The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 19 August 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500819-TC-JWC-01; CL 25: 160-163


Boverton, 19 Augt 1850—

I was obliged to close on Saturday without seeing your Letter: the Postman delayed so long (fully an hour beyond his time) we were obliged to despatch the man to Llantwit Post-Office, on the hypothesis that Postie for that morning had forgotten us, and that unless we bestirred ourselves the return-post also wd escape us. The creeping dog arrived shortly after, with some excuse that his bags had been delayed at Cowbridge.

Well, there certainly is a charivari [hubbub]; such a domestic splutter in regard to English Helps as may seek its fellow! Pity you had not transacted the inevitable while I was in the house; we might have made it a briefer affair, and saved your poor heart a very unnecessary agitation. Truly it is miserable to think of; proceeding from such a contemptible source too;—and I fear it has flurried you all to pieces; and perhaps, if the mutinous gipsy is still near, may still flurry you. Prevent this latter at least. Pray try to understand that Elizth and her deliriums can have no power over you farther; that she may talk all day to all the canaille of Chelsea, and you have nothing farther to do with it!— The wretched ungoverned being: she is “free” like Hodge's horses1 as you say; she is, according to all likelihood, travelling towards the streets; and will be punished for all this mischief, to the last doit of reckoning yet: What a state “obedience” is grown to in this progressive epoch! And my poor little Jeannie, actually the best manager of household things and servants I have ever seen, finds that even she cannot manage some of them; but that offences will come! Never mind, my brave Goody; you have done pretty well, after all: Your household improvements, I foresee, will all get accomplished nevertheless; and if they could not, the struggle towards them, and the pious prophecy of them in your little heart will be much the same as the practical reality,—perhaps more in some respects. So, above all, keep yourself quiet; and do not let that scandalous randy of a girl disturb you a moment more;—and be as patient with your poor soft dumpling of an Apprentice as you can, in hope of better by and by. “Servants” are at a strange pass in these times! I continually foresee that before very long there will be on all hands a necessity, and determination on the part of wise people, to do without servants. That is actually a stage of “progress” that lies ahead of us. How I feel at this moment the blessedness of such a possibility, had one been trained to do a little culinary work, and were the due preliminaries once arranged! “Servants,” on the present principle, are a mere deceptive imagination; command is nowhere, obedience nowhere. The Devil will get it all, if it do not mend!— Oh my dear little Jeanny, what a quantity of ugly fret you have always taken upon you in this respect; how you have lain between me and these annoyances, and wrapt me like a cloak against them: I know this well, whether I speak of it or not. And as to “improvements” in our bit of a habitations, I do not know the habitation that has so little need of them, that is so trim and orderly and snug as ours is witht any improvet. So cheer up; let nothing beat you, I say, nothing,—much less this poor thing!—

Well, did Geraldine come then? I hope she did; and helped you to convert this domestic revolution into a matter of history. I expect the history of Austindom too, if it have a history. And all manner of histories, when once the winds fall. On the whole, I wish Lewald had pilgrimed in other latitudes, and Geraldine could have staid a while longer with you.— — Poor Miss Fuller,2 indeed! I saw the tragedy in last weeks Newspaper, and have many times thought of it since. I did not see there the death of husband and child, learn that first from you: but so all is over; it is probably as well so. O Life, O Death,—O what a bottomless Abyss (and a summitless Height too) this our Existence is!—

I am wasting away my solitary Autumn morning in mere scribble; but I hope it will do you no ill tomorrow morning to breakfast.— I am to go to Cowbridge today to have my hair cut; item to get tobacco, to &c &c. If you write to Liverpool, say they are likely to see me soon. Not for a night: I think there is no spare room at present? At any rate it is easy to manage hitting the day of the Steamer,—possibly this day week.

My sleep has been better the last two nights; but it never can be good under such conditions: free air and silence are in brief irreconcilable here. Nevertheless it is certain I am getting better in health: so let that bring composure to you however much I complain.— Redd, poor fellow, flatters himself he will get me persuaded to continue yet a good while, and rejoices with a strange vitality of cheerfulness;—something really strange in the man's relation to me: like that of a male Undine;3 and such a dreadfully dull one! I shall have a battle before I get away; but away I must get: such a life is not required to last beyond the original program.

Yesterday we rode to an old dim Welsh chateau, Castle of Fonmon (pronounce FunMÙN),4 where a Portrait of Cromwell was reported; nay a report, or possibility, was, that one of the Welsh Regicides, a Coll Jones Oliver's Brother-in-law, owned the place in those days.5 The distance is only some four or five miles, thro' bushy weedy lanes, past sleepy old parish churches, and wakeful Ebenezer Chapels, and a country rich but ragged: a dim scotch mist occasionally fell, amid the ever-blustering but warm and genial wind; I had doubled-in my shirt-collar, buttoned my old waterproof, and didn't care. Fonmun an old roughcast square-headed handfast-looking mansion stood amid its big ragged trees, like a House in Sleepy Hollow:6—the late Jones ruined himself by horse-racing, the present with his wife7 has become a Londoner, and “solicits promotion to some office.” One little dumpy Welshman (his wife being out) seemed to have charge of the whole outdoor and indoor premises, big gardens gone to wilderness, big stables going to rooflessness: a very world of weeds;—the “Picture of Cromwell,” a dingy unfortunate old Piece (apparently a Copy only, and none of the best) was worth nothing; nor was any of the other Pictures (mostly in rapid decay) worth much: we left the little Welshn, very civil for his shilling, with a sentiment as if he wd be smothered one day in weeds; as if the world of weeds was too strong for his weight.— A rapid ride, useful for health, brot us back by other circular routes. Welsh antiquity-reading all evg: and so here at last we are,—a mighty prize indeed! Let me not begin a new sheet, no! I have written a syllable to Stores Smith; don't forget his Library affair. Item to the man at Titchfield who has my Cromwell borrowed;8 the dog, I have ordered it back instantly. Write, Dearest.

T. Carlyle