August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 6 September 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420906-JWC-JW-01; CL 15: 70-72


Tuesday [6 September 1842]

Dearest Babbie

It was not headach that prevented my writing to you yesterday, and still less was it oblivion—it was a combination of petty contretemps which cheated you out of your letter— I sat down to write immediately after breakfast, but when the pen was in my hand the first words it traced, from some MYSTERIOUS and sudden movement, were not “dearest Babbie”—but “dear cousin”—and I found myself, without the smallest forethought, writing first to James Baillie— In that there was no harm; as he asked me for neither help nor commiseration, nor for any thing I could not give him, it was but common humanity to fling him the civil word he did ask for—in answer to his question how I did— But having told him with cold brevity where I was and how I was, something inspired me, instead of ‘remaining his obedient humble servant’ to personate Minerva for the time being—and to write him four mortal pages of passionate remonstrance against the folly—not to say infamy—of his past and present course of life!1

My little sermon was so very impressive, that it made myself cry when I read it over—but I am afraid it would have no such salutary result for him. “at all events,” said Carlyle “it could do him no ill”— That don-Quixote-like speculation accomplished; I started again, “dearest Babbie,”—when Carlyle knocked at my door—would I go with him to the village to “help him to buy a box of matches and a penny-worth of pipes”?—so modest a petition could not be refused by any body with christian bowels—so to the village we went and made the small purchases— Again I sat down to write—to “dearest Babbie” were added another pair of words, when the man servant proclaimed outside my door that “lunch was on the table” and Regy insinuated the same fact the same moment, outside my window— Carlyle has overset all our household arrangements here as he oversets all household arrangements wherever he goes— Here were we eating lunch, and dining at six! that we might go to Bury before dinner to inquire about coaches to—St Ives &c— Lunch eaten with more or less appetite I was hurrying up stairs to proceed with my letter having still half an hour before the time at which the carriage was ordered when Mr Buller called after me— “You will not object to calling on Lady Agnes2 on the way”?—Lady Agnes! and I in my wearing gown!—absolutely fringed round the skirt with rags—as no woman unless lost to all sense of shame would like to present herself to a be-satined and be-diamonded Lady Agnes!— I had to run and strip and reclothe myself with the speed of a house on fire—and had just time left to make up the newspaper— Nay, after all I went—as I only discovered this morning—with two stockings of different sorts! And thus had the poor solitary Babbichen no letter written to her that day—only many kind and somewhat remorseful thoughts wafted to her over space!

This morning the Great Traveller breakfasted alone with me at eight oclock and immediately after set off on a horse which Mrs Buller who is like the beautiful Lady of fairy tales had as it were “stamped out of the ground” for him! He felt he said “like a man setting out on some great commercial speculation by which he hoped to make his fortune; yet full of apprehensions and an invincible repugnance”!! It is not battle fields that he is hunting out after all!—at Huntingdon—Oliver Cromwell was born—at St Ives he had a farm—and at Ely he was elected Member of Parliament—I tell you this that you may not, as Mrs Buller and I have been doing, perplex people's historical reminicences by talking of Mr Carlyles being gone to visit certain battlefields of Oliver Cromwell's in Suffolk—where no shadow of a battle ever “transpired”!—his luggage consisted of a razor and two shirt collars!— He calculates on being back by possibly on Thursday—more probably not till Friday—when certainly he ought to be here, having invited “the new Cratylus”3 to dinner at six! no great treat for the rest of us! “And when are we to go back to London I asked”? with a sympathetic sigh to my Babbie—“On Saturday if you like”! That I am afraid will never be listened to—seeing that he has done nothing here as yet except throw all our still regularity into hubbub wild. Besides Charles will be come before his return and he must in common decency stay at least one day for him— But the beginning of next week I do hope to get back—altho I forsee great pressing on the part of all here and great indecision on his part which will throw all the odium of an unpersuadable resolution on me

Mrs Sterling writes that she is perfectly well and is “feasting on the produce of Anthony's garden”— I wish her wellness may last long! The wasps have been the chief feasters with us— Did I ever tell you the Annandale woman's exclamation on hearing an account of the Luxurious living at some squire's house in the Neighbourhood? “Wae's to them wi their bags”!4 I declare it is entirely beastly in people to go from home to “feast”— If I were so “left to myself” (as the pious scotch phrase is) that I should do such a thing; at least I should think shame to tell it! Speaking of garden produce Regy “wishes you were here to make bags for his grapes”—positively I think I must bring you here some time to take a look at the creature— You might do such a world of good in the village!! as parson's wife—and it would be a nice rustication for me every summer! Meanwhile tell Helen to keep up her heart, that I do not seriously mean to stay for ever— And now adieu my bambina [little one]—love me—as I do you— Remember me to Mazzini and Darwin if you see them and if they seem to have forgotten me—


J W C.