The Collected Letters, Volume 26


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 27 December 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511227-JWC-HW-01; CL 26: 280-281


The Grange / 27th December [1851]

Dearest Helen

Your letter and the “tiny book”—that might have served as house-ledger to Titania the Fairy Queen,—were none the less welcome that they came on the morning after Christmas day— I am very thankful to you for writing so often—but I do regret that I should be at such a distance from you all that I cannot drop in now and then, and get a kiss of my dear Uncle, and see how he is with my own eyes— Another regret is that I shall not now be able to get The Romance of the peerage to him by newyears day as I intended TO—for we are to stay here till Friday of next week— Had Lady A confided to me when she begged me stay, and help her to do the little Thackerays that both Miss Farrer and Emily Baring were to be here at the same time I should have kept to the original programme for my share— Miss Farrer having a fund of liveliness and good nature up to taking on her own shoulders the weight of any number of little Misses—but I was left to believe Lady A should be alone with these children and her Mother, if I refused to stay; and in that case there would have been a certain ungraciousness in refusing her request— It puts me out considerably however not being home before newyearsday to send the little remembrances I am in the habit of sending to dear old Haddington Betty1 Mrs Russell and various others—here, there is absolutely nothing to be got— Alresford the nearest place has no decent shops in it, and besides I could no more get there than to London, being still a sort of prisoner—all my walking being a few turns on sunshiny days (which are few) on the sheltered side of the flower garden— I can write to them however in the meantime and send the ribbands &c after I go back— Then too I will not forget my Uncle's book—

Our Christmas Tree came off with great success on Wednesday evening2— It stood in the middle of the servants Hall which was profusely decorated with evergreens, and inscriptions written in red berries “God Save the Queen”—“Long live Lord and Lady Ashburton &c &c”—the tree was a fir tree six feet high—stuck quite full of apples and walnuts gilded with dutch leaf3—lighted coloured wax tapers—and little bundles of comfits—the presents, of which the seven dolls were much the finest, lay on a table erected all round the tree and covered with white cloths—the forty eight children with their school mistress and Mothers and most of the servants, were ranged round while Lady A, attended by his Lordship, the Clergyman4 and his wife and two daughters Mr C and myself, distributed the presents calling up each child by name and saying something graceful and witty along with the doll, top, or whatever it might be— Mr C had begged to have a map of the world in pieces given to him, which was done very cleverly—“Thomas Carlyle—The Scholar,” shouted her Ladyship and the Scholar humbly advanced—“there is a map of the world for you—see that you put it all together and make the pieces fit”— The scholar made his bow, and looked as enchanted as any little boy or girl among them—there was afterwards some MUMMING executed before us by country lads in paper dresses—and then we came away leaving the children and their mothers to enjoy the mugs of tea with large junks of currant loaf sp[r]ead5 for them on a long table— The whole thing had a very fine effect—and might have given occasion for a laudatory newspaper paragraph but one reflection that I could not help making rather spoiled it for me—viz: that the whole of forty eight presents had cost just 2 pounds twelve and sixpence! having been bought in the Lowther Arcade6 the most rubbishy place in London—with a regard of expense that would have been meritorious in the like of us but which seemed to me—what shall I say?—incomprehensible—in a person with an income of 40,000 thousands a year—and who gives balls at the cost of 700£ each, or will spend 100£ on a china jar!— I should have liked each child to have got at least a frock given it—when one was going to look munificent— But everyone has his own notions on spending money— For the rest it has been what Miss Farrer would call “a dreadful slow Christmas” except for the Servants who had a ball last night which lasted till six in the morning— We up stairs were in the reactionary state of our company spirits of last week But Thackeray and Miss Farrer come today—and the steam must be got up again—

And now I must end having several other letters to write—to the young Countess amongst others (Blanche Airlie) who continues to send me letters so confidential, that I feel as if I were being constituted dry nurse to her soul!—without having been “trained to the business”— Love to you all kisses to my Uncle yours affec