October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 17 May 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340517-TC-JWC-01; CL 7:146-156.


4. Ampton Street, Grey's Inn Road, London, / 17th May, 1834—

Dearest Heart,

Here am I once more seated on the sofa, by this old ricketty table, where you have so often sat looking over on me: I have had my Frank since yesterday, with Sister Jean's address on it, who will not let the sheet loiter in Dumfries; I give you the top of the morning, and will write down my whole confused experiences for you with as little confusion as I yet can. What a time it seems since we were parted, tho' by the calendar, it counts only some nine days! Oh, my Love, if I were to write all the loving things I have thought of thee, whole quires would not hold it. Blessed be the Heavens, I have thee to wife; my own, while existence is granted us; we are not yet parted forever, but only, by God's grace, for some few days longer. As I have quantities of the most perplexed matters to write of, and all things yet stand at sixes and sevens with me, I will take the old-established order of time, and endeavour to sketch you the whole of it that seems sketchable.

You remember the Friday, what a bright day it was: Alick will have told you how he lay in wait for me at Shillahill Bridge1 the night before, a friendly apparition that I think will stick fast in my memory; how we parted from Scotsbrig, all with dry eyes as beseemed heroes and heroines; then of poor Mary's breakfast, and how I waved my hat to the two Boys watching me at Annan-foot, and turned away from the last true hearts I had in Scotland. Fancy that I spent the day, as one might in a Solway Steamboat of but moderate arrangements (for having declined Dinner at two o'clock, there was nothing afterwards to be had but the miserablest Tea, at seven: this I mention for your own guidance); that as the Night sank, the gleam of Liverpool arose far over the waters, and the red Light of “the Rock,”2 and other Lights floating and fixed, amid which steering with address, yet not without bellowings and swearings, we came rushing up to the Clarence Dock about two in the morning, and were informed we could not enter, but might land over planks. Such as had homes did so: I preferred a second visit to my horse-manger of a Bed, where by aid of a biscuit and glass of diluted brandy, I succeeded a little better than before. From six to nine, was first long waiting, then quick walking; and then your good Uncle, at Maryland Street,3 opened the door for me himself, and insisted on walking with me till I had deposited my two Stewartkins (Gillenbie's Sons,4 whom Alick would speak of) at their address. Figure Maryland Street in rather better than its common palmy state: all kindness, all copiousness, only no bedroom that you had not to share with a neighbour. However, in spite of Alick,5 who indeed was very quiet, and even of bugs, who also behaved most mildly, I slept both nights, if not long yet well, and felt quite unexpectedly rested. Arbuckle6 you will see with pleasure: a most meekly composed, devout-minded, actively methodical, altogether friendly appearance, of whom you can predict nothing but good. His Sister also is with him: one long-drawn Sigh of Galloway Sentimentalism, whom you must tolerate as you can. With him especially I had long conferences, and was carried hither and thither in the despatch of various business. Gather now the result of what we did.

Pickford's7 rate of carriage is not lower than six and sixpence a hundredweight for the average of Furniture (6 shillings for the cheapest sort, 7 for the dearest); there are various charges for conveyance from Dock to Dock in Liverpool; on the other hand no “wharfage-dues” at London, as by the Steamboats there is; which two things may nearly balance one another. By the “St. George Steampacket Company” again the lowest charge is 9 pence per square foot, accurately measured; they do not take above two days longer than Pickford, perhaps no longer at all. In the Steamboat (for it lies beside the Annan one) the goods have only to be lifted out on the Quay and laid in again, an operation both Arbuckle and your Uncle offered to superintend; after which there is no more shifting till London, and thus hardly any risk of farther breakage. By the Pickford method, we have, as I ascertained, at least three unloadings and reloadings (instead of one) before reaching London; the people also “will not be responsible” for the complete safety of anything that is not “packed in skeleton cases,” that is in square boxes, or ghosts of boxes rather (made like hen-coops, as I understood); for us a thing clearly impossible. With good mat-packing, however, I seemed to see that the damage was not likely to be great, so careful is the Pickfordian Establishment generally: but without doubt it is likely to be something, and I should believe considerably greater than by the Steamboat way. So far the latter method then is preferable; but now as to the respective costs of the two I could not with all my inquiring get to any clear result, tho' in this too my surmise inclined favourably to the Steam Company: for does not Alick think, for example, that a mass of 9 cubic feet will on the average weigh more than eight stone? By steam the cost of 9 feet is 81d; by canal 1 cwt. is 78d. However, I have got a plan whereby you can ascertain,—at least before the goods are shipped. Let the Carts as they come thro' Dumfries be weighed empty, then as they return weigh loaded—this gives us the number of hundred-weights: before leaving Craigenputtoch, Alick can take the dimensions of the loadings as they lie piled together, and deducting for interstices, will thus have the measurement. Let him be very accurate; then the whole matter lies before us, and I will tell you in time how to do. In the mean while, has your Uncle sent you three dozen of second-hand mats, by either the Dumfries Steamboat, or one of Thomson's ships? It was the last thing we agreed on, and either Arbuckle or he was to write giving due notice: it seemed likely the mats could be got for half-price; if they could not, nothing was to be done. The readiness of both these men, and indeed of everybody, to help us, does it not deserve our gratitude?— All this paragraph is for my brave Alick's special study; and I doubt not he will understand it: but perhaps, after all, as you will hear, a new arrangement, by the Whitehaven people, may p[r]ove to be the fittest for us.

