January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 27 July 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450727-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 113-115


Sunday [27 July 1845]


They are all gone to Church, and I am here alone, enjoying “Virtues (Roman VIRTUS'S) own reward.” My Uncle at the last minute came to me in the room where I had fortified myself (morally) and asked with a certain enthusiasm; “are you not going to Church?”— “No— I have no thought of it.”— “And why not? (crescendo).”— “Because your minister is a ranting Jackass that cracks the drum of ones ears”!— “Who told you that? (stamping like my grandfather)”— “I do not choose to compromise anyone by naming my authority”— “And what has that to do with going to a place of Worship?”— “nothing whatever, but it has a great deal to do with staying away from a place that is not “of Worship”.” He looked at me over his spectacles for an instant as if doubtful whether to eat me raw, or laugh—and “Eventually”—thanks God!1—he chose the better part. The girls who came, in fear and trembling, to pick up my fragments, were astonished to find that I had carried the day. We get on famously my Uncle and I—by dint of defiance tempered with kisses I can manage him better than anyone else does. Our trip accross the water on Friday extended itself into an excursion to Hoylake2—a seabathing place beside that West Kirby which Walter Macgregor used to talk about3—a few cockney-looking villas on a sandy plain—out of sight of the Sea, and almost,—one would think,—of “God's Providence.” Very well to drive to in “a neat fly,” and drink a glass of porter at, and “have a presentiment that one will never see again”! We arrived at home in the evening as hungry “as—as—anything”! and found one, Mr Mackorkedale,4 come to dine on his own invitation—whom I mention on account of—his shoes! they weigh three pounds and a half, are three quarters of an inch thick in the sole, and what you would call “shaped like a human foot,” that is to say like an enormous hoof. Like you this old gentleman is an enemy to the March of Taste, and has after exhausting all the present modes of shoes, settled down into this realized Ideal of his own. He finds that he can walk fifteen miles aday in them; and has never so much as the reminiscence of a corn (at eighty two)— Would you have his shoe-maker to construct you the like?— He is a curious character this old Mackorkedale—every way— He flourished, in I know not what reign, as a fine gentleman—had made money as “a merchant Mr Carlyle”—lost it one day and became—a tailor! his old friends employed him and continued to invite him to dinner. Now his family have got on in the world and he tailors no longer. He has “winning ways” even at eighty two—but is now reduced to practicising them on Nursemaids and the like— They tell that his too sensitive heart conceived only a few years ago a most tender passion for a housemaid of his own named Julia— Julia gave warning and Mackorkedale took to his bed—but that was not all; one day he fell on his knees to her, calling out;— “Julia Julia can you quite us”?—and at that exactly unright moment Mrs MacKorkedale came into the room!! “That minds me,”5 as Helen says—Maggie, of all people in the world, told me a small specimen of french sentiment which she had read somewhere—worth repeating even to you—who have not all the sympathy with french sentiment that could be wished. An injured husband rushed in upon his wife and her lover, in an illfated moment, and was proceeding as in duty bound to kill the lover—whereupon the wife threw herself frantically between them and passionately remonstrated “Would you kill the Father of your Children?”—

Since my hand is in, I may as well tell you the only other thing I have heard that has made me laugh— You have seen or at least heard of James Grey—son of Grey of the High school—who married a Miss Brown here, a Poetess6—the poor Poetess is dead and has left him one little child—which a Sister of the Mothers offered to take and bring up—on condition that she had the sole charge of it—the father being to renounce all claim even to see his child except once a year— Mr Grey of course rejected such an inhuman proposal and went to retake his child who was staying with this Aunt—but the Aunt positively refused to give it up, until he had—written her out a receipt for it!!

I have not yet seen Mrs Paulet she called the day we were at Hoylake at7 missed us— I wrote to bid her not plague herself to come again until she came to fetch me away on Friday— My Uncle and Jeanie sail on Thursday night and I shall stay to see the last of them. For the last two nights the cats have gone to serenade some other nervous person, and left me quiet till daybreak—and the cocks I am beginning to weave into my dreams. the bed also does not feel so very like a coffin. “Je me flatte qu'on s'y accoutume [I fancy that I am getting used to it].” any way it is not long till Friday. During the drive to Hoylake I picked up amazingly, indeed became so fat, that I had to let out the Sleeves of my gown— Jeanie advised me to wait till next morning “in case I became thin again over night,” but you know when I take a thing into my head there is no stopping me—so I sat up till one in the morning at this job—

Along with yours this morning came a letter addressed in the hand of Miss Clayton which proved to be from Plattnauer— I shall send it, that you may see how things are with him—if you like—and what he did with the books8

I was thankful that you had the grace to write even that short letter this morning—for the breakfast here does not “pass off pleasantly” if there be no “encooragment” from without—

Today you will be ascending hayricks—and hearing “wits” and living happily “to the end of eternity”—and I hope you will have slept—as to be sure you would when you had that nice bed all to yourself— So today you are less to be pitied than en-vied— But tomorrow you will return in a state of—what shall I say?9—“collapse”—and then you will be all the better of this note “to distract you”! Now they are come in—and I am summoned to lunch—there need be no reflections for want of “variety of food”— Ah if the spiritual were as well cared for— What a plumped out Goody I should return to you!

Your own such as I am /