JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 23 August 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460823-JWC-TC-01; CL 21:21-26.
JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Carlton Terrace / Sunday morning [23–24 August 1846]
My Dear—I came here meaning to stay two days—and behold I have stayed two weeks! four several times I have engaged to be in Liverpool and broken my word—a thing unprecedented in my annals of visiting! But really Maryland Street is no pleasant outlook—only to be undertaken in fact from a sense of duty—and then Chelsea after!— I cannot profess to feel any impatience for that either as the case stands—so that finding myself well here for the time being I have needed only pressing enough to keep me. I am to go tomorrow however at last, and if I should never see Manchester again the recollection of the kindness I have experienced in it and the good it has done me will make it dear to me as long as I live. I long to tell you all I have seen and done—but it would fill a volume and must lie over till we meet—the amount of exercise of body and mind I have gone thro has astonished myself and proves I think clearly enough that I have no “liver-complaint” whatever other devilries I may have— Geraldine no sooner perceived that I took interest in the practical activity of this place than she applied herself to getting me admission into all sorts of factories, and day after day has passed for me in going up and down in “hoists” and thro forests of machinery for every conceivable purpose— I have seen more of the condition of my fellow-creatures in these two weeks than in any dozen years of my previous existence—and shall return to London quite as well qualified to write little books on the “manufacturing districts” as either Camilla Toulman or Arthur Helps1— Only one day we let ourselves be kept at home by rain of which there has been plenty and two days were spent out of Manchester—one with Bamford in his “Cloughs [Hills]”—and the other with a very interesting Lady at Bolton2—there is no lack of interesting people here—and they have a great superiority over the London people in as much as they do not answer “God knows!” to any question whatever—but every man knows what he is about and is able and willing to give a straightforward account of it— Whitworth the inventor of the besomcart and many other more wonderful machines has a face not unlike a baboon speaks the broadest Lancashire could not invent an epigram to save his life but has nevertheless “a talent that might drive the Genii to despair” and when one talks with him one feels to be talking with a real live man3—to my taste worth any number of the Wits “that go about”— We spent yesterday at his house in the country (for I am now in Monday morning) which is the reason of your being a day longer without letter. his cab which was to fetch us arrived in the midst of my writing—quite promiscuously—at half after eleven! and we did not like to keep it standing in the rain till I should finish— A young Greek merchant whom I very much like—an admirer of yours, but still more I am afraid of Emerson's, came home with us and staid till twelve4—and even at that late hour I started writing after I had gone up to bed—not knowing what might come in the way this morning to hinder me—but the fates had decided once for all that I should not sign and seal a letter for you yesterday— While I was sitting scribbling with all my clothes still on, even to the broaches and bracelets, down plumped my candle into the socket and left me in total darkness—to scramble into my nightclothes as I could—
I start at twelve from this house—but shall only go from Manchester by the five oclock train—having several offices to take leave at—besides being to dine at Mr Whitworth's office at two-along with the town-Clerk!!5 Geraldine has kept to her purpose of not leaving me a single vacant hour up to the last minute—and her treatment I believe has been the most judicious that was possible—it has brought back something like colour into my face and something like calm into my heart—but how long I shall be able to keep either the one or the other when left to my own management God knows. or perhaps another than God knows best— Nor is it to Geraldine alone that I feel grateful—no words can express the kindness of her Brothers—tonight I shall be with all of my family that remains but that thought cannot keep the tears out of my eyes in quitting these strangers who have treated me like the dearest of Sisters— You will write to Maryland Street—I shall not stay there beyond a week I think—I will write to Lady Harriet at my first leisure tho' her note did not seem to want any answer
My kind regards to your Mother and the rest / Ever yours
