August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 29 September 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460929-JWC-HW-01; CL 21:62-64.


Tuesday [29 September 1846]

Dearest Helen

Two letters for one is a windfall that never came to me out of Maryland Street before—and claiming double thanks—for the novelty of the thing as well as for its generosity.— I would have written sooner if I had had anything pleasant to say: but to tell you that I was down at Zero again, seemed a thing there was no haste about communicating— C came home wearied and gloomy—with no work to fall to—nothing to do but ray out darkness on all my human attempts at occupation or amusement—and these alas! are never so energetic now-a-days that they should make any long stand against that sort of thing. C should have had “a strong-minded woman” for wife, with a perfectly sound liver, plenty of solid fat, and mirth and good humour world without end—men do best with their opposites. I am too like himself in some things—especially as to the state of our livers. and so we aggravate one anothers tendencies to despair! But there is no altering of all that now—nothing to be done but make the best of it—which I candidly confess I am far from doing—I do try however to the best of my humble ability—and having found small profit hitherto in mending and tinkering at my soul, I am for the moment modestly directing my faculties to the repairing of my body—trusting that the soul may be ultimately reached thro' that outwork. Every morning I take the shower-bath—quite cold—and three pailfuls of it! The shock is indiscribable! and whether it strengthens or shatters me I have not yet made up my mind! but at all events when I have taken it; I feel to have accomplished a very decided act of volition—and that makes my moral blood circulate a little; however it may be with the physical! Then I eat all that ever I can and drink bottled porter—not so good as yours by any means—but tolerable—and I walk as if the Devil were in me—and so, I fancy he is—six and seven miles in the day on an average! I also try to be ‘neither solitary nor idle’—which old Burton recommends as the grand cure of ‘melancholy’1— Still I must not put too much reliance on these laudable efforts.— Whenever one gets into the self-complacent idea of being able to put down Destiny by one's own Deserving—then, if ever, is one sure of being “made to eat dirt”—more of it than one has the power of digesting.

I was wondering one day what effect a great practical misfortune would have on me—for instance being burnt out of house and home and reduced to work for my bread and twenty four hours after Providence kindly gave promise of gratifying my curiosity—in a small way—prepared as pretty a little practical misfortune for me as one could have imagined!

Helen came with tears in her eyes and smiles on her lips to tell me she was going away! Never could such news have found me less prepared for it—or less disposed— Her conduct has been so exemplary of late that, I saw no more danger of needing to put her away, and her attachment to me seeming greater than ever, and her matrimonial chances none to speak of, I had no apprehension of her going of her own accord. But Helen also, insignificant as she looks has a Destiny!—is liable to great Events!—and what is most extraordinary of all is going to be an exceptional instance of virtue really getting its own reward! At least one hopes so!— A Brother in Dublin—a pushing sort of fellow—has got into trade on his own basis—manufactures coach-fringe for which there is immense consumption at present on the Railways, and so well has he prospered (by his own showing) that he has now three hundred girls in his employment—a genteel house and plenty to keep it with! Himself however (for I saw him the other night) remaining a particularly ungenteel man. He never did anything for Helen hitherto beyond calling on her for a quarter of an hour when his business brought him to London—never gave her to the value of a farthing in his life—tho sometimes asking her if she would like that he brought her a poplin gown!! “Dont you wish you may get it!”

Now however he is seized with a sudden fit of brotherly love and invites her “to come and be his housekeeper and MISTRESS” and she has of course accepted at the first word— I wish it may end well for her—the man looks to me a flustery incredible sort of man—and very selfish with the two black eyes set close together in his head!— His conduct hitherto has been so unbrotherly!—that I cannot help fancying he merely wants a good servant in Helen on his own terms— Then he may marry shortly—and turn her adrift—“tho he does promise in that case to “settle a handsome provision on her.” but will he?— On the whole I wish for her own sake that Helen had taken a little time to investigate and reflect. It is not I however, who having a manifest interest in retaining her can urge prudence with any effect—so go she must and take her chance. “Poor thing, says C, perhaps she may get married to some decent man in Dublin and become Mother ‘of a mighty nation’2—the last part of the possibility I should think in the highest degree improbable! Meanwhile I have written in the first rush of the business to Mrs Russel to see if there be any chance now of getting Margaret Hiddlestone—also to Betty in Edinr3 to ask if she knows anyone to suit me—and also to Susan Hunter (Mrs Stirling) in Dundee who once offered should I be in need to look out for me in that region— Somebody I shall get— It will be a while any how before another can suit me as well as this one who has been with me ten or eleven years—but as John Carlyle says “there is no use in rebelling against Providence.” You may believe I am rather unsettled for the moment— Nor do I know more of our own plans than when I left you— Lady Harriet is not returned and nothing has been said about Alverstoke— But all will arrange itself by and by better or worse—and sometime either in winter or spring you will come and help to cheer me up.

I had a letter from Jeanie on Saturday—relating a horrid story of a boiling showerbath— Certainly Maggie must in some previous state of existence have given serious offence to the Spirit of Fire! I never heard of any one so constantly getting scalded.

My great love to my Uncle— Will you get him the Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope to read4— I have just finished the book (in three volumes) and am sure it would amuse him—a kiss to Mary ever your / affectionate Cousin

Jane Carlyle