The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO HELEN AND JEANNIE WELSH ; 3 November 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501103-JWC-HWJW-01; CL 25: 271-273


Sunday / 5 Cheyne Row [3 November 1850]

Alas, my dear Cousins, my hostile star is still in the ascendant! and hardly anything short of a strong impulse of natural affection could prevail on me to write a letter just now1— But it looks so very long since I wrote, and you are so good in answering: that I must find half an hour's time and a little composure of soul just to tell you briefly how it has been and is going with me here— Your last long good letter found me still at the Grange—where I remained three days beyond the appointed time. Lady A caught a cold at the end of the business and was in bed the day we were all to come away. Lord A was not yet returned from Spain where his wife had sent him for the purpose of being made seasick in the Bay of Biscay—sea sickness being “extremely good for all that family”— Among the thirty servants at the Grange there was not one in whose kind nursing her Ladyship seemed to trust—moreover she seemed a little afraid of being murdered by housebreakers!! So I offered to stay behind the rest till she was about again if it pleased her—and it did please her—tho' why were difficult to tell, for—she would not have me sit with her above an hour in the day while in bed, and when out of it, the third day, she had absolutely nothing to say to me! I dont know whether she is always so when alone with women—but the longer we know one another and the more we are intimate to outward appearance the less have we to say to one another alone. On Tuesday gone a week I finally returned to London, a change of servants having transacted itself the night before. Bolte had found a place for the innocent fool of a contry girl who I think I told you had been sent from Essex, and could not cook more than an unborn infant—and had found me a servant up to everything and some things more!— This hopeful stranger received me at the door and looked quite as glad at my return as Mr C or Nero—she had not “known where anything was”— I liked her shaping immensely—and went to my own red bed that night with a feeling that at last the house was going to be restored to its normal condition—a consumation to be devoutly wished;2 my two months of house cleaning with my own hands having thoroughly disgusted me with all work— Next day I could not move out of bed! the railway having developed a headach in the wind for me some time into the most unbearable agony I had yet known—till ten at night I lay screaming—and it takes a good deal of physicalpain to make me cry out— The new maid was very kind—decidedly she was going to be “a treasure”—tho Irish—the second day I was up and doing—found I had got a capital cook and warmhearted assiduous, clever Servant. that night however she complained of feeling sick—the following day she vomited all her food—and continued doing so for several days, and looking more and more ghastly, and of course unable for her work— So I had again to rush out in quest of a temporary help, and also in quest of hospital orders— I got her to Middlesex Hospital on Darwins name—first as an out patient and then as an in-patient and in Middlesex Hospital she now is, with no chance of recovery for an indefinite time—if ever!!—the illness being of long standing. and having taken her to the Hospital from several places before this one! So one of the Physicians wrote to me last night— Meanwhile for several days I have been rushing wildly thro the Tradespeople in search of another servant! Yesterday hearing of absolutely none by that process I went to a Register office—the “oldest in London” seventy five years old in fact, and the same Woman has kept it most of the time!—her Mother the rest of it— So old a looking Woman and place I never did business with! I paid her half a crown & she sent for first one servant and then another from the neighbourhood to show me—if these did not answer she would send more to my house the first was about six feet tall and three feet broad—age between fifty and sixty—and no teeth.— She was “willing” (as Barkis)3 “sure she could please me” (good God!) I almost took a fit at sight of her, with the idea of owning her— The next was a feasable looking young woman—with a thin querulous voice, and a sensitive, rather discontented countenance,—not very sure of whether she could stoop to a single servants place even at her own wages (15£)—“to be sure if it were a genteel place it made a difference!—her last place had been a carriage- family!”— My notion of this woman was that I could never like her—but that she would prove a capable trustworthy servant if she undertook the situation and staid over a month in it— So I told her to come tomorrow morning and let us talk it over again, and hope she will have “considered” to good purpose for I am sick to death of keeping up a house on my own strength.— I have the sister of “little Martha”4 (whom Jeanie remembers) cleaning for me—but she does not pretend to be able to so much as boil a potatoe—and Mr C expects all his meals as well got up or even better got up than usual—then this Hanah has a husband and baby who can't (the Baby) sleep without her—so I have to be up every morning at half after six to let her in— Still I may be thankful for her help—for she is a quiet clean kindly creature So there my Dear you have my sad squalid history— And now write me a word of comfort— I have not heard from Liverpool since you left it have not indeed written so I must not complain—tho in my days young ladies were taught not to stand on their rights with their elders—

It will be very good for JJohnnie5 going abroad so dont lament at it— Send love for me to my Uncle—I will write to him one day—!

All good be with you all / Your ever affectionate

Jane Carlyle