August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 15 February 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440215-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 268-271


[15 February 1844]

Dearest Babbie

If I had not given some sign of life at Maryland Street before receiving your last, I would have written on the instant to explain the phenomenon of the unknown address, which had caused your sympathizing little soul a quite needless disturbance. But Oh Babbie to think of your mistaking the handwriting of a cousin-german to the last reigning King of Poland—ci devant [heretofore] Chamberlain to the Emperor of Russia—Author of various works including a History of the Reformation in three volumes—a Polish noble, and popular member of the most aristocratic english society1 for Helen's! the maid-of-all-work's!— Babbie where were your eyes, not to see in those sprawling characters of his the carelessness of a Noble and Author—instead of the incapacity of a Maid-of-all-work?— Just as I had finished my letter to you that day two events came upon me within the same five minutes Count Krasinski and a bason of soup—the latter being decidedly the most essential at the moment I told Krasinski by way of taking off his attention from my physical operation, to fold and seal the letter for me—which done, he proposed with great glee to address it also—and I foreseeing nothing but a little pleasant stimulant to your curiosity, assented at the first word— So this is the history of the wonderful mystery!2

For the rest I do not ever give way—moi—like Harriet Martineau (in her Life in a sick room) to dreadful qualms of conscience on the ground that people “overrate my physical sufferings and give me more sympathy than I am in strict justice entitled to”!!3— I am always very thankful for sympathy and pocket all I get as my due, without calculation, or the slightest touch of remorse— And so the sympathy you bestowed on me under the idea of my having become too sick to address my own letter—may stand for my having been too sick to get any good of my life ever since the writing of it and for a good while before—with no children whatsoever, I am quite as puzzled as Goody two shoes “What to do”?4 How to make myself go to sleep before three or four in the morning—and then only for a few minutes at a stretch—or how to get up the necessary appetite for keeping soul and body together—I have the most perfect conviction that no medical advice could set me to rights—only time may do it if it like—but meanwhile— I am a-weary a-weary Sterlings carriage—a close one now, and very comfortable is a great temporal consolation to me under the existing circumstances he comes almost every day and gives me the option of driving out with him—and worries me as little as is “in the nature of the Beast” to do— Indeed he is much quieter generally, since he returned to putting out his superfluous energy in Times-Thundering5— All the while; I have to do the amiable to company as usual, and take all the principal bores off Carlyle and go about in doors, as if nothing ailed me—for as Carlyle has long since appropriated the chief right to raise an outcry—and put all his miseries into poetic language and as possession is nine points of law—it were in vain for me to take the field as a Complainer, even if much relief were to be found in that line, which I dont believe to be the case— So I say as little about my “Interior” as need be—only indulging myself in an occasion[al]6 miserere [have mercy] like the present to you—and sometimes a brief protest against “things in general” to Elizabeth—Mazzini sets one such an awful example of stocism in the physical that all the confidence in the world of his sympathetic nature one has not the face to say—“to be sick is miserable”7 in his presence— I have not seen him for a week and am anxious that he may come today—for his “affairs” were to be deciding themselves about this time—“Savoy's expedition” to be or not to be8 As I am really too stupid to write you either an amusing or edifying letter this day I send you a note from Dickens which is decidedly the former—and which you must return to me without showing it to anyone out of your own house—for it is in the highest degree indiscreet (god bless him)—the matter it alludes to was an absurd mistake of Thackerays who put five shillings into Robertsons hand one night in the idea that he was reduced to the last “extremity of Fate”!! and then (what was much more unexcusable) told Dickens and myself of the transaction, before witnesses in Mrs Macreadys Drawingroom!— The real fact of how the money was put into R's hands with certain mysterious words—and how R stared after “the odd mortal” as he ran away in total bewilderment as to what Thackeray designed him to do with the said shillings, and how he called next day to return them and ask the meaning—and found him “out”—and on the next day again and found him “gone to Paris”9—all that coming to my knowledge after, thro' the unconscious alms-receiver(!) himself—I thought it but fair towards him to set his case in the right light to Dickens who along with myself had heard the extraordinary charge— This note is his answer10

—Well I will not mind any more of Walter's clatters—but you are wrong I thinking in supposing he would have liked you to marry Mr Chrystal—he seemed to me to think you would be THROWN away on that hypothesis ALSO. I have all Geraldines M.S. now and by the powers it is a wonderful book!11— Decidedly the CLEVEREST english-womans-book I ever remember to have read

Ever your own /