The Collected Letters, Volume 13


JWC TO JOHN FORSTER ; 24 July 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410724-JWC-JF-01; CL 13: 195-197


[24 July 1841]

My dear Mr Forster

Have you not observed in the household Gods, of late days, a certain air of tender melancholy? even as tho' they compassionated you for you knew not what! as tho they saw some black doom overhead which they doubted their power to shield you from! And has not your heart, so elastic in general, been weighed down with presentiments of evil? Ah! if it have not been so; there is none of that supernatural sympathy betwixt us which is the characteristic of a genuine “eternal friendship”! If you have not feared for me in these days, you have not cared for me. For in these days my life has been beset with perils—the shadow of which, must have fallen dark over the soul of any one to whom I was really dear.

Seriously, I have come thro sad things since we parted—have had motion and emotion enough to bring on delirium tremens, had not my moral power of resistance been stronger than my physical—and besides I have twice over narrowly escaped a violent death— But I will begin at the beginning, and tell you my whole travel's history;1 that you may rightly estimate the mercy of my being quite alive—alive and writing to you!—

The first half of my journey—that is, the railway part from London to Liverpool, was hardly more laborious than one of my Omnibus-excursions, on blue-devil-days, from Chelsea to Milend2— But at Liverpool, where I staid three days to rest in the house of my Uncle, I found myself unexpectedly laid hold of by a blind Destiny, and forcibly made a Lion of!! I was not the Rose but I had been near the rose3—and in that mercantile City roses being a decided rarity they are ready to fall into raptures even over the rosified clay! It was very irksome not to be allowed a simple moment for being “as ugly and stupid and disagreeable as I pleased”4— But I would have pardoned them making me very uncomfortable “with the best intentions,” had they not also with the best intentions all but killed me. A very dashing Lady,5 one of that sort of people born to write a book on “the rights of women” carried me off in her carriage one day par vive force [by main force],6 so to speak—the horses were dashing as well as their mistress—they also seemed born to maintain the rights of horses—and at the top of a steep Hill called Mount PLEASANT, they commenced a violent protest, and appeal to posterity—reared, plunged, played the Devil, finally got both coachman and reins among their feet and were rushing down with us into a grand peut être [great perhaps]7 when mercifully a gentleman dashed forward and seized their heads at the risk of his life— One of them bolted up into the air, then kissed its mother-earth and while Horse, Coachman, and our gallant deliverer were all lying in a heap, we terrified women scrambled out as cleverly as we could. It was a horrid affair—and the worst of it is the gentleman was much hurt8—the horse of course was finished, but that was no pity! What makes this man's action the more heroic, is that he had not youth to inspire him—he is a man about fifty—in delicate health, with a large family of children—a clergyman but suspect—as unorthodox and democratical— God bless him! He was quite a stranger both to the Lady and myself—but I went to call on him before leaving and found him so touching in his grey dressing-gown, with torn hands and all over bruises!—

From Liverpool I came to Annan by Steamboat after all! Performing the rest of my journey by Mail—and separating myself from Helen and the luggage was going to have proved a very expensive piece of self-indulgence, besides causing a world of trouble to other people—so I resolved after a severe struggle to make myself a victim—and a victim I was sure enough! For a few minutes, just till we got out into the deep sea, I flattered myself I was going to have rather a sublime night of it— To give myself the best chance of escaping the old agonies; I had a matrass spread for me on deck, and stretched myself there to pass the night in the cool air—with the “starry vault,”9 as they call it right over head—the dark waters plashing round—nothing alive beside me except the man at the helm—but all too soon my poetic feeling gave place to one of the most desperate prose—and this night like all others I have passed at sea, was one long conscious fainting-fit—even the occasional torrents of rain which poured down on me could not revive me out of this horrible state—surely to Heaven if I keep my senses I will never sail again— “When he gets you,” said my Helen in the morning with a curious mixture of pathos and rage, “I think it will but be picking up a dead dog”! Such as I was however he picked me up contentedly enough and brought me here the same day—some forty miles in an open gig under continual rain— My Mother cried at sight of me—but a day in bed with chicken-broth and such like soft appliances known to Mothers, has brought me tolerably alive again. and on Monday I expect to be able for entering my new role of Country-gentlewoman! Remember the Address Newby Annan— Let Mrs ready10 read this letter as I shall not have more leisure for writing today—and I wish her to know all about me—and that I am loving her and not forgetting her—my love to them all For yourself the blessing of the household Gods watch over you! What a stupid interview in the presence of those conspirators11 but there is a good time coming—dont you think?

Ever affectionately yours /

Jane Carlyle