January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 8 April 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430408-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 115-118


[8 April 1843]

My goodness Child! why do you make bits of apologies to me for writing about the servants—as if ‘the servants’ were not a most important—a most fearful item in our female existence! Do you forget how I was always, while you were here,1 finding fault with Helen2 and the rest, that they would not tell us about the servants?—whether they were doing well or ill? I think, talk, and write about my own servant as much as Geraldine does about her lovers—and make myself sure that everybody that cares for me will sympathize with me in the matter—that way everybody who asks me with a real interest “how are you”?—would ask also if it were passed into a fashion of speech “are you comfortably suited”? With respect to these damsels of yours; I have to remark for the thousandth time what a mercy it is for us, that we never discover all the misconduct of the “vile creatures” till they are gone or going!— I shall be really anxious to learn your hopes from the new-comers—or your fears. But I confess my faith in Mr Miles3 is somewhat shaken by this stramash—and I feel surer of the wisdom of my conduct in forgiving Helen for the thousandth time— She (Helen is going on of course beautifuly for the present—doing her work in a quite satisfactory manner, and conjoining to the daily, recognised services, a world of little delicate attentions more easily conceived than described— Especially she keeps a watch over my “happetyte”— When toast is left at breakfast, which has happened pretty constantly of late, she is sure to bring in a small tray between twelve and one—and if I can eat her improvised pancake—cupful of soup or whatever else it may be, verily she has her reward!! But alas one knows so certainly that these halcyon days cannot last for ever!—three months is the natural term—perhaps this time they may run to four months, for her fright was stronger than usual last occasion: as she says herself “I never absolutely told her before to go and seek herself a place—and fixed the very day for her going—”!

Darwin came the day before yesterday apparently to ask me “if I had found Gambardella a mistress yet”—for it was his first question— He carried me with him to Michael Place4 to see the picture which he pronounced a master-piece—“the only picture of G's he had seen that gave him any idea that he could ever become a good artist”!—“from which” says Carlyle “it is plain that Darwin knows nothing at all about you”!!— G told Robertson who asked, that his charge for such a picture would be forty guineas! and Darwin thought it not at all dear!— “He must be very much in love with Miss Welsh says Darwin to bestow so much work on her gratis”— He must be very much in love with the subject” says Carlyle that is all”!— I suppose Miss Welsh and the subject have the love between them.

—I went to a party at the Chadwicks on Wednesday evening5—and the misery of it I cannot express to you— Carlyle has been for a long while shewing himself excessively discontented at having to go every where alone— I really think he was getting afraid that people would suspect him like Mr Liston of having made his wife into an anatomical preparation6— Some months ago I undertook at his particular desire to go to a party at the Proctors' (Barry Cornwalls) but when the night came I sent him as usual with my apology7—and as I was really plainly, to outward eyes even, extremely unwell, he did not force me— On wednesday then—I determined to go—to sacrifice myself for one time and then be done with it for months to come—as I can now say to him under the next score of invitations “I went to the Chadwicks—I have publicly testified that I am alive—what more would you have?” If you had seen me getting under way you would not have known whether to laugh or cry over me—I rather fancy you would have prefered the latter thing— I went off at half after eight to dress myself, as pale and trembling as if I had been preparing for the scaffold—my hands could not put in the pins—and then I had forgotten how to dress for a party!— My head? first of all—to go with it in its usual state of bare simplicity—would pass for affectation—the black scarf came most naturally to hand—but no—the spiteful people would say “Mrs Carlyle being desperate of enacting the girlish any longer with advantage, is now for doing the nun-like— I bethought me of the wreath of your old black bonnet (the bonnet by the way Helen had sorted up for herself with coloured ribbons and it has been her Sunday's bonnet ever since)—that, I twisted round my small knob of hair—with what effect those who found themselves behind me only know— Then my silk dress, which has not been on since I was in Suffolk!8 your chimesette9—in its pristine unwashed purity!—and Helen's beautiful little pocket-handkerchief finished my decoration— When I heard my name bawled from Servant to Servant I was really within a trifle of fainting—and instead of getting slipped quietly into a chair, to recover myself; I was presently surrounded with acquaintances all expressing the most importunate surprise over me— “You actually come” says one “I declare it almost frightens one like seeing a gohst”!— “How is this” says another— “Are you well now”? “But good heavens” says Mrs Booth10 “will you explain it to me? how is it that I see you out?”—&c &c—till I was tempted to start up like a wild deer, and rush down stairs, and out of the house again, and home to my safe bed! Oh dear dear when I did get home to bed I cried like a child that had been lost for so many hours! And this was what people call pleasure! a pleasure to be purchased with eight and sixpence for a fly!— And next day I was so ill—no wonder—for I really suffered, that night—horrible things— —To make not only the impression but to have the sensations of a gohst—while one is yet alive is a state of contradiction which those only who have felt it can appreciate the horror of!— I shall not do such violence to myself in a hurry again—indeed with such continued ill health as I have I do not see that I need any got up excuses for avoiding general society— If nobody else can see that I am too ill for going about to soirees and late dinners and all that I at least see it, and feel it and know it—and that should suffice to justify me in staying at home, and saving my small stock of stock of strength for more essential purposes than visiting—

Meanwhile I have got back my Sunday mornings congregation— Plattnauer11 presented himself unexpectedly the last sunday and had the door opened to him by Carlyle (Helen being gone to church) He looked much better—and strangely glad to see me again— — He asked most cordially after “her” nodding towards your picture,12 and expressed unmitigated disgust over Geraldine's letter to him,—“one half line” from myself would have been better than all that strange stuff— which of course required no answer” He never saw Cavaignac!!!13 C. twice left a card for him But he dined sometimes with George Sand and found her “really very charming—for a French woman”—

Poor Mrs Sterling is dying very fast— I never see her now—have not seen her these three weeks— She still comes into the drawing room but is too weak for receiving any one— Alicia Campbell14 is with her— William Cunningham comes here very often—he came in yesterday and found Lord Jeffrey (who also just arrived) kissing me à plusieurs reprises [over and over again] and calling me “my darling”—mercifully however with the grave presence of Mr Empson to justify or at least palliate the procedure15— William nevertheless looked perplexed— Love to them all

Your own

J C.

What is the meaning of a blister on the back of my uncle's neck?— if he be so well why blist[e]r16 him!