April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 7 October 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441007-JWC-HW-01; CL 18: 231-233


Monday [7 October 1844]

Dearest Helen

I swear to you I am almost quite sick of being alive—it is such a perpetual strain upon the spirits!

Whether one be cleaning houses for ungrateful men, or talking one-self hoarse to exacting visitors, or wasting one's sweetness on the desert air!1 all is weariness and vexation of spirit!2 I really wish I were—not “where Helen lies”3—but with these other little wretches at Auchertool4—out of sight and out of mind—“well let alone” (as W. Grahame of Burnswark used to recommend that the fire should be)— That wish however has no sense in it—so far as regards Auchertool—even there, in that remote region people have to make calls and eat dinners it seems—and if one must be sold off for the benefit of “others” as well be it in the Capital wholesale and at full cost—as by retail in the Provinces for an old song!— “Thanks God” however there has been no new tragedy in my life since I wrote to you—only excessive worry and hurry—in the midst of this—rendered more wearing by a long spell of sleeplessness there walked in on Wednesday morning last Mrs Paulet with her husband and daughter—they staid three days in London and good part of the time she passed with me— I wished I had been in better trim for her—but such as I was I still got good of her sunny looks and stirring words—

She saw here Mazzini much to her contentment—and I think also to his— I have not seen him since to hear all he thought of her but I am sure he liked her by this token—that he talked to her a good deal instead of sitting staring at her with his great black eyes—the only notice which he usually bestows on new people. Nay, heaven knows how, they fell within the first ten minutes into an animated discussion on Love—of all topics! I taking a trifling part, according to ability— I am not aware that any new light was thrown by any of us on this interesting subject—tho many pertinent observations were made—as for example this of Mazzini “Woman is always desiring to be loved, Man rather to love”—if so one can but admit that Man has chosen the better part, “upon my honour”— She saw also Old Sterling Bishop Terrot and the Count Krasinski—all of whom I must candidly confessed seemed rather startled than charmed with the beautiful Phenomenon— Old Sterling indeed passed the subsequent night as he afterwards informed me in questioning himself “how it was that being indisputably pretty, witty, good humoured, and gracious, one nevertheless could not fall in love with her”? the reason I should have fancied plain enough—without need of the clairvoyance of a sleepless night—and to lie simply in “ones” seventy four years of age!—with the additional fact that having just lost by death the noblest of sons “one” might have had something else to think of than falling in love with other mens wives—but he flattered himself to have found a more comfortable solution of the grande mistero [great mystery] and what think you it was?—“her face was too exclusively intellectual”!! Oh the thrice grained Goose! As if any woman's face was ever too exclusively intellectual and as if Mrs Paulets particular face had not—what shall I say?—decidedly a dash of the improper—very lovable ‘improper’ I admit—but still something that would bid a man who loved her—in spite of the glaring fact of a Mr Paulet—not utterly despair—provided he were a man after her own heart— which being not easy to find—poor Mr Paulet make5 keep himself easy. Darwin is come back missed her by half an hour which was a pity—one likes a person one likes to know the people one likes—till that is the case there is always a certain extraneousness about them the new friend I mean—

By the way—or rather by the direct—Mrs Paulet seems to have a real hearty regard for you—Babbie also she likes—but you I think suit her best— Babbie's stillness has indeed no affinity with her animated manner of being and she admires her accordingly as one admires “the sleeping beauty” of the fairy tale— I tell you this not as a mere insipid piece of compliment—but as a practical hint—one can always get on better with people when we have—a clear notion how they feel towards us— And now tho' late thanks for your speedy and amusing letter—another will be gratefully received

Do kiss my Uncle in some extraordinary manner to make him sensible the kiss comes from me Love to the morning star6—poor little demoralized angel—fallen star—is it always as lazy at the breakfast table as ever?— Tell her it is “never too late to mend”—and that “early to bed and early to rise is the way to be healthy and happy and wise—

Will you remember me kindly to the Martins—poor Mrs Martin does not seem in a flourishing way—it is hard that her health should fail just when her worldly affairs begin to look promising about her— without health there is no power of enjoying joy

God keep you dearest Helen and all of you— I wonder when I shall have another long bed—talk with you—not in this house will that ever take place—for here no one must stir or whisper even, after being deposited in their own rooms— If Carlyle were even to suspect you were combing your hair after HE was gone to bed he would not be able to go to sleep—not he—he would rise and smoke! But you will accommodate yourself to the caprices of a house of Genius

But there is four striking Adieu your affectionate