January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 8 January 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430108-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 12-15


[8 January 1843]

Just because, in virtue of his being the least unlikable man in the place.1 I let him dance attendance on my young person, till I came to need him—all the same as my slippers, to go to a ball in, or my bonnet to go out to walk. When I finally agreed to marry him, I cried excessively and felt excessively shocked—but if I had then said no he would have left me—and how could I dispense with what was equivalent to my slippers or bonnet? Oh if I might write my own biography from beginning to end—without reservation or false colouring—it would be an invaluable document for my countrywomen in more than one particular—but “decency forbids”!

Walter was here the night before last—talked of being off this morning.2— Do you know I find him far more intelligent and agreeable away from all you young ones— He staid that night till near twelve and I was not sleepy!—you may infer from that how miraculously well he must have managed!— And Carlyle too thinks him “not at all a bad fellow! not at all without sense”—which means in his dialect—what Pepoli in his would call “un angelo di bonta [an angel of goodness]—and— “PIENO PIENO d'ingegno [full full of intelligence].”3

I send Helen an autograph of the American Poetess Mrs Segurney4—which does infinite credit to her total want of penetration!—the evening of which she makes such grateful mention—would have been remembered by any one else with feelings of quite another sort—even I who do not give much way to remorse, have often had qualms of conscience in thinking about it. Her coming and still more her bringing along with her two geerpoles of the name of “Johnson or Tomson” a male and a female5—as little Miss Adam would say (did I tell you of her asking me in the presence of Mazzini whether Gorgon whom she styled “one of the graces,” for my better understanding, “was a male or a female”—?)6 her coming with this tag-ragery quite spoiled a pleasant party that happened to be here—the Wedgewoods Darwin Mrs Rich and Julia Smith7— We had all set in to be talkative and confidential—when this figure of an over-the-water-Poetess—beplastered with rouge and pomatum—barenecked at an age which had left certainty far behind—with long ringlets that never grew where they hung—smelling marvellously of camphor or hartshorn and oil—all glistening in black satin as if she were an apothecaries puff for black sticking-plaster—and staring her eyes out, to give them animation—stalked in & by the very barber-block-ish look of her reduced us all to silence—which effect was heightened by the pair who followed at her heels—the male in an embroidered satin vest—the female also in satin with—fancy it in that room—and in that company!—with a gold tiara on her head! These two never spoke a word but sat with their eyes fixed on Carlyle as if they had paid their shillings at the door— Mrs Segurney also made large eyes at him—and she took the liberty of poking at him now and then to make the lion roar—but he was not in the vein—and would not roar finely that night for all she could do— The rest of us meanwhile, feeling ourselves agrieved at being regarded with no more curiosity or politeness than as many domestic cats in comparison of the Lion, repayed them in their own coin— I never addressed one world to them! this is a literal fact—of “her who helped to make that evening so pleasant to remembrance”8— Faith it is not true that “we reap not where we have not sown”9—my harvests are far oftenest of that highly improbable sort— I will send Old Sterling's last note as another instance of this infraction of the laws of nature in my favour— John had again broken a blood-vessel—in lifting tables to save the servants trouble! Madman that he is!—it was a hanging in the wind with him for two days—and the communication of his state had to be made to his father thro' us—for fear of doing mischief to his Mother who you know has a disease of the heart that requires the utmost quiet— When the old fool came down here, after receiving Carlyles note I was prepared to be very sorry for him—but at the very outset he set all my sympathies against him by his theatrical fuss—clapping his hand on his stomach and declaring “no! this heart must not break yet! I cannot afford to sink under my griefs!— I have five orphans depending on me”10— So little of humanity did I show him— that I answered merely “bless me!—you had better see the end of it— they are not orphans yet”! And when he sent his servant for news the next morning I wrote—“since the accounts are favourable you had better give up your distracted project of setting out for Falmo[u]t[h]11— Do keep yourself quiet if you can—it were the greatest kindness you can show to those you are interested in”—for this he writes to me all these little extatic pages!

—Dear I will tell you a secret but see that you keep it to yourself— Carlyle is no more writing about Oliver Cromwell than you and I are!— I have known this for a good while12— You will wonder that I should not have known it all along—the fact is his papers were a good time more resembling hierogliphics than finished manuscript I could not be at the trouble of making them out—then when I came to find, on days when I chanced to look pages about “The present fashion of mens coats13—about the rage for novelties—puffing every thing or any thing except “Cromwell Oliver”— I had no misgivings— I know he has such a way of tacking on extraneous discussions to his subject—but when I found at last a long biography of that Abbot Samson!14 then indeed—I asked what on earth has all this to do with Cromwell—and learned that Cromwell was not begun—that probably half a dozen other volumes will be published before that— Nevertheless for I know not what Reason he lets everybody go on questioning him of his Cromwell and answers so as to leave them in the persuasion he is busy with that and nothing else. Absolutely I will not begin another sheet yours J. C.

Monday [9 January 1843]

Dearest I have opened my letter to announce the arrival of yours— for mine was written last night while they were drinking their brandy-punch up stairs and sealed last night that Helen might not edify herself with the contents in the morning15—according to her usual fashion— I have no time however to write a new letter—this has been one of my rushing about days, cleaning the Lamp &c &c (for we are returned to the poor lamp at his particular desire16) and now—“Babbie I want you to do my hair!” These words will give you the liveliest image of my state!— But instead of that soothing operation I must off to Sloan Street17 to buy new stuff for blinds—for his room is to undergo a thorough cleaning tomorrow— “The troubles that afflict the just in number many be”18— For the rest strange to say the cold weather seems to suit me this year better than the damp— I am always strongest in the frosty days—and Maggie has made my arms so comfortable!19— The pain has been better for the last week—partly the effect of the blue pills I suppose—but partly also the effect of a new idea I have lately taken up which I will unfold to you when I have carried it on a while longer— Geraldine was right not to let her ms. be read at Maryland Street20—the religious ideas set forth in it would have seemed very shocking to those who had never heard any thing said about religion except in the orthodox tone this entre nous [between ourselves]—

My love to Gambardella21