April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 29 September 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480929-TC-MAC-01; CL 23: 126-128


The Grange, 29 Septr, 1848—

My dear Mother,

This is Friday, the day that corresponds to the No-post day of London; therefore I will write you a small word before the stop occur.

We are getting very quiet here now; indeed I fancy there are few as big houses with so few inhabitants in them as we now count.1 All guests are gone except ourselves, and Lady Sandwich the mother of our Hostess, who also goes tomorrow. An hour ago Lord Ashn set off for Winchester (8 miles off) where he is to be for a week, attending a muster of Hampshire Yeomanry, a social observance he will by no means neglect. So that in another day, we two and the Lady of the house shall have the field to ourselves,—a most deserted field! For as it is, the flunkies in waiting very far exceed in numbers the persons to be waited on; and there reigns a silence everywhere, broken only by manoeuvrings of servants with more forms to go thro'—which to us, and perhaps to the people themselves, looks very strange. Add to which, the poor Lady by her last visit to Town caught an ugly cold with cough, and has remained in a partially eclipsed state ever since: did not appear at all for four or five days, and still does not come out to any meal, but is merely found sitting in the drawing-room when we return from dinner. These are strange quarters for the like of us!—But what is best of all, we now see to the end of the affair; and calculate we shall be in our own little cell at Chelsea again, on the Saturday of next week;—which really will be a welcome day to some of us, I think! Not that one does not prize the kindness of these friends; it is indeed great, constant, and worthy of all acceptance; but their way of life is one that would never suit me, that in fact I would not have, on any account, if I had my choice of lives. Alas, alas!—

For the last three days, our weather has been very bad; no driving, or “out-door relief”2 of any sort for the womankind: Jane dare not even venture out for a whiff of my pipe when I am smoking, and neither of the others has crossed the threshold at all. For myself I always either go riding or else walking, and do not want for exercise: in virtue of which, and of the pure air and solitude, I really feel as if I had gained a little health, certainly not lost any; and the same, I think, is to be said of Jane.

Yesterday I walked to Alresford, partly under an umbrella; some three miles of the loveliest road, over a country all sunk in the silence of a moist September day. A pleasant simple country, with gentle heights and hollows, moderately fringed with wood; fields weedy, sluttishly tilled; wide “downs” (sheep-walks) green and sleek, all resting upon chalk; clusters of labourers' cottages here and there (much trimmer than ours usually are), and almost as many Churches as farms,—this Parish, for example, consists of 94 Souls. Alresford is a fine clean village, with wide streets and good red brick houses,—about the size of Lockerby, but much preferable in appearance; various gentry and even nobility living in or close round it.— The people here seem to me much less hard-worked than in the North; they are very ill off, I believe, if their Landlords did not help them;—but seem to require much more to make them well off than Scotch people do. Their cottages are mostly very clean with trees about them, flower-bushes into the very windows, and a trim road paved with bricks leading out from them to the public way. The ploughmen (or farm servants generally, for I have hardly seen anybody actually ploughing) go all about girt in buckskin leggins from toe to mid-thigh, “gay firm about the feet”;3 rags are seen nowhere; nor, I suppose, does want anywhere do other than “come upon the parish,” and have itself supplied. The gentry, I imagine, take a great deal more of pains with their dependents than ours do.— For the rest, as I said, the village is all more or less sluttish; thistles abounding; turnips sown broadcast (and a very bad crop this year); bad fences, mostly temporary, made of hazle wattles; abundance of waste ground (patches of bad wood or bushes), and in particular such a quantity of roads and foot and bridle paths as fills a Scotchman with astonishment! I do believe there is something like ten times as much ground occupied that way as there is with us. Nay, it seems virtually the rule, which I now act upon like the others, that you can ride in any direction whatsoever, at your own pleasure; for whatever field you enter, there is almost sure to be a gap or a gate with a latch at the other side, and nobody dreams of finding fault with you.— Such is Hampshire hereabouts;—concerning which, as said above, the most interesting news for our Mother is that we are to quit it in about a week.

Dear Mother this is but a barren Letter to send you; but I know you reckon any Letter preferable to none. When I get back to Chelsea I hope to write to you with more elbow room.— And now I must out and have my needful walk; there are walks and rides, “green” and red, I think, 20 miles long in this Park,—and solitary, some of them, as if one were in the heart of America; no company whatever but squirrels and a few rooks— Tell Jack to write; remember us in all affection to Jamie, Isabella, Jenny and everyone—and beware of this damp, dear Mother My heart's blessing with you T. Carlyle