The Collected Letters, Volume 26


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH; 11 May 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510511-JWC-JW-01; CL 26: 81-83


Sunday [11 May 1851]

Dearest Babbie

When I got your last note, I meant to answer it by the next post, but what I mean to do is precisely the last thing I get done, any thing, every thing rather than that! Of course the fault is in myself and not in my ‘contrairy’ circumstances—if I could rid myself of the weak notion that I am too bothered or too wearied out, for doing this or that for writing to you, for instance; there is no such pressure of bother on me that I might not write you at least a dozen lines every day of my life, but believe that you haven't time nor strength and you havn't them, tho', for the rest you may be all the while yawning over the fire, and up to walking ten miles were the temptation great enough.

Dont suppose, like a dear Babbie as you are and will always be for me, that there is any thing more in these long silences than a defective condition of my volition, the result in great measure of general ill health I am sure; for long ago, whatever thing I had in my mind to do, I did and the more hindrances, the more haste—and latterly there has been too a complication in our correspondence rendering my letters to you individually, a pro bono publico [for the public good] affair, a sort of letters which I have no skill in writing, and less than no liking to write— If I was to be always keeping Helen in view in my letters—better, certainly easier it was, to write direct to herself—and so at the same time show her the little attention which is the privilege of invalids. Do you write to me as formerly!—there is no invalid here keeping a sharp look out on all the letters that come to the house, and feeling aggrieved if they be not imparted to her; and yet—what do you tell me but small nonsense that you evidently fall half asleep over while you are writing them—for example you had to tell me in your last letter that Andrew1 had been a fortnight with you in Liverpool—and a good deal besides I should think—and what did you tell me? Oh Babbie! how I wish it had not been your idea to pitch your tent in the “valley of the shadow of marriage2—it is a very relaxing air I am sure and peculiarly unsuitable to your constitution— But certainly I am not the best authorized person to tell people how they should manage their lives under that head of method having made such a mess of my own life—God help me!

If you have heard from Liverpool in these days they would perhaps tell you that I am scheming to have Helen up for a week or two to see this eternal “Exhibition” If Mr C had only carried out his project of going off to Copenhagen the beginning of May, great things might have come off—in which you might have taken some part—but instead of what I had set my heart on I find myself more tied up even than usual— Mr C here, correcting proofs with no more tendency towards Denmark for the present—and oh horror! the old story of a change of servants to be gone over again the week after next! (I need not go into the peculiarity of the present servant—enough that if I had not the prospect of soon getting rid of her, she would fret me into a fit of phrenzy in which I should commit either suicide or murder—at the same time she is a well tempered well disposed girl!—and I could not turn her out without due warning— I have an elderly widow coming this time—whom I took to at first sight from a sort of look she has of our old Betty— I must wait till I see whether she can keep the house over our heads before I fix about bringing Helen, tolerant as I found her on a former memorable occasion,3 into it—) I was not purposing to go near the Exhibition myself till I took her or someone to see it—I had not so much as gone to view the outside since it was roofed in— But the other day Forster offered us his Examiner-ticket which admitted both Mr C and a Lady—so we went and oh how—tired I was!— Not that it is not really a very beautiful sight—especially at the entrance; the three large trees, built in, because the people objected to their being cut down, a crystal fountain, and a large blue canopy give one a momentary impression of a Bazzar in the Arabian Nights Entertainments—and such a lot of things of different kinds and of well4 dressed people—for the tickets were still 5/5–—was rather imposing for a few minutes—but when you come to look at the wares in detail—there was nothing really worth looking at—at least that one could not have seen samples of in the shops. The big diamond indeed—worth a million! that one could not have seen at any jeweller's—but oh Babbie what a disappointment! for the big diamond—unset—looked precisely like a bit of crystal the size and shape of the first joint of your thumb!6 And the fatigue of even the most cursory survey was indescribable and to tell you the God's truth I would not have given the pleasure of reading a good Fairy Tale for all the pleasure to be got from that “Fairy Scene”! I have surely a great many things to tell you not about the Exhibition—but I have only a horrid steel pen and my paper appears to be scarce.

Write soon again, you demoralised little dear Babbie—and believe me your ever loving,

J. C.