to his wife
printed for private circulation
LETTERS TO HIS WIFE
October 22nd, 1844.
My Dearest Carreta,
I arrived this day at Venice, and though I am exceedingly
tired I hasten to write a line to inform you of my
well-being. I am now making for home as fast as possible,
and I have now nothing to detain me.
Since I wrote to you last I have been again in quarantine for
two days and a half at Trieste, but I am glad to say that I shall
no longer be detained on that account. I was obliged to go
to Trieste, though it was much out of my way, otherwise I
must have remained I know not how long in Corfu, waiting for a
direct conveyance. After my liberation I only stopped a day
at Corfu in order that I might lose no more time, though I really
wished to tarry there a little longer, the people were so
kind. On the day of my liberation I had four invitations to
dinner from the officers. I, however, made the most of my
time, and escorted by one, Captain Northcott, of the Rifles, went
over the fortifications, which are most magnificent. I saw
everything that I well could, and shall never forget the kindness
with which I was treated. The next day I went for Trieste
in a steamer, down the whole length of the Adriatic. I was
horribly unwell, for the Adriatic is a bad sea, and very
dangerous; the weather was also very rough. After stopping
at Trieste a day, besides the quarantine, I left for Venice, and
here I am, and hope to be on my route again the day after to-morrow. I shall now hurry through Italy by way
of Ancona, Rome, and Civita Vecchia to Marseilles in France, and
from Marseilles to London, in not more than six days’
journey. Oh, I shall be so glad to get back to you and my
mother (I hope she is alive and well) and Hen. 
I am glad to hear that we are not to have a war with those
silly people, the French. The idea made me very uneasy, for
I thought how near Oulton lay to the coast.
You cannot imagine what a magnificent old town Venice
is—it is clearly the finest in Italy, although in decay; it
stands upon islands in the sea, and in many places is intersected
with canals. The Grand Canal is four miles long, lined with
palaces on either side. I, however, shall be glad to leave
it, for there is no place to me like Oulton,
where live two of my dear ones. I have told you that I am
very tired, so that I cannot write much more, and I am presently
going to bed, but I am sure that you will be glad to hear from me
however little I may write.
I think I told you in my last letter that I had been to the
top of Mount Olympus, in Thessaly. Tell Hen that I saw a
whole herd of wild deer bounding down the cliffs, the noise they
made was like thunder. I also saw an enormous
eagle—one of Jupiter’s birds, his real eagles, for
according to the Grecian mythology Olympus was his favourite
haunt. I don’t know what it was then, but at present
it is the most wild, savage place I ever saw; an immense way up I
came to a forest of pines; half of them were broken by
thunder-bolts, snapped in the middle, and the ruins lying around
in the most hideous confusion; some had been blasted from top
to bottom and stood naked, black, and charred, in indescribable
horridness. Jupiter was the god of thunder, and he still
seems to haunt Olympus. The worst is there is little water,
so that a person might almost perish there of thirst: the
snow-water, however, when it runs into the hollows is the most
delicious beverage ever tasted—the snow, however, is very
high up. My next letter I hope will be from Marseilles, and
I hope to be there in a very few days.
Now, God bless you, my dearest. Write to my mother, and
kiss Hen, and remember me kindly to Lucy and the Atkinses.
53a Pall Mall,
I am thinking of coming to you on Thursday. I do not
know that I can do anything more here, and the dulness of the
weather, and the mists, are making me ill.
Please to send another five pound note by Tuesday
morning. I have spent scarcely anything of that which you
sent, except what I owe to Mrs. W., but I wish to have money in
my pocket, and Murray and Cooke are going to dine with me on
I shall be glad to be with you again, for I am very much in
want of your society. I miss very much my walks
at Llangollen by the quiet canal; but what’s to be
Everything seems nearly at a standstill in London on account
of this wretched war, at which it appears to me the English are
getting the worst, notwithstanding their boasting. They
thought to settle it in an autumn’s day; they little knew
the Russians, and they did not reflect that just after autumn
comes winter, which has ever been the Russian’s friend.
Have you heard anything about the rent of the cottage? I
should have been glad to hear from you this morning.
Give my love to Hen, and may God bless you, dear.
Tuesday, 25 [August, 1857].
My dear Carreta,
Since writing to you I have been rather unwell, and was
obliged to remain two days at Sandypool. The weather has
been terribly hot, and affected my head, and likewise my sight
slightly. Moreover, one of the shoes hurt my foot. I
came to this place to-day, and shall presently leave it for
Pembroke on my way back. I shall write to you from
there. I shall return by Cardigan.
