January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JOHN WELSH ; 18 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430718-JWC-JWE-01; CL 16: 290-292


[18 July 1843]

Dearest, dear, only Uncle of me!

I would give a crown that you could see me at this moment, thro a powerful telescope! you would laugh for the next twelve hours—I am doing the rural after a fashion so entirely my own! To escape from the abominable paint-smell and the infernal noise within doors; I have erected with my own hands a gipsey-tent in the garden, constructed with clothes-lines—long poles and an old brown floor-cloth!—under which remarkable shade I sit in an arm-chair, at a small round table—with a hearth rug for carpet under my feet-writing materials sewing materials—and a mind superior to Fate!— The only drawback to this retreat, is its being exposed to “the envy of surrounding nations”—so many heads peer out on me from all the windows of the Row—eager to penetrate my meaning!— If I had a speaking-trumpet I would address them once for all—“Ladies & gentlemen, I am not here to enter my individual protest against the progress of civilization!—nor yet to mock you with an Arcadian felicity which you have neither the taste nor the ingenuity to make your own!—but simply to enjoy nature according to ability, and to get out of the smell of new paint! So pray you, leave me to pursue my innocent avocations, in the modest seclusion which I covet”!

—Not to represent my contrivance as too perfect, I must also tell you that a strong puff of wind is apt to blow down the poles and then the whole tent falls down on my head!—this has happened once already since I began to write—but an instant puts it all to rights again— Indeed without counteracting the indoors-influences by all lawful means I could not stay here at present without injury to my health which is at no time of the strongest—our house has for a fortnight back been a house possessed with seven devils!— A painter, two carpenters a paper-hanger, two non-descript apprentice-lads and “a spy”—all playing the devil to the utmost of their powers—hurrying and scurrying “up stairs down stairs and in my Lady's chamber”! affording the liveliest image of a sacked City! When they rush in at six of the morning and spread themselves over the premises, I instantly jump out of bed and “in wera desperation” take a shower-bath. Then such a long day to be virtuous in! I make a chair and sofa covers—write letters to my friends—scold the work people, and suggest improved methods of doing things—and when I go to bed at night I have to leave both windows of my room wide open—(and plenty of ladders lying quite handy underneath) that I may not as old Sterling predicted “awake dead” of the paint— The first night that I lay down in this open state of things, I recollected Jeannies house-breaker-adventure last year, and not wishing that all the thieves who might walk in at my open windows should take me quite unprepared, I laid my policeman's-rattle and my dagger on the spare pillow—and then I went to sleep quite secure— But it is to be confidently expected that in a week more things will begin to subside into their normal state—and meanwhile it were absurd to expect that any sort of Revolution can be accomplished with rose-water

There!—the tent has been down on the top of me again but it has only upset the ink—

Jeannie appears to be earthquaking with like energy in Maryland Street—but finds time to write me nice long letters nevertheless, and even to make me the loveliest pincushion for my birthday—and my birthday was celebrated also with the arrival of a hamper into which I have not yet penetrated. Accept kisses ad infinitum for your kind thought of me dearest Uncle. I hope to drink your health many times in the Maidera when I have Carlyle with me again to give an air of respectability to the act— Nay on that evening when it came to hand, I was feeling so sad and dreary over the contrast between this 14th of July—alone—in a house like a sacked city—and other 14ths that I can never forget—that I hesitated whether or no to get myself out a bottle of the Maidera there and then—and try for once in my life the hitherto unknown comfort of being dead-drunk But my sense of the respectable overcame the temptation— I am so thankful to hear such comfortable accounts of you from Helen—whom you are to kiss one dozen of times and thank in my name for her welcome letter—I will write to herself very speedily—

My husband has now left his Welchman and is gone for a little while to visit the Bishop of St Davids Then he purposes crossing over somehow to Liverpool—and after a brief benediction to Jeannie passing into Annandale— He has suffered unutterable things in Wales from the want of any adequate supply—of tea! the Spooney! For the rest his visit appears to have been pretty successful-plenty of seabathing—plenty of riding on horseback—and of lying under trees!— I wonder it never enters his head to lie under the walnut tree here at home—it is a tree!—leaves as green as any leaves can be even in South Wales!—but it were too easy to repose under that— —if one had to travel a long journey by railway to it—then indeed it might be worth while!

But I have no more time for scribbling just now—besides my pen is positively declining to act— So God bless you Dear and all of them— Ever your affectionate / Jane Carlyle