April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 2 December 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18491202-JWC-HW-01; CL 24: 303-305


5 Cheyne Row Sunday [2 December 1849]

My dearest Helen

I don't see why the fact of my having received a call from Mr Fergus this forenoon should put me up to writing to you tonight— Mr Fergus said nothing of you. There is no visible link between this cause and effect but so it is— If Mr Fergus had not come I believe I should have dawdled away this evening like many preceeding ones, in wondering how you were, and wishing to be told without asking— For you must know Dear I am not good for much just now, have been confined to the house for a fortnight and upwards with a cold—which threatened to be a winter-one, but is now pretty well got under, and perhaps I may get about again if the Frost do not come on me before I have set my nose out— I wish I maynt be shut up—for the house grows as suffocating for me in these times as a cage for a wild animal—a hyena for example—indeed I dont at all improve in patience with years. If I live to be old you will see me one of those dreadfully early rising, raking about old Ladies who are a pest to society in every direction—always too soon every where, and never at rest—

Meanwhile tho' I cannot sit still and resign myself to be ailing and useless neither can I work at anything for ten minutes together without being ready to sink— I do a little at my great screen—then read a little—in three minutes fall to sewing—sew on one button perhaps and then walk to and fro in the room then stretch myself on the sofa—then recollect something forgotten and start up—and so on like a tormented spirit— Few people come to talk to me— Bolte is not come back from Germany1—Madam Pepoli has taken to doing the poor people and seems to dislike me now—has been here only twice since my return— Plattnauer is gone back to Lord George—mercifully— John Carlyle still in Annandale— Anthony Sterling who is on the spot and has nothing to do more important in his own eyes than amusing me—if it were possible—is obliged to come rarely for peaces sake. So you see—life is not gay here just now— When was it gay? I have read several novels lately Cooper's Capt Spike2—clever but four fifths of it unintelligible except for seamen—Shirly—The Oglives—curious as being written by a young Irish girl—twenty years old—with little knowledge of anything, society included—but it is full of Love “as an egg's full of meat”3—the old highflown romantic circulating Library sort of love—which one looks at in these days of “the new ideas” as one would look at a pair of peaked shoes or a ruff out of the reign of Elizabeth—and the plot goes ahead famously— The young woman supports both herself and a Brother4 by her literature—

I have seen no more of the Sketchleys—if Miss Pen don't write a novel I am no prophet—she wants to distinguish herself and that is the career open to female talent just now.

And now I will thank you to write or make somebody write about yourself—you have not ceased yet to be “an object of interest” so you must pay the penalty

Have you taken much interest in these “interesting but ferocious beings” the Mannings—the General Public has talked of little else here and even now that they are got well hanged out of the road “additional particulars” are turning up daily— I will send you their pictures Maria has a strange likeness to (never tell it)—Lady Ashburton!5 God bless you Dear. Love to Walter and Jeanie

Ever your affectionate

Jane W Carlyle