JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 5 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520805-JWC-TC-01; CL 27: 206-210
JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Thursday [5 August 1852]
You recollect Dear that Macready told me1 of two routes; recommending that by Frome as the quickest and least fatiguing: so I rendered myself at the Paddington Station on Friday morning, with my night things in a bag on one arm, and my “Blessed”2 in a basket on the other. HE gave me no trouble—kept himself hidden and motionless till the train started, and then looked out cautiously, as much as to say “are we safe?” The journey to Frome was quite a rest after that mornings work—(carrying down all the books from the top landing place into the back parlour)! And I descended from the train quite fresh for the thirty miles by coach— But when I inquired about the coach to Sherborne I was told there was none!! a coach passing thro' Sherborne, passed thro Frome, without coming to the Station, at eleven in the morning—three hours before the time we were at! no other since many months back! My first thought was; what a mercy you were not with me! my next, that the Macreadys could not blame me for keeping them waiting—and then I “considered”—like the piper's cow3—and resolved—not to stay all day and night at Frome, but to take a Yeovil coach which started at five, which could take me, I was told, to a way-side Inn within eight miles of Sherborne, and there I hoped to find a fly—“or something”! Meanwhile I would proceed to the town of Frome, a mile from the station, and get something to eat and even to drink; “feeling it my duty” to keep my heart up by all needful appliances. I left my little bag at the Station where the coach came, and set my dog quite free, and we pursued our way as calmly and naturally as if we had known where we were going. Frome is a dull dirty looking place full of Plumbers, one could fancy the Bennet controversy4 must have been a godsend to it—I saw several Inns, and chose The George, for its name's sake—I walked in and asked to have some cold meat and a pint bottle of Guiness's porter! They shewed me to an ill-aired parlour and brought me some cold Lamb that the flies had been buzzing round for a week—even Nero disdained to touch it!— I eat bread however, and drank all the porter! and, “The cha-arge”5 for that feeble refection was—2 / 6d! Already I had paid one pound eight an[d]6 sixpence for the train—it was going to be a most unexpectedly costly journey to me! But for that reflection I could almost have laughed at my forlorn position there. The Inn and Town were “so disagreeable” that I went presently back to the station prefering to wait there. One of the men who had informed me about the coach came to me as I was sitting on a bench and remarked on the beauty of the scene, especially of some scarlet beans that were growing in his own piece of garden—‘Ah’! he said “I have lived in London and I have lived abroad—I have been here and there, backwards and forwards, while I was in service, with them as never could rest; but Im satisfied now, that the only contentment for Man is in growing his own VEGETABLE”! “Look at them beans” he said again—“Well! tomorrow they'll be ready and I'll be pulling them, and boiling them, and—eating them! and such a taste! No agriculture like that in Piccadilly!” Then he looked sympathisyingly at me and said—“Im going to get you something you'll like—and that's a glass of cool, fresh, clear water!—and he went away with a jug to his garden and fetched some water from a little spring well—and a great handful of mignionette—“There! there's something sweet for you, and here's splendid water!—that you wont find the like of in Piccadilly.” I asked him how it was going with Mr Bennet? “Huh! I hear no complaints! but I goes to neither one nor other of them and follows my own notions! I finds agriculture the thing!” He would have been worth a hundred pounds to Dickens that man! I had the coach all to myself for a while, then a young gentleman got in who did exactly the right thing by me, neither spoke to me nor looked at me—till we stopt at Castle Carry (Yeovil pronounced Youghel?—Castle Carry? I grew quite frightened that I had been somehow transported into Ireland!)7 There the Young Gentleman went into the Inn and said to me first, “Excuse the liberty I take in asking; but—would you take anything—a little wine and water”? I thought that very polite; but I was to meet with “something more exquisite still” before I got to Sherborne. At the Sparkford Inn—eight miles from Sherborne—I got out and asked had they a fly—“Yes! but one of its wheels was broken and it was gone to be mended”! Had they any other conveyance that was whole—a gig, or cart? “Yes they had a nice little gig and I should have the loan of a cloak to keep me warm”—(the evening was rather chill)— So I went in—and sat down in a parlour where an old gentleman was finishing off with cheese and bread. He soon made himself master of my case, and regretted he was not going back to Sherborne that night, as then he would have taken me in his carriage—and presently he offered something else more practical, viz: to try to recover my parasol (my Mother's, the one she bought with the Soverign you gave her,8 and which I had got new covered) left stupidly in the roof of the coach, and never recollected till the coach with its four horses had thundered past the window! If the Landlord would tell the coachman about it next day, and get it there, he, the old Gentleman, would bring it to Sherborne House. I went into the Lobby to tell the Landlady, some five or eight minutes after the coach had started, and told her in presence of a gentleman who was preparing to start in a ba[r]ouchette9 with two horses—He looked at me, but said nothing—and a minute or two after I saw him also drive past the window. Some twenty minutes after; I started myself, in a little gig, with a brisk little horse, and silent driver— Nothing could be more pleasant—than so pirring thro' quiet roads in the dusk—with the moon coming out—I felt as if I were reading about myself in a Miss Austin10 novel! But it got beyond Miss Austin when at the end of some three miles before a sort of Carrier's Inn, the gentleman of the barouchette stept into the middle of the road, making a sort of military signal to my driver, which he repeated with impatience when the man did not at once draw up!