The Collected Letters, Volume 13


JWC TO JOHN STERLING ; 29 April 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410429-JWC-JOST-01; CL 13: 120-122


[29 April 1841]

My dear John

I do not know whether for you as for old Burton “a woman in tears be as indifferent a spectacle as a goose going barefoot”?1 If so; I make you my compliments, and you need not read any further! But if you have still enough of human feeling (or as my Husband would call it “Minerva-press-tendency”)2 about you, to feel yourself more or less comoved by such phenomena; it may interest you to know, that on opening your letter3 the other day, and beholding the little “feminine contrivance” inside, I suddenly and unaccountably fell a-crying as if I had gained a loss! I do not know what of tender and sad and “unspeakable” there lay for my imagination in that lace article folded up—unskillfully enough—by man's fingers—your fingers—and wrapped round with kind written words!4 but so it was. I wept—and if this was not receiving your remembrance in the proper way—I beg of you to read me no lecture on the subject—for your lectures are hateful to me beyond expression, and their only practical result is to strengthen me in my own course—

My Husband is not returned yet—is now at his Mothers in Scotland5— He will come I suppose the beginning of next week— These three weeks of solitude have passed very strangely with me—I had been worn out with what the Cocknies call “mental worry”— His Jurytrial,6 his Influenza, &c all things had been against me! For the first time in my life I could sympathize with Byrons Giaour—and, so soon as I had the house all to myself, I flung myself on the sofa with the feeling

“I would not, if I might be blest;

I want no paradise but rest.”7

And accordingly the scope of my being ever since has been to approximate as nearly as possible to nonentity8 And I flatter myself that my efforts have been tolerably successful— Day after day has found me stretched out on my sofa with a circulating Library book in my hand—which I have read, if at all, in Darley's fashion “with one eye shut, and the other not open”9—evening after evening I have dreamt away in looking into the fire, and wondering to see myself here in this great big absurdity of a world! In short my existence since I was left alone, has been an Apathy tempered by emanations of the Minerva-press! Promising— Well I shall have to return to my post again presently—one has to die at one's post has one not?— The wonderful thing for me is always the prodigiously long while one takes to die. But “That is the mystery of this

wonderfully history
And you wish that you could tell”!10

There is a copy of Emerson's Essays come for you here—I wish you good of them!— I find him getting affected, stilted, mystical, and in short “a considerable of a bore” A bad immitation of Carlyle's most Carlylish translations of Goethes most Goetheish passages!11

You have to thank me for making them12 send you an Examiner—

God bless you—

Ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle