The Collected Letters, Volume 10


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 18 September 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380918-JWC-TC-01; CL 10: 180-184


[18 September 1838]

My sweet Love

Thank you deeply for your kind letter—which (to rise a degree beyond your Mother) made me as light as swan-down.1 I send you our Doctor very grey, very thin, but healthy, and locomotive as ever2— I wish I could send him with one certainty in his pocket—in which case he would be a help more meet for you—but the man is born to IFS as the sparks fly upwards,3 lives and has his being in a grand peutêtre [great perhaps]4—and the only thing one can do alongside of him is to be oneself as positive as twenty mules— Do you then my precious good indulge in no iffing that can be avoided; but say in all cases I WILL or I will not—for instance “I will go back to my wife that is waiting for me in Chelsea within a fixed time” (as short as you like—say a fortnight—a week) and “I will not go to Italy for one—to be ‘dadded a abreed’5 and have my bits of glimpses into ‘a glancing future’6 all obscured again under a mist of purposelessness and idle dreams. Rome may be the best place for him—but for you it were great nonsense to quit the pool you have waited by so long, just at the instant when the Angel is beginning to trouble the waters7— You think, infatuated man that you are, it is the greatest of hardships to have a house and wife tied about your neck, so that you cannot follow every fly-away impulse, but I declare, looking at the matter in pure abstraction, I consider it to have been a real blessing for you, that you have been hindered in this way from bolting out into infinite space8—where you may rely on it you would not have the faculty of always ‘bobbing up’ again like Ulysses— And I also regard it as a blessing for you that you have had to work on the impulse of hunger— If you had been born to the fortune of Byron I question if you would have done any good in the world, or if I should have been able to exist beside you for above six months at longest— As to John I should not like to have any hand in deciding him one way or other—this only is clear to me; better to be a peripatetic Doctor than no Dr at all—and it is to be strongly doubted that he will never screw himself up to practicing his profession with the necessary energy and endurance in London.

———The Elliots returned last Thursday so I am again carriageless, returned to an earth not worthy of me— I have still however the occasional disposal of the great Sterlingian Apparatus and the Darwingian Cab—the former a thing to stand amazed before as in presence of the infinite—such “Bays”—! such a coachmanized Tiger! and footmen! both of them with new buttons and gold banded hats &c &c— But I have a sort of idea that it will all be destroyed one day by spontaneous combustion— I have got the medallion of John9—not like I think, but it gives the liveliest contentment to any body else—so I am sure I need not be discontented— And I have something more to the purpose—dear Good—Lawrence's last sketch of you! Where on earth were our eyes when we did not perceive it to be one of the most spirited likenesses? He is to do me a large one in oil on his return from Italy, and in the mean time this is very satisfactory indeed.— It was hanging on the wall at my back the day after it came and I had forgotten it for the moment—when I saw it, all of a heap, in the mirror of my work-box, looking over my shoulder as it were—whereupon I gave a loud scream—(screamichen!)10 it is a strange deffective [sic] yet superior thing! gives the idea the old Ass11 says of “a man whose chronic state is moroseness and his occasional impulses ferocity”!— Helen says “its his livin sell when he's in his best clais”!— I forgot to tell you a bit of comfort last time—the Tin-man12 is to move at Christmas— He is building!—a fine house with a pond for gold fish and another for silver—and a third for Waterfowl! all this being in Beaufort Street!!—but at any rate the dogs are all sunk dumb long ago— In fact nothing can be quieter than we are here at present—

Since writing the above I have had “a breath of beloved Hampstead”!13 I happened to say on my last drive with the Sterlings that I had never been there yet—whereupon the Tempest exclaimed “by Jove! Mrs Carlyle! why DID you not mention that when we started”? because I said having lived four years without seeing Hampstead I hoped (knowing his business that day lay else where) that I might still hang together four and twenty hours without seeing it— But an expedition to Hampstead must be appointed on the spot, and today it took effect. So you are to suppose me returned with such an accession of ideas as was to be gained by driving all thro' that Co[c]kney paradise and gaping a few minutes over what they call a “heath”! Indeed that sort of ideas are the only new ones I am getting in your absence—to tell the truth nothing can exceed my dolce far niente [sweet idleness]— The upstairs bed is all rehabilitated—and looks “particular neat” and I have had the feathers out of both beds a-airing in the garden—and this is all that I have to say for myself in the way of household-industry—as for study; I have read ONE book The letters of Ortis—a wersh [insipid] kind of Werter—by Ugo Fosculo [sic]14—and I have now commenced the Souvenirs du Duc de Vicence promising enough15— But then I flatter myself that I am laying in a little stock of strength and spirits for the winter; and in the meantime I am keeping myself very quiet and cheerful—which if not the chief end of man is surely the chief end of woman.— A woman in a state either of ‘excitement’ or ‘melanconia’ is a sort of woman ‘one does not like to see’—

I had a very surprising treat the other evening— Leigh Hunt wrote me a gracious little note inviting me to come and hear his play read16—and ‘stand by him with some new friends’—The said new friends turning out to be of the Taylor set17 Margaret Gillies and her Sister18 &c &c— One man was introduced to me very particularly—but Baron Alsdorf [sic] being blethering [chattering] about his letter to you at the moment I missed the name— The introduction seemed going to turn out much like Cavaignac's and Mrs Grote's19 till towards the close of the business that the man and I suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the room together, apparently selected by destiny to represent the two extremes of human opinion on the question of whether Conventionality was or was not the strongest thing in this world— I spoke with that faith in human nature and in the force of truth which thank God I have never lost and which my observations in the Lecture time gave new vigour to—and the man spoke it seemed to me with a poor rascally disbelief in all that, made rabid by the fact that himself had never been believed in by any man or body of men— It was one of the curiousest shines [parties] that I ever played a part in—and I cannot imagine yet where I got the courage to stand and debate there long and loud among so many people, with an elderly gentle/man in breeches and evidently (in his own estimation and Miss Margaret Gillies at least) a man of mark— “Dr”— said somebody— Dr what I asked little Lawrence who stood by me— “dont you know him? Dr Southwood Smith”20 My dear never do you get acquainted with Dr Southwood Smith if you can help it—he is a bad man or I am no physiognomist— As for the play it is plain as a pike staff why Macready21 would not play it—it is something far worse than ‘immoral’—‘anticonventional’—it is mortal dull—a beautiful insipidity reigns thro'out—and for the regenerating truths it is calculated to teach the conventional heart—they would need to be shot at it (as we do our truths) from the mouth of a cannon, not timourosly [sic] pleadingly tendered to it before it were fair to expect that they should take the least effect—

But here is John come in, and I must give over this splashing as if I had all eternity and time to boot for writing in—

I will not go to Ramsgate now22—the days are too short and the weather to[o] cold for sailing and a Land journey of such extent were too fatiguing—as well as too expensive. It is probably just as well—house-robberies having been very rife in our neighbourhood—

I heard of two reviews of your23 poor beast24 one of which I send—but you must bring it back as I only borrowed it from Saunders & Otley25— The other is to the same flaming tune—in the Monthly26— There have also been various newspaper criticisms.27 say what you will—

And so god bless you Dear and put home-tendencies into your head and feet— My love to all—even the most minute child— Write as soon as possible

Your povera piccola [poor little dear one]

Jane W Carlyle