The Collected Letters, Volume 26


JWC TO LADY AIRLIE; 27 December 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511227-JWC-LAI-01; CL 26: 282-283


The Grange 26th [27] December [1851]

My dear Lady Airlie

I recognised your handwriting on the last letter with a feeling not at all unlike girlish joy—strange to say at this date!—but as I read; I became grave enough, and in the end unaccountably sad! Nor did the sadness pass away when I had carried your letter up stairs and locked it into my writing case. The whole day after, in spite of the brilliances talked around me, I was haunted with a vague dreary uneasiness, having your image at the heart of it,—such as I have felt after dreaming—very vividly—that a person I loved had, before my eyes, without my having the power to help it, fallen over a precipice—or some such dreadful thing! It was nothing that you said in your letter which made this impression on me, but what you did not say, which I seemed to read by second sight behind the outward visible words. and which told of your having begun—already!—to lose confidence in yourself and your young life, and to be giving yourself up to what the germans call grübeln [brooding], the fatalest of innocent occupations that the human mind can employ itself in! Oh don't I know what comes of that same grübeln! how one gets swamped within an inch of ones life in one insoluble problem after another—knocks oneself black and blue against laws of nature! God preserve you from such a habit! the flowers in your lifegarden will all wither one after another, if instead of watering and weeding them you continually scrape the earth from them to examine the roots, and no good seed that you sow will bear fruit if you poke it up time after time to see how it is getting on! But I am stupid to be answering your letter to the same mood it was written in— How often has Geraldine Jewsbury, the only person I ever write Jeremiads to, driven me wild with a long letter of consolations, or good advice only applicable to a momentary humour, forgotten by myself while she had been remembering it too well and bringing all her forces of sympathy and sense to bear on it— Let me not fall into the same blunder which I know to be very provoking to the person sympathized with or advised—at the wrong time!— Only; will you make me two promises? will you promise me that when you are out of spirits and disposed to sit down and meditate on such questions as “how to preserve any particular person's love,” you will that instant fall to doing some active thing—take a walk, pay a visit, enter into talk with the first person you meet, write to me—do anything, but only dont sit thinking!— Love, you, as well as you can—deserve as well as you can the others love, and leave the rest to Providence— The other thing I request of you; you may think strange—impertinent perhaps to say,—but in that case the sincere affection I feel towards you and the sincere interest I take in your happiness must plead my excuse—if ever you have any little disagreement with your Husband, feel any moment of displeasure against him—and what married existence is, ever was, or ever will be without such clouds—do not dearest Lady Airlie take any of your family into your confidence—that is unforgivable to ones Husband that a Mother in law or Sister in law should be made aware of such moments of discord—for every man will forgive a wound to his affection sooner than one to his pride— Besides the very love of ones own family makes them unsafe to be trusted— Pardon me for saying this—the caution may be superfluous—but I have known such misery resulting from family confidences that I could not avoid suggesting you a rule which I have invariably acted upon myself—

We have had a large party here last week—Lord Lansdowne, the Greys, with their Lady Alice Lambton (not interesting to my taste) Mr Twisleton, Mr Clough Tomorrow Miss Farrer comes and Thackeray with his two little girls—at present there are no visitors but Lady Sandwich and ourselves— According to the original programme we were to have gone home tomorrow but it is now settled that we stay till this day week— Have no fear about my repeating anything you are ever kind enough to say to me of a private nature— Neither to Lady A nor anyone else should I dream of “showing your letters”— I wish I might have an hours walk with you at Eglington Castle1— I was there once merely to look at it, with my beautiful, good Mother whom I have no longer, and for the sake of that reminiscence I like addressing a letter to you there—

You will hardly be able to read this scrawl—Lady A has been talking to me all the time I have been writing the last sheet—with Sambo howling at intervals—and I positively would write by this post so have gone on “under difficulties”!

God keep you my dear Lady Airlie—write to me soon again—and believe me affectionately and loyally your friend

Jane Carlyle