August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 2 January 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440102-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 231-232


Tuesday [2 January 1844]

I am glad to see dearest Babbie that there is a revival in your moral department since you got back into the atmosphere of home—that you write to me oftener and longer—and more like a Babbie whose wits had not all gone “a-woolgathering”—in a windy day! But you must continue in this praiseworthy course for a while to come, before I can recover that implicit belief in your virtue (for virtue is writing to me, is it not?) which made you so long the comfort of my life—my Consuelo! 1

This is washing-day: and further, the ground is covered with snow and further I have a headach. Better to have waited till tomorrow so far as you are concerned— But Carlyle told me last night “to be sure when I wrote to Liverpool tomorrow (he supposes I write every day it would seem) to send a message for Walter Macgregor—it went much against his conscience to plague Walter, in the midst of the complexities which seemed to be thickening and darkening around him, with speech about tobacco—but really it was essential to the comfort of his (Carlyle's) existence that Walter should be made aware that his good tobacco was entirely done and none to be got here for money which was fit for a human being to smoke—ergo, if Walter would send him some of the right sort as soon as convenient (anglice: possible) it would be esteemed the highest favour—he was not to wait for opportunities but send it by railway at once”—“dam the expence” of carriage where anything so vital as tobacco is concerned. Now will you give this message to Walter not in the phraseology in which I have given it but as courteously and modestly as your sweet lips will know how We had a most quiet newyears day—I saw nobody but Mazzini who came thro the snow to be my first foot2—and my first words of thanks were—“What on earth could tempt you to come out in a day like this.”— He looked most pitiable with big drops of sleet hanging from the ends of his mustache Helen went to a party in the evening! At Chalmers's3— There were twenty to dine with the family—(in a room the same size as ours!) and nine friends of the servants in the kitchen!—ecco la combinazione [what a combination]! I asked Helen what they did—Oh says she “it was just a sort of guddle [muddle] of a thing—all eating and drinking and no fun at all”—a pretty good discription of most dinners—“three of the servants visitors were kept all the time “washing and polishing glasses for upstairs”! I ought in gratitude to say however that even I who am superstitious about the beginnings of newyears—who watch all their outs and ins as the Roman Augurs did the flight of birds had reason to be satisfied with yesterday—it brought me nobody but Mazzini—it brought me a good long letter from my Babbie with another as long from Miss Donaldson bearing a great postmark Haddington—so plain and large that one would have said it had been stamped in that particular way for my express behoof—and in the morning when I spring out of bed half asleep—the room all dark—on hearing Carlyle go down I was received into the arms of—Helen!—saluted with two hearty smacks on my two cheeks!—while an immense gingerbread cake—which she had had baked more gingery than usual to suit my taste was thrust into the breast of my night shift—and my whole room was filled with a most savoury smell of ginger bread—from this delicate attention you will perceive she is very good just now—indeed since the fright she got last spring4 she has done her uttermost to keep a guard on her temper—and has on the whole behaved very well— Then on my toilet I found a hair-brush and redd (as they call it in Annandale anglice Comb—) placed there the night before by Carlyle—but such a brush and comb as never were in my possession before—they are best described in Helen's words who declared them to be “most noble” the comb is tortoise shell—the brush—Oh Heavens!—it is the size and shape of an ordinary pancake!—might have been made on purpose for Goliath of Gath!5—the bristles are at least an inch and half deep—and you would say at first sight that it was some instrument of torture! I do wish it had been about one fourth of the size but Carlyle has just one rule in buying anything to buy what is the best that is the dearest and his meaning was so kind that I must show my sense of it in learning to wield this tremendous implement—

I am glad of the hope you hold out of our seeing Walter—tell him to be sure and come straight here—and to warn me that I may have his bed well warmed. Love to them all—my head is very bad—and I must stop.

Your affectionate /