January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO JOHN FORSTER ; 17 April 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450417-JWC-JF-01; CL 19: 55-56


Ah my dear Mr Forster!

It was a wretched affair that trial! You know which I mean? not Hocker's or Tawell's of course—but—Fraser V. Bagley!1

I have never been entirely my own woman since; a shock was then given to my ‘Unconscious’ Moral Being which I have not recovered from to this hour! Yes indeed; that accursed Trial threw light for me on several things—especially on the questionableness of ‘Chambers’ and on the danger of calling anyone “My Dear”—before the nursemaid! For visiting one's Husband's friend at his chambers, or saying to him “My Dear” in the course of nature; a nineteenth-century married woman, it seems, tho “well up in years,”—“notorious for her house-keeping tendencies” “with no personal attractions to speak of,”—“always mending her own or her husband's clothes in the evenings” (my own signalement [description] to a nicety) may be dragged before a Jury of her Countrymen and narrowly miss getting herself divorced!2 This state of things weighs even on my insubordinate spirit, I can tell you, and clips my wings of impulse, in every direction: but for this detestable state of things, I should have gone, now that I am able, to return your invalid visit; seeing that my Husband is too much occupied with the Dead just now to bestow a moment on the Living. For your reproaches that day touched—not my Conscience—my Conscience could take no blame to itself—but my “finer sensibilities of the Heart.”3 Not knowing that I had been ill all these months as well as yourself, and not knowing that my Husband had “had a Devil” and withal, that we had heard only a vague tradition of your illness and were believing you long ago recovered; it was decidedly very good of you to come and ask the meaning of our apparent indifference. “With my soul on the pen”—as Mazzini says, I declare that if we ever look to not care for you, it is a pure deceptio visus [deceptive appearance]. My Husband may be little—too little demonstrative in a general way but at all rates he is very steadfast in his friendships, and as for me I am a little model of Constancy and all the Virtues!——including the rare gift of knowing the value of my blessings before I have lost them—Ergo

If you be still driving out for exercise, please remember your promise to come again. I am sure I must have accumulated an immense number of amusing things during the winter that it would do your heart good to hear—

Meanwhile all good be with you, and pray do not fail to observe how much my handwriting is improved in point of legibility. I have not been to a writing school, not yet gone thro a regular course of Copy-Lines at home. The improvement has been worked in a manner much more suitable to my impatient temper—by the short and simple means of investing one Sovereign of my private Capital in a gold pen with a platina point! Upon my honour the thing writes of itself! And spells too better or worse.4 And then the Maker assures me that it will “last for ever” Just think what a comfort I shall henceforth write legibly for ever! You are the first Individual privileged with a sight of its results. I have in fact hanselled it in writing to you—we shall see with what luck.

Ever affectionately / Yours

Jane W Carlyle

17th April

5 Cheyne Row