August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 27 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430827-JWC-TC-01; CL 17: 91-96


Sunday night [27 August 1843]


Another evening, in thought set apart for you, has been eaten up alive by “rebellious consononants.”1 I had told Helen to go after dinner and take herself a long walk,—assuring her nobody could possibly arrive—for the best of reasons, that “there was not a human being left in London”—and just when I had fetched up my own tea and was proceding to “enjoy it”!2—quite in old-maid style—there arrived Darley,3 the sight of whom gave me horrible foretaste of fidgets and namely woe which was duly fulfilled to me in good time. However it is to be hoped that HE got a little good from having a mouthful of human—or rather to speak accurately of inhuman speech with some one—and in that case one's “care being the welfare of others” &c &c4—for myself assuredly I feel as if I had spent the evening under a harrow—

I hardly know where a letter now shall find you—but perhaps tomorrows will direct me before sending this away—it is very stupid of the Fergus—a fact almost as absurd as speaking to Elizabeth of sending us potatoes last year and never sending them— But if you want to see the battleground at Dunbar5 I am sure you need not miss it for lack of somewhere to go—the poor Donaldsons6—nay every body in Haddington would be so glad to have you—the Donaldsons you know formally invited you “for a month or two” this spring— (I cannot detect the association but it comes in my head at this moment—and I may as well tell you—that the revd Candlish is in great raptures over Past and Present—so Robertson told me the last time I saw him—) Garnier also told me that the book had a success of an unusual and very desirable kind—“it was not so much that people spoke about it as that they spoke out of it—in these mysteri[ous]7 conventions of his your phrases he said were become a part of the general dialect— The Booksellers would not have Garnier's translation—that was the reason of its being given up—not that he was too mad for it— It was I who told you about the Lord Dudley Stuart affair8— Garnier gave me his own version of it that night—and it seemed quite of a piece with his usual conduct—good intentions always unfortunate9—a right thing wrongly set about—

Well! the Italian “movement” has begun—and also I suppose ended10— Mazzini has been in a state of violent excitement all these weeks—really forcibly reminding one of Frank Dickson's goose with the one addle egg!11—nothing hindered him from going off to head the movement—except that—unexpectedly enough—the movement did not invite him—nay took pains to “keep him in a certain ignorance”—and his favorite conspirator abroad the movement sent into Sicily “to act there alone”!— “Plainly indictaing12 that it meditated some arrangement of Italy such as they two would not approve—something, what shall I say—constitutional13— He came one day and told me quite seriously that a week more would determine him whether to go singly and try to enter the country in secret, or—to persuade a frigate now here, which he deemed persuadable, to revolt openly and take him there by force” “and with one frigate said I you mean to overthrow the Austrian empire—amidst the general peace of Europe”— “Why not? the beginning only is wanted”— I could not help telling him that “a Harrow or Eton schoolboy who uttered such nonsense and proceeded to give it a practical shape would be whipt and expelled the community as a mischevous blockhead!” He was made very angry of course—but it was impossible to see anybody behaving so like “a mad” without telling him ones mind— HE a conspirator chief!— I should make an infinitely better one myself— What for instance can be mo[r]e14 out of the role of Conspirator than his telling me all his secret operations even to the names of places when conspiracy is breaking out and the names of people who are organizing it?—me who do not even every ask him a question on such matters—who on the contrary evade them as much as possible?— A man has a right to put his own life and safety at the mercy of whom he will—but no amount of confidence in his friend can justify him for making such dangerous disclosures concerning others— What would there have been very unnatural for example in my sending a few words to the Austrian government warning them of the projected outbreaks—merely for the purpose of having them prevented—so as to save Mazzini's head and the heads of the greater number at the sacrifice of a few?— If I had not believed that it would be like the Savoy's expedition stopt by some providential toll bar15—I believe I should have felt it my duty as Mazzinis friend to do this thing. Bologna was the place where they were first to raise there fool'scap-standard— The Examiner mentions carelessly some young men having collected in the streets and “raised seditious crys and even fired some shots at the Police”— Cannon were planted &c— “Austrians ready to march.”16 not a doubt of it—and seditious cries will make a poor battle against cannon! Mazzini is confident however that [the]17 thing will not stop—here—and if it goes on is resolute also in getting into the thick of it— “What do you say of my head?— What are results?—is there not things more important than ones head?” “Certainly—but I should say that the man who has not sense enough to keep his head on his shoulders till something is to be gained by parting with it has not sense enough to manage or dream of managing any important matter whatever”—! Our dialogues become “warm”!—

But see how much I have written about this which you will think six words too many for—

I always forgot to tell you and remembe[r]18 it strangely enough now that Robert Owen went to Gosport with me in the same railway carriage—or did I tell you?19 I long for your next letter to hear you returned from that journey20—to my fancy so dreary so—like a ghost-scene— Good night I must go and sleep21

Monday [28 August]


Thanks for your letter—and Oh a thousand thanks for all this that you have done for me— I am glad that you have seen these poor people—that they have had the gladness of seeing you— Poor old Mary!—it will be something to talk and think back over for a year to come.— Your letter has made me cry to be sure—but has made me very contented nevertheless— I am very gratefully to you—

Did Mrs Russel say any thing about not having answered my last letter— I sent a little shawl on my last birthday to Margaret to Mrs R's care and a pound of tea—that is; money for it to old Mary in a letter to Mrs Russel22 and as I have never heard a word from Thornhill since, I have sometimes feared the things had been taken by the way—it is very stupid in people not to give one the satisfaction of writing on these little occasions—

Not to fall into the same error let me duly commemorate the arrival of Mrs Adamsons letter containing the money order23—which I have laid in a safe place—

I am afraid you will think London dreadfully solitary when you return from the country!— Actually there never was so quiet a house except Craigenputtoch as this has been for the last fortnight Darwin finally is off this morning to Shrewsbury for three weeks—

He gave me a drive to Parsons-green24 yesterday—wondered if Carlyle “would give me admiration enough” for all my needle work &c &c “feared not—but he would have a vague sense of comfort from it”—and uttered many other sarcastic things by way of going off in good Darwin style— Just when I seemed to be got pretty well thro my sewing I have rushed wildly into a new mess of it— I have realized an ideal25—have actually acquired a———small sofa!! which needs to be covered of course— I think I see your questioning look at this piece of news—“a sofa? just now above all—when there had been so much else done and to pay for! this little woman is falling away from her hitherto thrifty character and becom[i]ng downright extravagant.” Never fear! this little woman knows what she is about— The sofa costs you simply—nothing at all! neither have I sillily paid four or five pounds away for it out of my own private purse— It is a sofa which I have KNOWN ABOUT for the last year and half! The man who had it asked £4.10 for it—was willing to sell it without matrass or cushions for £2.10— I had a spare matrass which I could make to fit it and old pillows lying by of no use— But still £2.10 was more than I cared to lay out of my own money on the article—so I did a stroke of trade with him! the old green curtains of downstairs were become beastly and what was better superfluous—no use could be made of them unless died at the rate of 7d per yard. it was good to be rid of them that they might not fill the house with months as that sort of woolen things lying by always do— So I sold them to the broker for thirty shillings!—I do honestly think more than their value—but I higgled a full hour with him and the sofa had lain on his hands— So you perceive there remained only one pound to pay! and that I paid with Kitty Kirkpatricks sovereign26—which I had laid aside not to be appropriated to my own absolutely individual use! So there is a sofa created in a manner by the mere wish to have it—

Oh what nonsense clatter I do write to thee— Bless you dearest anyhow—

affectionately your own

Jane Carlyle