January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 29 March 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430329-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 102-105


Wednesday [29 March 1843]

My darling

I do not wonder that my uncle is suffering from this weather—it is very cruel on all ailing people— To the east wind I impute my own increase of discomfort of late days—the pain in my side as bad as ever—continual nausea from morning till night—and a “confusion of ideas” that “heats the womb”1— —all yesterday I lay on the sofa fairly given up to despair—for the time being—and today it is only by a strong effort of will that I can hinder myself from doing the same feat—

Here is the letter—come back to me—having like the Dove of the ark2 found no rest for the sole of its foot!—to think of the botheration I have caused to so many poor post-men thro this betise [stupidity] of an address! Our own postman had been tried with it, he told me, from its bearing the Chelsea post mark3— But for James Baillie's letter inside they would not even have known where to return it—for it has no signature—nor date!— What I feared was they might perhaps have sent it to James whose letter has a date!! —I have read it over with some curiosity—and should rather like to know if “The Officers appointed by Her Majesty's Postmaster General for opening letters” read this one as well as opened it! and if he be a man that one is likely ever to meet in society!

And now Babbie I have something on my mind to tell three—a sort of confession—at the thought of which I feel a certain delicate carnation steal over what Geraldine calls my “horribly pale face”!—in what words to put it?—best out with it at once!— I have again been got the better of by Helen!!!— Plainly it is now a hopeless thing that I shall ever have the force to emancipate myself! I seem to have got into the relation with her of the gentleman and his old Butler of seventy who on being told by his Master that his temper was become absolutely insupportable and that they two must part—asked his Master in ironical astonishment—“Where the deevil wud ye gang to”? Helen asks me; “if I cant let alone greeting [weeping] to see you ill when I am here to take care of you, I should like to know what would become of me— away from you, fancying you ill, and not knowing whether you were taken right care of or not?—” by this puzzling question, and a declaration that she had made up her mind not to seek a place—but if “a new woman” came to go into a lodging! and “let anything come of her that liked”—and by the usual promises of perfect infallability for the future, and lyrical recognitions of herself being “just the stupidest unluckiest cretur that ever lived”—by all this, and plentiful tears—and kisses even—for I was lying on the floor entirely at her mercy—she moved me at last to say “well—be quiet and stay there”— So now we are going on beautifully again—as always after a Stramash [up-roar]—her faculties have been awakened up into new activity—she does her work as well as any one could desire—and is ready to lay the hair of her head under my feet—if it could but last!

Anyhow—it would really seem that I do the poor blockhead injustice in ever suspecting that she is not very heartily attached to me— she exploites her attachment somewhat—but to make much ado about everything is her way— I believe the fact that touched me most on this last occasion—was her having gone out one evening all dressed— as if to offer for a place—(to save her poor little dignity) and as I afterwards came to know having passed all the while of her absence with one of the numbers—No 44—in the city!—there was something really affecting in that poor little struggle between angry pride and unsubduable affection! dont you think so?— Geraldine would laugh at all this spoonyism on my part—but you dear Babbie will not laugh—will you?

On the very morning before my fainting fit,5 in course of which our reconciliation took place, Geraldine had written me of a paragon which her Miss Darby had found for me in Essex6— The woman seemed really most suitable—and was most anxious to come—and would have gone to her friends during our absence and returned when I wanted her again— But “I could not do otherwise” like Luther und so Gott helf mir [and so God help me]”7

I think I will send you Geraldine's last letter just to show you her admirable toleration—I only regret that I have not the letter to which it is an answer—to send also to show you—how her fire can burn as bright as ever not only without new fuel but under plentiful application of cold water—the last page gives you her interpretation of my reserve—it is my nature to be silent— — Does she really in her heart so interpret it?— chi sa [who knows]?

—Your gladness over the picture is very pleasing to me—an ample remuneration for any “trouble” I had with it—I must go and see it again finished, for there was still a good deal to do to it— — But I must tell you it has cost me more than trouble—it has cost me—the adoration of—old Sterling! —Yes Babbie—that picture has made a breach between us which can never surely be healed in this world!— “Devil may care”!— Sterling called here during my last sitting, and was stupidly enough told by Carlyle where I was gone and how occupied—OF COURSE he came puffing off to Michael Place and demanded admission8— G. had given orders to his maid that “nobody whatsoever” was to be let in to him that day—that he was “not at home”—and that point settled he had turned the key of his door on me— —Well Sterling insisted—persuaded the woman to take up his name— G. indignant at having his fiat protested against—roared out “No!— I repeat to you stupid woman as you are—I am not at home”— Sterling thereupon ought certainly to have gone away—but the thing which he ought to do is seldom that which he does—very curious to see the picture doubtless—for he has long been wanting a picture of me the old fool—he again sent up the poor maid to say it was Mrs Carlyle whom he wished to see for a few minutes— “Are you mad”? cried Gambardella now perfectly furious—“go back you vile woman, and repeat that I am not at home”—this order was given with an authoritative wave of his hand to me—on my compliance with which, I felt that the fate of your picture depended—so I kept my seat and left the thing to take its course— —Tho' every word he said must have been heard at the street door and far beyond it— Sterling nevertheless, as willful as himself, persevered—actually proceeded to ascend the stairs—without a search-warrant—to look for a woman whose pleasure it was, clearly enough, not to be found!— This was too bad—for it was a liberty he would not have dared to take in the house of a private Gentleman—it was showing Gambardella that he regarded his study merely as a shop— I cannot then be angry with G. for what followed—his behaviour was savage—brutal if you will—but he was in a state of justifiable excitement— He stood with the door in his hand looking like a concentration of a hundred lions—facing Sterling, whom I heard but did not see on the stair— “I wish to see Mrs Carlyle” said S. in a tone of forced politeness— “I am engaged Sir said G. fiercely— I am painting— I desired my servant to tell you I was not at home”—

—“Sir”—repeated Sterling warming into wrath—“it is Mrs Carlyle that I wish to see”!

—“Sir” repeated Gambardella in a voice of thunder: “I tell you I am painting—I am engaged—I have a sitter”—and with that he—slamed the door in the man's face!!—the pause that followed was awful!— G. snatched up his brushes and began to paint—but his hand shook like the leaf of the lime—he rung his bell—told his maid she was “a vile creature”—then tried it again—but his hand still shook, so he laid aside his brushes, took a pinch of snuff and burst into a perfect earthquake of laughter—Sterling has not been heard of since—in fact I do not see how he can come here again—for tho it was not personally I who so insulted him, he must know that I was witnessing the insult and letting it take its course— But his own conduct was far from perfect— Gambardella bade me tell you that he could not have called for you in his way thro Liverpool without putting off his journey a day and he had two wagers depending on being in London on the Thursday9 On the one day he staid he began and finished a picture—which left him not a moment to go anywhere—

I send you a sheet of C's book but my Uncle will not be able to make either head or tail of it I fear in that disjoined state— And now dear I had better stop before I become entirely illegible

—Never mind the marmlade at present—it will keep as well with you, as with me and I am not at the end of Helen's—but do not be cold in returning my thanks to Mrs Martin— She is a kind good soul—but the fact is, all of you are a hundred times kinder to me than I deserve— —Distribute kisses, as usual and little Benjamin's share to yourself10—my Babbie

J C.

Carlyle will send off his packet to Alick's care on Saturday