Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XVI
THE VOYAGE ACROSS (1852)

"YOUR voyage is likely to take thirty-six hours," said Dr. John in taking leave at Leith on Friday evening, 27.8.52; but the steamer did not start till midnight and met bad weather.1 'Laden to the lip with iron, the uneasiest of little kicking wretches' took over eighty hours, reaching Rotterdam about noon on Tuesday, 31.8.52.

Besides an elderly couple from Kirkcaldy, there were two more fellow-passengers, young law students on their way to a German University, Shand2 and Honeyman; and Honeyman said3 of Carlyle:-- "I cannot say that he spoke either much or little. He was just agreeable: often silent, always answering pleasantly when addressed, occasionally remarking something or joining pleasantly in ordinary conversation. He helped Shand and me with practical advice which we found useful afterwards as to how to find our way about. As a preliminary to the University, we had to learn German; and he advised us to take Wilhelm Meister as a text book."

Arriving at Rotterdam about noon, "I recollect he walked about Rotterdam with us that afternoon. I never saw him again."

The fact was that during the night he could not sleep at all, and therefore abandoning the hope of seeing Amsterdam or the Hague, he escaped from the hotel to the Rhine steamer between five and six next morning, and soon was sleeping there on the cabin sofa, 'four hours, and again four hours, deep, deep,'--the best sleep he had had for a week past, or was to have, for many weeks to come.

Talking German he soon made' agreeable acquaintances'

____________________
1
Writing on Tuesday, 31.8.52, Carlyle mistook the date for 1st September.
2
Afterwards the Judge, Lord Shand. In December, 1902, D. A. W. heard of his talk and got an introduction; but Shand was then ill, and never recovered.
3
Afterwards a Glasgow writer, P. S. Honeyman, who told this to D. A. W. on 13.12.1902.

-427-

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