The Collected Letters, Volume 27


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 20 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520820-JWC-TC-01; CL 27: 238-241


Friday [20 August 1852]

Thanks Dear!— I suppose you will have had a packet from me since that note written at Dumfries— This will find you returned. I have been waiting all the week for light!— Mr Morgan I knew too well “had none to give me.” so I have not stormed too much under his non-appearance (for Mr Morgan has been ‘indulging in a fit of gout’—so far as I can make it out;—and has been moreover for the last ten days “down at Mr Helps's”—what doing one would like to know? Perhaps Helps is going to write “a wee bookie” on Architecture next, and is using up Morgan as milk cow—anyhow, Morgan has not been here for more than a fortnight and if I had not been here to tell the men what was needed, the “thorough repair” must have been at a stillstand!— However—as I was saying—Mr Morgan, in the body would not have thrown much light for me on anything—No—what I have been crying to de profundis was the Plasterers! If the Plasterers were only out of the house one could calculate the rest “by one's own sharpness.” But the Plasterers, promised from day to day, have not returned; and now on sending a special message to “Mr Townsend”;1 he tells me what I might as well have been told a week ago—that the first coat of plaster will not be dry enough for a week yet to permit of their finishing So much of the fine, drying weather was lost— It will take him a week he says to finish when he once gets begun—so that it will certainly be three weeks from this date before the rubbish is cleared away so that one can begin to bring back a little order— It will hardly be a surprise to you then when I give it as my certain opinion———


Interrupted by the terrific necessity to upturn that chaotic pile of goods in the back kitchen, which swept me away into confusion worse confounded2 till after posttime—— As my certain opinion, corroborated by that of Chorley and the Painter that our two new rooms cannot be safely papered this season—must wait till spring to bloom up in all their finished loveliness! Well, You must not fret at this delay. Your room will not look so bad with clean walls without paper—and will be dry enough for inhabiting thro the winter— Only if there be the slightest particle of damp in the walls it comes out on the paper in yellow stains—and should that transpire “one would be vaixed”! As for my new bed room, the lying over that till spring wont be of the slightest consequence—as I can continue to sleep in my old room, which has a prospect of getting painted and papered next week. And then the papering when it does come off, with such a good hand as Morgan employs (he has been here one day and entirely contented me) won't take up above a few days, nor make any mess “to speak of”— If it were all done to that I should be thankful—but these Plasterers are as bad as any of the plagues of Egypt, and until they are fairly out of the house, the painting can't get fallen to with any emphasis—and the furniture has to remain in horrid heaps “semina rerum non bene junctata [atoms of matter not well arranged]3”— It were easy to tell you “more about the house,” but upon my honour my own temper is so much tried with it, that I dont see the good of initiating you in details that could only give you a sensation of nightmare.— As to Nero, poor Darling, it is no forgetfulness of him that has kept me silent on his subject—but rather that he is part and parcel of myself; when I say I am well, it means also Nero is well! Nero c'est moi! Moi cest Nero! [Nero is myself! I am Nero!] I might have told something of him however rather curious, going down into the kitchen the morning after my return from Sherborne I spoke to the white Cat, in common politeness, and even stroked her; whereon the jealousy of Nero rose to a pitch! he snapped and barked at me, then flew at the cat quite savage. and I “felt it my duty” to box his ears. He stood a moment as if taking his resolution, then rushed up the kitchenstair and, as it afterwards appeared, out of the House!! for in ten minutes or so a woman came to the door with Master Nero in her arms! and said she had met him running up Cook's Grounds4 and was afraid he “would go and lose himself”!! He would take no notice of me after for several hours! And yet he had never read “George Sand novels,” that Dog, or any sort of novels!

But of Germany—I really would advise you to go—not so much for the good of doing it, but for the good of having done it. Neuberg is as suitable a guide and companion as poor humanity, imperfect at best, could well afford you. And I also vote for leaving me out of the question— It would be anything but a pleasure for me to be there, with the notion of a house all at sixes and sevens to come home to—and it will evidently take so many weeks yet to bring it back to habitable order, that you would probably have done all you had to do and be wishing to come back; by the time I could comfortably go away—at all events it would be a most foolish fatigue and expense to go all that way for the week or two I might snatch out of “the belly of Chaos”— You will take me there another time, if you think it worth my seeing—or I could go sometime myself and visit Bolte—or I can have money to make any little journey I may fancy—some-time—when I am out of sorts—which thanks God I am not just now the least in the world— If it were not for the thought of your bother in being kept out of your own house I should not even fret over the slowness of the house-process— I can see that there is an immense deal of that sort of invisible work expended on it which you expended on Cromwell— The two Carpenters are not quick certainly, but they are very conscientious and assiduous—give themselves a great deal of work that makes no show,—but which you should be the last man to count unnecessary—for example when a door is found to have been made all crooked they will not make their architrave (is that the way to spell it?) crooked too—but insist on bringing the door to straightness by piecing here and plaining off there— I said to the oldest man yesterday about some rotten boards in the kitchen, which the painter had pointed out to me, “cant you clap up a bit of the old wainscott on that—just at once in any way?—and he looked at me very humourously and said “in any way?—Yes!—you say that Mam—and you know very well that if we did it in any way, you would be saying after; Well! what fellows those Carpenters are! what a job they have had the face to make of this!”—and I couldnt but own he spoke truly— When it comes to putting everything in order again it will be a much greater pleasure than going to Germany I can tell you— So dont let the notion of my not going be any sort of objection to your own going—

I had plenty of other things to tell you but when one gets on that House there is no end to it— John's ascent in the Balloon, which I assisted at, deserved a letter to itself— That Boy has things in him that I never dreamt of giving him credit for! I was downright proud of him that day. Amidst some thirty or forty gentlemen of science &c and “honourable women not a few,” he stood out before me for the first time in his real character, clear, selfpossessed, goodhumoured, inventive; and with nerves of steel, and a power of abstraction that seemed to me little short of miraculous— With old Green standing on the edge of his balloon shouting to him to make haste, and gentlemen of science pressing round with last questions and suggestions—he coolly sat down on his knees before his thermometers, some dozen of them, and examined and wrote down the results in a book, with as steady an eye and hand as if he had been in the Kew Observatory— I heard many persons asking one another where he came from, and expressing admiration of his coolness, and prophecying he would “come to something” “his soul was so much in his science” But he surprised me most of all when the Balloon had fairly shot up into the air, by taking of his hat, and waving it three times over his head in answer to the cheers below, with a grace that I stood amazed before as in presence of the Infinite! John—so rustic and shy!

But oh Heavens there is twelve striking— Ever yours