But figure me now mounted at noontide of Monday, on your old Umpire Coach (for it has changed its hour), and bowling off towards London at one stretch. Figure us rushing down the steep street of Lichfield, and along my old familiar ways in Warwickshire about midnight; and the dirtiest little chill drizzle beginning, from which on the Coachbox with the breeze on the right cheek I had no means of guarding myself; tho' your Uncle, good man, had a bran new umbrella waiting for me at the Liverpool starting-place, having failed to get back my own from Porcus M'Minn,8 who had staggered off with it the night before. Alas, the drizzle continued, and became a rain, and I sat nodding there, and starting awake again at the threshold of most comfortless sleep till about 8 in the morning three cups of scalding coffee brought some motion back into my fingers. Particulars to be often recapitulated when we sit by the fire together! Not till two o'clock did I see the huge monstrosity of a London, thro' the Arch at Holloway, again amid rain, and enter it with a kind of defiance. In few minutes, from “the Angel of Islington,”9 I was here, and the glad Mrs Page10 recognising me, and the whole house welcoming me, safe so far from my perils. Our old rooms had been vacant for about a week; and strange to say, Charles Montague and his Wife, not now for Edinburgh, had made a permanent contract for them, to begin on Saturday; that is, this day; tho' it is now postponed and altered, the people here having got a new better house in the next street, and being actually in a state of flitting towards it, and likely to be they say for about a fortnight yet. The good Eliza,11 fugitive as a breath of air mostly waits on me, assisted by Mrs Page, and a sootdrop of a new Anne:12 the two former and indeed all hands here express the truest joy at hope of seeing you again. I have Miles's foot-rule in my pocket, and often have used it; I sleep in the room above our old sleeping-room; in a bed some six inches narrower than the old “Stocking-bed,” but clean and quiet; I feel comparatively at home; and so, in respect of lodgings am as fortunate as you could wish.

That same Tuesday evening I strode off to Bayswater, and was welcomed (what think you of that?) with a most graceful little kiss.13 Alas! in the course of five minutes' speech, I learned that my whole hurry had been useless, that I might have staid with you perfectly as well, that our whole Scotch notion of London houseletting was erroneous from top to bottom! Heard poor man, heard poor wife ever anything so provoking? Whitsunday is no day at all in London:14 they have four term-days in the year; of which the nearest is now the 24th of June: thus every quarter there are numerous shiftings, and at all intermediate periods, and houses stand “to Let,” tomorrow as yesterday, as plentiful now as then; and plentifullest of all about the month of August, when so many people fly the Town. They are usually let “on lease,” but not always, and can always be got for a year by a little more money. They are numerous at present, and will continue to grow more so, for at least two weeks. The then subsequent three weeks there will be all manner of repairings going on. Alas, alas, had we but known all this, and I staid at home, and saved you from so much, and brought you with me, to do the matter deliberately!

