August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH; 30 October 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461030-JWC-JW-01; CL 21:82-84.


The Grange / Friday [30 October 1846]

Dearest Babbie

I have no prospect of being able to write you a deliberate letter even at this late date— Tho, for the moment, I have not a room merely but a suit of rooms all to myself, where no one may come to molest me. still my soul is in a state of hurry scurry which makes deliberate writing quite impossible. The very look of this bedroom with its immense dimensions its vau[l]ted1 and carved ceiling its princely magnificence of every sort makes me ill at ease— I feel to have got out of my latitude—as much as if I were hanging on to the horns of the moon! And then the recollection of all the idle restless people under the same roof with me! whose idleness and restlessness is so contagious! In fact this is “a country house” with a vengeance! and I do not find that my Destiny has done amiss in casting my lot amongst “the poorer orders,” We are here professedly on a visit to the Ashburtons virtually, at least so far as C. is concerned, on a visit to Lady Harriet—and besides Lady Harriet and Mr Baring, there are some dozen visitors—The marchioness of Bath Lord Ashburtons eldest daughter with two tiny Ladiship[s]2 and their French governess—Old Rogers—An Honbl Mr Bing a beautiful Miss Dalton a rich Mr Portal &c &c3 In all my life I never drew my breath in such a racket! Some of the People go tomorrow and then others will come It is the ruling Principle of the Host and Hostess to keep the house always full— We shall remain till the end of next week and by that time I shall have had enough of it I fancy. The Ashburtons one and all of them are excellent people—very homely—and very kind they make me as much at home as it is possible for a fish to be in the air— Lady H also continues kind to me after her fashion— But, as you can easily conceive, I feel myself in a false position—and find it very difficult to guide myself in it— I have always however the consolation of feeling quite sure that nobody knows nor can divine my difficulties—except C—who since I make no noise about them is bound to recognize them with respectful toleration. “One fire” they say “drives out another”!4—or (another version of it) “one devil drives out another”—and that at least is something to be thankful for!— My natural shyness and over-modesty (of which I have a great deal (tho neither you nor anyone else perhaps ever found it out)—has entirely given place to more powerful feelings— So that I have no more care than a cat about things that would have fussed me once on a time— I used to be apprehensive that my toilette might look defective that my manner might look gauche that my speech might sound flat—amongst sumptuous, selfpossessed, brilliant people—now I am so entirely absorbed in thoughts far away from all outward appearances that if I had been brought up at court all the days of my life I could not feel more perfectly regardless on these points.

But it were more amusing for you to hear something of the Place and People than of my feelings towards them— The Place is like, not one, but a conglomeration of Greek Temples set down in a magnificent wooded Park some five miles in length— The inside is magnificent to death—the ceilings all painted in fresco—some dozen public rooms on the ground floor all hung with magnificent paintings—and fitted up like rooms in an Arabian nights entertainment—but the finest part of it is the entrance hall and staircases—which present a view of columns frescos and carved wood and turkey carpet—that one might guess at a quarter of a mile long! In the Hall which indeed resembles a church Lord A reads prayers every morning to a numerous congregation consisting of men and women-servants ranged on opposite sides and his own wife and daughters kneeling beside him—the effect as seen from the gallery above is very pretty!! but I did not meddle with it personally further than looking over the balustrade—and I saw old Rogers this morning doing the same. They are very good in the religious sense of the word—the whole family of them—except of course Lady Harriet—who goes on nothing of that sort—but they are not bigotted and let one hold ones own opinions— They have had their own trials poor people A favorite daughter the beauty and Genius of the family—when grown to woman hood was burnt to death in Italy some years ago—and the Marquis of Bath drank himself to death5—this poor Lady now here has spent night after night in holding the basin to him and hiding it away with her own hands that the servants might not see the Brute he made of himself— —She has still such a suffering patient look! And this morning she was maint[ain]ing6 against me the Beauty and holiness of marriage even in these days!! Every mortal woman I fancy is born to be made miserable thro one cause or other and with this moral reflection I will conclude— Ever your affectionate J C

Is it in the cottage or the manse that you have rats7— Love to Walter and Maggie—

I have engaged a Servant from Edinr to come at Martinmas I care nothing about the inconvenience have too much else to care about