August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 15 August 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420815-JWC-TC-01; CL 15: 19-21


Monday1 [15 August 1842]


It was the stupidest looking breakfast this morning without any letters!—the absence of the loaf or the Coffee pot, would have been less sensibly felt! however there is no redress against these London Sundays—

I went to church yesterday afternoon, according to programme—and saw and heard—“strange things upon my honour”!2— The congregation consisted of some thirty or forty poor people, chiefly adults—who all looked at me with a degree of curiosity rather “strong” for the place Reginald ascended the pulpit in his white vestment, and in a loud, sonorous, perfectly church-of England-like tone gave out the psalm—whereupon there arose at the far end of the mouldering church, a shrill, clear sound, something between a squeal of agony and the highest tone of a bag pipe! I looked in astonishment but could discover nothing— The congregation joined in with this invisible thing, which continued to assert its predominance—and it was not till the end of the service that Hesketh3 informed me the strange instrument was “a claironet”!! Necessity is the mother of invention!4— The service went off quite respectably—it is wonderful how little faculty is needed for saying prayers perfectly well! But when we came to the sermon!—greater nonsense I have often enough listened to—for, in fact, the sermon (Mrs Buller with her usual sincerity informed me before I went) “was none of his—he had scraped together as many written by other people as would serve him for years—which was much better for the congregation” but he delivered it exactly as daft Mr Hamilton5 used to read the newspaper—with a noble disdain of everything in the nature of a stop—pausing just when he needed breath at the end of a sentence or in the middle of a word as it happened!—in the middle of this extraordinary exhortation an infant screamed out “away Mammy! let's away”!—and another big[g]er6 child went off in hooping cough!—for my part I was all the while in a state between laughing and crying—nay, doing both alternately— There were two white marble tablets before me—containing one the virtues of a wife and the sorrow of her husband (Capel Loft)7 the other a beautiful character of a young girl dead of consumption—and both concluded with “hopes of an immortality thro Jesus Christ”—and there was an old sword and sword belt hung on the tomb of another Loft—killed in Spain at the age of 288—he also was to be raised up thro Jesus Christ—and this was the gospel of Christ I was hearing—made into something worse than the cawing of rooks— I was glad to get out, for my thoughts rose into my throat at last, as if they would choke me—and I privately vowed never to go there, when worship was going on again!— We drove as usual in the evening and also as usual played the game at chess—“decidedly improper”—but I could not well refuse— I sat in my own room reading for two hours after I went up stairs—slept indifferently—the heat being extreme and the cocks indefatigable—and now Mrs Buller has sent me her revised play—begging I will read it—and speak again my candid opinion as to its being fit to be acted— So good by dearest I shall have a letter tomorrow Love to Babbie—I wish she had seen the Queen9

Affectionately yours /

Jane Carlyle