The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 12 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520812-TC-LA-01; CL 27: 221-223


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan N.B. 12 Augt, 1852—

Dear Lady,— I was never in my life so ill off for news from you: it is now above 4 weeks since the smallest direct word reached me; and had it not been for fortunate side-winds, twice, with their vague assurance that you were gone to Switzerland, and were both well, Lord A. too, I should have been, and not in my imagination alone, seriously uneasy. Bad luck is alone to blame, I know. It is not you that I blame—how far from that, now or ever! Nor will I curiously inquire who or what is to blame; there is no end of “blaming,” if one once begin it, in this world. Only it is certain, I did, in spite of obstructions, write to your Highness twice: the first time, under endless jeopardy and hurry, just on the eve of getting into a Steamer for Scotland, date Chelsea, 21 july; announcing in semi-articulate language that I was bound for Linlathen and a certain Scottish Saint and Sage called Thomas Erskine's; this Note was addressed “Homburg,” and left with my Wife, who no doubt posted it that day. The second writing was perhaps about six days after (27 july, so far as I can recollect); this, thinking you might have quitted Homburg, I addressed, Hôtel de l'Europe, Frankft a.m.,—and hoped well they wd send it after you, and find you with it in the vague! Alas, I now imagine neither of these missives ever came to hand; whence all those gloomy imaginations of mine in late times! If the Letters now never reach you, do not regret them, rejoice rather, for they were otherwise worth nothing; and may wander on the winds to all eternity witht harm to anybody or to themselves. Only do now write a word, if this reach you, as I hope it will: I decide on trying Bath House, seeing no other chance, after waiting in daily hope to no purpose so long. And be good to me, if you still can, to a creature so bad, and with a luck so bad!—

Jane went to Bath House, of her own accord, shortly after my departure; for Weber had left us really anxious about your Homburg affairs: it was there she learned, and I, that you were off towards Switzerland, and that Lord A. was already quite on foot again and the prospect much mended: this had to serve me till yesterday when, from a dinner at Brookfield's, there came, by the same channel, a second message: Jane had seen Milnes there who reported, from yourself, that you had had a fire-adventure (ugly enough to think of) on the route; but were now in Switzd “somewhere,” and that Lord A. was “running up hills” (that was the comfortable phrase): with these two hints, and what inferences I could draw from them, I have had to content myself hitherto. Do I not deserve a little Note, in these circumstances, think you? Address Chelsea: that is the only sure place for a minimum of delay now, and your news will probably come at once into my own hand there.

At Chelsea, as I hear, all is still noise and and1 confusion, just as when I fled from it, and is like to be. “Nearly two months yet” is Jane's prediction; that, instead of the “six weeks” originally talked of which are now just expiring! Jane, who is architect, and general manager, rectificator, and commander-in-chief (and really quite expert at the art, “with an eye equal to a carpenter's square,” and other appropriate virtues and gifts), continues there, constantly all this while except one little journey into Dorsetshire; hardly defending now two little rooms from the general influx of Chaos; and appears almost to like it, there is such action and reaction and victorious excitement going on! As for me, I do not in the least like it,—and could much wish my poor bedroom were clean and quiet again: I should in all likelihood decide for running home thither, and in a cowardly manner going to sleep! Which, as matters stand, I cannot do: and so the sad question has arisen, what then to do? Which is very severe upon me in these current days! The Germans have a word Kopfbrechen (Head-breaking) appropriate to such cases, which I find a singularly applicable one. The human soul, after so much futile tossing and struggling on the monstrous Gulf-stream with its icebergs and dead-dogs (for neither are wanting), wd prefer to lie floating, with nothing but its nose above, and wait whither the mere currents would drive it!—

I did very well at Linlathen; bathed diligently in the German Ocean (unable to swim across to you); and the good people, contrary to wont, but according to bargain, left me perfectly solitary for “six hours every day,” whh was time enough for Prussian Books, and for solitary thoughts still more vague and stupid. I lay oftenest under the shade of big trees; and had, at intervals, command of tobacco. We had Scotch songs of an evening now and then (not happy in the singing); prayers and much serious talk (lifted into a kind of universal dialect, for my sake) by day: in fine, my time having fairly expired, the voice of conscience ordered me to lift anchor and depart; which I did, with the emotions due to such friends and such a self and such a situation,—with an immense base feeling of biliary laziness for one thing. I lingered one day in Fife; walked, silent and full of rather ghastly thoughts, over the City of Edinburgh for the best part of an hour; then got into the train for Annandale, passed thro' some shadows of you about Beattock and elsewhere (as is perhaps too much my wont in all roads and localities), and so arrived here, safe, tho' cold, dispirited and weary, on Saturday night last, where I still am for some few indefinite days,—such a scene, and such reminiscences and confused emotions sad and beautiful as I have on other occasions described to you. Oh my noble Lady, I am very sad of heart, and very solitary; and often think, while I look at facts and shadows such as float and seethe in the troublous sight and fancy, it might easily be better in Heaven than they have it hereabouts where we pass what is called life in this time! But there should be no complaining anyhow, and there shall not be much.

Whether to go to Germany straightway; or to give up Frederick and it (whh really wd not be difficult) forever and a day? That is the question. Jane urges me to go “myself,” but that is only generosity and female human heroism; I know well she ought to go with me, and she cannot in these weeks be well spared at Chelsea, were all else right and ready. Today I have a Letter from her full of spirits; but arguing that she really cannot be spared till the work is farther on. Suppose I went myself with Neuberg in a 10 days hence, saw Silesia,—Breslau and the Riesengebirge to Prag,—then waited about Karlsbad, or some Schwalbach,2 or quiet Homburg (if there were one) to see whether she or any one wd join me thereabouts, for Berlin and what might follow? You are to be home by the middle of September; you are fixed as fate,—honour to you;—but I do not know your route as yet; nor, alas, why shd I ask to know it!— — Blessings on you beautiful Lady, and Friend sent me by the Heavens!— Write to Chelsea like a good child; and continue well wherever you are. Adieu.— T.C.