July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 14 September 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470914-TC-JWC-01; CL 22: 66-69


Scotsbrig, 13 [14] Septr, 1847—

My Dearest,—I conjecture you would get a Note from me, the shortest in the world, yesterday (Monday) morning; and in the evening probably John would come down to you with farther no-news. I might have written again yesterday to the like effect, but little Tait, the Burgher Minister,1 presented himself in the afternoon, and there was no more work to be thought of; hardly, after dark, and by industry and sleight-of-hand, could a retreat be effected, up the steep public road, and an hour's solitary walking get itself accomplished. I had, at any rate, nothing but what you already knew to tell you,—tho' I wished, too, to tell you that same nothing; as I am now about to do.

Jamie and I got your Letter, as we went out for an evening stroll, in the grey wind, and took Middlebie on our road. Thanks, little Dearie: it was very good news to hear you had arrived at our own little nest again, and found all in such applepie order, and poor little Anne so brisk and good. Qualities like those in the little body do cover a multitude of defects in the strength of the back. Postie too, and Mrs Postie certainly deserve all recognition!— And now, I suppose, you are busy getting some small furbishing accomplished on the outside of that dim House: the door, the windows and railing you can paint at any rate; and there, so far as my conjecture goes, the resources of science for the year end. But I do not know; you know who are on the spot: thou will do all things dextrously, I doubt not, and so soon as I get to Dumfries, there shall be money sent to pay. Perge [Continue], Goody!

Bamford, who entered literally at the end of my Manchester sheet, gave me real satisfaction. A right strapping piece of Lancashire Plebianhood: big head, on the tall perpendicular figure, looking more honesty and energy; the little frank-fearless eyes; the big cheekbones (such as I recollect on Cobbett's mask,2 and on certain living faces) denoting endless obstinacy; the high Lancashire dialect, with its antique rustic “thou's” and “thee's”: all pleased me heartily well. We talked largely; in all respects well on Bamford's side; especially when I could keep him to narrative, to description of old times and things, in all which he shone with his full force of natural sense. Geraldine took us up stairs, before long, to the Lady visitor she had; a Mrs Col. Lawrence (direct from India), decidedly rather stickish in manner (being Irish too, and Evangelical) but otherwise a good woman.3 Bamford's “‘Auw d'yee doo, Mum!” to this new figure, was a thing worth seeing. Good old Bamford! He asked, with all sincerity of tone, for you; seems to like Geraldine also. After a time the Examiner squadron gradually assembled; and we all took ourselves off, out of Geraldine's way, to Ballantyne's, nearer the Station; where hospitable “bread and cheese” was ministered me by way of dinner, and escort in due time by the whole party to my Carlisle station, where I took final leave of Bamford and the rest. Not a man of much or indeed of almost any “genius,” but a man of real sense, integrity and courage, which is a much better outfit. I promised him all the help I could yield in getting a London Bookseller for the “Autobiography” he talks of being busy with.4 “Write to me when it is done,” said I.— “I wool,” answered Bamford with emphasis; and so we parted.— Geraldine we found again at the station, come down with her Lady, whom she was despatching (nothing loath, I privately conjecture, for the poor Lady had loud redhaired brats of children too) towards Ireland and her ulterior destinies. Geraldine was the most hospitable of hostesses; her Brothers too used inconceivable alacrity to discharge the sacred rites: do you thank her and them; I have already done so since I arrived here. Frank seemed to me a very gentlemanly amicable kind of figure; in Tom also, tho' his breeding savoured more of the commercial hôtel, I found many hearty qualities, and certainly ample room for thanks.— On the whole, I in no wise can regret my journey round by Manchester, or my stay there; much is laid up in me from that short survey. The Mills, O the fetid fuzzy, deafening ill-ventilated mills! And, in Sharps cyclopean Smithy,5 do you remember the poor “Grinders”? Sitting underground, in a damp dark place, some dozen of them: over their screeching stone-cylinders; from every cylinder a sheet of yellow fire issuing, the principal light of the place;—and the men, I was told, and they themselves knew it, and “did not mind it,” were all or mostly killed before their time, the lungs being ruined by the metal and stone dust! Those poor fellows, in their paper caps, with their roaring grindstones and their yellow oriflammes of fire, all grinding themselves so quietly to death, will never go out of my memory.— In signing my name, as I was made to do, on quitting that Sharp Establishment whose name, think you, stood next, to be succeeded by mine? In a fine flowing character, JENNY LIND'S! Dickens and the other Player Squadron (wanting Forster, I think) stood on the same page.6 Adieu to Manchester, and its poor grinders and spinners! I will tell you about Bright and Brightdom and the Rochdale Bright Mill, some other day. Jacob Bright, the younger man, and actual manager at Rochdale, rather pleased me: a kind of delicacy in his heavy features when you saw them by daylight,—at all events, a decided element of “hero-worship,” which of course went for much! But John Bright, the Anti-cornlaw Member, who had come across to meet me, with his squat stout body, with his cock-nose and pugnacious eyes, and Barclay-Fox Quaker collar,—John and I discorded in our views not a little! And in fact the result was that I got to talking, occasionally in the Annandale accent, and communicated large masses of my views to the Brights and Brightesses,7 and shook peaceable Brightdom as with a passing earthquake,—and I doubt left a very questionable impression of myself there! The poor young ladies (Quaker or Ex-quaker), with their “abolition of Capital Punisht”—ach, Gott! I had a great remorse of it all that evening; but now begin almost to think I served them right. Any way, we cannot help it. So there it, and Lancashire in general, may lie, for the present.

