July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


JWC TO MARY WELSH; 4 September 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360904-JWC-MWE-01; CL 9:47-49.


5 Cheyne Row Sunday [4 September 1836]

My dear Aunt

Now that I am fairly settled at home again, and can look back over my late travels with the coolness of a spectator; it seems to me that I must have tired out all men, women, and children that have had to do with me by the road. The proverb says “there is much ado when cadgers [itinerant dealers] ride.”1 I do not know precisely what ‘cadger’ means; but I imagine it to be a character like me; liable to headach[e]s, to seasickness, to all the infirmities “that flesh is heir to,”2 and a few others besides: the friends and relations of cadgers should therefore use all soft persuasions to induce them to remain at home. I got into that mail the other night, with as much repugnance and trepidation as if it had been a Phalaris's brazen bull,3 instead of a christian vehicle, invented for purposes of mercy not of cruelty: There were three besides myself when we started, but two dropt off at the end of the first stage, and the rest of the way I had as usual half the coach to myself. My fellow passenger had that highest of all terrestrial qualities which, for me, a fellow passenger can possess, he was silent.— I think his name was Roscoe, and he read sundry long papers to himself with the pondering air of a lawyer. We breakfasted at Litchfield, at five in the morning, on muddy coffee and scorched toast, which made me once more lyrically recognise in my heart (not without a sigh of regret) the very different coffee and toast with which you helped me out of my headach[e]. At two, there was another stop of ten minutes, that might be employed in lunching or otherwise—feeling myself more fevered than hungry, I determined on spending the time in combing my hair and washing my face and hands with vinegar,—in the midst of this solacing operation I heard what seemed to be the mail resuming its rapid course, and quick as lightening it flashed on me “there it goes!—and my luggage is on the top of it!—and my purse is in the pocket of it!—and here am I stranded on an unknown beech [sic], without so much as a sixpence in my pocket to pay for the vinegar I have already consumed!” Without my bonnet, my hair hanging down my back, my face half dried, and the towel with which I was drying it firm grasped in my hand, I dashed out,—along,—down,—opening wrong doors,—stumbling over steps,—cursing the day I was born,—still more the day on which I took a notion to travel,—and arrived finally, at the bar of the inn in a state of excitement bordering on lunacy. The bar-maids looked at me “with weender and amazement”4— “Is the coach gone?” I gasped out.— “The coach? Yes!” “O! and you have let it away without me! O! stop it,—cannot you, stop it?” and out I rushed into the street with streaming hair and streaming towel, and almost brained myself against—the Mail! which was standing there in all stillness without so much as horses in it!—what I had heard was a heavy coach!— And now having descended like a maniac, I ascended again like a fool, and dried the other half of my face, and put on my bonnet, and came back “a sadder and a wiser”5 woman—

I did not find my Husband at the Swan with two necks; for we were in, a quarter of an hour before the appointed time. so I had my luggage put on the backs of two porters and walked on to Cheapside, where I presently found a Chelsea Omnibus. By and by however, the omnibus stopt, and amid cries of “no room Sir”—“Cant get in”— Carlyle's face beautifully set off by a broad-brimmed white hat gazed in at the door,—like the Peri who “at the gate-of heaven stood disconsolate6—in hurrying along the Strand pretty sure of being too late,—amidst all the imaginable and unimaginable phenomena which that immense thorough fare of a street presents; his eye (heaven bless the mark) had lighted on my trunk perched on the top of the omnibus and had recognised it! This seems to me one of the most indubitable proofs of genius which he ever manifested—happily a passenger went out a little further on, and then he got in7— My Brother-in-law had gone two days before, so my arrival was most well-timed. I found all at home right and tight, my maid seems to have conducted herself quite handsomely in my absence—my best room looked really inviting. A bust of Shell[e]y (a present from Leigh Hunt) and a fine print of Albert Durer's handsomely framed (also a present) had still further ornamented it during my absence— I also found (for I wish to tell you all my satisfaction) every grate in the house furnished with a supply of coloured clippings!—and the holes in the stair-carpet all darned so that it looks like new— They gave me tea and fried bacon and staved off my headach[e] as well as might be. They were very kind to me, but on my life, every body is kind to me! and to a degree that fills me with admiration—I feel so strong a wish to make you all convinced how very deeply I feel your kindness!—and just the more I would say; the less I am able to say anything.

Please tell my Uncle that Carlyle has been about the stocking—and the people engaged to have it ready and sent to Mr Fowns in Tavistock Square8 (according to their orders) on Tuesday night. If it do not come shortly tell us and we will leave them no peace till they send it.

I expect in a day or two to be quite recovered from the fatigue of my wanderings and then that I shall begin to reap the good effects— Now, I do not expect dear Aunt that you should write to me, when you have so much else to do but certainly the rest might be well employed (could they but think so) in sending me news from time to time. God bless you all. Love to all, from the head of the house down to Johnny—

your [affec]tionate

Jane W Carlyle

I left a pair of stockings behind. Pray have the kindness to give them to Margaret (of course I mean Margaret the maid)

[TC's postscript:]

My kind compliments; and thanks for your care of the poor Traveller. If the laced-stocking do not come this week, let the Goodman write to me, and Snip [the tailor] shall have no rest till I see it under way. By and by I hope to see you all, and be a better boy than last time.