candlestick

August 1843-March 1844


The Collected Letters, Volume 17


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JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 9 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430809-JWC-TC-01; CL 17: 31-35


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE

Ryde / Pier Hotel / Wednesday morning [9 August 1843]

Dearest—

Here I actually am—and so far as has yet appeared, “if it had not been for the honour of the thing”1 I had better have staid where I was— The journey hither was not pleasant the least in the world, what journey ever was or shall be pleasant for poor me?— But this railway seems to me particularly shaky, and then the steamboating from Gosport, 2 tho it had not time to make me sick;—the water moreover being smooth as the Thames—still it made me as perfectly uncomfortable as need be—a heavy dew was falling—one could not see many yards ahead—every body on board looked peevish— I wished myself at home in my bed—

We reached Ryde at eight in the evening—and the second Hotel being filled, had to take up our quarters for that night at the first—which “is the dearest Hotel in Europe”—and the Hotel in Europe so far as I have seen, where there is least human comfort— I had to make tea from an urn the water of which was certainly not “as hot as one could drink it”3—the cream was blue milk—the butter tasted of straw—and the “cold fowl” was a luke-warm one, and as tough as leather— After this insalubrious repast which the Stimabile,4 more easily pleased than I, pronounced to be “infinitely refreshing by Jove”!—finding that beyond sounding the depths of vacuum there was nothing to be done that night I retired to my bed—the window looked out over house roofs and the sea so I hoped it would be quiet—but alas—there was a dog!—such a Devil of a dog! uttering a volley of loud barks about once in the five minutes—and rousing up what seemed to be a whole infinitude of dogs in the distance! Of course fevered and nervous as I was at any rate from the journey—I could not sleep at all— I do not mean that I slept ill but I have absolutely never been asleep at all the whole night! so you may fancy the favourable mood I am in towards Ryde this morning! I feel as if I would not pass another night in that bed for a hundred pounds!—nor shall I need— Clark5 has been out this morning to seek a lodging and has found one he says very quiet—quite away from the town— If I cannot sleep there I will return to my own red bed as fast as possible— I did not bind myself for any specified time,— To Helen I said I should most likely be back in three or four days—but in my private mind I thought it possible I might make out a week— It was best however to let her expect me from day to day—both that she might get on faster with her work—and that she might suffer less from her apprehensions of thieves for she flattered herself nobody would know I was gone before I should be returned I left Elizabeth Mudie6 with her—with plenty of needle work to do—alone, she would have gone out of her senses altogether and most probably succeeded in getting the house robbed— — This Elizabeth is a more taking girl than Juliet. I sent for her over last Sunday that the Sisters might have a day in comfort together before Juliets departure for Manchester.— And now I am about sending her to Manchester also!— Actually I have the offer of a place for her which sounds very nice indeed— She accepted with a face all red with joy—and my first work on returning must be to get her equipped with a decent little wardrobe like her Sisters—which will consume another third part of the money—and then there will remain another third to put the child out to board—if Mrs Mudie herself can find a situation and she says she wishes to do. I cannot tell you how glad I am at getting both these girls placed—and out of London, away from the Mother, who if near would have been continually taking their cloathes to pawn—and beside one another in the same sort of services— I really regard it as the saving of them both—they must have gone to the streets before much longer—on the Sunday when Elizabeth came to me at one clock she told her sister they had nothing to eat at home all that day!— I took Juliet myself to the Railway—and committed her to the care of a decent looking man and his wife—she was to take a cab and go straight to Geraldine's—she looked very composed and strong-hearted— I augur well of her. She has very little to say for herself—but her watchful waiting upon me—always flying to answer my bell—to open the door—to do every thing like a servant while she staid—proved that she had cast all pride out of her heart, and felt a wish to please me—

The other is equally willing and has I think as much capacity for service— But I dare say I weary you with my eternal Mudies— It is so little good one ever succeeds in doing “here down7 (as Mazzini calls it) that no wonder one makes much of what little comes in ones way—

