The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 9 April 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410409-TC-JWC-01; CL 13: 87-91


Fryston, 10 [9] April, 1841—

Many thanks, dear Bairn, for your brisk kind little Letter, which was handed in to me yesterday morning. The Flunky in red quilted coat walked solemnly round the breakfast table with his silver salver, laying Letter after Letter on it, for this and the other; and behold at last there was one for me too. I escaped with it into the air, to read it there at leisure. Happily nothing is wrong; nothing is worse than I expected, all is rather better.

I have no time or means today to send you right news of what is going on here; it would take such a length of time to make any clear description of it: I merely write to signify that I am still swimming along in this wondrous element, and that nothing goes amiss with me as yet. That will season your slice of bread for you on Saturday sufficiently. Pour a glass of sherry for yourself, and read such news thankfully to the relish of that.

All would be well and supremely well with me here,—if I could but sleep. A small faculty, but an important one! You know my talent that way, especially in such lionizing occasions: ah me! Nevertheless, after the most tumultuous watchings, sluggings and tumblings thro' the night-watches, I get up wonderfully cheery; a cigar smoked in the open sunshine, amid the sound of trees, with one's foot on the soft grass, sets me quite up again; and I meet the household at their “halfpast ten” breakfast with a cheerful kind of heart. We dine about eight, and I am here acting as a Lion—cannot get out of it: tout est dit [all is said]!— But I have had one long ride; mean to get another this day (unless the rain return); it is above all a new kind of shatterment that I suffer, and therefore a relief from the old. I believe I am getting quieter and better in spite of the very Devil. Enough of that for one time.

“Richard,” I find, lays himself out while in this quarter to do hospitalities, and of course to collect notabilities about him, and play them off one against the other. I am his trump card at present. The Sessions are at Pontefract even now, and many Lawyers there; these last two1 nights he has brought a trio of Barristers to dine,—producing champagne &c: plate, “of massy silver,” four or five embroidered lackeys and the rest of it, are the order of all days. Our first trio consisted of a Sir Francis Doyle (a good young man, whom I liked), another elderly wigsman (name forgotten), and—little Roebuck! He is practising as Advocate now, that little Roebuck, as lean, acrid, contentious and loquacious as ever.2 He flew at me, do what I would, some three or four times, like a kind of cockatrice,—had to be swept back again; far more to the general entertainment than to mine. He does not fly into a shriek like Maurice,3 that is his quality; but he is a very impertinent little unproductive gentleman; and I suppose has made many a man incline to shriek. We parted good friends,—with small wish on my part or his to meet again. Last night, our Three was admitted to be a kind of failure: three greater blockheads tha lee-lang [live-long] night ye wadna fund in Christentee.4 Richard had to exert himself: but he is really dextrous the villain; he pricks into you with questions, with remarks, with all kinds of fly-tackle to make you bite; does generally contrive to get you into some sort of speech And then his good humour is extreme: you look in his face and forgive him all his tricks. The three Blockheads at length made a stiff rectangular bow (protruding the hydrastisy5 in a very curious way), and took themselves off. Tonight we are to have Lord Wharncliffe, called hereabouts the “Dragon of Wantley”;6 a clever-looking man, as I judged him yesterday by face to be. My private wish were that I lay some leagues off his orbit: but, on the whole, what ill will he do me; I have to dine at any rate!

Besides these strays and waifs we have had, and are like to have, certain Yorkshire Cousins male and female from the Northern Dales; rosy-faced persons, who “do thee neither ill nor good.”7

Richard's Sister (see Poetic Memorials8) is also here these two days and till tomorrow: they call her Harriet and Ladyship,—“will Ladyship have fowl?”—and seem to have made a pet of her from the beginning. Even this has not entirely spoiled her; I think she is decidedly worth something. About the height of Rd., which makes a respectable stature for a gown (nay I think she must be some inches taller), the same face as he, but translated into the female cut and surmounted with lace and braided hair: of a satirical witty turn, not wanting affability, but rather wanting art of speech, above all rather afraid of me: she sings, plays, reads German, Italian &c to great lengths; looks really beautiful but somewhat moony with her large blue eyes; and indeed I do believe has more in her than we yet see. Her husband the “Viscount Galway”9 is a furious everlasting hunter of foxes,—I mean furious on the foxes, good to all other things and men; a cousin of her own, Monkton by surname. They live in Nottinghamshire some thirty miles off, and Richard “will take me down thither”:—we shall see as to that!— With the rest of the Household, Dear-Donaldson Aunts included,10 I get on as well as need be: the Mother is a very good woman, with a mild high-sailing way, to which in old times her figure and beauty must have corresponded well. The old gentleman likes me better daily, since he finds I will not bite. He is said to be greatly altered since his accident (of breaking a limb last year);—as indeed he may well be, having been a great rider, and suddenly shut out from all exercise these many months: a man's faculties would get terribly rusted in that case! He has flashes of wit, of intelligence and almost originality,—at all events, he wants not “flashes of silence”:11 most part of his time he sits in his Library, smoking and ruminating, shrunk up I daresay in innumerable whims and half-diseased thoughts, tho full of good nature. I like him very much.— These are our Dramatis Personae. They are all off to “Good Friday” at Church; I alone left here, scribbling to Goody,—better than Good Friday to me; I believe I shall have to go on Sunday. I will not if I can possibly escape: I have even religious scruples about it,—I really begin to have.

What course awaits me after a day or two I do not at all know. The Spring-Rice Marshalls (from Leeds)12 are invited for Monday, and the Corn-Law Rhymer;13 none of whom I hope will come. Consider it!— Of course I must stay till after Monday: but certainly if I do not get into the way of sleeping better, I ought to be gone somewhither as soon as possible: which “whither” it shall be will gradually grow clearer. I think of the Sea and Hull:14 it is far cheaper, and not more but less uncomfortable for me.

If a man may not write blash [watery mixture] to his wife, to whom then may he? Or what is to become of him at all?

Take care of thyself poor little creature! Earthquake no fa[r]ther15 than is entirely consistent with that.

I have a Letter to write to Jack; I should write too to my Mother.

Does Jeffrey come back to Chelsea?16 Tell him I am still alive.— Never mind those beggarly Newspaper reviews; laudatory, condemnatory or whatsoever they be, what is a whole “potatoe-basketful” of them worth? Zero, or a minus quantity?———

Shame! There is the clock striking one, a full hour and more since I began! Not another word.

Write, will you, a line to Cavaignac about the sending of the Book (only ask Fraser first, who it is) and about calling on Thackeray.17 Or if Fraser can still find no conveyance, Mazzini I suppose can find one both for Letter and Book.

Enough, enough! Adieu, dear good Bairn. God send us both better, my Lassie. It is a pity we were not.

Yours ever / T. Carlyle