Meanwhile the good Provideress (who had provided a bed too for me, which I refused) took me out fort[h] with to look at houses; I saw several; liked none of them; saw the old failure in Holland Street, and thought it decidedly an escape.15 A dirty little crooked old street (but indeed the evening was dirty) inferior to the Vennels16 in Dumfries! Others of the same rent, new and in straight rows lay in the neighbourhood; one also in a much better part of Holland Street: but the whole district seemed to me confused, muddy, mournfully inferior to our ideas. The £45 house I was to see next day, and determined to take it if it were so good: I first however purposed to see Chelsea and the Hunts; had thereafter the invitation to return to Bayswater and dine, the “celebrated Mrs Jamieson”17 to be there. On Wednesday morning, having first corrected the Proofsheet of Teufelk (which I found at Dumfries), and left it at Fraser's (whom I did not see, then or since), I got to Bayswater, and found the celebrated Mrs Jamieson on the point of arriving. Would she had never arrived! Did I lose my heart to her? Ach Gott [Oh Lord]! A little, hard, proud, redhaired, freckled, fierce-eyed, square-mouthed woman; shrewd, harsh, cockneyish-irrational: it was from the first moment apparent that, without mutual loss, we might “adieu and wave our lily hands.”18 These two after infinite delays got ready to go with me; broke shoe-ties, had delicate children to guard from damp feet, bustled and sidled and made no way: one of them at least I wished at the Devil. But now in Kensington Gardens (no delved garden, but the beautifullest immensity of a Park, with water-pieces, and grass-pieces, and skyhigh clumps of frondent beeches, where you shall often walk), there starts from a side-seat a black figure, and clutches my hand in both his: it is poor Edward Irving! O what a feeling! The poor friend looks like death rather than life; pale and yet flushed, a flaccid, boiled appearance; and one short peal of his old Annandale laugh went thro' me with the wofullest tone. He is sent out thither to have two months of air; there seemed a little silkgowned Prophetess to have nursing charge of him for the time; but he was to get a house of his own in some days close by: we appointed to meet in his Newman Street abode, next night after evening service: but I was forced to plead off next day by a message at the door, and have not seen him since! But to get along: The Jamieson and her Hostess I contrived to get despatched, and to shake off their dinner too; walked off to Edwardes Square (1½ miles westward, where Cochrane19 lives) till the “my carpenter” (steward apparently of the £45 house) made a third attempt to get the key; for that day there seemed nothing but delays. Edward's Square (for so they pronounce it) has a beautiful grass-square in the centre; houses small but neat; on the whole more a Comely Bank character than anything I saw. One house was to be let, in the worst place of the square, rather dilapidated looking, but which would be thoroughly repaired; rent £35 fixtures included; four stories of the smallest dimensions (which I have measured since): two kitchens, six-feet three inches (!) in height; dining-room with folding-doors (like this drawing-room) perhaps 14 feet by 22 (taken together) drawing-room above, 17 feet by eleven; back room (divided by a wall from this), where our big Bed might by possibility stand, for the height is 9 feet 7½; upper story 8 feet 1 inch high, which seems the despicable universal height of such houses here. Will you (lest I forget it again) measure our Bed, I mean our own new Bed, and also one of the back-room ones, and see whether they can stand in such a height. I hope, they can. Finally there is a “garden” (ach Gott!) of perhaps 12 feet broad in front of the house, with iron railing, and a brickwalled one (like Comely Bank, only that is not green, but might be made so) of 21 yards long. Almost all houses have in the back kitchen a set-boiler (“Copper”) for washing, that room being the “washing-house,” an excellent kitchen-grate of the kind you talked of, and a dresser or dresserkin as we shall think it: these, with grates, and some other trifles (sometimes, they say, even with bells!) constitute “the fixtures.” It is reckoned a great point to get them included in the rent; for tho' they profess to be “appraised” in the way we conjectured, yet uniformly there is a great loss, and (if, for example, no tenant follow you for years) risk of total loss. The other charges and taxes in Edward's Square including £2..12 for the green enclosure, and lamplighting, are £13..2 by accurate summation, without the House-tax, which is this year to be repealed. The distance from the westernmost point of London is two miles and a cat's leap; from Mrs Austin thro' Kensington Gardens 3 quarters of a mile, from Mill about the same, from Hunt (which perhaps is no objection) about 1½ miles in quite the opposite direction; or rather half the opposite direction, for to Chelsea you hold south-east, to Bayswater &c northeast. It is a street, with one little gap, all the way to London: You are close by Holland House.— These were sorryish prospects: nevertheless I appointed to come again next night, and see Cochrane and the Landlord, neither of whom were on the spot.

