August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO R. S. SKIRVING; 11 May 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470511-JWC-RSS-01; CL 21:208-209.


5 CHEYNE ROW, CHELSEA, 11th May [1847]

MY DEARROBERT, then, since you protest against “Sir” and “Mr.”1

When your letter came I was in the country, for a week; and my maid, after her fashion of doing precisely what she is told to do—neither more nor less—kept all my letters during that time lying on the table here, I, in the unbounded confidence of my nature, having given her no express injunction to forward them. Since my return two days ago, the head of me has been “too bad for anything” (as the Lancashire phrase is), aching in fact as if it were about giving birth to a young “Sin” or young “Wisdom,”2 all thro' having come part of the way by steamboat in a straw bonnet that cost two shillings. I give you these particulars, that you may see I have lost no time that could be helped. To-day I am rather better, and write to you the first thing I do. I am glad that you are coming to London, especially since you have got over the crisis of “detestability.” It would have gone against my feelings to have detested you, and I could not have helped it had I seen you in your “first pangs of finding”—that is to say fearing “you were to be nobody and nothing.” One only begins to be really something after those pangs have been happily transacted; it is a sort of moral cutting of one's teeth.

My No. is 5, and my street spells itself Cheyne Row; and there is even, contrary to London etiquette, a brass plate with the name upon the door. A Chelsea omnibus will bring you within a gunshot for sixpence, or you may come by steamboat at the easy rate of twopence! If with all these helps you fail to arrive at me with perfect easy you must be the stupidest of mortals. When you come, let it be early; after one, everybody here goes out to call for everybody, everybody wishing to find everybody “not at home.” How you will like me when you see me heaven knows. Realised ideals are always dreadfully precarious. Nor do I remember the least in the world what sort of a sketch of myself I gave you in '41. Most likely it was wide of the mark; would depend more on how I had slept the previous night than on “the fact of things.” My views of myself are a sort of “dissolving views,” never the same for many minutes together. To-day, for example, I find myself horrid—in a second epoch of detestability. Our next-door neighbour having given a ball last night, the noise of which thro' the thin partition kept me awake till six in the morning; and so to-day I am in a state of “protest and appeal to Posterity” against everybody and everything, myself included. Will you tell your Father that one day not long ago, in a roomful of people, Frank Charteris3 happening to name your Father, apropos of something about farming, I shouted out in the joyfullest tone, “Oh, dear me!” which caused quite a sensation?

My kindest love to your Mother and Aunt.4 How I should like to see them all again! I often meditate going to survey once more with bodily eyes what is still all vivid enough in memory; but when it comes to the point my courage fails me: and so,

Yours with great faith,