The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH; 28 March 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500328-JWC-JW-01; CL 25: 54-56


5 Cheyne Row / Thursday [28 March 1850]

Dearest Babbie

I came back from Addiscombe on Thursday afternoon and ever since have been spending half my time in bed. of course I caught a bad cold. that house being incapable of getting itself heated in cold weather— Fortunately the mischief lying in me did not explode until the day after my return—there,I kept up appearances well enough, and here I can get my bed kept without annoyance to anybody, except perhaps poor little Nero, who feels it his duty to remain there while I do, and has nobody to take him out for a run—besides missing various lumps of sugar and occasional windfalls of that sort which make life more of a pleasure to him when I am on foot—

He has had another wonderful escape that dog! I begin to think he “bears a charmed Life.”1 This time the danger was entirely of his own seeking. Imagine his taking it into his head that he could fly—like the birds—if he tried! and actually trying it—out at the Library window! For a first attempt his success was not so bad; for he fairly cleared the area spikes—and tho' he did plash down on the pavement at the feet of an astonished Boy he broke no bones, was only quite stunned. He gave us a horrid fright however— It was after breakfast, and he had been standing at the open window, watching the birds—one of his chief delights—while Elizabeth was ‘dusting out’ for Mr C—Lying in my bed, I heard thro the deal partition Elizabeth scream; “Oh God! Oh Nero!” and rush down stairs like a strong wind out at the street door— I sat up in my bed aghast—waiting with a feeling as of the Heavens falling till I heard her re ascending the stairs and then I sprang to meet her in my night shift. She was white as a sheet, ready to faint—could just say; “Oh take him!” the dogs body lay on her arm! “Is he killed?” I asked with terrible selfpossession— “Not quite,—I think,—all BUT!” Mr C came down from his bed-room with his chin all over soap and asked; “has anything happened to Nero?”— “Oh Sir he must have broken all his legs, he leapt out at your window!” “God bless me!” said Mr C and returned to finish his shaving— I sat down on the floor and laid my insensible dog over my knees, but could see no breakage—only a stun— So I took him to bed with me—under the clothes—and in an hours time he was as brisk and active as ever. I wonder if he intends to persevere in learning to fly—for I dont think either my own or my maids nerves can stand it.

What sort of a Woman is that Grace Graham2 who was drinking tea with you the other night? it strikes me she must be next door to fool.— Is she setting her cap at Walter? She writes to Catherine Cecil (alias Jackson) that she had been spending an evening “with Mrs Carlyles excellent Uncle3 and four charming daughters and her handsome and intellectual Cousin the Fife Minister!” This Mrs Jackson comes at twelve to make a forenoon call on me and sits till five!

Can you tell me how old Miss Sketchly4 is?— I ask with a practical view.

She has finished her copy of your picture,5 but has not brought it yet to show me— She is immensely satisfied with it herself—indeed she praises her pictures so enthusiastically that she leaves other people with nothing to say— Her copy of Linells picture of old Mrs Sterling,6 a sketch in oil, cabinet—size—is finished and hung up in my parlour. and is really wonderfully well done—I could hardly tell it from the original— Capt S says “Jeanie's picture is quite as well done”— If she could take portraits as well as she copies them I should not despair of her getting on after all— She is not thin skinned the least in the world—the reverse of that—with certain people her pushing way may advance her—but I am afraid the sort of people whom it were most important for her to interest are not to be interested par vive force [by main force]7 as she tries it— Capt Sterling in doing her constant kindnesses on my account has “no patience with her unloveable ways” and Mr C has also taken an absolute disgust at her for forcing her way in to him when I am not there, and treating him with a sort of hail-fellow-well-met cordiality—and I can't make her comprehend that he dislikes being so besieged— Still with all this want of tact—perhaps indeed partly in virtue of it she has a fund of energy and cheerfulness which command my respect—and assistance so far as I have any to give—

Pray tell me if Mrs Macgregor8 approve of my intention respecting the two sovereigns— She has still two pictures perhaps three to do before I shall deliver them over to her—

But I am writing my head up to boiling point—

Love to them all—plenty of kisses to my Uncle

Your affectionate /

Jane Carlyle