is He not also Good: is not that the Name of him to all the true and brave?— — No more of this just now.

I ought to have finished out my Chobham phenomena, and not stopt at the mere eating of lobsters by voracious Cockneys before the manoeuvres had begun! Well, the essence of the manoeuvres was only this: a sham fight; the one “Army” represented merely by a row of fellows, scattered at sparse intervals, in white jackets, and lazily firing as they advanced or retreated according to order; the other contained all the 10,000, foot, horse and artillery, and did the thing more to the life; really a fine kind of thing, and not quite worthless as a sight. First you saw all the various bodies of soldiers, marching, with music sounding, far and near along the hill sides, to take up their various positions,—Highland kilts, blue trowsers, white trousers; light horse & heavy: a fine rhythmic thing upon the waste hills and heather, with the white tents if you turned round and looked the other way. Positions once taken, some out of sight in hollows, some conspicuous on hills, there began a series of cavalry charges, artillery vollies, which were unsuccessful, and had to retreat; till they got behind a great column of infantry, again supported by artillery, the whole firing like mad, and very grand as they stood drawn out on the height and the sky behind them; these also were unsuccessful, and had to break into short masses, and file off; these and still others; but, at last, gradually the whole had formed itself again on the last height of all; and, just when white-jackets fancied it all right, stormed down upon said white jackets, and in about a quarter of an hour beat them magnificently home again, with great expenditure of powder. That, Dearest, was actually the manoeuvre and I thought you would like to know it,—being perhaps curious to know how they ack in the various parts.2 The camp and the tents, and Lord Hardinge's3 tent (owner absent, and no knives, or water): all that, and the questionable cold pie (on which I had a dreadful nightmare, tho' I did not eat above two ounces of it, and took no other dinner): all that, I say, in consideration of the weaker vessel, I shall omit,—and charitably let you go from Chobham.

Stuart Donaldson has gotten a biggish belly,—yes, upon my honour;—has also, it wd appear, made wealth beyond compare (at least so he repeatedly hinted to me); and is in short one of the most horse-whippable young gentlemen of forty (or seemed so yesterday in my wild mood) that has come athwart me for some time. He was driving his own brougham; talked loud, and without understanding;—invited me to dinner for Wednesday, to meet Australian & other sublimities, Lowe (of Times success), and Comic-History a’ Becket,4 among others: shan't I run to such a thing as that, and think an indigestion cheap for it? Ach Gott!— The Brother,5 who has really a great deal of solid learning, and far more sense withal, from nature (I suspect), is a much more supportable character: him I invited to come back, if he had opportunity; not the other with his noise, and big purse and belly,—never he, if he can help it!— —

The best thing I have heard was that of the Duke of Argyll, buying Nigger Questions; scratching out my name, putting in “by Mrs Beecher Stowe”; and sending them to select parties!— —

Adieu dear Jeannie mine: I am to go and dine at Addiscombe tomorrow (engaged on Chobham day); but Lords Ben6 and Granville will bring me home that night; and if I walk, perhaps it will do me some good as well as ill.— Your time to write, now again! My brotherly regards to John and his Dame. Be good, and sleep in spite of hyaenas. I have answered Erskine &c. Yours ever & ever

T. Carlyle