July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


TC TO JWC ; 14 September 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580914-TC-JWC-01; CL 34: 183-185


Prag (Hôtel zum Englischen Hof) 14 Septr (Tuesday Evg) 1858—

Dearest,—This, you may believe, was a right pleasant morning to me. I had missed two nights sleep in succession; and last night on arriving here was in the saddest plight; but by the superior arrangts of the place got six good hours to start with again, whh was itself a cheerful feat. Then going out to “Poste restante,” I found your Letter; actually got sight of your little hand again; and heard of your safe arrival in Tynron, and of your first night's sleep there! I should not like to have such three weeks of uncertainty and guessing soon again; not one whisper had I heard from the time of leaving Scotland, or rather 4 days before it. Your “sunday” I find was the 22d of August,1 that first sea-day of mine, when all was tumbling about in our dirty machine, and poor Foxton like the rest of the world lay sick and puking,—I hidden in an upstairs crypt of hencoops to at least have fresh air, and avoid a like fate. Alas, it is again above 3 weeks;—but I hope to find something better tomorrow night at Dresden: pray Heaven the news it brings be only as good. Mrs Pringle seems to be the Queen of Hostesses; tell her that my obligations to her are great and lasting for the good work she has done upon you.— Today there came a Letter from John too, dated five days later (27 Augt): but it contained of course nothing that you had not told me,—except, what was rather bad, that Jean's Boy Jamie had not got the “place” he seemed clearly in view of at the time I went away. A sorish disappointt upon poor Jean, who has her share of such just now to bear.

From Breslau, where I wrote, our adventures have been miscellaneous, our course painful but successful. At Landshut2 (edge of the Riesengebirge) where we arrived near 11 the first night, in a crazy vehicle of one horse,—you never saw such a scene of squalid desolation. I had pleased myself with the thot of a cup of hot milk, such as is generally procurable in German inns: Umsonst [in vain]; no milk in the house, no nothing;—only a ruhiges Zimmer [quiet room], not opened for weeks past (by the smell of it), and whh I judged by the description must abut on Cochin China Cocks; as Ng by sad experience found it do. I lay towards the street, but then also as above hinted mostly missed sleep. Our drive next day thro' the Riesengebirge into Bohemian Territory was as beautiful as any I ever had;—likest to it was that drive we once had from Buxton in Derbyshire across the Hills to Sheffield:3 you remember it no doubt. Like that too it ended in confusion;4 getting into railways, full of dirty smoking Sunday gents (fully as ugly on the Elbe there as on the Thames nearer you): we had passed the sources of the Elbe early in the day; then crossed it at night, little bigger than the water of milk;5 we have not far quitted it since, nor shall till we pass Dresden, and decline the Hamburg route home. The gents, that night led us to a place called Pardubitz6 (terribly familiar to me from those dull Friedh Books); where one of the detestablest nights of all this Expedition was provided me. Big noisy inn,7 full of evil smells; contemptible little wicked village; where a worse than Jerry-shop8 close over the way raged like Bedlam or Erebus,—to cheer one in a “bed” (i.e. trough) 18 inches too short, and a matrass forced into it, whh cocked up at both ends, as if you had been lying in the trough of a saddle: ach Himmel! We left it at 4 a.m. to do the hardest day of any: Chotusitz, Kolin;9 such a day: in a wicked vehicle, with a spavined horse, amid clouds of dust under a blazing sun: I was half mad on getting hither at 8½ p.m., again by the railway among incidental groups of the nastiest kind of gents. The Bohemians are a difft people from the Germans proper: yesterday not one in a hundred of them cd understand a word of German:—they are liars, thieves, slatterns: a kind of miserable subter-Irish people; Irish with the addition of ill nature, and a disposition decidedly disobliging. We called yesterday at an Inn (on the Battlefield of Kolin) where Frh had gone aloft to take survey of the ground: the “Golden Sun”10 is still its title, but it has sunk to be the dirtiest house probably in Europe, and with the nastiest-looking ill-thriven spectre of a landlady, who had not even a glass of beer, if Foxton cd have summoned courage to drink it in honour of the occasion. This is a grand picturesque Town, this Prag, in good part Bohemian:—tomorrow before noon we hope to be quite out of Bohemian limits, and one of us will not be easily persuaded thither again.— Today we had our own difficulties in getting master of the “Ziscaberg”11 “Sterboholi”12 and other localities of the Battle whh young Ladies play on the piano: but on the whole it was light compared with the throes of yesterday. Here is an authentic wild pink plucked from the Battlefield;—give it to some young lady who practises the “Battle of Prague”13 on her piano to your satisfaction!—

There are now but 3 Battlefields to do: one double, day after tomorrow by a “return-ticket” to be had in Dresden; the two next (Torgau, Rossbach) in two days following: after whh—!— Poor Neuberg has fairly broken down by excess of yesterday's labour and various misery: he gave up the Hradschin14 (“Radsheen,” they pronounce it) to Foxton and me, tho' one of the chief curiosities of Prag; and is gone to bed,—a noisy bed, with little nursing, poor man;—but hopes to be road worthy tomorrow again. He is the mainspring of every enterprise: I cd not do it witht him;—and Foxton is good for absolutely nothing except to neutralise him, whh he pretty much does.— — We speculated on getting to Antwerp and on board Steamer on Sunday first; but I rather think it will be Wednesday (22 Septr), to be at London in 24 Hours more if all prosper! Oh my Goody, Oh my Goody, shall I easily go away again!— —Seldom in my days had I a viler writing apparatus than even here;—and it is now late; and I have still a Note (to Ld Ashburton) to write— I end therefore. Pardon me, be well and love me. Adieu my poor little woman. Yours evermore T. Carlyle