August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 11 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430811-JWC-TC-01; CL 17: 35-38


Ryde / Friday [11 August 1843]


The Skyrocket will be off tomorrow morning;1 on the strength of its own explosiveness—the red-hot poker may stay till it have burnt a hole in its box—if it like! “Oh what had I ado for to travel?” “I was well, I would be better, and I am here”! To be sure Ryde is a place well worth having seen—and knowing about with a view to future needs but what I get out of it for the time being—moi [I]—is sleeplessness indigestion and incipient despair. I finished my last letter to you the first thing I did on taking possession of the lodging—it (the lodging) looked passable enough so far—a small but neat sitting room—with two bedrooms of which the roomiest was assigned to me—plainly in the expectation that I should modestly prefer the inferior one— But not at all—my modesty remained perfectly passive—for I knew that he could have had the bedrooms equally good for two or three shillings a week more—and if he chose to make a sacrifice of comfort for so paltry a saving, I was resolved it should be of his own comfort, not mine— Having ended my letter and one to Helen at Chelsea—I went out alone to look at the town while Sterling was buying twopenny worths of all sorts of groceries &c &c in the shops—tho Clark is with us and could have saved him that trouble— In the course of my walk I went into a confectioners and had an ice (!) and bought a bag of biscuits to bring home, against the probability of being starved! Nothing makes one so deadly selfish and taken up about owns2 own accommodation as the neighbouring of selfishness—

On my return I found John and Teddy arrived3—and dinner awaiting—mutton broth (at my particular request) which the Stimabile had to help with an old coffee cup!—soup-ladles being apparently unknown in this locality— I walked again in the evening with John while his Father took Teddy a-boating—the Maurices were to arrive next day—he had to return that night and would not be able to come again— He offered me every so many German books to read—as if one could read any thing here!

I went to bed in fear and trembling—I do think another such night as the preceding would have thrown me into a brain fever—but I slept—mercifully—not well—but some— On looking however at my fair hand in the morning, as it lay outside the bedclothes I perceived it to be all—“what shall I say”—“elevated into inequalities4—“significant of much”!— Not a doubt of it I had fallen among bugs!—my pretty neck too especially that part of it Babbie used to like to kiss was all bitten infamously—and I felt myself a degraded goody as well as a very unfortunate one— As I sat exceedingly low at something which in the language of flattery we called breakfast—Clark brought me your letter and one from Babbie and three from Geraldine who always outdoes you all! administering comfort each after a sort—but Geraldines most—for they afforded me the handsomest pretext for returning home suddenly— One of her letters was to announce the safe arrival of Juliet Mudie whom she expressed herself outrageously pleased with—the other two were to say that I must get Elizabeth off immediately as the Lady could not wait—and in case of missing me she had written to this effect to Chelsea and Ryde at the same time— —I was not to mind clothing her—all that could be done there—if I was absent I must employ Mazzini or somebody to see her off— — But I was too glad of the excuse to dream of employing any body—besides one always does ones own business best oneself—should she miss the thing thro any interference from the Mother or other hindrance which my presence could have obviated who knows but it might be the losing of her whole chances in life!— So I wrote to her instantly to go home and take leave of her Mother on receiving my letter (today) and make one or two small preparations which were indispensable—unless she should go among strangers like a beggar which of course poor thing, being very handsome or whether or no, she would not like to do—and that I would be there tomorrow to take her to the railway tomorrow evening— Meanwhile I am getting together one decent suit of clothes for her here in the Isle of Wight! that is what I call taking time by the middle!

Today I have another letter from you as a sort of marmlade to ones bad bread and tea urn—skimed milk-tea! Do you know I pity this poor old man in his meanness—the notion of saving seems to be growing into a disease with him—and he has still a sufficient natural sense of what looks generous and even magnificient to make it a very painful disease—he is really pitiable in every way—and if it were possible for me to stay with him; I would out of sheer charity— Neither of his children care rigmaree for him—and he knows it—nobody does care rigmaree for him—he is incapable of applying his mind to reading or writing or any one earthly thing— And he cannot move about “to distract himself” as he used to do—he suffers so much from incessant pain in one of his thighs— He cannot even talk for every minute needing to roar out—“this is torture by Jove”! “My God this is agony &c &c”— He always will go out to walk—and then for hours after he pays the penalty of it— But enough of him poor old fellow—it is a mercy he has Clark who is a really judicious well conducted servant.

I went this morning (while a man was taking down my bedstead to look for the bugs which were worse last night of course having found what a rare creature they had got to eat) and investigated another lodging which Clark had taken for us and Sterling gave it up for no other reason one could imagine than just because Clark had taken it—and he likes to do every thing over again himself— I thought it would be good to know something about lodgings here in case you might like to try it next time— Ryde is certainly far the most beautiful seabathing place I ever saw—and seems to combine the conveniences and civilization of town with the purity and quiet of the country in a rather successful manner— The lodging I looked at was quite at the outside of the town—a sitting room and two bedrooms in the house of a single Lady—the sitting room beautiful the bedrooms small but in compensation the beds very large—good furniture—and I should expect good attendance—“sitting” in a beautiful little garden—villa-wise—rejoicing in the characteristic name of Flora Cottage—and within two minutes walk of the sea and romantic looking bushy expanses—a very superior affair to Newby5 and the cost just the same—two guineas a-week—god knows whether there be bugs in it—there is no noise—for the Lady remarked to me par hazard [by chance] that she sometimes felt frightened in lying awake at night it was so still!—nothing to be heard but the murmuring of the sea— We may “put this in our pipe” for next year—and I shall look about further during this my last day— I wonder John never recommended Wight to you with any emphasis it must surely have some drawback which I have not discovered—for it seems to me a place that would suit even you6— And now dear if you think my letter hardy worth the reading remember that I am all bug-bitten and be-deviled and out of my latitude

Your own—


Kind remembrances to all—a kiss to my kind good Jamie—