April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 22 August 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440822-JWC-JW-01; CL 18: 190-192


[22 August 1844]

Poor dear Babbie!

Sitting there a martyr to toothach and all that—and not even receiving the slender consolation of frequent letters from me! But oh my Babbie tho' I have had no toothach, nor any physical thing absolutely forbiding me to write; still I have not been “at ease in Zion”—moi! I have had so much writing to do about that poor man,1 and worse than any concei[v]able amount of w[r]iting2 so much mortal anxiety about him—that my conscience really does not reproach me for having failed in writing to you—tho I saw that you were not well even in the former letter—and tho I was anxious for your next to show me that you were better— From all that you say Babbie I am convinced that you are excessively bilious—that is always the effect which showerbathing produces on me under bilious conditions—indeed for long I have imputed the most of your symptoms to some derangement of the liver—and for this the only effectual cure is blue-pill— I speak “as one having authority”3 for I know both by observation and experience more about this sort of illness than most Drs do— I would not exactly have you commence a long course of blue-pill on my recommendation—but I would have you consult James Carson whether he does not find it the best thing for you— Mr Neil4 attends simply to your ears and your throat—as if a humanbeing were made up of entirely detached members—that is stupid— All these ailments are but symptoms of some central-ailment—to find which and cure it would be the business of a right Doctor— Mind what I am saying to you dear for depend upon it there is sense in this—

For my poor friend: thank God he is saved!—and the Blessing of Heaven be on the head of that good old Sir Alexander Morison, who has treated him so skillfully and so humanely—in other hands I have not a doubt but that he would have been driven into permanent insanity—for this man is the only real physician I have seen since I lost my own Father! and the case was most critical— How so many of his friends had discovered his state of mind—and yet not one of them discovered till I did where he was, I am perfectly at a loss to comprehend—especially as they are all at a distance—not a soul interested in him left in London at this moment except myself—but the fact is that one after another has written in the most feverish anxiety to me— One—the most truly concerned to judge from her letters had been refered to me by a gentleman now in Dublin! To her only of these unknown persons have I written with perfect openness—for I judge her by her letters to me in spite of her emblazoned coats of arms and all her magnificencies to be a really warmhearted, helpful woman a very woman tho' a Marchioness!5 (hush) With the others I have staved off “the particulars” which they asked, and confined myself to assurances of his being under the best care and rapidly recovering— But no sooner do I answer than they write again—and—I am tired in fact—

But he will soon be able to answer their enquiries himself— Already he has written to me a long excellent noble letter!—and what is more I have seen him!— When I went to the Asylum the day before yesterday—the Dr6 invited me to judge of his improvement for myself—declaring that he would now be the better for seeing me— I wondered if the Dr knew well what he was saying—but I followed him into the garden, trusting in God,—where my poor friend was sitting on a bench apart from all the other patients— He recognized me a great way off—further off than I could possibly have recognized him except by his starting up, passing his fingers thro his hair (the only little movement of human weakness he betrayed)—and then with a free erect air hastening towards me—no awkwardness—hardly any surprise—but such joy!— He was dreadfully pale and in the uncouth dress of the Establishment so that the first look was sad enough—but in a minute we were walking arm in arm thro the garden as if we had met after our long separation under the most natural circumstances in the world. During all the half hour that I staid with him he was perfectly rational and composed—(more so I am afraid than myself for I was “too happy for anything”—) recognizing his actual position with a mixture of stoicism and humour—which rendered it rather absurd than horrible—nothing could be more manly and dignified than his whole way of taking the thing—even to his last action—insisting dressed as he was— in attending me to the carriage in which he knew Darwin was waiting for me, and apologizing to him in the most courteous manner for having detained me so long.

You may fancy Darwins astonishment!— And now having told you this good news I must—answer a letter from Anthony Sterling at prese[n]t7 in the Isle of Wight— The Dr promises that my friend will be dismissed cured very shortly—but he needs at present to be kept where he is till the excitabil[it]y remaining from his illness be calmed down— love to all and kisses— My dear Uncle why cannot I give him one myself—

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