The Collected Letters, Volume 13


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 11 October 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411011-JWC-HW-01; CL 13: 273-274


Monday (11th Oct., 1841)

Who could have foretold, dearest Helen, in marking the fine glow of cousinly enthusiasm with which I perused your Newby letter, that I should only for the first time acknowledge it in the month of October! Alas, sweet one, there are depths of inconsistency in human nature which human nature's self stands astounded before, when it is at the pains to fathom them! For my part, I own at once, I am born to fallibility as the sparks fly upwards!1 “But then,” as a certain old woman of Haddington told some charity-ladies who were reproaching her with her shortcomings, “but then, dear hinnies [honeys], I repent a great deal!” I assure you I have repented late and early of the damnatory fact above mentioned—and it has required all the illusions I could make to myself, of its being superfluous to write from Templand, whence others were sending bulletins world without end,—of its being impossible to write from Tynemouth, where Harriet Martineau exhausted in talk my every particle of intellect, imagination, and common sense,—of its being next to mad to think of writing from here, while everything about me is in a transition state—old things giving place to new—a house blooming forth in new carpets and our “rather humble way”2 getting itself improved into a certain modest respectability—it has required, I can tell you, all these flattering unctions to my soul to enable it to sustain its load of self-reproach in thinking of my shameful silence towards you, kindest of cousins and bonny white-skinned Missy!

Happily when I do write I have no ill news to tell you. Since my return to London I have been gradually recovering from the nervous excitement occasioned by the winds and waves and “industrious fleas” and other unimaginable horrors of my husband's “realised ideal” “a cottage by the sea-shore!” It went hard with me at Newby—another month of it and I must have lost my wits or taken to drinking—or died of ennui and flea-bites—but my escape was effected just in time to spare the world the cruel shock of such untimely loss of one of its brightest ornaments. And surely my husband will never tempt Providence in so daring a manner again! Since we have been here, the scales one would say, have fallen from his eyes, and he has awaked to some sense of the quiet and comfort of No. 5 Cheyne Row in comparison with all the other places he has tried and found wanting—“it must be confessed his bedroom here is the very freest from noise he ever slept in”—and several other things have been to be “confessed,” which hitherto he has most sceptically denied. And so we are not to flit as he threatened me with next Lady-day3—at least I infer so not only from these verbal concessions, but from the still more conclusive fact, that he is investing a small amount of capital in new carpets for the stairs and library, which were an imprudent outlay if he had still thought of leaving in six months—and imprudence in spending is a thing which not man—or woman—can lay to his charge. You cannot imagine what an amelioration of my earthly lot it were to be delivered, tho' only for one year, from his hitherto unceasing speculations about “flying presently,” he knows not whither; but to some “remote region,” or “solitary shore of the sea,” or even “solitary island in the sea”—where, the beauty of it is, in six months' time he would be ready to cut his throat. With some people the difficulty of realising their desires is small, compared with the difficulty of ascertaining for themselves what their real desires are. And my husband belongs to this perplexing and perplexed section of humanity. …