January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 7 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430707-JWC-TC-01; CL 16: 240-246


[7 and 8 July 1843]


I take time by the pig-tail1 and write at night—after post-hours—during the day there is such an infernal noise of pumice-stone—diversified with snatches of “wild strains”—the youth who is scraping the walls, (—as if it were a hundred knife-grinders melted into one)—consoling himself under the hideous task by striking up every two minutes “the Red-cross Knights—” or Evelyn's Bower” or some such plaintive melody, which after a brief attempt to render itself predominant “dies away into an unintelligible whimper2— Yesterday forenoon Mrs Chadwick came—and had just seated herself on the sofa beside me and was beginning to set forth amiabilities; when bang, bang, crash, screech, came the pumice—stone over the room—door—to the tune of “Oh rest thee my darling

Thy sire is a Knight &c &”

making us both start to our feet with a little scream—and then fall back again in fits of laughter— Then the stairs are all flowing with white—wash—“and altogether” when I fancy you here “in the midst of it,” I do not know whether to laugh, or to cry, or to shriek— But it will be a clean pretty house for you to come home to—and should you find that I have exceeded by a few pounds your modest allowance for painting and papering; you will find that I have not been thoughtless nevertheless, when I show you a document from Mr Morgan3 promising to “idemnify us for the same in the undisturbed possession of our house for five years”!—a piece of paper in fact equivalent to a lease of the house for five years “with the receprocity all on one side”4—binding him and leaving us free—“such a thing” old Sterling said who attended me to Popes head ahoy “as no woman but myself would have had the impudence to ask,” nor any lawyer in his senses the folly to grant”— I do not see but we might get a lease of the house after all for as long as we pleased—if I went about it, instead of the voluptuous Perry5— Mr Morgan said he rather thought he had the first claim on the property himself and that “it was a pity but he had seen me sooner”—at all events as it stands at present—should the woman die tomorrow they cannot raise the rent on us or turn us out without remunerating us for our outlay—and that was really as much as I could in my conscience insist on—seeing that we have the house so very cheap—and that Mr Morgan had been till he saw me quite indifferent whether we kept it, at the present rent, or not— But this was one of those remarkable instances of fascination which I exercise over gentlemen of “a certain age.” before I had spoken six words to him it was plain to the meanest capacity that he had fallen over head and ears in love with me—and if he put off time in writing me the promise I required, it was plainly only because he could not bear the idea of my going away again!—no wonder!—probably no such beatific vision as that of a real, live woman, in a silk bonnet and muslin gown, ever irradiated that dingy dusty law-chamber of his and sat there on a three-feet-high stool—since he had held a pen behind his ear—and most certainly never before had either man or woman in that place addressed him as a human-being— not as a lawyer—or he would not have looked so struck dumb with ad— miration when I did so.— For respectability's sake I said in taking leave that “my husband was out of town or he would have come himself”— “Better as it is” said the old gentleman “do you think I would have written to your husband's dictation as I have done to yours”?— He asked if your name were John or William—plainly he had lodged an angel unawares6— By the way—that other angel7 is becoming a bore—Charles Barton with whom I dined at Sterlings in returning from Popes head a-hoy—told me that he had been making quite a sensation in Berlin and been invited to a great many places on the strength of The French Revolution— He (Chales B) was asked to dine with him—that is, “with Thomas Carlyle author of the French Revolution,” at the Marquis of Westmorland's8— “Is he here” said Charles—“I shall be delighted to see him I know him quite well”—and accordingly on the appointed day he “almost ran into the arms of the announced Thomas Carlyle—and then retreated with consternation.” It was so far good that he had opportunity to disabuse these people at least—by declaring “THAT was not Thomas Carlyle at all”! But is it not a shame in the creature to encourage the delusion, and let himself be féted as a Man of Genius when he is only a “crack-brained enthusiastic.”9 Charles walked home with me and told me of a great many domestic grievances—amongst the rest that the poor Maurices have lost the whole of Annie's fortune by America!10— This is a secret however—another thing about the Maurice's affected me strangely—the new baby is perfectly healthy and well formed11—but it never ceases from sobbing and sighing—not like a baby but like a grown person!—the Dr imputes it to the Mother's suppressed grief12—and says the habit will wear off

I have awoke at four every morning since you went away—and the night before last I slept just half an hour in all—it is always the effect of finding myself in a new position— When the work people come at six I get up, which makes a prodigiously long day—but I do not weary—having so many mechanical things to do—this morning I took—or rather failed to take the showerbath— —I pulled with concentrated courage and nothing would come—determined not to be quite baffled however, I made Helen pour a pitcherful of water on me instead—

Forster writes today that he will probably call for me tomorrow evening—if not tomorrow; on Wednesday—moreover that I must dine with him in your absence and he will get Mrs Macready13 for decency's sake—“never Sir”!14—I sent the note to Krasinski as it chiefly concerned him

