April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 17 October 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18491017-JWC-JCA-01; CL 24: 271-272


5 Cheyne Row / Wednesday [17 October 1849]

My dear Jane

Your letter was one of the letters that one feels a desire to answer the instant one is done reading it—an out-of-the-heart letter that one's own heart (if one happen to have one) jumps to meet. But writing with Mr C. waiting for his tea, was, as you will easily admit a moral impossibility—and after tea there were certain accursed flannel shirts (Oh the alterations that have been made on them) to ‘piece’—and yesterday when I made sure of writing you a long letter, I had a headach and durst not either write or read for fear of having to go to bed with it— Today I write—but with no leisure, tho I have no “small clothes” to make, nor any disturbance in that line (better for me if I had!) still I get into as great bustles occasionally as if I were the mother of a fine boisterous family.

Did you hear that I found bugs in my red bed on my return? I, who go mad where a BUG IS!—and that bed “such a harbour for them” as the Upholster said— Of course I had it pulled in pieces at once, and the curtains sent to the dying—at immense expence—and ever since, I have been lying in the cold nights between four tall bare posts—feeling like a patient in a London Hospital—

—Today at last two men are here putting up my curtains—and making mistakes whenever I stay many minutes away from them— And so soon as their backs are turned I have to go off several miles in an Omnibus to see Thackeray who has been all but dead and is still confined to his room and who has written a line to ask me to come and see him1— And I have great sympathy always with and show all the kindness in my power to sick people—having so much sickness myself and knowing how much kindness then is gratifying to me— So you see dear it is not the right moment for writing you the letter that is lying in my heart for you—but I could not under any circumstances, refrain longer from telling you that your letter was very very welcome, that the tears ran down my face over it—tho' Mr C was sitting opposite, and would have scolded me for “sentimentality” if he had seen my crying over kind words merely—and that I have read it three times, and carried it in my pocket ever since I got it—tho my rule is to burn all letters.

Oh yes there is no change in me, so far as affection goes—depend upon that!—but there are other changes, which give me the look of a very cold and hard woman generally— I durst not let myself talk to you at Scotsbrig—and now that the opportunity is passed I almost wish I had— But I think it not likely, if I live, that I will be long of returning to Scotland— All that true simple pious kindness that I found stored up for me there ought to be turned to more account in my Life—what have I more precious?

Please burn this letter—I mean dont hand it to the rest—there is a circulation of letters in families that frightens me from writing often—it is so difficult to write a circular to one.

How glad we are to hear such good news of Jamie2— I hope tonights post will tell us he is safe home— John I fancy from Jeanie's last letter does not go back with him—but to Auchtertool for a little longer

Your poor Mother and her face!—what a bout she must have had—

For me; I am really better tho I may say in passing that Mr C's “decidedly stronger” is never to be depended on or any account he gives of me—as so long as I can stand on my legs he never notices that anything ails me, and I make a point of never complaining to him unless in case of absolute extremity—but I have for the last week been sleeping pretty well, and able to walk again, which I had not been up to since my return—

About the bonnet—send it by any opportunity you find—just as it is—I can trim very nicely myself and perhaps might not like Miss Montgomery's3 colour

But I cannot have it for nothing Dear— If Miss G wont take money I must find some other way of paying her— God bless you dear Jane and all yours— Remember me to James—and never doubt my affection for yourself—as I shall never doubt yours for me— Ever J W C