And now back again to “my carpenter,” an innocent conceited kind of body, who (sorrow to him!) had not yet got the key. Delays again, and trottings hither and thither; hunger (for it was now between 5 and 6) and Shaw's20 new “neat shoes” (half an inch too short; for which doom him also to a public rebuke) pinching me at heart and extremities: at length, all too late, appears the hateful Cockney Landlord with his double-w's and aspirates, his purse-pride, cunning and bunch of keys, and shows me in: the £45 house is not worth a rush for me; the upper story all divided into six or seven crib-bedrooms, in which nothing better than a litter of six or seven young whelps could have slept with comfort. I did not fell the Cockney landlord to the earth, but left him with civil speeches, and took my sorrowful way thro' narrow hedge-lanes and cottages ornamental and cottages squalid, thro' Brompton, towards the church-steeple of Chelsea. In Brompton (the Public houses there having nothing but “Beea”) I dined with a most angelic young cowfeeder, close by the stall of six cows, on three-halfpence-worth of milk and a penny-loaf. At length came Chelsea, and Cheyne Row; a set of young bronze coloured gypsey faces were idly looking thro' a window; I asked them with a half-presentiment where Hunt lived; they answered, Here, and that he was from home. I enter: O ask me not for a description till we meet! The Frau Hunt lay drowsing on cushions “sick, sick” with thousand temporary ailments, the young imps all agog to see me jumped hither and thither, one strange goblin-looking fellow, about 16, ran ministering about tea-kettles for us: it was all a mingled lazaretto and tinkers camp, yet with a certain joy and nobleness at heart of it; faintly resembling some of the maddest scenes in Wilhelm Meister, only madder. They had looked at no houses, knew not what I meant by them; gave me to fancy that perhaps at that hour you might be reading a new Letter of Hunt's asking farther instructions of me.21 They gave me tea, would fain have given me the Husband's shoes (à la Shelley, for I was to be the new Shelley): finally the goblin, “Percy Hunt,” a very good sort of fellow, I think, inquired me out an omnibus to Temple Bar; and I came hirpling [limping] home, with a determination at least to have my old shoes next day. A fraction of coarse oatmeal, left by the late Lodgers, yielded me porridge after a sort; and so sending you all the warmest prayer from the innermost of my heart, I tumbled into bed and sleep.

Next morning, or Thursday, to the Montagues, with the old phenomena little or not at all altered; to Irving's door (as above said) with glimpses into his Newman-street Pagoda,22 and Note pencilled by me in the Lobby; to Piccadilly halfway-house, and thence to Chelsea by omnibus; where Hunt (who had already had a message here) sat to welcome me in his choicest mood.23 The Wife was away; Thornton a poor brown spectre of a creature (whom his Mother had nevertheless spoken of “marrying and settling”!) saluted me with a tremulous kindness; I soon got out with Hunt in wide quest of houses. Chelsea lies low close by the side of the river; has an ancient, here and there dilapidated look; the houses apparently a tenth cheaper; some market articles, especially coals said likewise to be cheaper. I liked it little; and, to say truth, cared not to be so near the poetic Tinkerdom. We went thro' many houses, with little result; at length moved upwards to Brompton (a place I somehow, perhaps by repute only, have a liking for); and there also among many houses, found only one that attracted me. It is a pavilion-roofed new, strong, tight-looking house, in the middle of a not so hampered Gardenkin, a country-looking road with trees beyond, running by in front; other such cottages, yet not all alike, on this hand and on that. Nay, bethink thee of the Miss West Cottages at the end of Haddington: I think, it is likest these, only smaller I fancy, especially lower in the upper story which here again is only some eight feet. The House is shaped exactly like our Craigenputtoch one: two good rooms of good height, and say 16 feet square on each side of the lobby; the back-rooms entering also from the lobby (almost where our doors are, the other inner doors being near the front one), and I should fancy some 4 or 5 feet wider than ours are: in one of these (our library one), the red Bed would stand beautifully; the other (yet somehow without much air of offence) is the kitchen, and a nice clean one; backwards from this appeared boiler-house &c: upper story exactly like our own (except two feet lower) down even to dressingroom, and stair-head press! The rent “on lease” £40, perhaps higher for one year, and some unfixedness about fixtures and so forth. However this was by far the best looking thing I saw; and I took the landlady's address, with full purpose to see her soon, which new objects suspended, but have not at all suppressed. But for this day's task of Letter-writing I should have been there today.

Hunt gave me dinner, a pipe even and glass of ale; was the blithest, helpfullest, most loquacious of men; yet his talk only fatigued me mostly; there was much, much of it; full of airiness indeed yet with little but scepticising quibbles, crotchets, fancies, and even Cockney wit; which I was all too earnest to relish. He sent his kind regards to Craigenputtoch, and left me on my way to Edwardes Square.— Tho' late beyond my hour, I judged it better to see Cochrane first. His Wife (for he has an old wife) took me courteously in, till he should return from some “trustee meeting,” where both he and the landlord were. She shewed me over her house; which tho' of precisely the same dimensions as the one I had seen looked really quite “a gem,” so clean was it, so still and clear, with size enough and to spare for two. Cochrane staid long, and had to be sent for. Really far from a bad man, or even an uncivil man; gave me a quite kind reception, a cup of tea, abundance of Scotch and English news; and, to my question, an affirmation that he was still disposed to part with his house. No landlord for me, therefore! If I go to Edwardes Square, here is the spot for me. He kept me late, and I found no omnibus. Cheerful old Miles was sitting up for me, me the weariedest of men. I had appointed to see Cochrane next day; and finally settle with him. I steeped my feet in cold water, smoked a pipe, and went to bed.

