August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 13 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430813-JWC-TC-01; CL 17: 40-45


Sunday [13 August 1843]


I have not for a long time enjoyed a more triumphant moment than in “descending”1 from the railway yesterday at Vauxhall, and calling a porter to carry my small trunk and DRESSING BOX, (of course!) to a Chelsea steamer! To be sure I looked—(and felt) “as if just returning from the thirty years war”— Sleepless, bug-bitten, bedusted and be-devilled I was hardly recognisable for the same trim little goody who had left that spot only four days before, but still, I was returning with my shield—not on it—a few minutes more and I should be purified to the shift—to the very skin—should have absolutely bathed myself with eau de Cologne—should have some mutton broth set before me (I had written from Ryde to bespeak it!) and a silver spoon to eat it with—(these four days had taught me to appreciate my luxuries) and then the prospect of my own red bed at night—! that of itself was enough to make me the most thankful woman in Chelsea!— Helen screamed with joy when she saw me (for I was come about an hour sooner than I was expected) and then seized me round the neck and kissed me from ear to ear—then came Bessey Mudie—with her head quite turned—she could do nothing in the world but laugh for joy—over her own prospects so suddenly brightened for her—and from consciousness of her improved appearance in a pair of stays and a gown and petticoat which she had got for herself here by my directions— And when I showed her the shawl and other little things I had fetched her from Ryde she laughed still more and her face grew so very red that I thought she was going to burst a bloodvessel— She had been home and had taken leave of her Mother who offered no hindrance whatever but was extremely thankful. So all was in readiness for taking her to the railway that evening according to programme. Mazzini called just when I had finished my dinner, to inquire if there had been any news from me, and was astonished to find myself—still more astonished at the extent to which I had managed to ruin myself in so short a time—I looked he said, “strange—upon my honour!—most like—if he might be allowed to say it—to Lady Macbeth in the sleeping scene!”2— No wonder! four such nights might have maid a somnambulist of a much stronger woman than me—poverina [poor thing]—

At half after seven I started with Bessy for Euston square committed her to the care of a very fat benevolent looking old man who was going all the way3—pinned her letter for Geraldine to her stays—kissed the poor young creature and gave her my blessing—came back wondering whether these two girls that I had launched into the world would live to thank me for it, or not rather to wish that I had tied a stone about each of their necks and launched them in the Thames!— Impossible to predict!— So I had a tumbler of brandy punch (there was still some in your last bottle) and thus fortified went to bed and was asleep in two minutes! After some hours of the deadest sleep I ever slept on earth I was wakened with pain in my head—but where I was I could not possibly make out— I sat up in the middle of my bed—to ascertain my locality—and there “I happened”4 the oddest mystification you can fancy—I actually lost myself in my bed!—could not find the right way of lying down again!— I felt all about for pillows—none were findable! and I could not get the clothes spread up on me again!—they seemed to be fixed down— At last still groping with my hand I felt the foot board at my head! I had lain down “with my head where my feet should be”—and it was a puzzling business to rectify my position! I went to sleep again and rose at half after eight and eat my coffee and good bread with such relish! Oh it was worth while to have spent four days in pretentious parsimony—to have been bitten with bugs—to have been irritated with fuss and humbug—and last of all to have been done out of my travelling expences back!—it was worth while to have had all this botheration to refresh my sense of all my mercies—every thing is comparative “here down”—this morning I need no other paradise than what I have—cleanness—(not of teeth) modest comfort—silence—independence—that is to say dependence on no other but one's own husband—yes—I need to be well of my headach over & above—but that also will come with more sleep—

I found on my return three book-parcels and your last letter parcel first John Sterlings Strafford for myself—you will see a review of it in todays Examiner which will make him desperately angry5— (Really Fuzz6 that “Brother” of ours improves—by keeping sensible company) 2d Varnhagens three volumes from Lockart with a note which I enclose7—3d A large shewy paper book in three volumes—entitled The English Universities Huber and Newman “with Mr James Heywoods compliments on the first page8

At night another parcel came; from Maurice—Arnolds lectures returned and Strauss (which latter I purpose reading—I—!!)9 I brought with me from Ryde a volume of plays by one Kleists (did you ever hear of him) which Sterling greatly recommends. The Tragedian himself had the most Tragic end10— I did not forget about the name of Varnhagen's pamphlet—but at the time you asked it it was lying at the bottom of the sofa—with the other books of the low room, and Pelion on Ossa11 on the top of it—to get at it would have cost me an hours hard work—the name now that it is restored to the upper world is Leitfaden zur Nordischen Alterthumskunde.12

I have a negociation going on about a place for Miss Bölte but the Lady is on the Continent,13 and it cannot be speedily brought to an alternative—meanwhile the poor girl is gone to some friend in the country for a month—

I am very sorry indeed for poor Isabella—give her my kind remembrances—my sympathy—if it could but do anything for her!

Are you—or rather would it be very disagreeable for you to go to Thornhill and see the Russels—and Margaret and old Mary,14—if you could without finding it irksome I should like— Oh my god—to think of your going to Thornhill to see only the Russels! Oh my Mother my own own Mother

Monday [14 August]

I had to give up writing yesterday, my head was so woefully bad—but a dinner of roast mutton with a tumble[r]15 of white-wine negus (!) made me a more effectual woman again—you see I am taking care of myself with a vengeance! but “I consider it my duty” to get myself made well again—and tell you the truth I was starved at Ryde as well as bugbitten— In the evening I had Miss Boelte till after ten (I though[t]16 she had been gone to the country but she goes today—she is really a fine manly little creature with a deal of excellent sense—and not without plenty of german enthusiasm for all so humdrum as she looks.

This morning I got up immensely better—having had another good sleep—and in token of my thankfulness to Providence I fell immediately to glaring [daubing] and painting with my own hands (not to ruin you altogether)—it is now just on post time I had your letter for consolation in my messy job—and I must send this off—(trusting that you found other two letters from me waiting you at your return?)—and then return to finish my painting— Pray for me

Ever your unfortunate /


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