January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 19 April 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450400-JWC-JW-01; CL 19: 58-60


[mid-April? 1845]

Dearest Babbie

I said that I would write yesterday good willing but god was not willing and the manner of it was thus—on the preceding night I had five grains of mercury (!) introduced into my interior by mistake—instead of one half grain the quantity I am in the habit of taking at one time—and which is quite enough “for anything”1— So much for my husbands false refinement! I had been wretchedly bilious for some days and sent him to Alsop's2 for my blue pills—he also being in the practise of getting pills there—of five grains—which he swallows from time to time “in werra desperation” (as you know) and in fellowship with an ocean of Castor oil—the pills came and I swallowed one; merely wondering why they had sent me only three instead of my customary dozen—but ten minutes after when I became deadly sick I understood at once how it was Carlyle frankly admitted it was quite likely there had been a mistake—“when he went into the shop a gentleman was with Alsop and he did not like to say send the blue pills for Mrs Carlyle but said instead send the blue pills for our house— Alsop of course had prefered the masculine gender as grammatically bound to do—and so was delicacy another person's ‘own reward’ All yesterday I was sick enough you may fancy—for I felt too weak to deliver myself from the confounded stuff thro a great doze of physic—I thought it safest to let it work away there in the unfortunate interior of me until it had its humour out— Carlyle comforted himself and tried to comfort me, by suggesting that “it might possibly do me a great deal of good in the long run”! It may be “strongly doubted” (as they say in Edinr)3—anyhow it has not begun to do me good yet—for today I am still passably sick and the pill and the new onslaught of frost at the same moment are making me as miserable as Mrs Anthony Sterling (my only enemy) could wish! But I write not to seem a promisebreaker, so long as I can help myself—

Well my Dear just think of my having had a dinner-party last Sunday! the botheration of which was in fact the cause of feeling the besoin [need] of blue pill— John Fergus and Miss Jessy4 were in town and Carlyle asked them “quite promiscuously” to dine— —Miss Jessy “had a cold” but John would come “with pleasure”— I was very much shocked—under the circumstances—but proceed to meet the emergency as I best could—schemed a dinner, had the ingredients provided—and asked Darwin for party— The acceptance of Darwin arrived on Saturday along with John Fergus's excuse— He had bethought him, like a good soul as he is, that I was not well enough to be plagued with a dinner and so, on the plea of next to nothing, he wrote that he could not come to dine but that he and Miss Jessy would come in the evening—if I would not give myself the smallest trouble for them—the trouble alas was already under way—the dinner had been got in and Darwin asked and coming—so “who was to be got to meet Darwin?”—“perfectly unnecessary to get anybody” said I—but no Carlyle had a fixed idea of giving a dinner—exactly at the wrong moment—and so at ten oclock of Saturday night Helen was despatched with an invitation to Arthur Helps—worse and worse—for Arthur Helps does his dinners in immense style—and the idea of dining him was rather awful for me— He accepted of course—then people came without intermission from one oclock on Sunday until the dinner hour five—so that I could not so much as get the room cleared for the dinner table to be set out until half an hour after Darwin and Helps were come to eat their dinner and at the last moment Carlyle invited John and Monkton Milnes5 of all people in the world to stay and assist at the dinner which seemed never likely to be served up!! I was never so nearly upset by a household-complication in my life before and how Helen got thro with it even with the aid of Martha (!) I have no comprehension—everybody did get dined at last better or worse—and the novelty of the style I dare say rather charmed Milnes and Helps blasés on fine dinners Certainly Milnes tho I have seen him give himself the most insolent airs at great peoples tables was modestys self here— And as Carlyle feeling the whole thing to be his own most voluntary act talked like an Angel—and there was always my uncle's Madeira excellent;—whatever else might be humanly imperfect—the whole thing went off like a sort of firework—crackers of wit exploding in every direction—Darwin spoke only in epigrams—Carlyle in flights of Genius—Milnes in poetical paradoxes—Helps in witicisms, rather small, but perfectly well turned—and John Carlyle did his best to ressemble Solomon— As for myself—you may fancy what the preliminary fret made of me!— Shu-ping-sing6 was a spooney in comparison—every opening of my lips was sensibly felt—and Miss Jessy must have gone away with the feeling that she had seen for the first time in her life a woman of superhuman intelligence! Pity that one can only be superhumanly intelligent, in dadding [tattering] one's nerves a-breed [to pieces]!7— I went to bed feeling a decided tendency to fly—and lay the whole night thro without once closing my eyes— By breakfast time I had got instead of the inclination to fly, a horrible headach—and so I have been bilious ever since—and needed blue pill—and got it!

There is no paper in the house so I am writing on backs of notes8—and have written already more than seemed possible when I commenced— I have something to tell you—what shall I say—strange! upon my honour—but not at this writing for several reasons— Love to all—kisses especially to my Uncle—

Ever your own /