Next morning, Friday, I set out westward, and took Buller by the way. Mill (who was waiting for me the second morning, as clear and friendlier than ever) had already given me his address; for he was sick, of some biliary surgical business, and was with his Father & Mother in a new place: I got promptest admittance on sending up my name; got my frank and much pleasant talk, and special right to have your Letters too se[n]t under cover to him (4. Parliament street, lest I should forget),—all in [the kindli]est way. I saw also [Mrs Strach]ey, who is close by for a time, in the way of removing to Bristol; she was [ver]y kind, and seemed mu[ch bett]er than formerly, as pure and devout as ever: you must now see her, and I think will readily contrive to like her. Finally I move off thro' the Parks to Edwardes Square; with the full purpose, in spite of Brompton, distance, and probable delay, to close with Cochrane: behold, however, Cochrane has taken a new thought, and cannot do it! His excuse too was reasonable; he talked of expecting some kind of “situation with a house attached,” and so might have to shift twice over. What could I say? We got the old Landlord, and went intently over the vacant house (see, our results above); and so, quite disappointed again, walked eastward, turning in by Bayswater for a mutton-chop, and word of consolation, on the strength of which I walked home to meet Mill about tea at seven. Arthur Buller had been here; Hunt's boy with a Book; Mrs Badams too, about to leave town, and thinking you were here, had called, and written—one long sigh. Let me not forget for your comfort that I too wrote to Bessy Barnet, and expect her answer of Yes in a day or two: she was to be in readiness in some twelve days. Mill did not come till 9 o'clock, and then with a strange gaunt-looking “disciple,” and so all three sat talking till near one o'clock.

You have thus, dear Wife, my whole history since we parted. Was ever anything more confused? To confuse the matter still more, Mrs Austin made me this offer yesterday: her husband and she are for the sea-coast again in August, and would willingly surrender their House to us for three months, when we might look about at will! I did not refuse, but felt that I must. Having fairly begun, why should we pause? She advises still that you come to some lodging of which there are several close by, and have a vote in the choice. What say you, Liebchen? Would you feel it kinder, if I had a house ready, as one or the other can be ready? I will keep looking out with all the muscular force I have (for it depends on that mainly); inquire and examine this Brompton affair mainly; but fix on nothing till I hear from you again. By the time you could get hither, I should have a choice of houses to take you to directly, and then we could decide at leisure. But you say, No, no: don't you? The only thing to be added is that if you say, Yes, then Whitehaven will in all probability be the road for the furniture.

Thus, dear Goodykin, have I filled you two of the longest sheets you ever read. Dinner is just here, and I dare not begin another. O my wee Wifiekin, how art thou, in these tumults? Alick promised me that he would as far as man could take the burden off you, screen from all toils, of which in spite of him enough would reach you. Take care, take every care. Tell Alick that if he send thee well to me, I will never forget him,—as indeed I never will any way. And now do you ever think of me? Not you, you little wretch! But oh me, I am too serious for jesting; yet not sad. I feel very fearless in this business; “tho' desperate not cowardly.”24 Be of good cheer; it is for my Dearest's good too. And so God bless and keep thee!

T. Carlyle.

Jean will send this by express, on Monday. You will read it to Alick if he is with you? And consult with him. If my Mother also could hear it! But I must write her a Note of her own. The Boy was to have a shilling: send a Newspaper to me by him next morning (early) in your own hand. Then a deliberate Letter on Wednesday: directed as you were used, under cover, not forgetting the M. P.! You know the address above.— Jeffrey is no longer a Member, but a Lord of session. News in abundance next time. When? Probably by P. Austin on Sunday: I will warn Jean about it on the [cover] of this. Adieu, Dearest, Best!—

Explain me everything with the minuteness of a Goodykin; everything about thyself especially. I have not hinted to Holcroft that I am here: never mind the Newspapers, except to announce your wellbeing, I cannot read them at present— Here are this moment a lot of Books (thro' Fraser) for Jack: I bet from Miss M. Shall we see her? I think so. Enough! Enough! Is your Mother still with you, or where? John25 purposed writing to her directly: he was just nailing up a Box for Templand when I arrived. None in the house spoke of her with unkindness; he with great kindness. Tell her so.

Pack up all my Pipes, my Edinr ones, give the others to Glen[.]

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