April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 6 May 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440506-JWC-JW-01; CL 18: 37-40


[6 May 1844]

Dearest Babbie

My life for some days back has been “as good as a play” (to use Mrs Macready's favourite simile) or one might even compare it to a novel by Mrs Crow1—futile in the extreme, but so full of plot that the interest (such as it is) has never been allowed to lag— Take Friday forenoon for Speciment (Robert Macturk).2 I sat down to write to you and while I was still seeking a pen that would write, “there came to pass”3 a knock long, lugubrious, distracted, which, skilled as I am in the physiognomy of door—knocks, I knew not what to make of— On the door being opened “a heavy Body” walked in, of which I heard Helen enquire “Your name if you please Sir?” “I have no name” was the answer, in a sepulchral voice—“Sarv'd her right”; for she knew it well enough without asking—as appeared by her flinging the door open and announcing “Mr Garnier” I rose to give him a cordial welcome for I had not seen poor Garnier these many months and heard in the interim a vague rumour of his being in Prison. But when I saw the figure he was I could scarcely swallow down a scream. He looked bigger than ever—blown up in fact,—his grizzled hair hung horrible about his head like a mop,—his face, hands, and clothes were in the last stage of dirtiness—his shirt all open in the breast disclosed “what shall I say? strange things upon my honour,”—and the rolling of his eyes clearly indicated him to be as mad as a march hare!— I concealed my dismay as well as I could and bade him sit down and began asking him the usual questions. If his look had frightened me his speech frightened me still more— “He had discovered a nest of murderers in the court where he lived, he knew of twelve who had been murdered by them—“it was quite a Burking business”—he had heard the screams of a woman in the night, had looked from his window and seen the murderers, of whom his Landlord was the chief, hide the dead body in a dilapidated house— there were blood stains on the floor next morning and in spite of all this the Authorities would not enquire into it—disbelieved his word—his—damnation! He who in his own country had fought twenty five duels to preserve his honour from stain (that's a fact) was to be insulted with impunity by the English—no by God— he had sworn to be revenged—the blood of the whole english nation should wash out his disgrace! (pleasant talking!) Henceforth he was the deadly foe of every Englishman!— “Well said I trying to seem unconcerned tho' my eyes were intently watching his least movement—“I am not an Englishman, but a Scotch-woman, so you need not look so furious at me”—“I have done for Mazzini however” said he—and that is so far good”!!! Then suddenly turning on me the most benevolent eyes in the world he said with a quite paternal tenderness “you look better than when I saw you last! a little better, but always pale”!— No wonder that I was pale just then!—and then the tears rushed over his face and he turned his face quite away from me as if I were awakening some consciousness in him which he could not endure—after half an hour of the bloodiest talk during which I had the fortitude not to send for Carlyle—his mad fury seeming to have men rather than women for its object—and my heart really quaking at what might happen if I brought a Man to my rescue) he rose and stalked to the door—there he stopt and held out his hand to me turning his head in the opposite direction—I gave him my hand boldly—which I had soon reason to repent for he crushed it in his as if he meant to reduce it to a jelly. I screamed and fell half fainting over his arm—and tho' I cried several times Oh for Gods sake! he held it at least a minute in this horrible grasp. When he quitted it I held it up all red and swelled— He looked at it for a moment with a devilish satisfaction—then his expression suddenly changing he said kindly “Oh you are hurt—Well I am sorry— but IT WAS NECESSARY”!—then he walked slowly away— Heaven preserve me from any more such necessities! My hand could take no hold of anything for many hours after and it is not quite right yet—

He had not been gone ten minutes when Mazzini came to show that he had not been “done for” in the worst sense of the words—and while we were still gravely discussing poor Garnier State and consulting what could be done for him—in the way of discovering his Mother—or getting him put up before he does any mischief which he is in the fair of—Old Sterling came and finding M. here and something grave going on betwixt us HE was seized with a fit of “temporary insanity” in which he permitted himself to utter an impertinence, whereupon my humour being already jarred I told him that he was an old fool and had better get about his business—not exactly in THESE words, but that was the purport— So with a look which Mazzini said was like that of a wild beast— I was not heeding for my part how he looked— he started up and took what was intended to sound—as an everlasting farewell!

“Will he ever come back”? said M— as the door was slamed behind the irritated John4—“Yes said I the day after tomorrow at furthest—he will rage out today—sulk tomorrow—and come back on his knees (figuratively speaking) the day after—and so it was—or rather he did better for he sent me the carriage yesterday with a touching message that he was too ill to write or go out—but sent me the carriage for my own use—of course I sent it back again unused—for I do not forgive him all at once in these cases and besides when it came—Plattnauer was here.

Then after Sterling, came Robertson whose normal state is a certain insanity—I rung for boiling water and made myself some Brandy negus to brace my shattered nerves—then I went out with Mazzini and him seeing they were determined to sit each other out, and not choosing to remain quietly the victim of this conspiracy—on coming in there was a boy leading about a horse before the door and I found Arthur Helps lying on my sofa Asleep!!!

And so on! The air is full of madness at present— I could give you more extraordinary instances than the above out of my own experience—but one cannot write everything— You have read in the newspaper our murder5 I hope— You cannot think how much more interesting a murder becomes from being committed at ones own door—

I saw a letter from your house the other day to Elizabeth. It was to the following effect

Cowntess Puplow

I am arrived here saf I hope you dow not tak it amis that I have not written to you—i have been very busy since I cam to this town— I am very comfortable—thy are very kind to me—but I have a good deal of wark. Tell cownt Sartorcow that I will write to him when I can find time—

Your abliged

Margaret. 6—”

the hand was strong—and flowing— Elizabeth dreaded that it was a mans—bu[t] I comforted her with the assurance that the spelling which I have not at all done justice to could be nobody's but the girls own—

I was glad to hear that you had a prospect of seeing Mrs Paulet again I was just going to have asked if she had melted into thin air—

But I must conclude for several reasons—the best that my letter is already long enough Kindest love and kisses to them all

Ever your own

Jane Carlyle

Has my Uncle read Men and Women by the Authoress of Susan Hoply Do get him both these books if he have not seen them the[y] are by Mrs Crow the foolish woman in the body that ever was and the most amusing Novelist

Late thanks for your two long letters! I forgot the address Margaret gave Cowntes Puplow—Mr Welch's 20 MERRYLAND Street