August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 23 August 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420823-JWC-TC-01; CL 15: 42-45


[23 August 1842]

My dear Husband

The pen was in my hand to write yesterday—but nothing could have come out of me yesterday except “literature of desperation”1—and aware of this, I thought it better to hold my peace for the next twentyfour hours—till a new night should either have rehabilitated me for remaining a while longer, or brought me to the desperate resolution of flying home for my life— Last night, heaven be thanked, went off peacably—and today I am in a state to record my last trial, without danger of becoming too tragical, or alarming you with the prospect of my making an unseemly termination of my visit— (Oh what pens)— To begin where I left off—On Sunday after writing to you I attended the afternoon service!— Regy looked so wae, when I answered his question “Whether I was going,” in the negative—that a weak pity inducted me to revise my determination— “It is a nice pew that of ours” said old Mr Buller “it suits me remarkably well—for being so deep. I am not overlooked—and in virtue of that, I read most part of the—“femme de qualiteé2 this morning!! but dont” he added “tell Mr Regy this!—had Teresa been there I would not have done it—for I like to set a good example”!— I also turned the depth of the pew to good account— When the sermon began I made myself at the bottom of it a sort of persian couch out of the praying-cushions—laid off my bonnet and stretched myself out very much at my ease— I seemed to have been thus just one drowsy minute when a slight rustling and the words “now to father son and holy gohst” warned me to put on my bonnet and made me for the first time aware that I had been asleep!—for the rest the music that day ought to have satisfied me for it seemed to have remodelled itself expressly to suit my taste—Scotch tunes produced with the nasal discordant emphasis of a scotch country-congregation—and no clarionet— I noticed in a little square gallery-seat the only one in the church—a portly character, who acts as blacksmith, sitting with a wand some five feet long in his hand—which he swayed about majestically as if it had been a sceptre! On inquiring at our manservant what this could possibly mean or symbolize; he informed me it was “to beat the bad children”— “And are the children here so bad that the[y] ne[e]d3 such a functionary?— “O they will always, them little uns be doing mischief in the church!—its a-wearisome for the poor things!—and the rod keeps them in fear!!! In the evening the drive as always with this only difference that on Sunday evenings Mr Buller only walks the horse—from principle! after this conscientious exercising—the game at chess!— My head had ached more or less all day and I was glad to get to bed—where I was once more fortunate enough to get slept without any violent disturbance—the next day however my head was rather worse than better—so that I would fair have “declined from4 calling on Lady Agnes5—but Mrs Buller was bent on going to Livermere, and so as I did not feel up to walking, it was my only chance of getting any fresh air and exercise that day—to Livermere we went then before dinner. the dinner being defered till five oclock—to suit the more fashionable hours of our visitées— “The Pagets”6 seem to be extremely like other mortals—neither better nor bonnier nor wiser— To do them justice however, they might, as we found them, having been sitting for a picture of high-life doing the amiable and the rural in the country— They had placed a table under the shadow of a beech-tree—and at this sat Mr Byng studying the Examiner, Lady Agnes reading “O nothing at all, only some nonsense that Lord Londonderry has been printing7—I cannot think what has tempted him”!—and a boy and girl marking for a cricket-party consisting of all the men servants, and two older little sons, who were playing for the entertainment of their Master and mistress and their own—the younger branches ever and anon clapping their hands and calling out “what fun”!8 I may mention for your consolation that Mr Byng (a tall gentlemanly blazé looking young man was dressed from head to foot in unbleached linen—while Babbie may take a slight satisfaction to her curiosity DE FEMME [of a woman], from knowing how a Paget attires herself of a morning, to sit under a beech tree!—a white flowered muslin pelisse over pale blue satin—a black lace scarf fastened against her heart with a little gold horse-shoe, her white neck tolerably revealed, and set off with a brooche of diamonds—immense gold bracelets—an immence gold chain a little white silk bonnet with a profusion of blond and flowers—thus had she prepared herself for being rural! but with all this finery she looked a good hearted rattling clever-haverel9 sort of a woman—her account of Lord Londonderry's sentimental dedication to his wife was perfect; “from a goose to a goose”!10—and she defended herself with her pocket handkerchief against the wasps with an energy!

When we had sat sufficiently long under the tree—Mr Buller asked her to take me thro the gardens which she did very politely, and gave me some carnations and verbinum—and then thro the stables! which were indeed the finest sight of the two—all this sightseeing however did not help my head—at night I let the chess go as it liked—took some medicine—and went early to bed—determined to be well on the morrow— About twelve I fell into a sound sleep—out of which I was startled by the tolling of the church bell!—the church you remember is only a stonecast from the house, so that when the bell tolls one seems to be exactly under its tongue!— I sprang up—it was half after three by my watch—hardly light—the bell went on to toll—two loud dismal strokes at regular intervals of a minute— What could it be—I fancied fire—fancied insurrection—I ran out into the passage and listened at Regys door all was still—then I listened at Mrs Buller's—heard her cough—surely thought since she is awake she would ring her bell if there were anything alarming for her in this tolling—it must be some other noise of the many they “have used to”—so I went to bed again but of course could not get another wink of sleep all night—for the bell only ceased tolling at my ear about six in the morning and then I was too nervous to avail myself of the silence— “What on earth was that bell?” I asked Regy the first thing in the morning— “O it was only the passing bell!—it was ordered to be rung during the night for an old Lady who died the night before”! This time however I had the satisfaction of seeing Mrs Buller be angry as myself—for she also had been much alarmed.— Of course yesterday I was quite ill—with the medicine, the sleeplessness and the fright—and I thought I really would not stay any longer in a place where one is liable to such alarms—but now as usual one quiet night has given me hopes of more—and it would be a pity to return worse than I went away— I do not seem to myself to be nearly done—but Mr Buller is sitting at my elbow with the chess board saying when you are ready I am ready Love to Babbie I have your and her letters but must stop 11