What I want you to do is to write to me directed to the post
office, Cardigan (in Cardiganshire), and either inclose a post
office order for five pounds, or an order from Lloyd
and Co. on the Banker of that place for the same sum. But
at any rate write, or I shall not know what to do. I would
return by railroad, but in that event I must go to London, for
there are no railroads from here to Shrewsbury. I want,
moreover, to see a little more.
Just speak to the Banker, and don’t lose any time.
Send letter, and either order in it, or say that I can get it at
I hope all is well. God bless you and Hen.
September 3rd, .
My dear Carreta,
I am making the best of my way to Shrewsbury (my face is
turned towards Mama). I write this from Lampeter, where
there is a college for educating clergymen intended for Wales,
which I am going to see. I shall then start for Radnor by
Tregavon, and hope soon to be in England.
I have seen an enormous deal since I have been away, and have
walked several hundred miles. Amongst other places I have
seen St. David’s, a wonderful half-ruinous Cathedral at
the western end of Pembrokeshire; but I shall be glad to
God bless you and Hen,
Henrietta! Do you know who is handsome?
Sunday [September 19th, 1858].
I just write a line to inform you that I arrived here
yesterday quite safe.
We did not start from Yarmouth till past three o’clock
on Thursday morning; we reached Newcastle about ten on
Friday. As I was walking in the street at Newcastle a
sailor-like man came running up to me, and begged that I would
let him speak to me. He appeared almost wild with
joy. I asked him who he was, and he told me he was a
Yarmouth north beach man, and that he knew me very well.
Before I could answer, another sailor-like, short, thick
fellow came running up, who also seemed wild with joy; he was a
comrade of the other. I never saw two people so out of
themselves with pleasure, they literally danced in the street; in
fact, they were two of my old friends. I asked them how
they came down there, and they told me that they had been down
fishing. They begged a thousand pardons for speaking to me,
but told me they could not help it.
I set off for Alnwick on Friday afternoon, stayed there all
night, and saw the castle next morning. It is a fine old
place, but at present is undergoing repairs—a Scottish king
was killed before its walls in the old time. At about
twelve I started for Edinburgh. The place is wonderfully
altered since I was here, and I don’t think for the
better. There is a Runic stone on the castle brae which I
am going to copy. It was not there in my time.
If you write direct to me at the Post Office, Inverness. I am thinking of going to Glasgow
to-morrow, from which place I shall start for Inverness by one of
the packets which go thither by the North-West and the Caledonian
Canal. I hope that you and Hen are well and
comfortable. Pray eat plenty of grapes and
partridges. We had upon the whole a pleasant passage from
Yarmouth; we lived plainly but well, and I was not at all
ill—the captain seemed a kind, honest creature.
Remember me kindly to Mrs. Turnour and Mrs. Clarke, and God
bless you and Hen.
Sunday [September 26th, 1858].
This is the third letter which I have written to you.
Whether you have received the other two, or will receive this, I
am doubtful. I have been several times to the post office,
but we found no letter from you, though I expected to find one
awaiting me when I arrived. I wrote last on Friday. I
merely want to know once how you are, and if all is well I shall
move onward. It is of not much use staying here.
After I had written to you on Friday I crossed by the ferry
over the Firth and walked to Beauly, and from thence to Beaufort
or Castle Downie. At Beauly I saw the
gate of the pit where old Fraser used to put the people whom he
owed money to—it is in the old ruined cathedral, and at
Beaufort saw the ruins of the house where he was born. Lord
Lovat lives in the house close by. There is now a claimant
to the title, a descendant of old Fraser’s elder brother
who committed a murder in the year 1690, and on that account fled
to South Wales. The present family are rather uneasy, and
so are their friends, of whom they have a great number, for
though they are flaming Papists they are very free of their
money. I have told several of their cousins that the
claimant has not a chance as the present family have been so long
in possession. They almost blessed me for saying so.
There, however, can be very little doubt that the title and
estate, more than a million acres, belong to the claimant by
strict law. Old Fraser’s brother was called Black
John of the Tasser. The man whom he killed was a
piper who sang an insulting song to him at a wedding. I
have heard the words and have translated them; he was dressed
very finely, and the piper sang:
You’re dressed in Highland robes,
But ropes of straw would become ye better;
You’ve silver buckles your shoes upon
But leather thongs for them were fitter.
Whereupon John drew his dagger and ran it into the
piper’s belly; the descendants of the piper are still
living at Beauly. I walked that day thirty-four miles
between noon and ten o’clock at night. My letter of
credit is here. This is a dear place, but not so bad as
Edinburgh. If you have written, don’t write
any more till you hear from me again.
God bless you and Hen.
September 30th, .
I write another line to tell you that I have got your second
letter—it came just in time, as I leave to-morrow. In
your next, address to George Borrow, Post Office, Tobermory, Isle
of Mull, Scotland. You had, however, better write without
delay, as I don’t know how long I may be there; and be sure
only to write once. I am glad we have got such a desirable
tenant for our Maltings, and should be happy to hear that the
cottage was also let so well. However, let us be grateful
for what has been accomplished.
