October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 16 November 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18451116-JWC-JW-01; CL 20: 57-59


Sunday [16 November 1845]

Dearest Babbie

I must not leave you so good a pretext for not writing to me as doubt about my actual address— Of course a letter addressed to Cheyne Row would be sent after me even to Timbuctoo—but these simple ideas are slow of suggesting themselves to those who find the state of uncertainty favour their natural tendency to sit still, with their hands gracefully crossed in Indian-God-like adoration of the Force of Circumstances— Know then, to leave you without excuse, that I am here—very accessible to letters—and much in want of them—here being—Bay House—a large fantastical looking New Building on the shore of the Sea & belonging to Lord Ashburton but made over for this winter to Lady Harriet— It is not in the Isle of Wight as I had fancied but opposite to it— I dare say it is a charming place in Summer but in winter all that body of cold water which immense ranges of windows look out on makes me feel like William Gibson “rather chilly”—and then the gardens about it have lost their bloom for this year and the woods are as yet prospective—more like nursery-grounds than anything else— Inside, it is warm enough and magnificent as money and taste can make it— Carlyle and I have two rooms which I stipulated for before I would undertake to come at all—and the first principle of living comfortably in another persons house is granted one amply viz: one is “well let alone”—may do as one likes within reasonable limits— But the grand happiness of friendly intercourse—viz: leave to be “as ugly and stupid and disagreeable as one likes” that of course is out of the question here—tanto peggio per me [so much the worse for me]! My cold thanks God was considerably abated before I left home—and is no worse for the “fine change” (as Helen would say)—and I was cut out of my complication with Mrs Paulet in the most unexpected manner— As I had feared just when we were on the eve of setting off they arrived in London for the Operation!—giving me just twelve hours notice— I was in the horriblest quandary; to go away and leave them alone there with their troubles was impossible for me—to renounce the visit here equally impossible—in another sense— I meditated a sort of compromise between the two impossible—to let Carlyle go without me and follow in a week or two—but the following morning in rushed Mrs Paulet fresh and rosy like a lump of coral and told me they were all to go back the road they had come that very day—the eyes were not ready to be operated on. Instead of sympathizing in their provocation I was heartily thankful that all that money had been spent and trouble undertaken for no end—by the time they return I hope that I also shall be returned—in a month or six weeks she said— Lady Harriet insists we are to stay here “all the winter”— to stay “till parliament meets in February”—but I fancy Carlyles need to be ugly and stupid and disagreeable without restraint never to speak of my own, will send us back to London in a month or so—

I feel as if I should get on here in an even, middlingly pleasant sort of a way. I am not in the horribly excitable state I was in when I went to Addiscombe1— I take things now very calmly—almost coolly— Lady Harriet seems a woman of good sense and perfect good breeding—and with a person of that sort one need not, unless one be a fool oneself have any collisions—at the same time she seems to me so systematic and superior to her natural feeling that however long and pleasantly I may live beside her I am sure I shall never feel warm affection for her nor inspire her with warm affection—her intercourse will remain an honour for me never be a heartfelt delight—as it might be if she were as loving as she is charming—and Bay House will consequently not suit me so well as Seaforth House—

Plattnauer returned from Germany some weeks ago—not changed the least in the world—except that he is now entirely in his natural senses— He had in rummaging in a Cabinet of his Brother in law2 come upon all my letters about his madness!! read them—and even “taken a copy of one of them”—his vexation had been considerable—especially over my “excessive eagerness to have him kept in Germany for the rest of his life”—but he spoke even of this contretemps with a courtesy and justness which proved as much as anything his sane state of mind—he brought me a beautifully embroidered card case from his Sister—it might have been done by Titania Queen of the Fairies!

And now it will behoove me to go and dress for dinner—at seven in these days instead of four Lady Harriets usual hour—but after tomorrow thank goodness we are to return to christian habits— A Mr Senior who is here causes the present formalities

Address Mrs Carlyle / Hon. W. B. Baring / Bay House / Alverstoke / Hants

love and kisses to all of them—no—only to my Uncle—the rest are undeserving of remembrance

Ever yours