October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 19 July 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460719-JWC-TC-01; CL 20: 248-251


SPEKE HALL 1 / Sunday [19 July 1846]

The Fate of Bobus?—I sincerely wish he may be safe at Seaforth! but I do not know that he is “the least in the world”! Only as I left injunction that an express should be sent after me, in the case of his having arrived dead or mad, or not arrived at all and no express has yet come, I may reasonably hope that all has gone well with the poor brute, and that along with this letter you will receive one from Charles (the only member of the family besides Pup2 who has remained at home) to give you positive news of your worser half (I mean the fourfoot half)—Charles promised that he would write to you, and foolish as he looks I have never found him neglect anything he undertook to do. Had I been told in time I should certainly have remained at Seaforth to welcome the creature—but when I got your note of Friday morning I was already engaged to dine here on Saturday and stay till Monday. The rest had accepted Mr Brereton's3 invitation on the understanding that I would accompany them, and chiefly indeed on my account; thinking it might amuse me perhaps to pass two nights in a haunted house: Had I afterwards drawn back for the horse's sake I should have occasioned an amount of disappointment and perplexity which I did not feel up to fronting. So after a good deal of silent cogitation, I decided with a certain trust in Providence on fulfilling my engagement!

But who is Mr Brereton? “God knows”! I never saw him with my Eyes till he received me yesterday on the threshold of his own drawing-room— He seems a harmless man enough—polite, hospitable, and “not without” a sort of slow sense. And certainly he lives in the most interesting house that I ever fell in with out of the Romances of Mrs Radcliffe4—so dead-old, so rickety and crumbly and “Elizabethian” in every feature; that it would scarcely surprise me when a door opens if the Maiden Queen and all her court should walk in in their winding-Sheets and seat themselves on the high backed chairs to have “a little comfortable talk” with me about the other world. There are screech-owls behind the Tapestry in some of the bedrooms, who breath and moan all night long in a way to freeze your blood! And once when a Liverpool Dandy was sitting alone in the old drawingroom the plaster of the ceiling began to shower down on him, and then the whole ceiling beams and all discended slowly slowly not killing him for he had time to save himself but nearly frightening him to death. The bed-room in which I have passed one night, without any supernatural adventure I am sorry to say, is all tapestried over with gigantic figures in a tremendous state of excitement—about what I have not yet made out; but shall perhaps before I have done with them. I was sure there must be a secret door behind this tapestry, and after I had gone to my room for the night I began to tap and feel all about, like the Heroine of the mysteries of Udolpho and Oh joy! I actually found one!—and discovered the trick of the spring after half an hour puzzling—and stept in expecting to find myself in a spiral staircase—but I only found myself in a closet newly shelved—where no object was discoverable except—my own bonnet!5

There were at dinner yesterday besides ourselves two splendidly dressed Liverpool Ladies—whose intellect had chiefly developed itself in their mode of curtseying and holding their arms—“rather exquisite”!—and three Liverpool gentlemen—“chiefly Merchants Mr Carlyle”! two of them chimeras—the third a fine substantial old fellow of a Scotchman—Forster by name—“from the Langam6 side” a friend of Mrs Richardson's7—and really “no fool”— He stays on with us—the rest went back at night—

I wish you had “Beauty's” mirror to see me in at this moment—without any explanation of my whereabout the spectacle would be infinitely surprising—the rest are all at Church—I, by myself I, am sitting writing to you in the recess of a painted window—all over Virgin Marys and what not—in a great Hall of carved black wainscoat—ceiling and all—carved in the richest manner—and about twenty feet high—with a chimney some twelve feet long! the light double-died green by the yews and willows outside or some other colour from the painted glass. the furniture all of a piece with the carving of the room—for further particulars I will refer you to The Baronial Halls of England (with illustrations) by S C Hall8— But you must come and see the place for really it is a Paradise (of its kind) I should like nothing better than to spend the rest of my life in it—if Mr Brereton would take himself out of the way—such beautiful bathing too! you might run naked out of your bed into the sea—under cover of tall mournful trees!

I am to be taken to Hale this afternoon and will not fail to draw you a right picture of the Child's tombstone9— But the grand thing of all would be (and therein I fear I shall be balked)—if I could get my eye on the Ghost—a white Lady with a Baby in her arms whom she goes up and down with at nights making the gesture of flinging it into the moat—but the moat being long since filled up; it is too probable that the Lady has ascertained by this time that drowning her Baby there is “no go” I am just in the humour to welcome a Gohst however, in any shape—and I have still one night to spend in that haunted room. Miss Wilsons note is perfectly harmless this time10— Mrs Buller wants me to find her a Ladysmaid with every earthly perfection— I need not say how glad we shall be to pick you up at the Railway whenever you desire it— You know all that without telling

Ever your


If the American box11 is to be made up here be sure to bring the cloak with the books I have it not with me— There are also a pair of cork boots which I paid twenty shillings for and have worn very little on account of my bunions They might be worth taking to your Mother Helen can get them