I hope you wrote to Cooke as I desired you, and likewise
said something about how I had waited for Murray. Between
ourselves that account of theirs was a shameful one, whatever
they may say.
I met to-day a very fat gentleman from Caithness, at the very
north of Scotland; he said he was descended from the Norse.
I talked to him about them, and he was so pleased with my
conversation that he gave me his card, and begged that I would
visit him if I went there. As I could do no less, I showed
him my card—I had but one—and he no sooner saw the
name than he was in a rapture.
I am rather glad that you have got the next door, as the
locality is highly respectable. Tell Hen that I copied the
Runic stone on the Castle Hill, Edinburgh. It was brought
from Denmark in the old time. The inscription is imperfect,
but I can read enough of it to see that it was
erected by a man to his father and mother. I again write
the direction for your next: George Borrow, Esq.,
Post Office, Tobermory, Isle of Mull,
God bless you and Hen.
Sunday, October 7th, .
I write a line lest you should be uneasy. Before leaving
the Highlands I thought I would see a little more about me.
So last week I set on a four days’ task, a walk of a
hundred miles. I returned here late last Thursday
night. I walked that day forty-five miles; during the first
twenty the rain poured in torrents, and the wind blew in my
face. The last seventeen miles were in the dark.
To-morrow I proceed towards Mull.
I hope that you got my letters, and that I shall find
something from you awaiting me at the post
office. The first day I passed over Corryarrick, a mountain
3000 feet high. I was nearly up to my middle in snow.
As soon as I had passed it I was on Badenoch. The road on
the farther side was horrible, and I was obliged to wade several
rivulets, one of which was very boisterous and nearly threw me
down. I wandered through a wonderful country, and picked up
a great many strange legends from the people I met, but they were
very few, the country being almost a desert, chiefly inhabited by
deer. When amidst the lower mountains I frequently heard
them blaring in the woods above me. The people at the inn
here are by far the nicest I have met; they are kind and
honourable to a degree.
God bless you and Hen.
Don’t write again if you have written.
November 7th, .
After I wrote to you I walked round Mull and through it, over
Benmore. I likewise went to Icolmkill, and passed
twenty-four hours there. I saw the wonderful ruin and
crossed the island. I suffered a great deal from hunger,
but what I saw amply repaid me; on my return to Tobermory I was
rather unwell, but got better. I was disappointed in a
passage to Thurso by sea, so I was obliged to return to this
place by train. On Tuesday, D.V., I shall set out on foot,
and hope to find your letter awaiting me at the post office at
On coming hither by train I nearly lost my things.
I was told at Huntly that the train stopped ten minutes, and
meanwhile the train drove off purposely. I
telegraphed to Keith in order that my things might be secured,
describing where they were, under the seat. The reply was
that there was nothing of the kind there. I instantly said
that I would bring an action against the company, and walked off
to the town, where I stated the facts to a magistrate, and gave
him my name and address. He advised me to bring my
action. I went back and found the people frightened.
They telegraphed again—and the reply was that the things
were safe. There is nothing like setting oneself up
sometimes. I was terribly afraid I should never again find
my books and things. I, however, got them, and my old
umbrella, too. I was sent on by the mail train, but lost
four hours, besides undergoing a great deal of misery and
When I have been to Thurso and Kirkwall I shall return
as quick as possible, and shall be glad to get out of the
country. As I am here, however, I wish to see all I can,
for I never wish to return. Whilst in Mull I lived very
cheaply—it is not costing me more than seven shillings a
day. The generality of the inns, however, in the lowlands
are incredibly dear—half-a-crown for breakfast, consisting
of a little tea, a couple of small eggs, and bread and
butter—two shillings for attendance. Tell Hen
that I have some moss for her from Benmore—also some
seaweed from the farther shore of Icolmrill. God bless
November 21st, .
My dear Carreta,
I reached this place on Friday night, and was glad enough to
get your kind letter. I shall be so glad to get home to
Since my last letter to you I have walked nearly 160
miles. I was terribly taken in with respect to
distances—however, I managed to make my way. I have
been to Johnny Groat’s House, which is about twenty-two
miles from this place. I had tolerably fine weather all the
way, but within two or three miles of that place a terrible storm
arose; the next day the country was covered with ice and
snow. There is at present here a kind of Greenland winter,
colder almost than I ever knew the winter in Russia.
