April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 16 July 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480716-JWC-HW-01; CL 23: 70-72


[ca. 16 July 1848]

My dearest Helen

I am not going to write you a long letter today— I slept ill, and have already exhausted myself in writing trumpery notes of the inevitable sort—besides a little letter to Walter—but I have already let myself be hindered thanking you for your kind remembrance of me and my poor birth-day too long. (Oh why do some of us give ourselves the trouble of being born?)—and if I do not take the present hour perhaps tomorrow will bring another rush of visitors and such like consequences of The Fall Thanks then for the beautiful sleeves and the as beautiful letter—the sleeves almost frightened me for a moment, for there seemed to be some touch of witch-craft in them— I had got home a new black-silk polka spencer!1 (God help me!) from the dressmaker—and she had made the sleeves half-short—and at the very instant your packet came, I was sitting looking at it “in a state of mind” (Capt Sterlings phrase) saying to myself “Oh dear me I must make white sleeves for it, the first thing, and how am I to shape them”?! Certainly there are secret affinities in people and things that no mortal will ever get to the bottom of!

I have been very gay of late weeks! Nobody unless the paralytic Miss Chorley,2 I should think, has been going more resolutely “a-head in “the gaities of the season” so-called—with my body—that is to say, for my soul has been at quite other work—

We dined at Mrs Nortons one day!3 We grow very compatible dont you think?— Well she is a beautiful witty graceful woman—whatever else, then a dinner at the Macreadys where was Count D'Orsay! and old Lady Morgan “naked as robins” half way down”—age seventy five!—and Lady Duff Gordon and an american Mrs Jay4 (I must tell you something of her—a friend of Lady Harriets had her at dinner—and after they had gone up to the drawing room, invited her selon les regles [according to the rules] to go to a bedroom—“no indeed” said Mrs Jay with a Lady's maid air and tone which I can give you no notion of—“no indeed—in our country we never think of such a thing!— We consider such practices extremely injurious! just twice a day we retire for that purpose and never oftener, unless when we are in the family-way”—!! You may figure how the English Lady of Rank stared! Tell my uncle this tho “decency forbids” Then we had another dinner at the Procters—where were Adelaide Kemble and her husband—and a morning music party at Lady Eddisburys—“the beautiful Mrs Stanley”—that was—Darwins “Moonface5— Young6 girls—very young and pretty—sang with the self-possession of Grisis7 to an immense concourse of Ladies and (more to the purpose) of young marriageable Lords one of whom (Lord Dufferin) said to me—“a charming way of passing a morning this!—and such a capital thing—don't you think for curing them of all sort of shyness”? Decidedly!— There was one girl a real beauty—the daughter of Sir James Graham—about seventeen—with the most innocent modest face in the world and there she stood with her face to the company—trilling and quavering with the smile of a consumate Opera singer!8 It seemed to me really bad all this!

But I went to hear Chopin too—once in private and once at a morning concert and Chopin has been here!! I never heard the piano played before—could not have believed the capabilities that lie in it— Quantities of more things of the same nature I have done—I was going to say in my sleep—but in a bad dream were nearer the truth.

The one earthly thing that I have been getting any real satisfaction out of has been something very far away from all that—the wise and valourous conduct of General Cavaignac—and the admiration he has won from all parties— If I had been his Sister I could not have watched his progress with more interest—

Anne has had no more “accidents”—and I suppose may hold out a while longer—but it is an inconvenient item in a servant having a prospective Husband to fall back upon in all emergencies.

And now I must I really make an end—

Love and a kiss to my Uncle

Ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle