January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 13 April 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430413-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 122-126


[13? April 1843]

My beloved Babbie

There is a tone of weariness in your last letter—weariness with “Things in general”—which has something more than cold at the bottom of it. But whatever be at the bottom of it; I long to have you in my arms, to cover the babbie's face of you with kisses!— I feel so sympathetic with you thus!—not that you were not loveable for me in your placidity—that “beautiful equability of temper”—that “disposition to be pleased with every thing” which gained you such approbation from Carlyle and the rest was not thrown away upon me, only— For your normal state (as Mazzini would call it), such equability, such disposition to be pleased is good—the very best, and in an utilitarian point of view even, it was almost indispensable for living along side of me, whose normal state is unfortunately very different—but if you had never exceptional moments, hours, days, of longing after an unrealizable ideal, of protesting against the mean, worrying actual—I could never have felt thoroughly sympathetic with you—there must always have remained a Bluebeards Chamber1 in my heart of which I durst not have given you the key—you would have remained my Babbie—literally— You could not have become what you are, my friend my sister—the one being alive that I can turn to in every mood with assurance that neither her kindness nor her sympathy will fail me—

I have been thinking this morning that I have written very little from me to you, this long while back—and that with all my writing you are not kept up as you ought to be with the current of my personal concerns— The fact is, ever since my Uncle has been confined to the house—my letters have been more for him than for you—I have written more with a view to making him laugh than to relieving my own mind of what I had a besoin [need] to say— Hence long stories of Gambardella &c—while much more important things have remained untold— Just to think for instance, that I should not yet have told you of the breaking up of Johns engagement with Mr Ogilvie altho it took place a fortnight ago and will excercise a rather malign influence on my individual comfort for a pretty while to come, I am thinking!— Mr Oglevie went off to Cheltenham some weeks ago, with his maternal uncles—(There are two sorts of them maternal and paternal—the former considering their nephew an exceedingly wise man—the latter those who appointed John to keep him—) Well the maternal uncles wrote from Cheltnam that they considered Mr Oglivie needed nothing now, “except to learn to think and act for himself” (a pretty considerable of a need one would say) and that the companionship of a man of his own years—not a physician—would perhaps help him better to that end— —Of course John at once acceded to the suggestion—considering that “on the whole perhaps they were in the right”— Mr Oglive sent him thereupon, his half year's salary with a quarter's over and above as “an expression of his sincere gratitude and affection”—and so the thing smoothly terminated— John left their house in Chester Terrace some days ago—and went into the country for a week with Bunsen the Prussian Ambassador—but finding Bunsen's house “too full” he arrived here last evening—with bag and baggage—when Helen was in the midst of a washing and myself in the midst of a headach—and now the question presses itself on me with some emphasis “what will he do or attempt to do next? above all how long will he stay here”?—running up and down stairs—fretting me with distracted queries and remarks—making the house—what he has on so many former occasions made it—a scene of worry world without end!— When one has renounced all the gaities of life one does hold rather grimly by one's quiet—and where John is, you know whether there can be any quiet.

That he will ever muster energy to take up house for himself—altho he is now as able in point of money to keep a house as we are—I have not the smallest hope— He finds it always much easier and less expensive to live as our visitor—and what suits himself he is in the habit of thinking must perfectly suit other people—so that this time, as on former occasions, I see no deliverance from him, except in Providence—sending unsought the offer of some new tempting situation— Unless indeed Carlyle gets provoked into telling him flatly that he cannot keep him here—now that he is well enough off to keep himself elsewhere—and it would be long before Carlyle's brotherly nature could get itself provoked to that point—while for me in the meanwhile—the Sister-in-law—nothing of course remains but to submit, and even with a good grace—

All our summer schemes however are tumbled topsy turvy by this untoward chance—there is talk now of a voyage to Iceland even!—instead of the cottage at Fornby (I never spoke of Seaforth)2—indeed it is all up with a cottage any where if he is to go with us!—it is bad enough to be pent up with such restlessness in a town house—in a country cottage it would blow the roof off— Indeed Babbie I am at my wits end!— I know not what to advise even—if they would but decide on anything for themselves—and leave me to decide for myself!—one thing grows only the clearer for all the general uncertainty: that I must see you this summer if I would preserve my soul alive—

Geraldine was here yesterday She wrote from Essex the beginning of last week; that she was “dreadfully anxious about me” I would not tell her about myself—but “thank God” she would now be able to see with her own eyes how I was—as she was coming to town on the morrow, and would be with me the first leisure moment after her arrival— Well! she did arrive on the Wednesday and her leisure moment turned up for her only yesterday a week after!! and even then, she went round by Mrs Hall,3 so as to arrive here after two oclock when she knew that if well enough I should be out!—unfortunately I was not well enough and so she found me in! And then the excuses!—she had been “mad to get to me—absolutely mad” but without making “the most horrible grievance” she could not absent herself for an hour till that day; there were such endless schemes for her amusement!—(she is with the Pattens at present)— What would she have said to you had you let difficulty or even impossibility keep you away so long— I was heartly obliged to her for having staid away—but such flagrant inconsistency between her words and her deeds disgusted me to a degree that I did not even try to conceal—as for Carlyle he went out to walk without coming in to the room!! Her staying with these Pattens after the way in which the Man4 has shown his utter contempt for her, insulted her—even by her own showing,—is in itself a horror!— even now “he will not be a moment alone with her”! But to keep a footing in the house she is laying the hair of her head under the feet of his wife and daughter—his wife! whom she told me, when here two years ago “was absolutely loathsome! a creature that made your blood run cold to think of any man being bound to her for life”—an excellent woman all the while—as I told her even then— She goes back to Manchester on Monday—whence I will never thro' all eternity be the means of bringing her again—she is “a vile creature”—and that is the short and long of it—

I thought I had told you of the letter to Platnauer at the time— It was one day soon after she came that after having fussed me in all sorts of ways she said suddenly—“now what can I do for you? tell me some thing to do for you”!— I was thinking of Platnauer at the moment she spoke—how long it was that his letter from Paris had lain unanswered and I said in perfect jest of course—“really I can give you nothing to do unless you will write a letter to Mr Plattnauer”—“Well” said she jumping up “tell me where to get a sheet of paper”—“goodness Geraldine said I you are not going to do it”?

“Why not”?

“Because you do not know the man—and how is it possible you can write to him”?

—“My dear there is no such word as impossible where your convenience is concerned”— Seeing she was in earnest I determined on letting her proceed just to see how she would get thro it—and she wrote not only a letter but a very long letter—most free and easy—and I let it go—to amuse the poor youth—and had better have thrown it in the fire as it did not amuse him at all but made him vexed at me

My darling I am not half done—but I must stop for my head is getting bad again—

I do wish the weather would grow milder for my uncles sake and yours and mine— If I cannot sympathize in your feelings of cold who can?

According to Geraldine it would seem that “fellow-feeling makes us wondrous unkind”5—which is quite a new reading of the proverb— I am glad that Walter6 even speaks of coming—shall I try to keep him out of mischief by engaging him in a platonic affair with me?—a woman of a certain age—married and above all three hundred miles off is the safest of all possible divinities for an excitable youth like him— Bless you dearest—love to them all

Your own /


Give Alick the enclosed—from Carlyle7