TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 15 October 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381015-TC-AC-01; CL 10: 198-203
TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE
5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 15th Octr, 1838—
My dear Alick,
I write to you rather than to Jack, not knowing whether Jack may not have already left you, as things have turned out. Nay, I am not without expectation of seeing Jack today yet before the Post go off. And this is one of the reasons why I did not write sooner. At any rate I send you my history; understanding that with you it will be most convenient for inspection by all parties, by Jack if he is still with you, among others. You will without delay convey it to my Mother too; and so all will be put on a clear footing, and settled for the next chapter in continuation.
Your gig remained in my sight, that day, till it got to the white house again, or nearly so: I saw Ben Nelson take leave of you from the rearward, and the Doctor and Alick roll off, till they died away into a point for me, and all was over on that side for one other time. It is a great mercy that we were privileged to meet; one should think of that, and not of the pain of parting. I had been gratified as of old with the true brotherly love of one and all; gratified to see you struggling along under better auspices than of late; I had much to gratify me.1 Struggle on, my brave ones! All good be with you till we meet again!— Our voyage to Liverpool was prosperous enough; a clam chill evening; the sheep sore afflicted, the men all tolerably off: I myself spoke no word, or hardly any; looked at the broad Millpath face of Porteous,2 saw once or twice half-roasted half-distracted visage of Butcher Douglas3 from the deck side-hutches (where he seemed to be drinking, smoking, and not well to live); your brandy was of excellent service, my pipe went well; and so about midnight we discerned the Rock of Liverpool, and all its multifarious lights rising round us,—one great blaze among the rest which, we ascertained afterwards to be a huge Fire, still going on tho' in a subdued state;4 and finally, amid immense yoho-ing, bullyragging and other tumult, we saw ourselves, about one in the morning, all run safely into moorings in the Dock, and at liberty to land if we liked. To the last moment it was uncertain with me what I would do: however, a porter offering himself “for eighteen pence, Sir,” to the Angel Hôtel, I set off with him, several others following on the same quest of a bed to sleep in. The Angel, or Wellington, or whatever it was, would not take us in; but some Royal Hôtel, close by, did: there, after kicking our heels for a good while, in the empty lobby, in the dead of night, and relying mainly on Patience and the goodwill of “Boots” (for he had our fate in his hands), the wearied individuals did, I suppose, get into some kind of sleeping-cribs; I at least did, and could bolt the door upon myself about two in the morning, and say: Here I will be private till the morrow if it please Heaven. I supped on your brandy and one of Mary's crackers; indeed, you may tell her and yourself that nothing of the sort could have been usefuller than your kind gifts proved: thanks to your kind hearts for them! Your pocket-comb was right serviceable too; I found I had forgot the other. Tell my Mother not to fret herself in the smallest about it, as I know she has been doing; I got an excellent one since I came hither. In fine all was right enough. The sooty smell of Liverpool awoke me in the morning about eight; I dressed and walked off to Maryland Street5 for breakfast: too early still by an hour.
There was no train for Manchester till five in the evening, so have they arranged it on Sundays. I sat with George Johnston, sat with poor Mrs Welsh, or with the others when they returned from church. Poor Mrs Welsh seemed to me to be evidently in the worst state: I think she feels herself to be departing fast, and has very nobly taken up her attitude as to that. She used to be a restless noisy bustling house-mother; she is now a courageous devout woman, silently gathered together to die.6 Ah me! I have seen nothing that affected me more, for years.— But at length, five came, and half-past six; and I saw Hanning waiting on the outlook for me, and was soon settled in a coach by him, and on the way to Jersey street,7 across dark streets, with here and there the flare of a Methodist Chapel starting out on them. In one dark street, a drunken Coachman drove against us; fairly drove our hind wheels and axle out from beneath us! Our coach jolted amazingly, as if crossing a ditch of a yard deep, and then hung wrecked; but to us there was no damage done at all, not even to my trunk, tho' it had jumped down to the pavement, and was lying there. In two minutes the drunken coachman had been seized, his number taken, and witnesses bespoken; and we were mounted in a new coach which took us home without accident. Jenny was well, and the little child; they have a decent shifty [resourceful]-looking little maid-servant, and all seemed to be going well with them. A bed had been provided for the Doctor, not in the inn, but in the house itself; I slept in my Mother's bed, which I remembered in the old house:8 I was just closing my senses in sweet oblivion when the Watchman, with a voice like the deepest bass of the Highland bagpipe, or what an Ostrich-Corncraik9 might utter, groaned out, “groo-o-oo,” close under me, and set all a-gallop again. “Groo-o-oo!” for there was no articulate announcement at all in it that I could gather, “Groo-o-oo,” repeated again and again, at various distances, dying out and then growing loud again; for an hour or more: this seemed to be the employment the worthy functionary had chalked out for himself to pass the night in: I grew impatient; bolted out of bed, flung up the window: “Groo-o-oo” there he was, advancing, lantern in hand, a few yards off me! “Can't you give up that noise?” I hastily addressed him: “You are keeping a person awake. What good is it to go howling and groaning there all night, and deprive people of their sleep!” He ceased from that time; at least I heard no more of him. No watchman, I think, has been more astonished for some time back. At five in the morning, all was still as sleep and darkness; at half-past five, all went off like an enormous mill-race, or ocean-tide, “Boom-m-m!” far and wide: it was the mills that were all starting then, and creeshy [greasy] drudges by the million taking post there; I have heard few sounds more impressive to me,—in the mood I was in.10 Jenny and Rob were as kind to me as kind could be. They seemed to be doing well; plenty of rough business, and st[ou]t hearts for it: I was glad I had not grieved them by passing by without a visit, tho' my visit was [too] hurried for being satisfactory. Newspapers both from Liverpool and Manchester were duly despatched to my Mother; you ought to have got the first of them on Monday morning. I went off by the Railway at a quarter past nine that morning.
