October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 1 October 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18451001-JWC-TC-02; CL 20: 5-9


Wednesday [1 October 1845]

Well! now I am subsided again—set in for a quiet evening—at leisure to write, and with plenty to write about, I know not how it is; I seem to myself to be leading a most solitary and virtuous and eventless life here at this dead season of the year; and yet when I sit down to write, I have so many things to tell always that I am puzzled where to begin! Decidedly, I was meant to have been a subaltern of the Daily Press—not “a Penny-Lady,” but a Penny-a-liner1—for it is not only a faculty with me but a necessity of my nature to make a great deal out of nothing!

To begin with something I have been treasuring up for a week (for I would not hollo till we were out of the wood) I have put down the Dog!2— “The Dog?—wasn't he put down at Christmas—with a hare?”— it seemed so, and “we wished we might get it”!3 But on my return, I found him in the old place, at the back of the wall, barking “like—like—anything”!4 “Helen!” I said, with the calmness of a great despair, “is not that the same Dog”? “Deed is it!” said she “and the whole two months you have been away its tongue has never lain!—it has driven even me almost distracted”! I said no more; but I had my own thoughts on the subject—poison!—a pistol-bullet!—the Metropolitan Police!— One way or other that Dog—or I—must terminate! Meanwhile I went on cleaning with what heart I could.—“My Dear—will you hasten to the catastrophe!”— I am hastening—slowly!—festina lente5—bless your heart “there's nothing pushing—the rowans are a in the loft”6—for this night!— Well! it was the evening after John's departure—I had been too busy all day to listen—the candles were lit, and I had set myself down with my feet on the fender to enjoy the happiness of being let alone, and to—bid myself “consider.” “Bow-wow-wow,” roared the Dog and “dashed the cup of fame from my brow”!7— “Bow-wow-wow” again and again, till the whole Universe seemed turned into one great Dog-kennel! I hid my face in my hands and groaned inwardly, “Oh Destiny accursed! what use of scrubbing and sorting?— All this availeth me nothing so long as The Dog sitteth at the Washerman's gate!” I could have burst into tears; but I did not! “I was a republican before the Revolution, and I never wanted energy”!8 I ran for ink and paper, and wrote

“Dear Gambardella
“You once offered to shoot
“some cocks for me;9 that service
“I was enabled to dispense with;
“but now, I accept your devotion.
“Come, if you value my sanity—and

But here “a sudden thought struck me” — He could not take aim at the Dog without scaling the high wall—and in so doing he would certainly be seized by the Police— So I threw away that first Sybillan Leaf, and wrote another—to the Washerman!—once more!— I offered him “any price for that horrible dog—to hang it”—offered to “settle an yearly income on it; if it would hold its accursed tongue”— I implored, threatened, imprecated! and ended by proposing that in case he could not take an immediate final resolution; he should in the interim “make10 the dog dead-drunk with a bottle of Whiskey which I sent for the purpose”! Helen was sent off with the note and the whiskey—and I sat all concentrated, awaiting her return as if the fate of Nations had depended on my diplomacy—and so it did—to a certain extent!—would not the inspirations of “the first man in Europe” be modified11 for the next six months at least by the fact, who should come off victorious, I or the Dog! Ah it is curious to think how first men in Europe and first women too are acted upon by the inferior Animals!

Helen came—but even before that, had “the raven down of Night”12 smoothed itself in heavenly silence! God grant this were not mere accident! Oh no! verily it was not accident!— The washerman's two daughters had seized upon and read the note—and what was death to me, had been such rate amusement to them, that they “fell into fits of laughter” in the first place; and in the second place ran down and untied the dog—and solemnly pledged themselves that it should “never trouble me more”! At Christmas they “had sent it into the Country for three months, to learn to be quiet”—and then chained it in the old place— Now they would take some final measure— Next morning came a note from the Washerman himself—written on glazed note-paper, with a crowquill—apologizing— promising—he could not put it away entirely as it is “a great protection” to him and “belonged to a Relation” (who shall say where sentiment may not exist?) but he “had untied it” and would take care it gave me no further trouble—and he “returned his grateful thanks for what AS been sent” It is a week ago, and one may now rest satisfied that the typing up caused the whole nuisance—the Dog is to be seen going about there all day in the yard, like any other Christian Dog—“carrying out” your principle of Silence not merely “platonically” but practically— since that night, as Helen remarks, “it has not said one word”! So “thanks God” you shall have quietude to return to!13

I took tea with Sterling on Monday night—walked there and he sent the carriage home with me. It is very difficult to know how to do with him— He does not seem to me essentially mad—but rather mad with the apprehension of madness— A state of mind I can perfectly understand—moi— He forgets something Anthony's name; for example, or mine, or how many children he has, and then he gets into a rage that he cannot recollect, and then he stamps about and rings the bells and brings everybody in the house to “help him to remember”—and when all will not do; he exclaims— “I am going mad by God”! and then he is mad—as mad as a March hare.— I can do next to nothing for him beyond cheering him up a little, for the moment. Yesterday again I went a little drive with him—of course not without Saunders14 as well as the Coachman— He told me that he when he heard I had written about him he “cried for three days” Anthony's desertion seems the central point around which all his hypicondrical Ideas congregate— Anthony has never written him the scrape of a pen since he left him insensible at Manchester nor ever written about him so far as himself or his Manservant knows—

Yesterday I had a call from—Nell Gwyn15 of all people in the world!— She came with Elizabeth Pepoli—having “long desired my acquaintance”—and if she had gone on desiring it to the end of the chapter it would have been “probably just as well”—for we are not in each other's line the least in the world— Howsomeclever—as Miss Wilson says she is now “in unexceptionable society” and never “did anything improper” only looked improper— there is no great harm done by my having been too charming in the Macready's box—I can return her call, in course of time—refuse her invitations—and so “do her neither ill nor gude.”

Who else have I seen—? nobody else I think except Mazzini, whom I was beginning to fancy the Jewess must have made an enlevement [kidnapping] of—and enlevé he had been, sure enough—but not by the Jewess—by himself—and only the length of Oxford or rather he meant to go only the length of Oxford—but with his usual practicality let himself be carried sixty miles further—to a Place he called Swinton(?)16— Then; that the journey back might have also its share of misadventure, he was not in time to avail himself of the place he had taken “in the Second Class”—but had to jump up “quite promiscuously” beside “the Conductor”—where he had “all the winds of Heaven blowing on him and thro him”—the result “a dreadful cold”—dreadful it must have been when it confined him to the house— meanwhile he had had—two other declarations of love!! they begin to be as absurd as the midges in Mr Fleming's “right eye”— “What! more of them?”— “Ah Yes! unhappily!—they begin to—what shall I say?—rain on me like sauterelles [grasshoppers]!” One was from a young Lady in Genoa, who sent him a bracelet of her hair (the only feature he has seen of her) and begged “to be united to him—in plotting!”—“That one was good upon my honour”— “And the other”? “Ah!—from a woman here—married thanks God—tho to a man fifty years more old—french—and sings—the other played—decidedly my love of music has consequences”! “And how did she set about it?” “Franchement [Frankly]—thro' a mutual friend—and then she sent me an invitation to supper—and I returned for answer that I was going to Oxford—where I still am, and will remain a long long time!” Emancipation de la Femme! one would say it marches almost faster than Intellect!— And now if there be not chatter enough for one night!— I have a great many half moons and stars to cut in paper before I go to bed—“for what purpose”? That is my secret, “and you wish that you could tell!”

Good night—Schlaf wohl [Sleep well]


I told Scott in a note to despatch Mrs Rich's letter immediately