And now let me tell you something which you will perhaps think more questionable than the placing of the Mudie girls—a little piece of Hero-worship that I have been after— “My “youthful enthusiasm” as John Sterling calls it is not extinct there, as I had supposed—but must certainly be immortal! Only think of its blazing up for—Father Mathew!— You know I have always had the greatest reverence for that Priest—and when I heard he was in London— —attainable to me, I felt that I must see him—shake him by the hand—and tell him I loved him considerably!— I was expressing my wish to see him to Robertson the night he brought the Ballad collector8—and he told me it could be gratified—quite easily— Mrs Hall had offered him a note of introduction to Father Mathew, and she would be pleased to include my name in it—“fix my time then”—he was administering the pledge all day long in the Commercial Road— I fixed next evening— He (Robertson) called for me at five—and we rumbled off in Omnibus all the way to Mile end9—that hitherto for me unimaginable goal!—then there was still a good way to walk—the Place was a large piece10 of waste ground boarded off from the Commercial road for a Catholic cemetery— I found “my youthful enthusiasm” rising higher and higher as I got on the ground and saw the thousands of people all hushed into awful silence; with not a single exception that I saw—the only religious meeting I ever saw in Cokney-land which had not plenty of scoffers hanging on its outskirts.—the Crowd was all in front of a narrow scaffolding from which an American Capt was then haranguing it—and Father Mathew stood beside him so good and simple looking!— Of course we could not push our way to the front of the scafold where steps led up to it—so we went to one end—where there was no steps or other visible means of access—and handed up our letter of introduction to a Policeman—he took it and returned presently—saying that Father Mathew was coming.— And he came—and reached down his hand to me—and I grasped it—but the boards were higher than my head—and it seemed that our communication must stop there— But I have told you—I was in a moment of enthusiasm— I felt the need of getting closer to that good man— I saw a bit of rope hanging in the form of a festoon from the end of the boards— I put my foot on it—held still by Father Mathews hand—seized the end of the boards with the other—and in some to myself, up to this moment, incomprehensible way—flung myself horizontally onto the scafolding at Father Mathew's feet!!— He uttered a scream!—for he thought (I suppose) I must fall back—but not at all— I jumped to my feet—shook hands with him and said what?— “God only knows”— He made me sit down on the only chair a moment, then took me by the hand as if I had been a little girl and led me to the front of the scafold to see him administer the pledge—from a hundred to two hundred took it—and all the Tragedies and theatrical representations I ever saw melted into one could not have given me such emotion as that scene did— There were faces both of men and of women that will haunt me while I live—faces exhibiting such concentrated wretchedness—making, you would have said, its last deadly struggle with the powers of darkness—there was one man in particular with a baby in his arms—and a young girl that seemed of the “unfortunate” sort—that gave me an insight into the lot of humanity that I still wanted—and in the face of Father Mathew when one looked from them to him, the mercy of heaven seemed to be laid bare— Of course I cried—but I longed to have laid my head down on the good mans shoulder and taken a hearty cry there before the whole assembled multitude!! He said to me one such nice thing— “I dare not be absent for an hour” he said “I think always if some dreadful drunkard were to come! and me away; he might never muster determination perhaps to come again in all his life, and there would be a man lost”!

I was turning sick and needed to get out of the thing—but in the act of leaving him—never to see him again thro all time most probably—feeling him to be the very best man of modern times (you excepted)—I had another movement of youthful enthusiasm—which you will hold up your hands and eyes at— Did I take the pledge then?— No— I would tho', if I had not feared it would have been put in the newspapers!— No—not that—but I drew him aside—having considered if I had any ring on—any handkerchief—any anything that I could leave with him in remembrance of me—and having bethought me of a pretty memorandum book in my reticule—I drew him aside and put it into his hand—and bade him keep it for my sake, and asked him to give me one of his medals to keep for his!—and all this in tears and the utmost agitation!!— Had you any idea that your wife was still such a fool! I am sure I had not— The Father got thro the thing admirably—he seemed to understand what it all meant quite well—inarticulate tho I was— —he would not give me a common medal but took a little silver one from the neck of a young man who had just taken the pledge for example's sake, telling him he would get him another presently and then laid the medal into my hand—with a solemn blessing— I could not speak for excitement all the way home,—when I went to bed I could not sleep—the pale faces I had seen haunted me—and Father Mathew's smile—and even next morning I could not any how subside into my normal state until I had sat down and—written Father Mathew a long letter—accompanying it with your Past and Present!!! Now my dear if you are ready to beat me for a distracted Gomeril [blockhead]—I cannot help it—all that it was put into my head to do— Ich könnte nichts anders [I could not do otherwise]

When you write just address to Cheyne Row—I cannot engage for myself being here twentyfour hours longer—it will depend on how I sleep tonight—and also a little on when I find Elizabeth Mudie will be needed in Manchester— I must be back in time to get her clothes gathered together—

Bless you always—love to them all

Your

J C

I began this at the Hotel—but it has been finished at our lodging which looks quiet and comfortable so far—