The Collected Letters, Volume 27


JWC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 27 July 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520727-JWC-JAC-01; CL 27: 189-190


5 Cheyne Row / Tuesday [27 July 1852]

My dear John

You will like to hear “what I am thinking of Life” in the present confusion. Well then; I am not thinking of it at all but living it very contentedly. The tumult has been even greater since Mr C went than it was before; for new floors are being put down in the top story and the noise of that is something terrific. But now that I feel the noise and dirt and discord with my own senses only and not thro his as well, it is amazing how little I care about it. Nay in superintending all these men I begin to find myself in the career open to my particular talents,1 and am infinitely more satisfied than I was in talking “wits” in my white silk gown with white feathers in my head, at soirees at Bath House “and all that sort of thing.” It is such a consolation to be of some use, tho' it were only in helping stupid carpenters and bricklayers out of their impossibilities, and at all rates keeping them to their work, especially when the ornamental no longer succeeds with one so well as it has done! The fact is I am remarkably indifferent to material annoyances, considering my morbid sensitiveness to moral ones. And when Mr C is not here recognising it with his overwhelming eloquence, I can regard the present earthquake as something almost laughable. Another house-wife trial of temper has come upon me since Mr C went, of which he yet knows nothing, and which has been born with the same imperturbability— He told you perhaps that I had got a new servant in the midst of this mess—a great beauty, whom I engaged because she had been six years in her last place, and because he decidedly liked her physiognomy She came home the night before he left— It was a rough establishment to come into, and no fair field for showing at once her capabilities; but her dispositions were perhaps on that account the more quickly ascertained. The first night; I came upon her listening at the door, and the next morning, I came upon her reading one of my letters! and in every little box drawer and corner I found traces of her prying— It was going to be like living under an Austrian Spy, then because she had no regular work possible to do, she did nothing of her own accord that was required— Little Martha who was here in Anne's illness, and whom I had taken back for a week or two, was worth a dozen of her in serviceableness, the little cooking I needed, was always “what she hadnt been used to where she lived before” and for that or some other reason detestable— I saw before the first week was out that I had got, a helpless, illtrained, low minded goose, and this morning the last day of the week I was wishing to Heaven I had brought no regular Servant into the house at all just now, but gone on with little Martha.— As there was not work enough for half a one never to speak of two, I had told little Martha she must go home tonight—I would rather have sent away the other, but she had waited three weeks for the place and couldn't be despatched without a months warning, and besides I felt hardly justified in giving her no longer trial. Figure my satisfaction then, when on my return from taking Mazzini to call for the Brownings2 the new servant came to me with a set face and said, “she had now been here a week and found the place didnt suit her—if it had been all straight perhaps she could have lived in it but it was such a muddle and would be such a muddle for months to come, that she thought it best to get out of it”— I told her I was quite of her opinion and received the news with such amiabity that she became quite amiable too and asked “when would I like her to go.” “Tonight, I said. Martha was to have gone tonight, now you will go in her stead and that will be all the difference”!— And she is gone!—bag and baggage! we parted with mutual civilities and I never was more thankful for a small mercy in my Life— And the most amusing part of the business is that altho taken thus by surprise, I had, before she left the house——engaged another servant! By the strangest chance Irish Fanny who has always kept on coming to see me from time to time and is now in better health, arrived at teatime to tell me she had left her place— I offered her mine which she had already made trial of and she accepted with an enthusiasm that did ones heart good after all those cold ungrateful English wretches— I stipulated however that she should not come for a month. Little Martha being the suitablest help in the present state of the family Little Martha is gone to bed the happiest child in Chelsea at the honour thus done her; “I would have told you Mam, she said, the very first day that girl was here that she wasnt fit for a genteel place like yours! And Im sure she isnt so much older than me as she says she is”!

Oh such a fuss the Brownings made over Mazzini this day! My private opinion of Browning is, in spite of Mr C's favour for him, that he is nothing or very little but “a fluff of feathers”!3 She is true and good, and the most womanly creature! I go to Sherborne on Friday to stay till Monday. It is a long fatiguing journey for so short a time—and will be a sad visit, but she4 wishes it—and now good night—

With kind regards to all affectionately yours / Jane W Carlyle