The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON; 11 September 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510911-TC-LA-01; CL 26: 163-165


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, N.B. 11 Septr, 1851—

Dear Lady,— May I address a word to you from this peaceful suburb of Creation, where in the bright autumn weather, in the great silence, I am often enough thinking of you. Where you are at this moment I do not know with the least certainty;1 but think you must be approximating Paris, and I strive to hope that all is still well with you. I wrote duly from Malvern when your second Homburg Letter came; directing as you bade me to “Interlachen by Bern”: but I almost fear the Note has never reached you, as if it had, some word in your great charity would have been here for me before now: on the whole, as to the Note itself you need not lament if you never see it;—a mere prophecy of my dates and shiftings, barren as a merchant's invoice; written too on a ricketty table, under every sort of hindrance, and with a pen even worse than this. The gods are not extremely favourable to our correspondence just at this time! However, I still hope for improvement; one is permitted always in this world to hope. If you got the rag of paper at all, it might be almost pathetic to you, after a sort. Eheu!

We did leave Malvern at the day set, the last of August; came to Lancashire, and then after a day I left Jane with her Liverpool friends, and came myself across to Scotland; terribly cut up with water, and in pressing need of repose. Here I have been ever since, close hidden, and doing my very best to be and to be left quiet;—unluckily there is so much confusion in my own poor self, it is no easy matter to come to any equilibrium, and be at rest even when left. I have still some hopes from Dr Gully's aqueous labours, if the matter were summed up; but hitherto I almost feel worse instead of better; and for a week here could not get myself composed to sleep, and indeed yet can hardly, now that my Scotch days are drawing to an end: so that when the real “sum” will be had, or what it may then be, is still a little uncertain,—like so many other things. Anyway, I am glad to have this “Water-Cure” done, since it was a thing to do. As poor Lord Melbourne2 liked when a Poet died, for then, said he, “you get all his Books on your shelf and have finished with him,” so may I, with better reason, of the Malvern puddles. We shall by and by get done with all our puddles in this world, and the ugliest of them will be smooth as azure to us: which surely is a comfort too of its kind!— By the bye, I expect, for the first time these ten or twenty years, to have soon some paper that I can write upon again. My sufferings in regard to that small article are and have been more considerable than your Ladyship with those swift fingers, with that cheerful royal heart, and victorious healthy fancy which the gods have given you, could well imagine. You do not know in the least what a poor creature I every way am:—Oh Heavens, and one feels that it might have been all otherwise, and that it cannot under such obstructions now be! “The sons of Zerhiah, you are too strong for me!”3 This is the Highday of Quacks and other Satanic Agencies: God help us to be at least silent under it, and not make matters worse than they must be.

Jane is now with Geraldine Jewsbury; apparently very well, and tolerably amused with what Manchester offers, which a crowd of devoted servants are very ready to get up for her always in that quarter. Nothing yet is definitely settled about farther movements: only I feel in general that 4 or 5 days more must end what is appointed me here; a visit, which I propose to limit to 4 days, is due for Alderley,—after which one day's whirl will bring us home to Chelsea again: perhaps to rest there? The wedding4 at Alderley is to be on the 23d: our visit must be all well over before that come too near; so much is fixed by the outer powers; the rest I know only in the vague, as my own aim and conjecture hitherto. We cannot well be home at Chelsea before the 18th or 20th:—alas that is 8 days behind the Paris time; and what is to become of Paris and me is yet, as it has all along been, a mystery which I may well call sublime. More truly so than perhaps you will believe. In bad times it has ever seemed forbidden flatly even by my state of health; then in moments to be called hopeful and good— Ah me, ah me!— Dear friend, do not get quite impatient with me: write to me; let me leave that matter still undecided till then. Oh you have a strength of faith, and it is all needful. And I too, am I not loyal to the gods and you,—truly want to be so, if you care to believe me? Next time I must definitely say Yes or No (“Yes and” is so much handier always!)—unless indeed Time and your Courier have not already said the latter for me. Anyway, all honour to you noble Queen: now and ever—and so may God help us.— Yours ever T. Carlyle