The Collected Letters, Volume 10


JWC TO FRANCES WEDGWOOD ; 7 March 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380307-JWC-FW-01; CL 10: 34-36


Cheyne Row / Wednesday evening [7 March 1838]

My dear Mrs Wedgwood

My Husband is gone to dine with your Husband, and ‘Erasmus,’ at Mr Erskine's1. Thence they proceed together to a ‘flare up’ at Miss Martineaus; (which I wish success to with all my heart—at lowest, that it may consume its own smoke!)2 And now while these our so-called Lords and Masters are following their pleasing without us; a pretty idea is come to me, that I all alone here will have a little quiet talk with you all alone there. For I feel a sympathetic assurance that you are alone at this moment even as I am—your feet on the fender as mine are—looking into the fire as I was doing until I began to write. And if any one says you are idly employed or that I was idly employed I declare the faultfinder to be entirely ignorant of what looking into the fire means. For my part I find it the very hardest work I ever apply myself to: my eyes are no sooner fairly rivetted on the red embers, than I seem to be changed into the Dove of the Ark sent forth ‘ere yet the waters were abated,’ to fly and flutter in all directions, finding no rest for the sole of its foot.3 For you, indeed, with your better and happier nature, the world can never, I should think, become as a watery waste—there must always be some dry land—some green sunshiney spot where you see little children playing among the flowers! but even you I am sure often feel fatigued, as with a long journey, after a long look into the fire: and the Baby's-cap which you might have made in the interim, or the volume of Western Travel4 you might have read would not have proved such full occupation. Dear Mrs Wedgwood when shall I see you again? I hope and pray that for once the battle may be for the strong, and the Secretaryship for the man that deserves it! And that we shall know you again in the place whence you can be so ill spared.5 A woman who, as my Husband might say is no Chimera, no Incarnated formula, but a Reality—a genuine woman is so great a rarity with us in this dishumanizing City: that such a one, when known of, should be sought after, and brought back, in spite of all obstacles; like the Twelfth Statue for the vacant pedestal, in the Arabian Tale.6 If you were to be recovered, as the Statue was by slaughter of giants and wildbeasts, I should entertain high hopes at present: for Cavaignac were the very man for such an exploit! and Mr Wedgwood has engaged him to visit you. They met here one evening and liked each other. The only happy combination that took place! The rest of the people were the most incompatible that I even, who am remarkable for making the worst assorted parties in Nature, could have brought together. Mr Darwin has often helped me at such a Deadlift, but that evening he seemed to have privately made up his mind, that he would not speak a word or move a muscle, except according to his own sweet will, tho' it were to save us all from perdition! Indeed, it strikes me that he and the whole of us are ‘demoralizing’ since you went—there are wars and rumours of wars, tempests in teapots, flare-ups, rather of the tar-barrel sort. “The thing which is to day is (not) the same that was yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.” We want reality, stability, composure of soul—above all it seems to me, we all of us want a sound sleep!

My Husband is to give new Lectures in May, on the subject of National Literature. This time he positively set his face against ‘fire-eating’ in Willis's Rooms, amidst Harp-players and Dancing Masters and such like; whereupon Mr Darwin after much rumaging has found him a less fashionable quarter (near Portman Square) where he expects to feel less like a Mountebank. Meanwhile his frequent prayer is “O for a little impudence and good health”! but as for the first non omnia possunt omnes [everyone cannot do everything]! He can do much, but he cannot be impudent for the life of him: and a vehement longing for good health is apt to defeat its object.

Mr Scott lectures in Exeter Rooms and Darwin goes to hear him!!7 Such changes doth fleeting time procure! Time and Mrs Rich.8

I have been interrupted so often in writing this letter that I have lost all heart in making it longer. I am plainly writing with adverse Fates, and if I insist on going on shall probably spill all the ink (as I have already done part) over my paper, or in some other way render it quite useless— So good night and God bless you! Yours affectionately

Jane Carlyle