July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 16 July 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360716-JWC-TC-01; CL 9:9-13.


Templand Saturday [16 July 1836]

Heaven be praised, here I am at last dear Husband, a most tired but not utterly demolished Goody. On the whole I have been mercifully dealt with; my journey has been assuaged for me in many ways which I had no reason to expect, and considering my want of sleep and all the rest of it I am in a wonderful state of efficiency already. The man you saw in the coach with me was my only fellow-passenger to Derby; so that during the night I had a whole side to stretch myself on, and from Derby to Manchester I might even recline diagonally having the whole coach to myself—besides the ample-room and verge enough1 I had also to congratulate myself on uninterrupted silence; for even while the man was there, no speech went on; he rolled up his greatcoat to make a cushion for my back, presented me with three lemon lozenges, and for the rest took no notice of me whatever. On arriving in Manchester, I felt considerable apprehension for it had long been revealed to my recollection that, according to my late practice, I had come of[f] without Hanning's address! so that if noone awaited me at the coach I should be set down in the street with my trunk in one of the foolishest dilemmas imaginable! But Roberts happy face popped in at the coach window, even before we stopt, rescued me from the wellmerited punishment of my inadvertency—he actually dropt a tear! of joy! at sight of me and looked as tho' he were half minded to kiss me brüderlich [brotherly] but that I rather waved. We mounted into a hackney and in a few instants were opened to by wee Jenny, who welcomed me most cordially in her still way. Both indeed expressed a satisfaction that was highly consolatory to a wandering pilgrim, and so also was the excellent chicken broth which was served up to me in no time. Jenny makes a most sedate orderly satisfactory-looking hausfrau [housewife]—and her little husband barring a little innocent vanity & trustful forwardness is a most comfortable Landlord. But let no weary traveller ever dream of staying there with any view to sleep! the house is a nice enough little house, and the bedroom looks rather inviting even, but the bed is hard as a deal board, with a considerable elevation in the shape of Burnswark in the middle, there is mor[e]over a species of bug in it which raises lumps “the size of a hazel nut”2—and to crown all you are next door to “a Jerry [beer] shop” whence drunk people issue into the street all night long, trying who to rage loudest. Nothing would have tempted me to stay two nights had I been able to proceed; but my head was horrible on the Monday. On Tuesday afternoon I reached Liverpool after a flight (for it can be called nothing else) of thirty four miles within an hour and quarter.3 I was dreadfully frightened before the train started; in the nervous weak state I was in it seemed to me certain that I should faint and then the impossibility of getting the horrible thing stopt!—but I felt no difference between the motion of the steam carriage and that in which I had come from London; it did not seem to be going any faster. As I had sent no intimation to Maryland street I was left to my own shifts on landing—the greatest difficulty was in getting my trunk from among the hundred others where it was tumbled— “You must take your turn Mam, you must take your turn” was all the satisfaction I could get in pressing towards the heap—at last I said “stand out of the road will you, there is the trunk before my eyes and I will lift it away myself without troubling any one”! Whereupon the Clerk cried out in a rage “for Godsake give that Lady her trunk and let us be rid of her” the omnibus man clutched it out of my hands, and promised to put me down within ten yards of Maryland street[.] He was better than his word for he drove me to the very door. Nothing could exceed the astonishment occasioned by my apparition in the room where they were sitting at their des[s]ert. There was wondering and laughing without end, but no tea—no prospect of any—till at last in e[x]treme thirst and despair I fell to work on a plateful of strawberries and cream! instead of killing me the mess agreed with me so well, that I had strawberries and cream six times during the day and half I stayed!! They were in a great confusion with painters &c &c, but as kind as ever; and as inconsiderate about sleep— I thought the bugs of Manchester had left the Liverpool ones nothing to do—but I was mistaken[.] I had twenty new bites on my neck and arms the first night— O darling thank heaven that we are without bugs! and see that Johns window be kept up when he returns and order Ann to take down his clothes and shake them in the garden; for he will go by Manchester— On Thursday night at ten oclock I was to sail—but the sea was a little rough and my Uncle had heard something of the boiler being unsafe, and so nothing would pacify him but that I should go by the Mail; as the most convincing argument that could be used he went and took a seat for me, and payed it himself: besides this, he layed out eight guineas on the largest, warmest, most beautiful shawl that ever was seen, to regale me with, on my birth-day!4 the day I left Liverpool— It was a most well-timed present for the weather is become intensely cold, and I left London in a most destitute condition with respect to wrappings—I was obliged to buy a pair of drawers in Liverpool—and since I came here there has been such a seeking out of warm stockings and flannel shifts!—and with all I am in a continual shiver. I wrote to John and my Mother from Liverpool—warning the former to meet me at Dumfries and expecting the latter to come without being asked—as she did— When the Mail stopt at the Kings Arms5 I saw my trunk into the house and then ran over to the Commercial to tell Mrs Wilson that if my Mother should come I was gone out to Jane's—for I was in at half after eight—and the steam boat was not expected till eleven—while I was waiting in the lobby for Mrs Wilson my Mother came down the stairs! such an embracing—and such a crying! the very boots was affected with it and spoke in a plaintive voice all morning after. Mother looks well—and is making a perfect fool of me with kindness. I was scarce home when she presented me with a purse she had worked me—filled with sovereigns! for my birth-day present!!—so that I shall not be poorer for my journey— John came before we left Dumfries with Alick—and astonished me considerably by announcing his intention of leaving the middle of next week without seeing more of me6— My Mother pressed him much to go with us in the chaise to Templand but no!—I might be as ill as I liked on landing it was not he that had any notion of helping me thro it. Alick and Jane were both very silent— I supposed my Mother introduced an element of foreign[n]ess into the concern—but I shall go and see them all at home as soon as I am able—and then there will be more out-come I expect. I did well enough on getting home till I dined—and then I got deadly cold,—and my Mother wrapt me in wrappings innumerable,—and then I fell asleep and then I awoke with my head and body all in one cramp—not Caliban but a cramp7—and then I did not know what I said or did—for it was the third night I had not slept a wink—and then they gave me tea and bathed my feet and put me to bed. I had a wonderful night but slept off and on to a considerable extent and today I am up—and as you see able to write—after a fashion— You may expect John the end of next week— I am going to be ill off with sour bread and boiled tea! and there are no peats to bake

