April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 13 April 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440413-JWC-JW-01; CL 18: 10-13


[13 April 1844]

Dearest Babbie

I am sitting here awaiting Lord Jeffrey who came to town yesterday—he may be here in five minutes or not for a couple of hours—anyhow I may as well be turning my hand with the fleeting moments as they pass—tho' under the circumstances you are likely to find me “very much detached”—

Often in these weeks I have had accesses of Carlyles mania for “a house in some perfect solitude” (only not Craigenputtoch): there are so many interruptions to fritter away one's time in this no 5 Cheyne Row that my serious conscience begins to protest against them— “When the Devil was sick, the Devil a Monk would be— The Devil got well and the Devil a monk was he.”1 But—I have not got well yet—and do not feel as if I should ever get well enough to relish my existence of Lions-wife—especially so long as the Lions self will not take his part on his own shoulders but rolls over that also on mine— Decidedly I begin to be weary of doing all the bores—while if ever perchance an exceptional human being drops in that one is carried off to smoke in the garden or talk tête à tête in the Library!— Last night for example we had here the Captain Mackenzie who played such a distinguished part in the Affghanstan affairs—a real Hero and no mistake—and along with him his wife and wife's sister2—it is like listening to the Mysteries of Udolpho3 in the first blush of one's youthful enthusiasm to hear that Mackenzie telling “the dangers he had passed”4—but not a word of his was I priveleged with hearing last night—while Carlyle talked with him and John Carlyle with the clever little wife's Sister I was left with the deaf young wife “all to myself”—who adds to the misfortune of being excessively deaf a perpetual need of hearing what is going on—so that by the time they were all got out of the house—my throat was too sore “for anything”5

We have had a sad fright with John Sterling this week—his Father and Anthony were sent for express—the messenger giving them small hope of finding him alive—he had again broken a bloodvessel6— — Old Sterling wrote to me on Thursday morning that he would be at his own house that evening for two hours to get “a change of linen”— I went off there at the appointed time and found he had not come—the natural inference to be drawn under the circumstances was that John had relapsed and the slightest relapse the Dr had declared must be fatal.— Mrs Anthony also—took this view of his nonappearance—so that we had all an anxious night—next morning early I rushed off with a fine headach to see whether he had yet come—no—then on to Mrs Anthony whom I found just reading a letter from her husband to say not that John was worse but that the poor old Thunderer himself had been seized with giddiness in the head—and had been cupped and put to bed— This morning however I have a letter from himself again making less of his own illness than usual and declaring John better decidedly—tho not yet out of danger— However he has made so many miraculous recoveries that we persuade ourselves he will get thro this time also now that the hemorrhage is stopt Nobody of mine is thriving just now— Mrs Wedgewood has gone to the sea side with “inflammation hanging on her lungs” Three attacks of Influenza before and after her late confinement7 have alarmingly wasted her strength— Mazzini looks as if he had been boiled in tea leaves, and is sad beyond all words to say. These disturbances in Italy, that will not cease and can not come to anything worth while, keep him in a perpetual slow fever— He has been for the last two months ready to start at a moments notice to throw himself into any part of the movement where anything positive, no matter with what success, seemed in the way of being done—but these prospects of revolution so magnificent at a few weeks distance always melt into nonentity like the gardens of Adonis on a nearer approach8 meanwhile he is to be deeply pitied—for however useless his feelings may be to himself or his country they are natural and noble. Darwin is worried about Mrs Wedgwood—“not up to much”—the worst he ever admits of himsef9— Robertson the last time he was here seemed to have the croup— Elizabeth Pepoli's old man10 is going out of his mind—if ever he had one—and they have much trouble in keeping him out of mischief—

— Plattnauer however goes on bravely—here every Sunday morning wet day and dry—a most splendid specimen of German Obstinacy—in the good sense of the word. I asked him one day how it was that he had made his place so good in this house in spite of everything—and he answered very coolly—“because I am never turned back by difficulties and because you like that sort of perseverance”! Very true.

—Carlyle works away at his Cromwell without a word said of the country as yet— Of course we shall have a vast deal of mental locomotion before any material mile is travelled—nay I should not wonder if after his last years experiences11 he should decide on staying in London this summer—it is possible—the more so that I am so eager to be out of it—

Helen (of all people in the world) has set her heart on going out of town!—the foolish little thing is quite determined on spending all the money I have with difficulty got her to lay up in the Savings Bank on a visit to Kirkaldy Glasgow and Dundee in all which places she has bethought her of very dear relatives— I think the project unwise—more of the lark than the voice of natural affection in it!—however if she will go—she must have her humour out—and I must seek myself some substitute for a month or so—

I trust in heaven that small specimen of Glasgow humanity12 which I have sent you will turn out a good bargain in the long run— Make her my compliments and say that I hope to find her going on bravely when I come—it is good to keep up expectations of that innocent and affectionate sort— I found most of my hopes of her on the power of attaching herself which I read in her face and voice and in the few words that fell from her when I gave her my parting benediction— If you exploiter [take advantage of] that judiciously I think you will be able to teach her young idea to shoot any way you would have13

Bless you dearest love Here comes—love to them all— your own Jane Carlyle 14