April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL; 22 February 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490222-JWC-MR-01; CL 23: 239-241


Thursday [22 February 1849] 5 Cheyne Row / Chelsea

Dearest Mrs Russell

I snatch two minutes from confusion worse confounded to send old Mary's money,1 which I fear is already past time— It has been in my mind for the last three weeks; but I could not come at the needful in the country place where we had gone for a short visit, and since our return to London I have been “troubled about many things”2—with a vengeance!

On Monday last we drew up at our own door, in Capt Sterlings carriage (the gentleman with whom we had been staying) meaning to drive on to his town house to settle some concern of a Governess for him, when I should have deposited my Husband and luggage at home— We rapped and rung—a long time without being opened to at last the door opened and an apparition presented itself which I shall certainly never forget as long as I live!— There stood Helen—her mouth covered with blood, her brow, cheek and dark dress whitened with the chalk of the kitchen floor, like a very ill got up stage-ghost, her hair streaming wildly from under a crushed cap—and her face wearing a smile of idiotic self-complacency! My first thought was that thieves had been murdering her (at least one in the forenoon!) but the truth came fast enough: “she is mortal drunk”! Mr C had to drag her down into the kitchen—for she was very insubordinate and refused to budge from the door—Capt St & his coachman looking on! Of course I remained in my own house for the rest of the day— A woman who lives close by came to help me—and take care of the drunk creature who so soon as she got her legs again—rushed out for more drink! She had had half a pint of gin in the morning in the afternoon half a pint of rum and some ale!! that is what one would call good drinking! between nine and ten she returned—and lay locked up all night insensible then we had a fit of delirium tremens, then twenty four hours of weeping and wailing and trying to take me by compassion as she had done so often before—but it would not do—I have never liked her ways since she returned to me—the fact has been, tho I did not know it, that she was always partially drunk— So I felt thankful for this decided outbreak to put an end to my cowardly offputting in seeking myself a new servant— The very day this horror happened, a very promising Servant was sent to me quite providentially to look at, by a Lady3 who has been a good while urging me to be done with Helen, and who thought it a pity I should not have the refusal of this one— So I “went after her character” and engaged her the following day, but could not have her home till the wretched being was removed and the horribly dirty house cleaned up—in which process I am now over head and ears— I wished Helen to go back to her Sister in Kircaldy4 and offered to pay her expenses but she wont— She was determined to stay here!—but I put her into a carriage yesterday, whether she would or no and carried her off to a woman she has been long intimate with and established her in a room of her house—for a fortnight—to look after a place—but who will take her without a character for sobriety? and I certainly will not be criminal enough to conceal her drinking propensity if I am asked. God knows what is to come of her!— I told her yesterday she would be better dead!—if she were not so old and ugly of course she would go on the streets—for all morality is broken down in her— I find now that she has not been even honest since she returned from Dublin—a pretty mess that Brother of her'sJohn Mitchell; see Tc to JAC, 25 Sept. 1846. has made of his own flesh and blood—but I must not scribble any more here—having a hundred and fifty things to do.

God bless you / kind love to Dr Russell and your Father

Ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle