1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 10 June 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240610-TC-MAC-01; CL 3:79-82.


London 4. Middleton Terrace Pentonville, / Friday-afternoon (10th June 1824)

My dear Mother,

I lose not a moment in relieving you from all your anxieties about me, which I doubt not have [of] late been neither few nor small. I arrived here three [hours ago,] whole in wind and limb; was hospitably received by Edw[ard Irving and] his lady, have dined with them, been walking to and fro about the environs in company with his Reverence, and am now sitting scribbling to you in his drawing room, the most quiet and mild looking place in this monstrous capital.

The details of my voyage would be long: I reserve the minute delineation of them to some winter evening at Mainhill, when you shall have them all in proper order. A few minutes after closing your letter I set out in great haste to find the Smack at Leith, imagining I should be too late, and not caring much, as my place was not taken up, tho' I should not go till Wednesday morning in the steamboat. I was in time enough however, so I ran off with your letter to the post-office, took out my place, and was in Leith Roads [The Firth of Forth] at Sunset. The evening went away in my surveying the companions of my pilgrimage, the most prominent of whom was a little snub-nosed French German whose cookery of a craap (crab) for supper, and eating of it with pepper & porter alternately amused and irritated me. Monsieur Dubois1 proved to be a very singular character. Sir David Innes2 the partner of my little cabin was one almost equally singular— the most innocent, most polite, most ugly and most stupid of the sons of men. Captain Smith from about Linlithgow was if possible still weaker, and litter bred: the conversation of these two persons tired me to the borders of death. All the sillyisms in the natural and moral world were successively submitted to my [in]spection, and I longed bitterly for sudden dumbness to them or [total] deafness to myself. There was also a young man who took snuff, and two ladies who lay sick all the way. With these fellow voyagers the business could not but be wearisome. Yet on the whole it passed away far better than I anticipated. By a strange arrangement of affairs I slept in a place like a book shelf, with the ugly Knight beside me snoring faithfully, and noises out of number at my head and feet and all sides of me. I even often slept throughout the day. The weather too, tho' tedious at first and often calm[,] was on the whole favourable. I surveyed all the shore of my old Fife and East Lothian, along which we coasted very slowly; I saw St Abb's head, Flamborough head, and after passing a tedious day in the midst of fog; on Wednesdaynight it began to blow, and in the space of fifte[e]n hours we passed over a tract of 140 miles and never halted till we dropt anchor last night in the Thames. We saw Yarmouth, Lowestoffe &c &c, with much shipping and land at least new to us; and this morning we had a delightful view of the River & its ships in tens of thousands, its coal-heavers, bargemen, mackarel men and variegated population from Purfleet (14 miles down) up to the London Dock. It is an astounding sight: on approaching the city, its dense masses of grim smoky buildings, its forests of masts, and the sound as of a million of hammers as if proceeding in louder and fainter notes from many-handed labour, give a strange impression of the bulk and bustle of this mighty place. At last we moored: after much delay, hackney coachmen were procured, I got my trunks into the belly of one (coach of course!) and myself along with them, and drove along thro' the city to Pentonville, where Irving and his wife received me with the most cordial welcome. I shall be quite happy here for the time I stay. Since I came, Mrs Strachey3 (Mrs Buller's sister) has incidentally called; and I was introduced to her. She seems a fine body, if I may apply that term to a lady of such appearance: she was going to call for her sister; so I sent a copy of Meister (8 of them are lying here safe) with her, and word that I would wait on Mrs Buller to-morrow. It seems the Shooter's hill4 scheme is again in the back ground: it [is] the place where Mrs Strachey staid, and she could not get lodgings quite commodiously. They now speak of various things, I understand, but their plans are so vague, that it is needless to spend time in detailing them. Only I do not think we shall go to Cornwall, which was a scheme I never liked.

Thus, my dear Mother, have you got a hurried sketch of my history, up to this day. Let us all be grateful to Providence that things are as they are! I only want to learn that you are well in order to be altogether happy.— If I had kept this letter a day or two I might I suppose have had a frank, but knowing your impatience, I would not put off a moment. You will get word of me on Sabbath-day, when I think it is likely you will ask for this at the Office. Have the Boys got their books yet? Tell Jack to hold himself in readiness to write to me: Alick I will not ask till I am settled. They must tell me what they think of Meister as they get along. I left it booked for Farries: I do not think the book is selling yet; but I care not a jot: Boyd will make himself sure, and the £180 are with me.

Tell Jack if he do not hear of me within a week to write directing hither. Remember me in the warmest love to my Father, and all the rest great and small. May the Great Father bless you all! We are some miles asunder, but we will never forget one another; and we hope to meet, after many partings and meetings upon earth, in a scene where parting is never known. Adieu my [de]ar Mother! my thoughts delight to dwell with y[ou.] I am always yours affe,

T. Carlyle