The streets are so covered with ice that it is dangerous
to step out. To-morrow D. and I pass over into Orkney, and
we shall take the first steamer to Aberdeen and Inverness, from
whence I shall make the best of my way to England. It is
well that I have no farther to walk, for walking now is almost
impossible—the last twenty miles were terrible, and the
weather is worse than it was then. I was terribly deceived
with respect to steamboats. I was told that one passed over
to Orkney every day, and I have now been waiting two days, and
there is not yet one. I have had quite enough of
Scotland. When I was at Johnny Groat’s I got a shell
for dear Hen, which I hope I shall be able to bring or send to
I am glad to hear that you have got out the money on mortgage
so satisfactorily. One of the greatest blessings in this
world is to be independent. My spirits of late have been
rather bad, owing principally to my dear mother’s
death. I always knew that we should miss her. I
dreamt about her at Fort Augustus. Though I have walked so
much I have suffered very little from fatigue, and have got over
the ground with surprising facility, but I have not enjoyed the
country so much as Wales.
I wish that you would order a hat for me against I come home;
the one I am wearing is very shabby, having been so frequently
drenched with rain and storm-beaten. I cannot say the exact
day that I shall be home, but you may be expecting me. The
worst is that there is no depending on the steamers, for there is
scarcely any traffic in Scotland in winter. My appetite of
late has been very poorly, chiefly, I believe, owing to badness
of food and want of regular meals. Glad enough, I repeat,
shall I be to get home to you and Hen.
November 27th, Saturday .
I am, as you see, in Orkney, and I expect every minute the
steamer which will take me to Shetland and Aberdeen, from which
last place I go by train to Inverness, where my things are, and
I had a stormy passage to Stromness, from whence I took a boat
to the Isle of Hoy, where I saw the wonderful Dwarf’s House
hollowed out of the stone. From Stromness I walked
here. I have seen the old Norwegian Cathedral; it is of red
sandstone, and looks as if cut out of rock. It is different
from almost everything of the kind I
ever saw. It is stern and grand to a degree. I have
also seen the ruins of the old Norwegian Bishop’s palace in
which King Hacon died; also the ruins of the palace of Patrick,
Earl of Orkney. I have been treated here with every
kindness and civility. As soon as the people knew who I was
they could scarcely make enough of me. The Sheriff, Mr.
Robertson, a great Gaelic scholar, said he was proud to see me in
his house; and a young gentleman of the name of Petrie, Clerk of
Supply, has done nothing but go about with me to show me the
wonders of the place. Mr. Robertson wished to give me
letters to some gentleman at Edinburgh. I, however, begged
leave to be excused, saying that I wished to get home, as,
indeed, I do, for my mind is wearied by seeing so many strange
places. On my way to Kirkwall I saw the stones of
Stennis—immense blocks of stone standing up like those of Salisbury Plain. All the country is full of
Druidical and Pictish remains. It is, however, very barren,
and scarcely a tree is to be seen, only a few dwarf ones.
Orkney consists of a multitude of small islands, the principal of
which is Pomona, in which Kirkwall is. The currents between
them are terrible.
I hope to be home a few days after you receive these lines,
either by rail or steamer. This is a fine day, but there
has been dreadful weather here. I hope we shall have a
prosperous passage. I have purchased a little Kirkwall
newspaper, which I send you with this letter. I shall
perhaps post both at Lerwick or Aberdeen. I sent you a
Johnny Groat’s newspaper, which I hope you got.
Don’t tear either up, for they are curious.
God bless you and Hen.
December 14th, .
I write a line to tell you that I am well, and that I am on my
way to England, but I am stopped here for a day, for there is no
conveyance. Wherever I can walk I get on very
well—but if you depend on coaches or any means of
conveyance in this country you are sure to be disappointed.
This place is but thirty-five miles from Edinburgh, yet I am
detained for a day—there is no train. The waste of
that day will prevent me getting to Yarmouth from Hull by the
steamer. Were it not for my baggage I would walk to
Edinburgh. I got to Aberdeen, where I posted a letter for
you. I was then obliged to return to Inverness for my
luggage—125 miles. Rather than return again to
Aberdeen, I sent on my things to Dunkeld, and walked the 102
miles through the Highlands. When I got here I walked to
Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, thirty-eight miles over horrible
roads. I then got back here. I have now seen the
whole of Scotland that is worth seeing, and have walked 600
miles. I shall be glad to be out of the country; a person
here must depend entirely upon himself and his own legs. I
have not spent much money—my expenses during my wanderings
averaged a shilling a day.
As I was walking through Strathspey, singularly enough I met
two or three of the Phillips. I did not know them, but a
child came running after me to ask me my name. It was
Miss P. and two of the children. I hope to get to you in
two or three days after you get this.
God bless you and dear Hen.
* * * * *
Printed for THOMAS J. WISE, Hampstead, N.W.
Edition limited to Thirty Copies.
Henrietta Mary Clarke, afterwards Mrs. MacOubry.