January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 12 March 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430312-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 78-81


Sunday [12 March 1843]

My Babbie!

“Thanks God,”1 the house is quiet again! Oh so quiet! so quiet!— How worthy of being remarked is that apparent platitude of a remark that “all happiness is comparative”—the mere negation of worry is indeed as much happiness for some of us, as for others would be a rich succession or the realization of “loves young dream.”2 She went yesterday, according to programme—on her side, of course the parting was a dreadful business!—floods of tears—even a sort of mild hysterics— on our side it was transacted with dry eyes, with a composure of soul impassive even for the claims of sympathy— In fact, it must have been from seeing such women as Geraldine in tears that old Burton came to his conclusion that “the spectacle of a woman weeping was no more moving than that of a goose going barefoot.”3 Some few times in her life I will believe she has wept—really wept from heart-fullness— unconsciously—not “according to programme”— But all the tears that I have seen her shed have been of the programme-sort—with no more real sorrow in them than there is in drops of rain or in the drops of steam that gather on the lid of a tea-kettle!—they are the same sort of half-constitutional half voluntary thing, these tears of hers, as the little nervous cough on the strength of which some women set up for being interestingly consumptive!—and which they carry about them all their lives without being either better or worse for it!

“Dear me! how hard-hearted Cousin is this morning”!— No my angel-babbie—I am not harder-hearted this morning than any other morning—thy soft true tears—the tears of no true woman—would suggest to me on this or any other morning “a goose going barefoot”— But I am, very naturally, in a state of reaction against the cant of sensibility, which has lead me such a devil of a life for five weeks back.— It is come to an end now however— She is gone and my good wishes go with her and abide with her—so long as she keeps far away! But never let us try to live under the same roof again! this time the trial has passed over without bloodshed, or any very flagrant outrage—but it might not be so always!— That we have not already quarreled outright, I will say in her praise is to be attributed to her goodnature or self-possession (I know not which) rather than to any virtue of mine— My behaviour to her as my guest—and on my own invitation—has been very far from perfect—from the first day I have been for her cold, cross, ironical, disobliging—and this evil disposition on my part, instead of getting itself disarmed by her unfaltering flatteries and caresses has rather been aggravated thereby—flatteries and caresses so out of reason and so ill responded to appearing to me in truth a what shall I say?—bassesse [lowness]—toadyism—or else a hypocrisy in either case a thing alike incompatible with an honest friendship, which would have found itself enraged, and with good right, by such repulsive behaviour— Carlyle seems not a whit less relieved than myself—altho he had so little of her— He said to me last night with a beautiful naivete “Oh my dear what a blessing it is to be able to sit here in peace without having that dreadful young woman gazing at me”! To be sure she did gaze at him—and try all sorts of seductions on him, with a hope that seemed to “spring eternal in her human breast”!4— but the poor man proved absolutely unseducable— Even when she took the strong measure of stretching herself on the hearth rug at his feet and sleeping there—in the manner of Ruth5—all that came of it was a remark to me afterwards “that he looked at her face when she was lying sleeping on the rug and could not help thinking how like she was to an old snap-wife”!6 But more than enough of her and her Pattenisms7— I only wish that I had seen into her in the beginning as I see into her now—that I might not have committed the memorable folly of taking her for my confidential friend!—

And would not one say to read all this much ado about her that I had not an uncle in the world to think about and write about? and nevertheless he is not out of my head for an hour together— He and all the babbies are really as much before my eyes as the portraits hanging on the wall are The weather has not been weather for mending rapidly and besides rapid recoveries are not always the surest—so I suppose we should content ourselves with the progress he makes— still I should so like to hear of his being out again—if it were only for a drive in a carriage.— Men shut up in a drawing-room put one so in mind of the wild animals in the zoological gardens! Have you ever tried for Bamfords book?—or the Neighbours?8 You will soon have a new one of our own—in four or five weeks—the printing is going on rapidly—I consider it a great book-calculated to waken up the Soul of England if it have any longer a living soul in it—and “thanks God” he has got thro it with less bodily harm than was to have been anticipated— He intends sending a copy to the Young lady of No 6—as an acknowledgement of the extraordinary courtesy of that house-ho[l]d9 I do not think they have played an hour in the day since the remonstrance was sent in—sometimes I could find in my heart to send round a request that they would play—the silence becomes so oppressive to me in fancying what it must be costing them—


The foregoing was written yesterday by way of taking Time by the forelock10— I was interrupted by The Editor of the Tablet and an Artist whom he called Herbert11— Robertson came just as we finished dinner, and an hour or two later Mr Spedding12— After Robertson came in I rose to go up stairs—John followed me, saying he wished to talk with me a few minutes— We went into the Library where there was a good fire—I wondering what he was about to say—judge of my amazement when he fell to asking me more questions about my side and all my et ceteras than he had done from first to last putting all together since I first complained to him!— The more I told him my side was much better than it used to be, the more he showed himself inquisitive—almost anxious about it!! and the result of the consultation was his inviting me—I should rather say prescribing for me that I should take part of— —his cigar!!—“there were certain states of the stomach in which a little mild tobacco-smoke was extremely good for one!—I had better take a little more!—I had not had enough yet to do me any good”— —I protested that more of it would make me sick— “Oh no!—I would find it highly useful for me—provided I did not send it through my nose, which was very dangerous—very dangerous indeed”— Can he be going out of his wits? such attentions to me would almost make one think so—

He spoke of Geraldine as “a very unfortunate young woman”— “Did I know how she had been brought up? it would be curious to know how she had arrived at her present absurd figure!— Perhaps the best she could now do were to go into the Catholic Church, it might be the means of keeping her out of worse mischief—”

I am going today to dine in the family way with the Wedgwoods and attend a lecture on Music in the Evening13—O Dio!—it looks a vast vast enterprise!

Carlyle is tomorrow—again going to sit for his picture—to Linnell!!!14 at the request of William Cunningham “who is a good sort of fellow that one does not like to disoblige—but it is really an unspeakable hardship”!!!

—Here is your letter—no darling I was not provoked with you on Saturday—I had one the day before and did not feel myself entitled to another— From what you tell me I flatter myself that my uncle will soon have a drive in this beautiful spring weather— Pray tell me if you find my picture as like as yours—I am always fearful of something evaporating in a copy15— I am happy that Walter has been to the Fergus16—for in the country intelligent people are so scarce and the Ferguses are intelligent whatever else—Bless you my child— Your own J. Carlyle

What I paid for the parcel was simply eight pence! You are getting as ridiculously punctilious as myself—so much for keeping bad company