April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 19 February 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490219-TC-MAC-01; CL 23: 235-236


Headley Grove, Epsom / 19 feby, 1849—

My dear Mother,

We came down here on Tuesday last, according to promise; we were to have returned today, and Jane accordingly is on the way home at this moment; but by a new arrangement, which seemed to suit all parties better, she is to return tomorrow, along with “the Captain” (our good landlord here), and our stay, in the fine clear country weather, is to continue till Monday. So it was settled, after debate this morning. Capt Sterling (Anthony, as we call him) is required to be up in Town today; but wishes greatly he had some excuse for coming back; so Jane is off in the carriage with him too; will have a look at Helen and Chelsea, a good wholesome drive withal;—and I here am left lord of the mansion till they come back; with the prospect, which is not disagreeable to me, of four-and-twenty hours perfect silence for one thing. An old Scotch servant woman readies me a little dinner; there is a horse for a ride; a pleasant fresh country all round: and what with my books, and my pipe, and my own thoughts I calculate I shall do very well till they come back to me.

Already I feel very much improved in health by these three days of country. I have gone out, and had extensive rides every day; the february sun is bright, the ground (which all lies on chalk) is wonderfully dry and trim,—the country people in many places trimming their bits of garden, and getting the cabbages in:—I cannot tell you how much good it does me to trot along in silence thro' these solitary woods and lanes, and see the blessed face of Spring and the natural fields again! I often think, surely I will get into the country altogether again, to live far away from smoke and vain tumults, once more! But that must be as it is ordered;—we for our part have to stay where our work is, if we can find out that.

Once about ten years ago I rode thro' this country before;1 and find I was just at the gate of this Establishment, on that occasion, not dreaming much that I was to come and live in it, or have a friend living in it, one day! Yesterday I rode too to a Town called Reigate (a smart place about the size of Annan, all screened with high chalk hills); on my former ride thro' these parts, I had breakfasted at Reigate; yesterday I saw the old Bull Inn again, and remembered that morning well. It is very interesting, strange, and excites to pious thoughts and wonder, that looking back upon our past years, and reading the “miraculous providences” that have presided over them and us! Alas, we are a thoughtless generation; and any one with such reflexions in his mind, looks in vain almost for a soul to share them, in these times.

We heard yesterday from Jack; all well with him: there was no other communication left possible with the world, till our return, for we did not leave our new address, but meant all Letters to lie till we came home to read them. Tomorrow Jane will bring what there is.— Helen, on the monday morning, had cut her hand (while slicing bread; she is a fool, always “unlucky”):2 this, which quite lames her as a servant, was one of Jane's reasons, I suppose, for persuading me to stay here till Monday. Another reason doubtless is, her pity for poor Sterling. A man really to be pitied. Poor fellow, his Wife in these days is again going mad,—her final recovery, I believe, is quite hopeless; and in her half-and-half state, she keeps him very unhappy. Plenty of money, health of the best, all things that are coveted were, and mostly still are, his; only nothing to do, either for his Wife or for him: that is the sad fact of it; and that I suppose is the root of all ills for him,—of his Wife's illness, probably among the rest. He seems to have no resource now but keep two houses, one in Town one here, and by the aid of abundant horses and carriages, roll to and fro between them, up and down every week! A very poor remedy indeed; like a fevered sleepless man, laid in the softest bed, and able only to shift from side to side!— He is a good kind fellow too, and with plenty of force and fire in him; often rather reminds me of my poor Brother Alick in many of his ways. Let us hope, things may came a little straighter with him by and by.— All these are secrets, you observe, that I now tell you: but indeed I suppose you have not much temptation to blab them in Annandale just now.

Isabella kindly sent us news; thank her for it very gratefully from me. Many times are you all in my thoughts; no day are you wholly out of them,—you dear Mother, who are still left to me, among the chief of my mercies!— I must have another Letter before long, tell Isabella. I think of Jamie and his ploughing, and many old days at Mainhill3 and elsewhere, beside my loved ones, when I look at the furrow-fields spread out here in this new land, which did not know me at that time. Adieu, dear old Mother: I have other Letters to write, and had better stop here today. You will get your Examiner directed on Monday as usual (we hope), and I shall be 20 miles nearer you than now. Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle