January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 29 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450929-JWC-JW-01; CL 19: 227-229


Monday Night [29 September 1845]

Well! Babbie dear! You do not fancy that I am waiting on here, in the romantic expectation of receiving another letter from you! Oh no! that were too romantic “for anything”!— I know that your epistolary benevolence at least has limits, and these, for the time being, of the narrowest. so I resign myself, with such grace of resignation as is given me, to let our correspondence stand “on the broad basis” of “a suitable return” (as William Gibson would say)— “Blessed are they who do not hope; for they shall not be disapointed”1— At my years, it is time to have laid in a tolerable winter-stock of that blessedness, such as it is—and I cannot accuse myself of want of providence.

I have been and am busy, as “little ant or honey bee that speedily away doth flee”2—turning up my whole house from top to bottom painting, sweeping chimnies, beating carpets, making the house into “Hell and Tommy”3 (I “Tommy”) and when it will be all subsided into its normal state lies beyond my immediate sphere of contemplation— To complicate my household difficulties, I found on my return two wool-mattrasses perfectly swarming with moths! had all the wool to boil and dry—and the heavens constantly pouring down rain! did you ever see the wool of a large mattrass all afloat? If not; pray the superior powers that you never may! it is a sight before which the female human mind is struck stupid with a sense of the Impossible! moreover I have had an immense letter-debt, at first almost as hopeless looking as the National Debt, to discharge—in addition to the letter every second day, required of me by Carlyle. Happily I am not much taken up with visitors—“nobody in town”— At least nobody ought to be in town at this season: still stray human beings do occasionally drop in upon me—enough to keep me in mind that I am still in an inhabited world—a still more forcible reminiscence of the same was our recent “Amateur Play”—the “realized Ideal” of Forster and Dickens— It was—what shall I say?—best perhaps characterized by Helens favorite Phrase of admiration “Oh how expensive”! The “fule-creturs”4 must have spent a mint of money on it—a public Theatre engaged for the occasion—scenes painted by Stanfield—costumes according to the strictly historical style of Macready—cost “no object”— In fact Macready himself could not have got up the material of the thing any more sumptously—and all this for one night— “To think of the loaves Babbie” that their frolic might have supplied to “the poor people”! “the working classes eating boiled dog”!5 For the acting; it is much praised in the newspapers—much praised by the majority but there is a small minority of one at least that thinks it was nothing “to speak of”— There were six or seven hundred people invited and these present by heaven knows what amount of locomotion at this season of the year! from hundreds of miles they came—among them were many of the leading Aristocracy; I was told—but to my matter of fact eye that looked rather a rum set— To be sure the Duke of Devonshire did sit opposite to me, with his nose “looking towards Damascus,”6 and old Lady Holland graced it (not the nose but the Play) with her hideous presence— I must confess “as one solitary Individual” that it needed me to be always reminding myself “all these Actors were once Men”!7 to keep myself from being shamefully bored— With John Carlyle for my only companion, it would have needed a rather unexampled excellence of acting to have awakened me into anything like enthusiasm I saw Alfred Tennyson in the lobby—and that was the best of it! And better still he came to take tea, and talk, and smoke with me—me by myself me—the following evening—such at least was his intention, not a little flattering to my vanity considering his normal state of indolence—but the result was, that he found Creek and John and they made a mess of it—“the Devil fly away with” them both! In fact the Devil has flown away with one of them (John) within the last few days. I fairly painted him out! blessings on my powers of invention! There he was; waiting to “see his way clearly” and never so much as wiping his spectacles—babbling and boring, and holding oyster-like to the external accommodations of one's house, without a thought beyond!—an element of confusion hindering all my efforts at order!— But never let a living woman despair—I wielded the Earthquake in my small right hand, and one morning he awoke and found himself “in his old Lodging”—where there was no vestige of a reason why he should not have been all this while! Carlyle has not fixed a time for his return but says in every letter “it will not be long”— Lady Harriet is unexpectedly in town for two days—“too ill to go out” she sent me a note to that effect and the carriage to take me to see her—more than gracious! incomprehensible upon my honour!— She insisted that I had promised to “give her my whole winter at Alverstoke”!—and yet I have an unconquerable persuasion that she does not and never can like me! Well by and by I shall (like John) “See my way clearly” a bushel of kisses to my own Uncle—with so many daughters all taught the art of writing—pity that I can hear of him so seldom— Ever your affectionate