October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 4 December 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18451204-JWC-JW-01; CL 20: 70-71


Bay House / 4 December [1845]

Dearest Babbie

I snatch one quarter of an hour “out of the Black Dog's jaw”1—the Black Dog at present being the Genius of “Strenuous Idleness,”2 tutelary Deity of this Place,—just to tell you that I am still alive, and experiencing, as Darwin wished for me at parting, “as few disagreeablenesses as could reasonably be expected.”

Lady Harriet is kind as possible and has not done said or looked a single thing since I have lived beside her to justify the character for haughtiness and caprice which she bears in society3—in fact a woman more perfectly regardless of rank I never happened to see. strength is what she goes upon; a weak Prince of the blood she would treat with undisguised scorn, and would behave herself quite sisterly towards a strong streetsweeper— In fact she is a grand woman every inch of her—and not “a coquette” the least in the world—if all the men go out of their sober senses beside her how can she help that?— Meanwhile she is not so well employed as she might be—but floats along on the top of things in a rather ignis fatuus [will-o'-the-wisp] sort of way—she is making a great fly at German however—and as looking in the Dictionary hurts her eyes I am serving her in a room of a Dictionary then there are occasionally outbreaks into battledore and shuttlecock, and—in the evenings an almost normal state of chess-playing— all this carries off my day before I know where I am—or get anything done towards my own individual affairs—

There is no talk of going home—but I must go—alone if necessary—when the Paulets return to London—which will be before the eighth of January I fancy—the soonest that Lady Harriet will hear of our going!— Now that I am fairly settled into the thing I feel no haste to encounter London winter—if the sea be “somewhat chilly” it is at least very clean to look out upon—and to be relieved from all charge of material things in cold weather is a great preservative from colds. And really there is as little of burdensome state here as can possibly be made to do—not so much dressing as you have to transact in Maryland Street—rational hours—and no strain on ones wits—for Lady Harriet does all the wit herself, and nobody “feels that it is his duty” to amuse—if it lie in his way to do so well and good—but things will go on briskly enough without him Charles Buller has been here for a week, and is to remain till January—with occasionally fly-offs to London for a couple of days—he went up yesterday and returns tomorrow— Today a Mr Portal is come to stay till Saturday4—a “rather familiar youth” Lady Harriet finds him “whom it will be necessary to look at both sides of, before one lets him come and eat out of one's hand.” We hear of some Montagus also to come,5 and Lord and Lady Ashburton are to be here part of next week—afterwards the Henry Taylors. The Bishop of Oxford6 and an occasional officer from Portsmouth are the only visitors we have had to dine late for hitherto—


When I had written so far Lady Harriet opened my bedroom door and asked me to come into her dressingroom to hear great news——not the repeal of the cornlaws—but that snow had fallen to day near Winchester— whilst here we have had almost summer sunshine—another reason she says why I should “write to Mrs Paulet on no account to let her husband have his eyes operated upon till after the eighth of January.” Meanwhile Mr Baring returning from Gossport brought your letter—thanks for your movement of the Spirit— Pray do muster your energies and actually go out to Seaforth—that woman7 has heart and soul enough in her to fit out a whole regiment of the sort of women I see about you and you let her lie unused!— It is a pity that you get so little good of her—a still greater pity that you do not care to get such My kindest love and warm kisses to my Uncle—none of the rest deserve a kiss from me idle as they are