April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 14 May 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440514-JWC-JW-01; CL 18: 43-47


Tuesday night [14 May 1844]

Dearest Babbie after a day of “unmitigated” bustle, commencing at half after five in the morning, I find myself the only living soul in the house—unless you choose to count the cat as another—so I had better while the play is good scribble you a few distracted lines. Since plainly I shall not hear from you again till I do— In the beginning of last week arrived Miss Bölte with her boxes. When a person asks one to seek her a lodging knowing that one possesses a spare bed, nay having actually enjoyed the benefit of one's spare bed before, it is equvalent-to-saying “will you take me in”? I would much rather not under the present circumstances: for the change of dynasty was to take place today in my kitchen, and a visitor at such awful seasons is a nuisance—not to say that this little german, tho' a good creature, and “not without sense,” is at no time an interesting companion for me—she will sit hours together, especially when I am doing company, staring at me with her horn-eyes, and speaking never a word, till I feel somehow as if I were fallen under the power of a bad dream! but then—she is in a strange land—and if I did not take her in1 certainly no one else would—and to send the poor little thing away to waste her small substance2 in a lod[g]ing3 house—bah—“that damned thing called the milk of human kindness”4 is not all drained out of me yet, tho very much diminished—so—there was no saying anything else but—“come here”— And now that she is come she seems to be in no hurry to go—instead of as I expected hastening to form some decision before Mrs Bullers arrival5—she continues speculating and “trusting to Providence to arrange something for her” tho' Mrs Buller must have been now in Chester Place some two days— She has got some hope of being taken for governess by Lady Graham (Sir James's Wife)6 and she waits till Lady G. waits on Mrs Buller and till Mrs Buller WRITES to her here the result—instead of as were more natural going to ask it! Meanwhile there has been the Devils own scrubbing and scowering going on— Helen was resolved that if the house should not have been clean for a year it should shine immaculate on the coming home of the new woman7— And then Helen has been in such a—temper!—not an ILL temper so much as a loverlike fit of jealousy and suspicion!—when she found that I had no idea of puddling on with Martha or any of her friends as she had flattered herself—so that I might be supremely sensible of the greatness of her loss and the importance of getting her back.—a new light seemed to dawn upon her scotch journey! but when she learned by reading a note from Mrs Rich which I had PURPOSELY left on the table that a very desirable person was willing to come to me for a month or as many of them as I pleased—she went off into a—sort of hysterics—told me she supposed I “wished for a change”—and the sooner she was out of the house for good and all I would be the better pleased— I told her that if she would like to remain in Scotland her going could never have been better timed as the new woman I had got was the nicest looking servant and had the best character of any one I had ever had to do with in London— She rushed down stairs exclaiming “Oh I see—I had better not wait till next week—I can be ready tomorrow for that matter”! About five minutes after—literally it was not more—she came tripping back all smiles of good humour and asked me— —how poor Mrs Wedgwood was? The creature has no more sense in her head than a flea!—but then she WILL stay—for all her distracted flea-skippings always end in that—and how can I put her away unless she does something unbearable— I am no judge of countenance if the woman who has come today be not a much more rational and capable Servant than Helen—and not inferior to her in kindness of heart—already I—even I—with all my horror of newcomers feel perfectly reconciled to say Maria and to see her moving about—but if she were the most perfect of her species I should feel under a necessity to let her go at the end of the month—and take back the flea—because—the creature would suffer I am quite sure as much as ever husband suffered when his wife took up with another man—she would almost inevitably take to drinking again—and I should have the ruin of her ever on my conscience and should probably be punished even in this world by having those I wished to keep leave me! You will laugh at this grave view of the subject—but it is fixed so in my head—and I cannot help myself.— She is gone however I could easily see with a violent apprehension that I may change my mind about taking her back—and the last effort she made to assure herself was most curious; When she was taking leave of me this morning at six—with the face of a person going to be hanged rather than going on a lark—she said fixing a searching look on me “May I take the second volume of that book with me?” “What book in the name of goodness—?” “Oh ye ken the nice book—(she did not know the name of it—) the one I had the first volume of—”! It was the Arabian Nights— Oh certainly said I—and she brightened up— — You could see as clearly as if she had spoken it that her idea was—I would not have lent her the book but in the prospect of her bringing it back! The whole four volumes cost me 3/6!! So off she went with the Arabian Nights vol II leaving her saving's bank book—the receipt for all her earthly property—lying on a kitchen chair!!! It was quite a novelty for me to sort the room and get the breakfast—I have been so lazy this long while—the new woman was not to come till midday—Martha was called in after breakfast and has been innitiating the new woman into all the mysteries of the coal hole and other spots unknown to my unhousewife—soul—I do hate the subterranean—shall never be a good housewife again until I have a kitchen on the ground floor—I feel always going down to Tophet8 in descending those stairs! Bölte sat thro it all and stared—Carlyle looked as if the day of Judgement were at hand—and in this state of things arrived the Sterling carriage to take me an airing— —a practical irony Mazzini would say— I sent away the carriage telling the coachman I could not go out for two hours—and had then to go to the Rail way Hotel—(I had received a letter from Jeffrey who being too ill to come here wished to meet me there on his way to Scotland and I had taken it into my head that he (Jeffrey) would die soon—and that if I did not go I would repent it—in two hours back came the carriage with Sterling in it to take me to Euston Square—sensible for once— So I have been to take leave of my most constant and tender of all lovers9—when I came home I found that the milkman and other miscellanious characters had been and had thrown the new woman, and Martha—and even Bölte who was appealed to in vain—into the greatest human perplexity for I had left no directions what was to be taken in!!! I also found a small boy sitting in the lobby waiting for 3/6 “for a stock” to Carlyle— Nobody had dared to pay him Now Carlyle is gone to the Mackenzies10 where I should also have gone and Bölte is teaing with the Smiths in Cheyne Walk11 and Martha is gone home to her bed and the new woman is gone to fetch some of her luggage and the evening and the morning were the first day. I am weary weary—and shall not get to bed till after midnight—for tho' the new woman says she can make porridge I fancy it much too good news to be true—

Plattnauer did come back—(I saw him out of the carriage to day that is why I [am]12 bringing him in so oddly)—he told me that Elizabeth when he was expressing his astonishment to her13—turned to Pepoli who is going with her to Kirkaldy in July—and said in an encouraging way—“I assure you Carlo you may travel from one end of Scotland to the other without meeting anything of the sort”— —great comfort for the modest Carlo no doubt! He told me also being unusually communicative that on his remarking that Count Krasinski was preposterously fond of Mrs Carlyle Elizabeth said dryly “Oh all THE MEN are that”!! Slightly splenetic dont you think? and monstrously stupid if it was meant to warn Plattnauer— But now my fingers are tired—not my head—for I have not used it at this writing love and kisses to all and sundry

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