TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 28 August 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500828-TC-JWC-01; CL 25: 177-179
TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE
Scotsbrig, 28 Augt (Wedy) 1850
Well my Dear, here I am at last after a weary struggle; safe in limb and purse, but tired, travel-soiled, saddened, and distressed in soul, to fully the average extent. I wrote to you from Liverpool that I was to go in few hours: here, by the first available post, I am bound to signify to you my safe arrival, otherwise your poor little heart might take to forming pictures in your solitude! These few lines shall be alone my work today,—not a heavy job of work, tho' none at all were still welcomer to poor wearied human nature;—nay perhaps it will do me good, after all; and it is better that I am stirred up to that small measure of locomotion. I am a very unthankful, illconditioned, bilious, wayworn and heartworn son of Adam, I do suspect!— Well, you shall hear all my complaints:—do not apologize to me for writing copiously an account of your own domestic and other sorrows: it is the law and rule that you should and must. To whom can we complain, if not to one another, after all?
John's advice to go by the Steamer was one of the worst I have followed in regard to travelling lately: indeed I do not recollect of any more deplorably uncomfortable, sordid, irritating and almost scandalous bit of journeying I have executed for years back; and, please the pigs,1 that is like to be the last of Annan-and-Liverpool steaming for a while.— Johnny your Cousin attended me at half past 11 to the Clarence Dock; put me fairly on board, and rode home by the fly again, a minute or two before midnight. Our evening after dinner had hung rather heavy, tho' there was talk enough and kindliness enough, but I had much rather have sat silent or slept than talked at all; and so on the whole it was a relief to be left alone, tho' amid the lumber of a midnight steamer. The moon shone brightly down, I was wrapped against the cold; I slowly sauntered about revolving innumerable sad thots (sad is nearly all one thinks of, in such a situation); and felt that it wd have done me great good to forget that I was not still a little boy, and to sit down in a corner and cry for about two hours or so with all my soul about all manner of things. In such circumstances there is one blessing left possible as I have found: that you be let alone, that Chaos and you be permitted to settle it between you Ay de mi!— I had tobacco too; but not the smallest inclination to smoke. About one a.m. we got fairly out into the river; and flinging out enormous smoke-clouds that literally eclipsed the Moon, went snoring on our way. I spake no word to any man, and discouraged all men from speaking to me. The night was beautiful; and the jumble of the sea-motion soon raised heat enough to withstand the chilliness. In an hour or so, all hands having gone to their berths below, I descended too to look at mine, whh I had providently secured in case there had been a scarcity. “This way the gents' cabin, sir!” And in truth it was almost worth a little voyage to see such a cabin of gents; for never in all my travels had I seen the like before, nor probably shall again. The little crib of a place whh I had glanced at two hours before, and found six beds in, had now developed itself, by hinge-shelves which in the day were parts of sofas) and iron brackets into the practical sleeping-place of at least sixteen of the gent species; there they all lay, my crib the only empty one; a pile of clothes up to the very ceiling, and all round it, gent packed on gent, few inches between the nose of one gent and the nape of the other gent's neck,—not a particle of air, all orifices closed;—five or six of said gents already raging and snoring; and a smell—ach Gott, I suppose it must resemble that of the Slaveships in the middle passage:—it was positively immoral to think of sleeping in such a receptacle of abominations. I returned upon deck; found at last a camp-stool; sat down on it, on the lee-side of the luggage-heap; nay slept there, I think 2 hours, with legs and feet only a little cold, and started up really refreshed, about 5 o'clock. Hottish tea for breakfast came at last; and I hoped about 10 a.m. we shd be ashore. Alas, it turned out they did not calculate on having water till “about 2”;—and to crown the matter, it began about this time to rain,—and I had no umbrella, and in the cabin, except by force of almost actual battle, there could no free air be had anywhere;—and the rain continued, and grew worse and worse (such a day of wet as we have not had since this time twelvemonth); and the gents grew out of humour; and I took refuge (oftenest) among the Irish shearers, male and female, screening myself under gangways: a sublime spectacle of misfortune, appealing to Goody and Posterity, as I now do! The sober truth is, when I got flung out into the street of Annan, and saw Brother Jamie run up, I felt like Jonah getting out of the Whale's belly, and could not but address a silent word of thanks to the merciful Powers!—— Jamie, too, was there by accident, not at all certainly expecting me: I had written appointing him, whn consciousness had driven me away from Maryland Street and desire enough to stay and rest there; but by bad accident or bad managet the notice had never come to Jamie (Jack, I suppose, had it, and still has it, at Newfield, with good excuse, I rather think): one thing only was certain, Here I had got to land; and was not a whit worse for all that tattering; perhaps was better, and could appeal to Goody and Posterity, still in a whole skin. About 5 o'clock my poor old Mother came joyfully out to meet me from her solitary cup of tea: Isabella soon got me all expedient refresht in the handsomest style; I had ample porridge at 9; slept sound for at least 7 hours; am thoroughly washed; and really, comparatively speaking, a good boy today, much at your service. For the day is bright: all looks beautiful and fresh and still round me (nothing heard but the sough of the trees and the Burn): all is very sad and death-like to me; but it is a kind of sacred sadness, and does me good withal. Leave the wretched soul alone there. He designs to have no dinner today, only an egg, then tea with the household;—and in fact intends to lean much upon meal and milk-diet while here. I found your two Newspapers duly here: thanks. A Letter will come before long?
John is not here, nor have I yet seen him he is at Newfield where all manner of distress seems to abound. Two elderly Miss Corries (the elder of them my age or more) felt unwellish some weeks ago, and went to the “Brow well”; “drank water largely twice a day for some time,” came home in a dangerous dysentery: the younger was buried yesterday; the elder, and others of the family from other causes, we hear today, are still alarmingly ill. John has been there for above a week, and only calls here now and then.
Jamie looks very well, seems doing well; Isabella is brisk and busy,—talks much about yr visit still. My Mother too is wonderfully lively; tho' the loss of her upper teeth has much changed her look, and considerably obstructs her in eating and a little in speech too, she does wonderfully well. Since I began she has stolen twice in,—once to say pointedly, “Now thou maunna forget to remember me to Jane!”— My trunk is not yet come from Annan; but a cart is to bring it tonight. Is not here enough of writing! I declare I am growing a perfect clatter, and will end.
Write as soon as you can. You know how I like all your Letters; but I don't want to bother you with writing.— Remember for, one thing, Saturday is still no day. So I suppose you will have to write straightway! God bless you.