January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 31 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430731-JWC-TC-01; CL 16: 327-331


Monday night [31 July 1843]


The Postman presented me your letter tonight in Cheyne Walk with a bow extraordinary— He is a jewel of a Postman—whenever he has put a letter from you into the box he both knocks and rings that not a moment may be lost in taking possession of it—in acknowledgement whereof I crossed the street one day, when Cuttikins1 who staid a week and returned twice was with me, and at that moment doing the impossible to be entertaining—for the purpose of saluting his (the postmans) Baby the which he was carrying out for an airing—the rage of Cuttikins at this interruption was considerable—he looked at me as if he could have eaten me raw and remarked with a concentrated spleen—“Well I must say never did I see any human being so improved in amiability as you are!— Every body—and every thing seems to be honoured with a particular affection from you!” every THING thought I except you—but I contented myself with saying “isnt it a darling baby?” Poor Cuttikins his Aunt did not die—so he is gone with the prospect of alas—of having to return ere long— The last day he came John Sterling exploded him in a way that would have done your heart good to see— John looked at me as much as to say “does he bore you?”—and I gave my shoulders a little shrug in the affirmative—whereupon John jumped to his feet and said in a politely under tone as audible however for the Bishop as for me “Well my good friend if you cannot keep your engagement with me, I must go by myself—I am too late already!”—the cool assurance of this speech was inimitable, for I had no engagement in the world with him!—but Terrot suspecting nothing sprang to his feet and was off in a minute with apologies for having detained me!

Well I actually accomplished my dinner at the Kay Shuttleworths, Mrs Austin was the only lady at dinner— Old Miss Rogers2 and a young wersh3 looking person with her came in the evening,—it was a very lockedjaw-sort of business—Little Helps was there but even I could not animate him; he looked pale and as if he had a pain in his stomach— Little Milnes was there and “affable” enough, but evidently overcome with a feeling that weighed on all of us—the feeling of having dropt into a vacuum—there were various other men, a Sir Charles Lemon, Cornwall Lewis,4 and some half dozen other such insipidities whose names did not fix themselves in my memory— Mrs Austin was an insupportable bore—she has lost all her sweet look and what remains is highly quest[io]nable5—she has surely the air of a retired unfortunate female, her neck and arms were naked as if she had never eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! She reminded me forcibly of the Princess Huncamunca6 as I once saw her represented in a barn. She eat and drank with a certain voracity—sneezed once during the dinner, just like a hale old man—“and altogether” nothing could be more ungraceful—more unfeminine than her whole bearing— She talked a deal about America and her poverty with exquisite bad taste— Indeed she was every way a displeasing spectacle to me7

Mazzini's visit to Lady Baring (as he calls her)8 went off wonderfully well. I am afraid my dear this Lady Baring of yours and his and John Mill's and everybody's is an arch coquette—she seems to have played her cards with Mazzini really too well—she talked to him with the highest commendations of George Sand—expressed the utmost longing to read the new edition of Lelia9—nay she made him “a mysterious signal with her eyes having first looked two three times towards John Mill and her husband,” clearly intimating that she had something to tell him about Nice10 which they were not to hear—and when she could not make him understand she “shook her head impatiently”— “which from a woman, especially in your england, was—what shall I say—confidential upon MY honour”— I think it was—“John Mill appeared to be loving her very much, and taking great pains to show her that his opinions were the right ones” By the way do you know that Mill considers Robespierre “the greatest man that ever lived” his speeches far surpassing Demosthenes's11— He begins to be too absurd that John Mill! I heard Milnes saying at the Shuttleworths that “Lord Ashley was the greatest man alive;—he was the only man that Carlyle praised in his book—”12 I dare say he knew I was overhearing him “the little Tick”!

I am quite rid of the paint-smell now—but I have the white-washer coming again tomorrow—I could not turn up the low room till the upstairs one was in some sort habitable again—and all the last week nothing could be got on with owing to Pearson's absence—it is surprising how much easier it is to pull down things than to put them up again—

No—certainly your “damp” cottage13 with “incessent rains” and the female Chorleys for neighbours is anything but inviting— I do scream at the idea—never mind me dearest—try to get the most good of the country that can be got for yourself— I do not care a farthing for the country air—and am busier here than I could be anywhere else— Besides I should like to go to Liverpool when my Uncle returns—and perhaps I shall go with old Sterling to Ryde14 for a few days next week— He is very feeble become and very subdued—I shall be of great comfort to him and he has no longer the strength in him to bore anybody— The Maurices make Ventnor15 out of the question—but I must have the carpets down &c &c before I go anywhere—the rest of my work—the needlework—could lie over a few days without detriment

I must enclose you a touching document which came today in case it admits of any ‘appeal’;16 but I suppose not— Actually—Juliet Mudie is filling all the lower premises with singing!— Will you tell my darling Babbie with truest love that if she will but be patient a very little longer our letter account shall be balanced to her entire satisfaction—and Lord bless me I had so nearly forgot to do what I under-took—that Geerpole Marriotti called here on Saturday forenoon to beg from you an introduction to Nickison17—he having written some little thing for the magazine “of course he does not ask you to recommend what you never read, but merely to introduce him—and to request that his paper may be looked at—” Pray send him your card with a word on it—I hate the creature but I dare say he is ill enough off—

I shall leave this open till I see if tomorrow brings me anything— but it was surest to write tonight—tomorrow I have to go to the City for some ready-made nightshifts for Juliet—

Tuesday morning

I have your letter—I think I have received them all—the impatient note was written just when you were leaving Liverpool18—Your own / J C