August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 31 August 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460831-JWC-TC-01; CL 21:34-35.


Maryland Street, Liverpool, Monday, 31 August, 1846.

My Dear— Your Letter on my plate yesterday morning, along with one from Geraldine, was all that I took for breakfast, everything else at the table was so overlaid by a dense population of lazy flies that I turned from it in sacred horror. …

“Thanks God,” however, I shall have but two days more of this disgust. On Wednesday night I hope to get some clean tea at Chelsea. I should have gone to-day, only that with the possibility of meeting you in Cumberland I had to send my linen to the washer-woman and cannot have it back till to-morrow morning. To-morrow I will pack, and see Harriet Martineau … and on Wednesday home! thankful to “come out of this” anyhow! Helen does not accompany me; I did invite her from a feeling of duty more than of inclination. …

I went to hear J——— M———1 yesterday morning, as a compromise betwixt going to the Family Church and causing a Family disturbance by staying at home. The Sermon was “no go.” The poor man had got something to say which he did not believe, and could not conceal the difficulty he found in conforming. Flowers of rhetoric world without end, to cover over the barrenness of the soil! I felt quite wae for him; he looked such a picture of conscientious anguish while he was overlaying his Christ with similes and metaphors, that people might not see what a wooden puppet he had made of him to himself,—in great need of getting flung overboard after the Virgin Mary, “Madame sa Mère [Madam his Mother].”2 The heat of the place, coming on the back of no breakfast, made me quite faint; so that I had to lie down in the “Boot”3 till dinner-time.

On Saturday Helen, Mary and I dined at Seaforth with a party. The Dickensons are still there, and this was a grand flare-up to their honour and glory.4 Mr. Rawlins was as amiable for me as ever, in spite of your cruel usage of him.5 Among the many charming things he said to me, I remember only this:—“that it was a source of deep astonishment and regret to him that a woman like Mrs. Carlyle (tremendous emphasis on the three last words) should make a point, as it were, of seeing the Devil everywhere. For his part, he utterly disbelieved in the Devil.” The rest of the people were still more tiresome, especially the old S———,6 who is like a sort of thing one sees in a nightmare. I would not have gone at all; for a party at Seaforth is always a terrible affair; only that Betsy looked hurt, and my Cousins disappointed. So I sacrificed myself, as one does occasionally, to the welfare-of-others principle. …7

My kind regards to Jean and Jenny. I wrote to Lady Harriet on my arrival here a longish Letter, as amusing as I could make it.

Ever yours, /

J. C.