I found no Letters here, except yours, and one from Fitzgerald, which I will send some day when the Cover will bear: it is not worth a penny-stamp to you, tho' fair in its way. Anthony Sterling had not written to Rawdon, I think, after all. Poor old Sterling gone at last! He is a different figure to us now henceforth while we live to remember him, never more a ridiculous figure, but a sad and solemn one. That scene at the door, as Anne described it to you, it is the last of his “scenes”; a stern reality that, as well as a scene! Gone, gone: they are all gone now, but Anthony and a mad jealous woman;8 that field of things, once rich to us, is quite vanished now. How swiftly, how infallibly, the scene-machineries in this huge theatre of a world, furl themselves up, at the hour; and it is a “new art,” and the old landscape and its population are away—away! God is great. My Mother has been sitting behind me, all this while, reading Spalding's History,9 at the quiet fire here. She is very frail, and fluctuating in health; but is in general well, for her, at present. This room, papered and now smokeless (thanks to the “Engineer of Trailtrow,”10 let him have that merit), is a very comfortable place for a sojourner: the weather, which has been wonderfully dry for Annandale all this year, is cool and even cold, brisk, and bright as silver; today and yesterday all mortals are carrying corn; Jamie busy with both hands, and far on both with cutting and carrying. He is much more taciturn than when you saw him last; and indeed I believe is not well in health in these months.— Jenny has washed all my things as white as snow: I have just ten shirts here;—I partly thought there had been eleven, but never anywhere could get them counted. Today we expect the Newspapers, in an hour (about 2 o'clock); a decided event for us. The post, I find, only yields for us here when you put into it at London in the evening: pray attend to that: we get your Letter in some eighteen hours after. The railway is in action; I see it sometimes puffing along, and have heard the scream of it thro' the hollow night: but it does not yet bring the mail from Carlisle, the Glasgow Coach is still the functionary thence northward.

For the rest, dear Goody, I am as idle as the winds; I do nothing, not even read. I consent willingly to saunter up and down on the pure lonely moorgrounds here; to write myself down zero for a time, and let the voices, small or otherwise, speak to me here. In health I am better: the silence and the milk-diet are really wholesome for me. Sleep not bad;—and today I had a thorough cold lavation, transacted without difficulty in a common tub.— Adieu, Dearest. Take care of thyself; be busy as occasion serves; and love me always as I love thee. Evermore

T. Carlyle