April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 12 June 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440612-JWC-JW-01; CL 18: 62-65


[ca. 12 June 1844]

Yes Babbie! I do need to “have my hair combed”—need it horribly! and—by the Lord Harry your hands shall do it before I am much older!—there now! that sounds like a positive promise I think, and the next thing will be to get it accomplished— I have put off writing till I could bring my longings and purposings to somethings like a fixed determination and now I tell you, that so far as one can be sure of anything in this Destiny-ruled world I make sure of seeing you in a fortnight or so from this date. What a pleasure to kiss my own Babbie again! to kiss everybody!— If I had once got over the journey—the going into your house again—and all that will at first remind me too sadly of my last fearful visit; I shall be very happy I am sure!—as happy as I can be under any possible circumstances.

You see my dear “the Reign of Terror” is raging itself wild here now! and I begin to be weary of it1—moi! and it begins to look a stupidity rather than a heroism in me to stay till my life is crushed out in it—seeing that my life is precious to many deserving persons besides myself. And then where on earth should I fly to, but just into the “bosom of my family”—of all that is left of family for me here on earth.

My Uncle's “tell her to come at once” has sounded in the ears of my heart ever since I heard it. And then it is so plainly “a duty” to go!—for I shall return after a week or two of your kindness, and of abnegation of worries, in a much more philosophic temper of mind, and more up to the necessary efforts and endurances of my lot of Man-of-Genius's-wife. I had resolved to keep quiet till Helen returned and then state my wish not in the shape of a request but of an intention. The disclosure however was hastened by a letter from Mrs Paulet. C saw it lying on the table and asked whose writing that was— “Mrs Paulets”—“what is it about, what does she want”?— “She wants me”— “Oh to visit her?— “Yes”— “And are you thinking to accept?” (in the same complaisant tone with which he volunteered to “take me to the Omnibus” on the way to Tynemouth) the opportunity was too good to be lost so I answered boldly— “Why, I should hardly think of going off simply to visit Mrs Paulet—but I do mean to go to see her when I am in Liverpool and I really purpose going to Liverpool so soon as Helen returns and the house is settled in its old course”— “Very well” said he rather shortly, there is nothing in the world to hinder you going when you please, and there is no use in looking so tragic about it.”— No more has been said—and I am not sure that he is calculating on my going for all this—but I am silently taking my measures—par exemple I went the other night (as it is necessary to give a weeks notice) to the Savings Bank to announce my intention of taking some money—for I shall feel much freer in my decisions when I am pleasing myself at my own expence—tho' you may think that such delicacy betwixt husband and wife is rather whimsical.

Helen arrived last night betwixt eleven and twelve— I had been doing all I could to “get up a sentiment”2 about her—at all events I was glad that things were going to return into the old course—which if not a perfect one had at least the advantage of continuance. So hearing her voice I ran out into the passage to “welcome her in my choicest mood”—but a Simoon could not have come over my cordiality with more withering influence than did the efluvia which emanated from her—of downright unmistakable gin! and at the first words she uttered I perceived her to be half-drunk—!!! “for Virtue ever is its own reward unless something very particular occur to prevent it”!— I returned to Carlyle in the parlour with a feeling of shock which I cannot describe to you—and he quoted German poetry, and asked “well what does it signify?”— Then I rung the bell and told the quiet well-conducted Maria to “give that woman some tea and send her to bed”— When I was taking off my own clothes Helen came up a little sobered—with my reception and I said to her at once “why in the name of God have you come home with gin in you”?— She professed her “regrets”—she had come from the steamboat in the same cab with a most respectable pair of old people who at parting had given her a glass of gin—and she “thought it would look so indiscreet not to take just a tasting of it”! I ordered her off to bed went to my own with a violent palpitation at my heart, did not fall asleep till four in the morning, and slept then only some half hour— In the morning Maria came as usual to open my shutters and seemed so kind and so sad that I felt quite sorry to think this good respectable soul must give place to such a little Blackgaurd— By and by came the little Blackgaurd however, washed and sorted up—expressing the daftest compunction for the “unfortunate thing”—and I suppose after all she had little—but then she knows that she can stand none— So after duly lecturing her there was no help for it but to allow her to begin to be happy— She seems as glad to get back as the other is sorry to go away— Poor Maria—she had been crying off and on for the last two days—certainly I have a wonderful luck for inspiring fervent passions to servant-maids! She is going to Blount the Chemist in Cheyne Walk3 this Maria which I am really glad of; I should have quite suffered to see her bundling off with her bits of bundles and boxes into unknown space! There I shall have my eye upon her and be cheered occasionally with the sight of her innocent good humoured face— But enough for today— I must set about getting my wardrobe in order to take, and my house in order to leave—for when one goes one never knows if one is ever to come back alive—One thing more—knowing as you now do my unchristian hours and ways in the matter of sleeping which makes me a sort of incompatible guest in a small house would it not be well that I found myself a bed out of doors, instead of plaguing you all to make room for me? I know when I come I always put somebody out of his or her bed and that is of itself an evil—and in summer what would it signify crossing a street or streets at night and recrossing it in the morning— Ponder this— Ever your loving Cousin J C

I enclose a letter which I take to be from no man but from James Baillies own unmentionable4