I forgot to send the meal to John Mill8—I hope you have done it. Write instantly and tell me how you get on to the minutest item— I mourned to hear of the sleepless nights—next letter, it is to be hoped will be more worth postage—as yet I am not subsided into good sense—or “proper feelings.” Kind compliments to Ann— I sent her letter by John9—and will take the Dolls10 myself—her people were all well. I passed thro Annan in the Mail but took it for Longtown!! until I was fairly out of it and recognized the house in which Mary had lived.

God [forever] bless [you]—Write.

How strange! Alick has had Harry in his possession all this while—and only sold him three weeks ago, and out of the country to some stranger!

For godsake do not work too hard—go to bed in time and take your meals regularly—and think of me as kindly as you can[.]11


A visit of her own to Nithsdale, to Mother and kindred, follows, next Autumn; journey by herself (I sitting here, in fiercely steady wrestle with French Revn); her first journey from London,—attended with much physical hardship, excitatn and petty misery to the too delicate creature; as genlly, to both of us, they all were. Thick skin cares for nothing; thin, does for very much!—

‘Robt Hanning’ is my youngest Sister Jenny's Husband; wedded lately, and settled with her in some small kind of trade in Manchester. A good enough, blithe, brisk-stirring kind of fellow (was Boy Farmservant at Scotsbrig, sevl years in Jenny's childhood, and rather a favte then);—proved somewhat of a fool afterwds; but is now, this long while, settled into modesty, and doing well, in Canada with his Jenny and the childrn & grandchildren they have.— Their Lodging in Manchester, where I once tried sleeping,—first floor above their shop, in a street with many Mills adjact,—was very bad and noisy; tho' the welcome, cordial and supreme, especially in this prest instance, wd make some amends.

‘Goody’ used to be my sport name for her. ‘Burnswark’ (Birrenswark) is a “tabular hill” in Annandale, remarkable for its perfect Roman Camp, and still more for its almost exact shape (frustum of a rectangular pyramid) and for the great extent of view it has all round, Lancashire Cumberland Yorkshire, to Selkirkshire, Roxburghshire &c.