January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 26 January 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430126-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 33-36


Thursday [26 January 1843]

My Darling

I believe I should do wisely to make a sacred week of it—to wholly abstain, for eight days, from writing to man, woman, or child! Seeing that in the week past I have nearly written myself into delirium tremens! at least (to stick by the fact), I have written myself clean off my sleep! and that is a grave consequence in my particular case—the exception being so apt to become the general rule— This is one of the disadvantages of that “constant stillness,” which you protest against; the less one is excited the less can one bear excitation— I have observed this in myself, in Carlyle, in all people that I have had opportunity of seeing into— Long continued stillness in purifying the blood, seems to have the effect of thinning the skin, so that the merest flea-bite pierces into one, and inflames, and irritates, as thick-skinned people cannot have the smallest idea of! A curious instance of this occured to both C. and myself a few days ago— He went to dine and stay all night—not with Mrs Laing—but with young Spring Rice, at Lewisham1—it was no party—quite a domestic transaction, and attended with no bodily fatigue. He returned with rheumatism in his back, nameless qualms “in his interior”—there has been the devil to pay ever since—and nothing less than a blue pill and doze of castor-oil have been needed—to counteract that quiet visit! Then, for my part in the illustration; it happened that Robertson2 came the evening that C. was at Lewisham—and sat two or three hours— So that I was under the necessity of talking a little— C. not being there to take the trouble off me— Well! this mere talking—and to Robertson—for whom anything is good enough—threw me into such a flurry; that I went to bed as excited as a young lady after her first Ball—and never closed my eyes till four in the morning!— Did you ever hear of such a thin-skinned pair? Nor was this all the consequence to me of Robertson's visit that evening. He had come to request that I would put down in writing for him “my little history of the vinegrette”—to be published along with other documentary evidence he is collecting against the present order of pawnshops3— I promised quite readily, without considering the quantity of writing it would take—but it made me consider it when I found myself filling sheet after sheet—yet if I told the story at all I must do it in my own way—not in the dry way of a police-report— So there was one good spell of writing for me!—then just at the same moment Harriet Martineau took it into her head to involve me in writing her two long letters “in quick sucession” of the reasoning sort;4 the sort of all others which are most apt to murder sleep.5 Poor Harriet seems to me to be got into a dreadful state of “self-consciousness” of late—to be fancying always that the world has nothing more important to do than to occupy itself with her, and her “principles of action”!—that affair of the pension having subsided6—and full time that it should!—she has got up a new excitement for herself—fully as absurd it strikes me, as Gambardella's “letting his hairs grow” She is demanding thro'out the whole circle of her corresponence which is almost as wide as the world—that there should be a general thorough conflagration of her letters—for fear of their publication at her death—and this she calls—not what it really is, a diseased anxiety about her future biography but “her protest against the laxity of society in the matter of letters”7 “She feels it her duty (varnish!) to set this example” &c &c— I felt it my duty (without varnish) to tell her that I considered the whole uproar “unworthy of her”—to tell her a great many very sensible things. which have been entirely thrown away— “She perceives that I think her a little mad—morally”—but the only inference she has drawn from that is that I must be a little mad—morally—and so she goes on exciting this letter-conflagration as if it were “the burning-up of all the sins of the world”8— I have done the practical in the matter—keeping only an autograph for Helen9—but for the rest, have told her that I must be allowed to retain my own opinion.

Besides the‘history’ and these controversial letters, my acquaintance here have all conspired one would say, to write me notes at one time, requir immediate answers—more or less long! Even Anna Maria10 of Falmouth writes “wilt thou have the goodness to inform me &c &c”— They are all settled with, now however,—having cost me a good deal in valerian—and I write to my Babbie not from duty but affection—

All this about Walter is heartily vexatious—the only comfort one has, is in hoping that a moral good may result to him from the material annoyance—a young man is all the better for having a little struggle for his future ease—that he may know what stuff this world is made of—but when the young man is ones cousin; one is apt to lose sight of that judicious reflection!—to dwell rather on the hope of his struggle being speedily ended—by the approaching tumblement of all the non-intrusionists out of the Scotch Church11

I pity my Uncle most of any body concerned— Your other piece of intelligence makes me really glad— I do not exactly understand how Alick should have fallen in love with Sophy12 but if he have done so (entirely his own affair) I am sure she will make him a much better wife than many a showier person—in a more elevated position might have done— She will feel so grateful to him! and she has been so domestically brought up!—and then poor good Mrs Martin will be so happy! I will not engage to dance at that wedding—my dancing-days being past—but I will bestow my warmest sanction on it—

Yes—of course—Geraldine comes! A perfectly exstatic acceptance by return of post made me almost angry with myself that I could not share her transports!13 could only look into the thing with a dubious satisfaction— I hope it will turn out well for her at all events—such faith deserves fulfilment—the when is not settled—there were shifts to be provided!!— She seems herself to have some idea of my misgivings—for she assures me that I “will find her much quieter to live with than to see just for a day”—and that as she has two other invitations she will not be altogether “on my arms” as I once said to her! God grant! for “my arms” are of the weakest! God bless you my own good child my love to Helen—and please remember me to your beautiful-eyed cousin14—Ever thine / Jane Carlyle