August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 11 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421111-JWC-JW-01; CL 15: 176-178


[11 November 1842]

Only a line today Miss Babbie, just to say that I am rather out of humour with you! Only one letter in the week and that one hasty as from the pen of a Secretary of State,—bearing internal evidence of “a small dance” the night before. This is not well Miss Babbie—is unnatural—unfilial! If your correspondence have so relaxed in one month; what is to be presaged about it after six months? Oh but you have so many interruptions—I can believe it! so have I!—many interruptions! of every sort that it can enter into the imagination to conceive; except the pleasurable sort the small-dance-sort, which do not beseem my years— And see the difference!—if I do not write to you every day of the week; at least I put writing enough for every day of the week into one letter! and yet it were more excusable in me than in you to surrender to interruptions. You are young—and I, “what shall I say,” have considerably the advantage of you in the matter of years—tho Gambardella, I am told, does regret publically “that I am a young woman for if I were only of the age of Mrs Follen1 he would spend his whole time with me; he likes my conversation so much”!! Then, Miss Babbie, I have learned Latin and mathematics, and like little Tuckerman2 “have known a good deal of life” besides being the wife of a “distinguished Author,” and if all these things put together do not entitle me to “a certain” consideration I know not what would!— And tho last not least, I must remind you of the little devil in “my interior” which is always suggesting to me—“you are too unwell to do any thing today which can be put off till tomorrow—lie on the sofa, it is only thing you are fit for!”— From all which considerations it might be hoped that a just Babbie would not merely answer my letters—nay and answer them illiberally—but would write to me more than she is written to— And a generous Babbie—good heavens! she would not suffer me to want the little gleam of comfort which a letter from her always brings along with it—even if she had to double-lock her room door for so laudable a purpose.

Four nights this week in succession we have had some one here—first Forster—next night Thackeray—the next John Mill and little Mr Grant—and last night Craik the third time that this last mentioned individual has come within ten days!—this proceeds from Carlyle's open-armed treatment of him—which if it was indulgent before is now most gracious; since he became aware of his Werterean proceeding with his wife3 he seems to think he cannot show him civilities enough.

Another Man in C's place would have deliberated with himself whether to challenge him and blow his brains out; in fact I believe some men would have done that without deliberating— But the Spirit of Contradiction is this rubicond Werters safe-guard— Considering the purism in the matter of Mrs Revis one does not exactly understand the latitudinarianism in the matter of Craik and some others—a little common civility to my friend would be more acceptable to me than this extravagant affection for my lovers! Yesterday, I made three calls all close beside each other and what I saw at each was an ascent in the scale of human misery— You may believe I came home saddened enough—the first was one Ann Vetch (Mrs Dunlop) whom I found involved up to the ears in material difficulty—speaking of taking children to board—eaten up with her husband's worthless sons—“troubled about many things”—but bearing all with a right brave spirit glad and sad to see me, and overwhelming me with talk of old times,—a spectacle at once distressing and cheering—her poor little would-be drawingroom with a bad view of Hawthorn Bank4 framed over the Mantle piece!—and the healthy cheerful-tempered, loquacious, harrassed Woman!— I cannot tell you how it all affected me—then I went on to Mrs Jameson's who I found in a bedroom with the little Sister5 you saw here who seemed turned to stone only that her eyes were continually filling with tears—Mrs Jameson came downstairs with me and whispered that something very sad had befallen her—that she was “suffering horribly—had been most cruelly used”—some disappointment of the heart she led me me6 to infer not the less agonizing because men have given to all suffering of their own causing the title of “sorrows of the Imagination.” Then I crossed the street to poor Allan Cunningham's—Allan Cunninghams no more—but Mrs Cunninghams—who threw herself into my arms like a mad woman exclaiming “Oh God bless you God bless you for writing to me and coming, he loved you so much!—he always said you had a kind heart!”— It was a perfectly excruciating business—but I ended it quickly—and will go soon again now that I have got the first meeting over— It is the sad gain of affliction, that it teach[e]s one how to speak to others that are suffering the like— “Many people have written to me she said but Oh none of them like you”!— Yes, as I told her because none of them had like me so recently sustained a like great and sudden bereavement—

Geraldine writes me a letter in frantic haste on hearing of your return to Liverpool to propose that for the salvation of your soul alive, you should be brought to “swear everlasting friendship” with Mrs Paulet— I think and have thought that Mrs Paulet would be an agreeable and perhaps even useful acquaintance for all of you—she is very near being a woman of Genius and is certainly, what Geraldine is not, a woman of sense and very good hearted—but of course I cannot prescribe to you on your own arena who to make friendships with—who not

Bless you always / Your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

A kiss to my uncle—and the children