July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 14 August 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550814-JWC-TC-01; CL 30: 30-32


Tuesday / 5 Cheyne Row[14 Aug. 1855]

No Dear; I dont take to your seabathing place, because I have a place of my own in view! Positively I fancy I have found the Coming cottage!1 I am just going off to consult Tait about it. And at all events you must go and look at it with me next Monday, before we incur any lodging-expenses—which would be best laid out on a place “all to oneself.”2

I took such an amount of air and exercise yesterday as would have DONE FOR most nine-teenth century females! Started at eight, by the boat,3 with a good tide and was at the station a quarter before nine. Was quite well situated in my open carriage and reached Brighton without the least fatigue. Bathed the first thing; and then walked along the shore to a little Inn I had been told of by Neuberg and Ballantyne; as a charming quiet place “for even Mr Carlyle” to stop at; found it, of course, noisy dirty not to be even dined at by Mrs Carlyle—and walked on, still further along the cliffs, to a village I had SEEN ON THE MAP, and was sure must be very retired. The name of it is Rottingdean. It is 4 miles at least from the Brighton Station. I walked there and back again!! and in the last two miles along the cliffs I met just ONE man! in a white smock! Thus you perceive the traveller expences to one of the quietest sea villages in England is just per boat & third class train 3/10d!. a convenient locality for one's cottage at all rates. The place itself is an old sleepy looking little village close on the sea, with simple poor inhabitants. not a trace of a Lady or gentleman bathe[r] to be seen!— In fact except at the Inn there were no lodgings visible. I asked the maid at the Inn, “was it always as quiet as this?”— “always,” she said, in a half whisper, with a half sigh,—“a-most too quiet!”— Near the Inn, and so near the sea you could throw a stone into it, are three houses in a row—the center one old—quaint, and empty—small rooms but enough of them—and capable of being made very livable in at small cost—and there are two “decent women” I saw, who might either of them be trusted to keep it— But I should fill sheets with details without giving you a right impression—you must just go and look. I returned to Brighton again—after having dined at the Rottingdean Inn on two fresh eggs a plateful of homebaked bread and butter, and a pint bottle of Guiness (chaarge 1/6d)—I walked miles up and down Brighton to find the Agent, for that cottage—did finally get him by miracle—name and street being both different from what I set out to seek—and almost committed myself to take the cottage for a year at 12£ (no taxes or rates whatever) or to take it for 3 months at six pounds— However I took fright about your not liking it,—and the expences of furnishing &c &c—on the road up—and wrote him a note from Alsops shop4 that he might not refuse any other offer and hold me engaged till you had seen and approved of it. If Tait shared this cottage and went halves in the furnishings it would cost very little indeed—My only objection to it this morning, is that one might not be able to get it another year and then that would be done with the furniture? But oh what a beautiful sea! blue as the Firth of Forth it was last night!—I lay on the cliffs in the stillness, and looked at the “beautiful Nature”5 for an hour and more, which was such a doing of the picturesque as I have not been up to for years. The most curious thing is the sudden solitude beggining without gradation just where Kemptown6 ends— It is as if the Brighton people were all enchanted not to pass beyond their peir—7

One can get any sort of Lodgings in Brighton—I brought away the card of one—very beautiful, and clean as a pin where the Lady “received no dogs nor children”—“dogs she did not dislike, but she dreaded their fleas.” An excellent sitting room and bed room 30/ —sitting room and two bedrooms 2£—but then they are such rooms as one has at home not like Eastbourne! But Brighton is Brighton—Rottingdean is like a place in a novel. I am stiff today.— I had to walk to St Pauls last night—after all my walking—before I got an omnibus and then from Alsop's home—and last night the results of Cremorne8 in the Kingsroad were what shall I say?— strange upon my honour! First I heard a measured tread and then out of the darkness advanced on me eight soldiers carrying high over their heads a bier! on which lay a figure covered with a black cloth all but the white white face! and before I had recovered from the shock of that—some twenty yards further on behold precisely the same thing over again!

I asked a working man what had happened— “It was a great night at Cremorne—storming of Sebastopol—30 or forty soldiers were storming, when the scafolding broke, and they all fell in on their own bayonets! The two who had passed were killed they said and all the others hurt”— But a sergeant, whom I accosted after, told me there were none killed and only three hurt badly.9

Lord Goodrich10 had your Zouaves11 and it is come back with a farewell note to me from the Lady.12 and Lady Sandwich brought on Sunday anecdotes Germanique13— Is that one of the books you had lost? Your silent room is swept and the books dusted—

I am making shocking writing but my pen is horrid— My mind in a frightful hurry—and my hand very unsteady with yesterdays fatigues—

A letter from you was eagerly asked for last night—but it came this morning— Those Cows14 must have been Philistines in some previous in some previous15 state of existence

Ever yours /