The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 10 August 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400810-TC-JC-01; CL 12: 225-227


Chelsea, 10 August 1840

My dear Jamie,

It is very long now that I have owed you a Letter; I will write today a little word, just to let you all know that I am safe home from my travels, and about getting quietly to my work again. The “rural ride” extended to the South coast of the Island, within sight of the sea, in Sussex; hardly seventy miles off in point of space, and not quite a week in time. I staid two days at the Bullers', in a nice house they have some twenty miles from this; I rode about the country, and like the ducks came always home at night. On the Wednesday morning, I set off for the South; had a long lonely ride of five and forty miles or more, to a certain Mr Hare's, where I arrived late at night, very wearied, and was altogether hospitably welcomed. Hare is a clergyman, a man of some rank, what they call an Archdeacon; a most worthy person, a great German scholar and so forth. I was right glad to rest with him, till friday morning, when I set out on my return direct homewards; and arrived, accordingly, on Saturday before dinner; very much broiled in the sun and dust, but otherwise without accident of any kind. The weather was excessively hot; the country very beautiful, very strange; I could not sleep well at nights; that was the grand draw-back. However I have been making it up since I came home, these two nights! I had no heart whatever for the business when it came to the point; I had to force myself out, and go in order to get done with it. Nevertheless I feel persuaded it will do me good. I have seen many things; talked with various sorts of people; have brought home with me a strange dreamlike remembrance of that solitary week. The country is all dry chalk knolls, covered with the finest green, except where they have quarried in them for lime, and you see the white scaur. Trees abound; beautiful villages and houses, mostly of red brick; all looks clear, smart and fruitful. No water to be seen! The dry earth absorbs it mostly all; or the drippings stagnate away, in some kind of obscure drab-coloured ditch not worthy of the name of brook. I did not see one decisive running stream in all my journeyings. There is no clear river in all England, I believe, from Derbyshire till you get to Devonshire far westward of where I was. The farms are smallish; the barns built of pitched boards with immense roofs. They have no threshing machines; I saw the men threshing with flails; two at once, not face to face, but face to back; they also stooped far more than our threshers do.1 Their way of reaping too is different: they go round all the outskirts of a good mass of corn all at once, chipping at it, guiding it lightly by the tops; then hew in more decisively, keeping the whole mass as it were afloat, and mowing at it; till a whole sheaf is done in this way at once, and so lifted. Their stooks they build with twelve sheaves, set as your ten are, but with no hoods. They were hoeing Swedish turnips here and there, with their hands. The harvest was not far on; but much of it (wheat mostly) was standing yellow, or rather red. I understood the crop to be rather fair; it looked very well. But the hops (and every farm almost has a hopgarden, that is a permanent hopfield in it, the roots standing from year to year) were a total failure;2 and great lamenting was heard in consequence. I talked with all of the people I could come at handily: a very civil people, and not at all destitute of plenty of sense; their wages were still about 12/ a-week, sufficient to keep them even in that dear country in their own rather thriftless way: but I think this state of things is about ceasing; for many are out of work; and the Farmers at present are only held to the 12/ by a kind of point of honour, a general understanding that a man cannot live under 12/ a week. This very year, however, it seems they have begun to put an end to the gleaning of the poor; Hare was declaring he would preach against so unchristian a thing: but, alas, what will preaching do? By the way of reaping, above described, a good many ears were left; and the poor Mothers with all their children came gleaning there, and sometimes amassed a “winchester”3 or two of wheat: but all this is to be ended now. Many things besides will have to end. But they are some good way, I think, short of our sad pass as yet; and nobody suffers continual hunger, as they do in Macturkdom4 and else where!— I will now say no more about my travels, till perhaps I get a chance of telling them by word of mouth.

Tomorrow morning I am to begin my last two Lectures; I will give myself some three weeks or so; but indeed I must not hurry. After that I shall perhaps be ready for some new expedition,—I will hope to the northward this time! Riding home to you with my horse will by no means do: it is too slow a business; too mournful when you are all alone, and cannot sleep at nights. If I had two horses or even three, I could do better: to ride them all down before night, and so have my day quite filled till I were ready for bed! In this way, one might ride from three to four score miles a day very handsomely!

Jack writes to me that Jean was with our Mother at Scotsbrig. Perhaps she is gone before now. I hope the little lassie got profit by the country air.— I fancy you in the midst of hay at present; one imagines, this blazing burning weather must be general. I have no doubt it is welcome to you; for there has been no heat till now. Some people seem to have a hope that trade will mend a little at last. I rejoice to understand that you still “carry on” with good heart, in spite of all losses and crosses: the times are sore upon a man; he must stand up to them like a man. I am not now so altogether destitute of cash; as for Jack he abounds in cash: at any pinch you must apply to us, and know that brothers will not see their brother beaten. It is all we can do for one another; not much, in this world of toil and trial for us all.

I am afraid poor little Tom's leg is not well yet. It will depend, I take it, on his general health. One must hope all, endeavour all. The poor boy might have lost his sense, which would have been far worse.

The Mr Marshall will not accept my horse, unless to sell it and give me the money. I will have it off my hands soon, one way or other.

My dear Mother is up stairs, is she not, in her usual way? She must shift into the big room looking eastward, if this heat be as strong with you! I will write to her soon. My best remembrances to Isabella, and to one and all. Our oatmeal is done!—Adieu, dear Brother!

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript]

Kindest regards to Isabella and our Mother—and a kiss to yourself—your affectionate Jane W Carlyle