January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG ; 13 August 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560813-TC-JN-01; CL 31: 171-174


The Gill, Cummertrees, Annan N.B. 13 August, 1856—

Dear Neuberg,

Your Kissingen Letter reached me safely yesterday morning in this remote corner of the Earth; and conveyed an interesting picture of Human Life in the vallies of the Frankish Saale.1 You appear to have All the World and his Wife about you in those Pumprooms at Kissingen:2 it is like reading the Gazette of a big seafight, while sitting far inland amid solitary bushes by a tinkling little brook. I am glad to hear the place suits you in point of health; and promises some improvement in that most important particular.

We got away from London, as if by a kind of miracle, or help of the gods, in the last week of July. The beneficent Lady Ashburton tore us up, being bound herself to the Highlands, in a sublime vehicle, used by the Queen on former occasions, of the nature of a travelling house, rather than mortal railway carriage; and whirled us off, there being spare room in abundance, towards Edinburgh, at the rate of 40 miles an hour, one morning. Our journey was none of the pleasantest after all; heat very potent, dust very copious; delirious speed presiding over every part of our arrangements;—axle-tree of sublime vehicle at last taking fire, so that it had to be condemned somewhere in Northumberland, and we flung into common vehicles, much in a hurry at last; which however we all of us (especially the Lady) stood in a heroic manner. Within the time, after all (about 11 hours) we were landed at Edinr (above 400 miles I think)3 ; a very dusty astonished party, but otherwise uninjured by the whirl we had undergone. I continue to feel that, under all conditions, Express-Train (or indeed Rail in any form) is by far the most inhuman mode of travelling that the sinful Posterity of Adam have ever hit upon since they lost their natural mode of Psyche-wings,4 a very long time ago.— Next day the Lady A., who had found her Husband waiting in Edinr, went off again towards the Ultima Thule; I took my wife across the Frith there, to a very pleasant place among pleasant cousins; and on the morrow after that, struck southward (90 miles or so) to this stillest of all nooks, on the shore of the Solway, within ten miles of my birthplace, where arrangements had been made for me much to my mind. Here with trifling interruptions I have been ever since; diligently bathing when the full-sea serves, diligently riding, walking every twilight and morning;—silent nearly as a stone, and altogether more solitary than I could be anywhere else even in La Trappe itself. The Mistress of the House is a kind Sister of mine, memorable to me for her practical goodness from of old; her Daughters wait loyally, and with every kind of skill, upon the veteran uncle,—as does the master their Father (a most quiet loyal Scotch Farmer);—and everybody knows that first duty of leaving me well alone. So that, on the whole, I was never better lodged, or done for; and seem to myself in these two weeks to be making singular improvements in respect of health and strength. I do not want for innumerable reflexions; generally of a rather sombre nature, in a place so much resembling Hades to me; but these are not useless to a man, by no means, even if they were avoidable. I know, from my boyhood, all the mountains &c fifty miles round, and have liberty to converse with these; the human species not having any right to trouble me with its foolish speech, except a pious Good-morrow if by rare accident we meet on the lonely smooth roads. I have ten miles excellt sea-sand to gallop upon (no company but a few sea-mews consulting remotely about their commissariat affairs): my Horse is excellent, and reminds me, by its temper and some of its ways, of the worthy quadruped I had last autumn.5— I have brought some Papers with me; and occasionally try to do a bit of work, getting Fk's “Introduction” worked thro' the shoreless lake of Reichshistorie [Empire history],—not with much effect hitherto. My Wife still continues among her kindred and old friends, Head-quarters where I left her; and seems to be doing almost as well as I, and to be in no haste to move. There is little chance of our lifting anchor, I should think, before August end: after that, all is still vague; but I guess it may be near or altogether the end of September before we see Chelsea again.

If you had gone to Wien,6 I meant to have set you on asking where the Island of “Camberg on the Donau” is: and to bid you take a good look of it as you passed. It was there that Ottocar (A.d.1276) did his homage to Kaiser Rudolf, with the curtains of the tent rushing down on a sudden:7 In Köhler (Reichs-Historie p. 253)8 I find the place specified as above, no whisper of it in any other Book, nor in any Map or Lexicon of mine; and I want to know where it is if I could. Perhaps you may fall in with some superior Map, learned Professor or the like, who can tell you. Environs of Wien I should guess—but truly it is no great matter; and I have already arranged to do without knowing.

My Brother is just now, and till the end of the month, in the very country you are bound for: one of the reasons of my writing so soon is to give you a chance of meeting if you care mutually to exert yourselves. He went off, shortly after us, towards Vevay (or Vevey I think he writes), with one of his Boys whom he is settling for a year or two in some big School there,—Pre-Military School, as it were; the name of it not farther known to me.9 A Letter from him two days ago represents the operation as happily completed; his own resolutions not yet fixed farther, except that he means to continue till about the end of August, without travelling farther, except towards Berne or Zürich, for a day or two, to meet some English friends who are passing,—who, probably before this, have passed. A Letter addressed “Poste Restante, Vevay, Canton de Vaud” would be apt to find him, if not too late. I have not written to him at all of any such possibility; nor am likely to do so, being silent till a second Letter come: so that the adventure rests wholly with yourself, and will never crow as a Cock in this world but die in ovo [in the egg], if you merely do nothing.

I sent the Reichenbach part of your Letter (indeed the whole Letter, but with that part of it marked) off to my Wife yesterday; recommending she should forward it to Reichh, and advise him to think seriously whether he could not in practical fact get home to Oppeln again. In America he does not in the least look like prospering.10— — I here close this bulky deliverance; very much longer than I anticipated, and not containing almost anything,—beyond a bit of my poor Time and yours! Wishing you a pleasant route and happy return to us abt the time set, Yours always

T. Carlyle