— I sat confounded—expecting what he would do next. We had halted; the gentleman came to my side, and said exactly as in a book “Madam! I have the happiness of informing you that I have reclaimed your parasol and it is here in my carriage ready to be restored!” “But how on earth”? I asked—“Madam I judged that it would be more with yourself, than to trust to its being brought by the other gentleman— So I just galloped my horses, overtook the coach as it was leaving this court, reclaimed the parasol, and have waited here—knowing you could take no other road to Sherborne—for the happiness of presenting it to you!—(to an ostler) bring the parasol!” It was brought and handed to me—and then I found myself making a speech in the same style, caught by the infection of the thing. I said; “Sir! this day has been full of mischances for me, but I regard this recovery of my parasol so unexpectedly as a good omen, and have a confidence that I shall now reach my destination in safety—accept my thanks tho' it is impossible to give any adequate expression to my sense of your courtesy”! I never certainly made so long and formal a speech in my life! And how I came to make any thing like it I cant imagine unless it were under mesmerism! We bowed to each other like first cousins of Sir Charles Grandison11—and I pirred on— Do you know that gentleman? I asked my driver “Never saw him before”— I found Sherborne House without difficulty—and a stately beautiful house it was and a kind welcome it had for me— The mistake had been discovered in the morning and great anxiety felt all day as to my fate—
I was wonderfully little tired and able to make them all (her too) laugh with my adventures— But I must positively interrupt this penny a lining12 and go to bed— It is true TO THE LETTER all I have told. My two days at Sherborne House were as happy as could possibly be with that fearfully emaciated dying woman before my eyes. They were all doing their best to be cheerful. herself as cheerful as the others. She never spoke of her death except in taking leave of me; when she took my head in her hands and kissed it and gave me her solemn blessing and asked me to come again, with you, to see William and the children when she should be gone—That was a dreadful trial of my composure I am so glad I went it pleased her and all of them so much! The journey back by Dorchester went all right—and was less expensive, for I came by the second class, so saved the nine shillings my gig had cost me. It was a weary long way however—from a quarter before nine till half after seven flying along in one shape or other—with only ten minutes delay—(at Southampton) My only adventure on the road back was falling in with a young Unfortunate Female in the Chelsea boat, the strangest compound of Angel and Devil that I ever set eyes on, and whom, had I been a great, rich Lady, I should decidedly have—brought home to tea with me, and tried “to save”! The helpless thought that I had nothing to offer her INSTEAD alone prevented me— I could not leave her however without—speaking to her!—and my words were so moving,—thro my own emotion,—that she rushed from me in tears to the other side of the vessel. You may feel a certain curiosity to know what I said. I hardly recollect—something about “her Mother, alive or dead—and her evident superiority to the life she was leading.” She said “do you think so Mam, with a look of bitter wretchedness and forced gaiety that I shall never forget—she was trying to smile defiantly, when she burst into tears and ran away.
I dont know very well where to direct to you now—it is long since I got your last letter—on Sunday at Sherborne—but one is not always in the humour for writing letters, and then it is best not to write them.
If you are at Scotsbrig, tell John I was very glad of his long(!) kind letter on my return, and will answer it when I have heard from Miss Macready13 to whom I wrote immediately on receiving it.
I made a frantic appeal to the workmen the other day, since when we have been getting on a little more briskly— The spokesman of them, a dashing young man, whom you have not seen answered me—“My dear(!) Madam! you must have patience! indeed you must! it will be all done—some day!” Mr Morgan has been “down with Mr Helps”—came at last the day before yesterday—“told a flattering tale” I have one really capital, swift, and thorough workman the Painter who is now painting in your bedroom— He is from Newcastle on Tyne—thanks God!— I am not at all troubled with the smell down here—nor even in my bedroom; with the windows open—which they would be, were no painting going on—the weather is most lovely,—‘Monsieur Le Thermometre’ pretty generally at 70. My health continues wonderfully good— The day after my return from Sherborne I thought, in the afternoon that I was in for a bad headach—and lay down on the sofa with a wet cloth on my head—to endure—in five minutes I went to sleep amidst the raging noise—Martha coming into the room without having awoken me, “did not know whether I was asleep or in a faint I looked so dead”—and went away without ascertaining!! half an hour after I awoke out of this deep sleep, unprecedented in my history; the headach quite gone—and my memory quite gone! for some ten minutes Then it came gradually back and I went out for a walk quite well—
Today I dine at the Brookfields—for what poor Helen used to call “a fine change”
And now to Father Son and Tally Gohast.14
Ever yours affecty / Jane W C
You will find in Mr A Kerrs15 letter something about the Blacks worth your reading—as it corroborates your own views of them
The Gullys16 are always writing urgent invitations to Malvern—could you try that? “without any bother of water” as he said