Mazzini came this forenoon for the first time—very pale and weak— but his face pretty well mended— He was horribly out of spirits, and no wonder— They have brought out the British & Foreign Review without his article!!15 a most untimely contretemps for him in an economical point of view—and besides very mortifying to him morally—as he is “sure it is merely because of his being a foreigner that he is so ill used”— I was strongly advising him to—run away!—to hide himself from all people—friends and creditors and disciples, in Switzerland or some cheap, quiet place. And I should not wonder if he did some such thing in the end—a man cannot live “in a state of crisis” (as he calls it) forever—

The umbrella?—not yet!—they themselves are going to keep it I think till the 14th16— Sterling was to take me in returning from Mr Morgan's —but as with my usual negligence—I started with no other address except Pope's head Alley—it was a work of time and difficulty to find it—and then I kept him so long waiting outside Mr Morgans dais— that all the way home he was in the sulks—declaring that Charles Barton would be come—and so would not go a yard out of the straight road— yesterday he was at the christening of William Coninghams child17— (they have christened it!) and I was too weary after my sleepless night to go up to town on my own foundation— Today I was obliged to write to Jeannie—and a final letter about the Mudies to Geraldine, and then Elizabeth came and I was made too late—tomorrow I will go or the Devil is in it You made me “heir you said to all your note paper and writing paper” and when I went to enter on possession of my anticipated rich legacy I found—a tiny slip—four sheets—of note paper—and devil a morsel of any other!—except the foolscap So I had to purchase almost immediately—and as you see by the foregoing sheets have got more than the average proportion of plaster of Paris— By the way Mazzini has heard from Paris that the book18 was for certain delivered into Cavaignac's hands.—so it is very stupid of him to have sent no newspaper— I think I have told you every thing I have to tell—except that I was mighty glad of your letter— — I do not see how I am to get to the Isle of Wight— I cannot leave the house with work people coming and going—and Helen declars naturally—that “without me she could not stay a night in the house for the whole world”— But I dare say I am quite as content here studious of household good19 as I should be, dragged about to look at picturesque views at the Isle of Wight—or anywhere else that “fool creturs go for diversion20 If I disliked London heat it would be different the preservation of one's health is duty not diversion—but London be ite'er so hot its ne'er too hot for me!21— Today we have had the beautifulest soft rain—to make all fresh again and on the whole the weather is charming and I never go into the dusty streets on foot—good night—

Saturday [8 July 1843]

When one gets up at six and “is always virtuous”; it does look so long till post-time!— But I have your letter, now, and have been to Regent Street too—altho it is still but one oclock. and a regular rainy day!— Sterling came to ask if I wanted any thing, on his way early to the club—so I told him to take me up—and drop himself at the club—and I would fetch the carriage home—acceded to—in spite of the discontents occasioned by Popes head alley!— Well the beast of an Umbrella—man simpered and bowed and told endless great lies, and, plainly had—utterly forgotten the whole transaction! I recalled it to his mind “emphatically enough” especially the fact of his having received payment for an article which he had failed to send and seemed to be never intending to send— He promised for tonight and I left him with a look—“significative of much”!22 Never mind dearest—the poor little umbrella is only the more precious to me for the difficulty of getting it—

If you have not that sea-bathing lodging I am afraid these good lean people will soon weary you— Well! you cannot come back here just now at all rates—that is flat— What think you of going to this Forster— Here indeed you would not “come out strong” under the existing circumstances—it is only I who can be “jolly23 in such a mess of noise—dirt, and wild dismay! I said to the Lad in the lobby this morning who was filling the whole house with “Loves young dream”—“how happy you must feel—that can sing thro' that horrible noise you are making”!— “Yes, thank you mam” says he—“I am happy enough so far as I knows but I's always a—singing anyhow!—it sounds pleasant to sing at one's work—does'nt it Mam?” “Oh very pleasant” said I quite conquered by his simplicity “but it would be still pleasanter, for me at least, if you would sing a song from beginning to end—instead of bits here and there”— “Thank you Mam” says he again—“I will try”!—but he does not succeed—

I have the most extraordinary letter from Terrot which I would send only that it would cost 2d of itself— He writes to tell me that he “did not like his reception” that “often as he came and long as he staid I treated him indeed with perfect civility—did not yawn—or appear to be suppressing a yawn—but I seemed to labour under a continual feeling of opression (!) and to be thinking all the while of something else (!)” What did I see to offend me in him”? he asks with great humility—“from what he heard of my preferences and saw of my society, he was inclined to suppose that what I objected to in him must be the want of that first great requisite earnestness—”! But he begged to assure me &c &c—in short that he had as much earnestness “as he could bear”!!— A letter from a man calling himself Bishop to a woman whom he calls infidel—and pleading guilty to her of want of earnestness— Bah! I wish I could snort like Cavaignac

There now I must stop I dare say I have wearied you— God keep you Dear Be quite at ease about me

Ever your


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