April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH; 23 December 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18481223-JWC-JW-01; CL 23: 184-186


Saturday [23 December 1848]

Dearest Babbie

The notion of its being Christmas time when people are, or ought to be, all “merry” complicates my difficulties in writing letters—for a merry letter such as would beseem the season is wholly above the reach of my imaginative powers— And therefore do I write to you instead of to my Uncle to whom my heart most devoutly wishes all the good wishes that one is in the habit of giving voice or ink to on the approach of a new year. You are to kiss him for me, and tell him that I hope to kiss him myself before another year is done. and that he is to wish this good wish for me—that if I live to his age I may be found then as good a man as he is god bless him—

Since I got your last I have been two days in bed—with that eternal sickness—and three days and two nights on a visit to Mrs Buller at the other Side of Hyde Park1— This locality for her is extremely inconvenient for me—in the short cold days and I have to go seldomer and stay longer— On Friday gone a week she sent a miserable letter beseeching me to come for some days as Fleming was gone to the Grange—and I could do no otherise than go— “Very mad” Mr C called my going—for I had not slept for two nights and was ill enough—but John said I could not, at her house, “sleep worse than none—and perhaps the change might do me some good”—and so it did—I felt a great calm come over me when I lay down in that new bed—and in spite of carriages rushing by all night, and a housemaid snoring in the next room—I got the best sleep I had had for many weeks— She is a sad spectacle and every time I see her I feel more desperate of being any help to her— It is not her grief that is saddest in it—that is nothing like so violent as one might have anticipated—and her health seems to me rather better than it has been for years—but it is the complete giving up of herself to the sensations of the moment; her complete want of self denial where a momentary indulgence brings prolonged suffering—her recklessness about expence where the merest whim is concerned—all that is miserable to see; for it overlays her great sorrow with the meanest troubles and difficulties—and will drive away from her much sympathy and many consolations that might have cheered her remaining years.— Lady A is with her husband at the Grange—Fleming writes that he left her on Monday in much better health and spirits—but her last letter—to Mr C—was sad as death—as sorrowful a letter as I could have written—Mr C is unwearied in writing consolations, and sending her books and doing every thing that in him lies to comfort her, and she seems extremely grateful for his kindness—Lady Sandwich goes to her on Tuesday—but that will be no comfort—meanwhile Lady S will be rather a loss to me, for she is the pleasantest person I have here just now to go off and talk with when I am too bad company for myself She seems very fond of me, and she who was always represented to me as the most insolent of English Peeresses is precisely the only one of them I have known with whom I feel entirely free to say what I like, and whom I can run in to with as little ceremony as I could do to any old woman living on a hundred a year— Miss Wynn who was my most constant visitor last winter, and for whom my friendship always increases the longer I know her, has got some lingering illness that makes me rather anxious and is sent out of London for the present—Bölte is still a[t] Brighton2 Capt S3 still at Hedley—but he comes to town every week and calls both in coming and going—and brings me flowers the beautifulest hot house flowers—tho' it is winter now—and if he could bring me health and happiness there is no man who would sooner do it— I wonder what strange attraction lies in me for all of the blood of Sterling?— For Father and Mother and both sons I have been more than any other woman—not married to them— There is no understanding these things—I am sure I have taken a hundred times more pains to please some others who never took to me at all—

But I should tell you of my interior—not what Mr C means by that, but interior in the French sense— About Helen and—the kitten!— Helen is much spoiled—or else having been used to Annes quiet orderly ways I find her ways more intolerable than of old— Her rule is to make the maximum of fuss out of every thing— Ann made the minimum of fuss— And then I do not think her ‘attachment’ to me is at all to be depended on now—it was from the first the attachment of a cat—the habit having been broken; she would go now just where she thought she would have the snuggest life— Already she has treated me to one explosion and I told her then I would have no more of that—since she had put me to the trouble of taking her back; she should stay there till Spring came when it would better suit me to have a stranger in the house and then she could go and be what she said she would prefer being “a housemaid where more servants were kept”— On this understanding the matter rests for the present— As for the kitten she is an angel!—perfectly black—full of spirits—and carressing beyond all bounds—leaps on to my shoulder sometimes— I send you a neck tie—and Maggie4 a breast-Knot and little buckle— Tell my Uncle the book he gets is not the one I meant for him—but it proves to be above a pound weight and so cant go by post— There is a book for Helen to—the only poetical member of the family— Your pretty teapot was not broken—I made tea in it for Alfred Tennyson the other night5—Mr C takes the prunes to supper—boiled in milk—and the rasins I eat myself I was sorry I told you about the broken pots when I saw how seriously you took it my poor Babbie—

Write soon— Ever your



You will take heart about your handwriting when you see this scrawling—but you are a young Lady my dear and are not permitted to be illegible as I am—