The Collected Letters, Volume 11


JWC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 5 May 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390505-JWC-MAC-01; CL 11: 93-95


[5 May 1839]

My dear Mother

Our second lecture “transpired” yesterday,1 and with surprising success—literally surprising—for he was imputing the profound attention with which they [sic] audience listened, to an awful sympathizing expectation on their part of his momentary, complete break-down, when all at once they broke into loud plaudits, and he thought they must all have gone clean out of their wits!— But as does not happen always, the majority were in this instance in the right, and it was he that was out of his wits to fancy himself making a stupid lecture, when the fact is, he really cannot be stupid if it were to save his life— The short and the long of it was, he had neglected to take a pill the day before, had neglected to get himself a ride, and was out of spirits at the beginning— even I who consider myself a perfectly unprejudiced judge, did not think he was talking his best or anything like his best, but the ‘splendids’ ‘devilish-fines,’ ‘most trues’ and all that which I heard heartily ejaculated on all sides, showed that it was a sort of mercy in him to come with bowels in a state of derangement, since if his faculties had had full play, the people must have been all sent home in a state of excitment bordering on phrenzy— The most practical good feature in the business, was a considerable increase of hearers—even since last day—the audience seems to me much larger than last year, and even more distinguished— The whole street was blocked up with “fine yellow (and all other imaginable coloured) deliveries”2—and this is more than merely a dangerous flattery to one's vanity—the fashionable people here being (unlike our scotch gigmen and gigwomen) the most open to light (above all to his light) of any sorts of people one has to do with— Even John Knox, tho' they must have been very angry at him for demolishing so much beautiful architecture, which is quite a passion with the English, they were quite willing to let good be said of, so that it was indisputably true—nay it was in reference to Knox that they first applauded yesterday— Perhaps his being a Countryman of their favorite Lecturer's might have something to do with it!— but we will hope better things tho we thus speak3

You will find nothing about us in the Examiner of this week— Leigh Hunt who writes the notices there did not arrive at the first Lecture in time to make any report of it4—having come in an Omnibus which took it in its head to run a race with another Omnibus after a rather novel fashion, that is to say, each trying which should be hindmost. We go to Lecture this year very commodiously in what is called a Fly (a little chaise with one horse) furnished us from a Livery stable hard by at a very moderate rate— Yesterday the Woman who keeps these stables5 sent us a flunky more than bargain, in consideration that I was “such a very nice Lady”—showing therein a spirit above slavery and even above Livery— Indeed as a foolish old woman at Dumfries used to say “every body is kind to me” and I take their kindness and am grateful for it without inquiring too closely into their motives— Perhaps I am a genius too as well as my Husband—indeed I really begin to think so— especially since yesterday that I wrote down a parrot! which was driving us quite desperate with its screaching. Some new neighbours that came a month or two ago brought with them an accumulation of all the things to be guarded against in a London neighbourhood—viz a pianoforte, a lap-dog and a Parrot—the two first can be born with as they carry on the glory within doors but the Parrot since the fine weather has been holding forth in the Garden under our open windows— Yesterday it was more than usually obstreperous—so that Carlyle at last fairly sprang to his feet declaring he could “neither think nor live”— Now it was absolutely necessary that he should do both—so, forthwith, on the inspiration of conjugal sympathy I wrote a note to the Parrot's mistress (name unknown) and in five minutes after Pretty Polly was carried within and is now screaching from some subterrane[an] depth whence she is hardly audible— Now if you will please to recollect, that at Comely Bank I also wrote down an Old Maid's house-dog and an only son's pet-bantamcock6 you will admit I think that my writings have not been in vain.

My Mother is still in Liverpool, having been detained there by an operation which has to be performed on one of my Uncle's eyes— but as he is doing very well I suppose she will now be thinking of Templand— she was very happy here last time—and very sensible to Carlyle's kind treatment of her— He had been “every thing” she said “that heart could desire”— When I wonder will you be justified in saying as much of me? We have blessed weather now which makes me feel as strong again— I hope it will have the same effect on Isabella7—. We have been very comfortable in our household this long while— My little fifeshire Maid grows always the longer the better—and never seems to have a thought of leaving us any more than we have of parting with her— My kindest love to all the “great Nation”8 into which you are grown. affectionately yours

Jane Carlyle


“Lecture-time” seems to have been the 1st of May as usual. I spoke elsewhere of Her beautiful conduct on those occasns: lovingly memorable to me while I live: this is the one notice I find from her hand of these operations in which her whole heart was so interested while they went on.