I will not detain you with my Railway journey: it was one of the strangest in character that I ever made; so lonely, for our road has no houses near it yet; so new, so enchanted-looking! We went at all rates, from thirty miles an hour, to a mile and half,—the rate at which, according to Jamie, “cuddies [donkeys] can long hold out after they are done.” One whole hour, shortly after sunset, we remained stagnant, perhaps some 200 of us, in the belly of a chalk-hill, the bottom of a ditch sixty or seventy feet deep, with two men and candles waiting by us, and a little stripe of sky overhead,—till they ran off with our steam-horse, and brought back another stronger, able to draw us out. Much of the road is unfinished yet, nothing but the mere iron laid down, and the arrangements of all kinds incomplete. I had little or no dinner but Mary's two remaining crackers: however, I felt no hunger; there was no danger, there was room enough, warmth enough, no discomfort to complain of, tho' we were some three hours beyond our time. Near midnight I got safe and comfortably home; Jane, with tea and eggs, sitting gleg [eager] in expectation of me. She is better than I have seen her for a long time; I myself too am quite rested now, and decidedly in better case than I have too often been in of late years.11 I have been gathering my gear about me, making my arrangements; I have even settled with the Review Editor, so pressing was he, to begin a little “Article” for him without loss of a moment: I have settled the subject (a German Book of small moment), and shall be underway tomorrow.12 This is all the news about me, in London.— But about the Doctor—Lady Clare's servants had been here every day for some days inquiring. When? When? For her Ladyship had fallen ill, and none but her Doctor could give help. She seems to me to be rather well served; she should have kept him in her pay I think, not turned him out to grass, in the hope of getting him when she pleased to whistle! However, I went up to her Hôtel directly on the morrow morning; sent in my card with a corteous [sic] message; her Courier came down: How could one get to Scotsbrig, and in how long? I said, [“]by railway, in about four-and-twenty hours; but they had better write.” My calculation accordingly is that a Letter would arrive with “speed” on it, probably on Thursday morning. Now I discern from Newspapers that the Doctor was up at Templand then, that he came thro' Dumfries on Friday, that Saturday was the soonest he could think of starting. So perhaps he will be here today? Or perhaps he still will not think of setting off till his own time come? I have heard nothing of her since Tuesday morning. The Doctor will have decided for himself. People here seem to think that Rome, this winter, might be a better place than we thought it, so many English are gone thitherward. They also seem to say he ought to demand four hundred pounds from her Ladyship if he wait for her. I cannot advise in it. His room is ready here, and his welcome; let him write to me instantly if he be not already on the road. There is even a room for him down stairs all winter if he will have it, and cover enough,—poor Tongleg, truest-hearted, fashourest [most troublesome] of men! We shall do very well, once all settled together.— Or perhaps Lady Clare has not written at all? The [Turn back to the beginning; then margin after margin; what a scrawl!]13 thrifty poor woman, she calculated that I would write, that he would come of his own accord, and cost her no money? In that case, I would have him reckon that I had not written at all, and take his own time in coming. Thrift of that sort seems to me despicable beyond most thrifts; I thank Heaven, I have no poor brother, poor sister, so poor as that. Alick's honey-jar is on the table every morning, right good; the currents put into a chrystal [sic] case. You are to thank Mary also for her gifts; Heaven has given her too a generous heart. Good brothers, good sisters, best of Mothers, you were all kind to me, each of you kinder than the other: my heart's thanks are with you all! And so good b'ye, dear Alick; I will write again soon, to my Mother I think. I must terminate this scrawl with a P.S. on the other page. Your ever affectionate
Jamie's harvest, I hope, is prospering still. His kindness, in the trouble he was in, is deeply present with me. Tell him, ten stone of meal, I think will do; Jane seems to have given up porridge: that will serve me for a long time. As for butter, we are eating the Scotsbrig butter daily: it seems the price here is 13d per pound, and the stuff pretty fair: Jane thinks, as poor Isabella is not there herself to manage it, we will fash [bother] none—this year. Neither is there any violent haste about the meal, only moderate speed. O my whisky how easily could I have carried it, but I had not the heart!14— I will write again before long; tell my dear Mother so; and to her. God bless you all always!15—