Short while after this I at length roused myself from torpor at Scotsbrig, and made, still very slowly, for home. Slowly, and with wide circuit, by Dumfries, Craigenputtock (oh my emotions there with tenant McQueen in the room which had been our bedroom).7 After two hours at Craigenputtock with MacQueen, who had now become a mighty cattle-dealer, famed at Norwich, much more over all these moor countries for his grandeur of procedure (and who in a year or two died tragically, poor man!), I returned to Dumfries, took coach next morning for Ayr, impressive interesting drive all the way, wandered lonesome, manifoldly imagining, all afternoon, over Ayr and environs (Arran from the sea sand, in the hazy east wind nightfall, grand and grim. Twa Brigs,8 &c.). Ayr was holding some grand market; streets and inn had been chokefull during the sunny hours; in twilight and by lamplight become permeable enough, had not one's heart been so heavy. I stept into a small stationer's shop, and at his counter wrote a poor letter to my mother. Except two words there, and a twice-two at my inn, no speech further in Ayr. After dark, rail to Ardrossan9 (bright moon on the sandy straggling scene there), step on board the steamer for Belfast, intending a little glimpse of Ireland before Liverpool, Duffy and other young Repealers waiting me there, all on the ship. At Belfast next morning, breakfast, stay few hours, (cold stony town) take coach for Drogheda where Duffy and Mitchell will await, a post-office letter will say in what particular house. Coach roof in the sunny day pleasant enough; country rough and ill-husbandried, but all new; Portnadown Bridge (of the great massacre of 1641);10 Duke of Manchester's house;11 a merry enough young Dublin gentleman sitting next me occasionally talking merry sense. Potatoes all evidently rotten; every here and there air poisoned with their fateful smell. At Drogheda, dismount. Postmaster has no letter for me; angry old fool reiterates ‘None, I tell you!’ and Duffy, who was there waiting and had a letter waiting, stayed in vain, and did not return till afternoon next day; would have had the Drogheda official punished (or at least complained of), but I wouldn't. An angry old fool, misanthropic, not dishonest, pleaded I. Rolled into Dublin (to Imperial Hotel) by railway. After sunset, wandered far and wide about the broad pavements, listening to the wild melodies and cries of Dublin (on a Saturday night), went tired to bed, and, in spite of riotous sounds audible, slept well enough.
In Dublin or neighbourhood I continued till Thursday or Friday; saw various persons, places, and things, which had a kind of interest to me. One day saw Conciliation Hall, and the last glimpse of O'Connell, chief quack of the then world—first time I had ever heard the lying scoundrel speak—a most melancholy scene to me altogether. Conciliation Hall something like a decent Methodist chapel; but its audience very sparse, very bad, and blackguard-looking; brazen faces like tapsters, tavern keepers, miscellaneous hucksters and quarrelsome male or female nondescripts, the prevailing type; not one that you would have called a gentleman, much less a man of culture; and discontent visible among them. The speech—on potato rot (most serious of topics)—had not one word of sincerity, not to speak of wisdom in it. Every sentence seemed to you a lie, and even to know that it was a detected lie. I was standing in the area in a small group of non-members and transitory people quite near this Demosthenes of blarney, when a low voice close at my ear whispered in high accent: ‘Did you ever hear such damned nonsense in all your life?’ It was my Belfast Drogheda coach companion, and I thoroughly agreed with him. Beggarly O'Connell made out of Ireland straightway, and never returned—crept under the Pope's petticoat ‘to die’ (and be ‘saved’ from what he had merited)12—the eminently despicable and eminently poisonous professor of blarney that he was.
I saw Carleton—Irish novelist (big vulgar kind of fellow, not without talent and plenty of humour);13 certain young lawyers who have since come to promotion, but were not of moment; certain young writers do. do. Dined at John Mitchell's with a select party one evening, and ate there the last truly good potato I have met with in the world. Mitchell's wife, especially his mother (Presbyterian parson's widow of the best Scotch type),14 his frugally elegant small house and table, pleased me much, as did the man himself, a fine elastic-spirited young fellow with superior natural talent, whom I grieved to see rushing on destruction, palpable by ‘attack of windmills,’ but on whom all my dissuasions were thrown away. Both Duffy and him I have always regarded as specimens of the best kind of Irish youth, seduced (like thousands of others in their early days) into courses that were at once mad and ridiculous, and which nearly ruined the life of both, by the Big Beggar-man,15 who had 15,000l. a year (and proh pudor [for shame]! the favour of English ministers instead of the pillory from them) for professing blarney, with such and still worse results. One of my most impressive days was the Sunday (morrow of my arrival) out at Dundrum16 waiting for Duffy, who did arrive about night. Beautiful prospect; sea with shore and islets; beautiful leafy lanes; mile on mile in total silence, total solitude. I only met two persons all day: one promenading gently on horseback; the other on foot, from which latter I practically learnt that the ‘Hill of Howth’ was unknown by that name here, and known only as the ‘Hill of Hoath.’17 My last day there was also pretty; wide sweeping drive with Duffy and Mitchell. Dargle, stream and banks, Powerscourt, gate and oaks, &c., altogether fine; finally to Bray and its fine hotel to dinner, till steamer time came, and they hospitably put me on board.18 Adieu! adieu! ye well-wishing souls.
Next morning between five and six I was safe seated on my luggage before the door of Maryland Street (Liverpool), smoking a cigar in placid silence till the silent home should awaken, which it somehow did unexpectedly before my cigar was done.—T. C.