January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO JOHN WELSH ; 28 June 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450628-JWC-JWE-01; CL 19: 88-90


28th June [1845] / 5 Cheyne Row

Dearest Uncle

I have a small piece of family news, and “I feel it my duty” (as Sir James Graham says when stating the most superfluous things) “to communicate it” to the Head of the family direct— Finding myself the other day tired of my life and in need of what Helen calls “a fine change”; I flung myself into an Omnibus to be carried away into the remote regions of the City, where I might get out and enjoy a solitary walk—for the solitude of the peatbog at Craigenputtoch was hardly more solitary than that of a great neverending thorough-fare where there is not a human being to be met with that one ever saw before or that knows or cares the least in the world about oneself. I had myself set down beyond the royal Exchange1 on which I had never set eyes till that day, and was sauntering along, “in maiden meditation fancy-free,”2 casting an occasional glance at Shop windows; when suddenly a male person placed himself right before me in an elegant attitude, and hoped he saw me well—in the first surprise of the thing I let him take my hand, but so soon as I had time to think I drew it away and said “Indeed James (for it was our scamp of a cousin himself)3 I cannot speak to you will absolutely have nothing to do with you”— “Pooh Pooh!” said he looking a very incarnation of the Cool of the Morning “but you shall speak to me you shall not go till you have said that you forgive me for that blockhead of a letter I sent you4—you must know my little Cousin—if you do not know it already that I am mad at times—and what can a poor devil who is mad do but madnesses— Come—it is not my fault if I am out of Bedlam, and scandalizing sensible people like you”— And so he rattled on looking so confoundedly good-natured that I could not be disdainful to him as he deserved but actually stood some quarter of an hour listening to his recent history, which was of course all lies—tho' I could not but see that the passers by all stared at us, in wonder what such a decent looking woman as myself could have to say to a member of the Swell-mob—for decidedly that is the style of man he is grown into—the shabbiest of done up Dandies!— He was living at Greenwich he said with “a splendid prospect from his window, but deuced little to eat occasionally”—expecting some windfall of money from some “settlement of his affairs” (!) (I fancy his affairs are pretty well settled by this time) perhaps too some of his friends might find him “something under government—he would take a situation on the railway—anything”— “It was confoundedly difficult he found for a man to live in London without money—in honesty”! Beginning to fear that our lengthened Colloquy was exciting the attention of the Police—I told him he might walk a little way back with me—but must absolutely leave me before I got into known territory—which he did quite cheerily—asking nothing of me but that I “would not be sorry for having stumbled on him and forgiven him after a sort”— I wonder if he could not get an engagement at any of the minor Theatres?— What is to become of him “in honesty”—were hard to say—a man whose word cannot be believed, and who has come thro so much, without ever discovering that what he calls misfortunes are the natural consequences of his misconduct cannot be recommended to anything—one dare not charge oneself with the responsibility of recommending him. How he lives at present is however as great a mystery as how he shall live—if he be managing it in honesty now—why then he may for anything one sees carry on to the end of the chapter—in living on air as in walking without one's head it is only the first step which is the difficulty

I wish he were not so goodnatured for there seems no possibility of ever getting quarrelled with him—

We had Mrs Ames5 here last evening singing like a linty [linnet]. Carlyle liked her very much—thanks to my management in keeping her singing so as to allow her no leisure to talkI have had rather more of singing however than I can well digest— I was taken to the Opera6 the night before with Lady Harriet Baring—my debut in fashionable life—and a very fatiguing piece of pleasure it was which left a headach and all uncomfortableness which I have not got rid of till this hour— Carlyle too was at the Opera God help us!—went to ride in the Park at the fashionable hour then returned and dressed for the Opera!! Nobody knows what he can do till he tries! or rather till a Lady Harriet tries! This morning I thought I would begin the day with an energetic effort of virtue which of course has not been “its own reward— I got up ill and took a shower bath to make myself well par vive force [by main strength]7—but these efforts of virtue never succeed with me so my headach is getting worse and worse and this note to you which the spirit moved me to write, instead of darning the family-stockings, is probably all the activity that will be got out of me for the day—

Thanks to Babbie for her long letter—the Orson8 writes from Port Glasgow that he was “greatly delighted with my cousins” and “wished the weather had permitted of his taking home some shrimps! his note was in such a Carlyleish style that I could hardly understand the rest of it—a certain Bishop he mentions as “a hopelessly mendacious phenomenon, and entirely supernumerary biped on this earth”—upon my honour this is coming it a little too strong “even for the Provinces” (as Babbie remarked)— I forgot to tell that some weeks ago William Gibson9 walked in out of a deluge of rain—the old man to the minutest hair of his clean-scrubbed head— He was complaining that in Jersey sugars was “rizz”—and that Mr Wilson10 was very disappointing in his “remittances”— God bless you dear Uncle your affectionate Jane Carlyle