The Collected Letters, Volume 27


JWC TO JOHN R. STODART ; 10 September 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520910-JWC-JRS-01; CL 27: 278-280


5 Cheyne Row / Friday [10 September 1852]

Goodness gracious! I wonder what “England expects” of me at the present crisis? Ought I to cry, or laugh, or scream, or what on earth—? screaming comes always readiest to me; with the contingent peculiarity, as Lord Ashburton once remarked, that I always “run towards what I scream at, and never away from it”! So let it be understood then; that I scream at your constancy, as in presence of the supernatural! and at the same time feel myself as much attracted as scared by the supernaturalness— In fact your letter, so full of old affection and trust, dropt to me as it were out of the skies, and what Mr Carlyle would call “The Eternities,” has produced considerable bewilderment of my matronly wits—so that I could almost fall to doubting for the moment, Whether I be the present flesh-and-blood Mrs Carlyle or the Ghost of little Miss Welsh! a perpetually recurring form of doubt with me, to say the truth, independently of wakings up of old Lovers. When I went to Haddington, incognito, three years ago,1 I bought some little quaighs in a Coopers shop I used to have the run of, and in my character of travelling Englishwoman, seized with a sudden passion for wooden dishes, I got the Cooper into talk about his townsfolk present and past—and he told me this amongst other interesting things, that “Dr Welsh's death was the sorest loss ever came to the place, that he left a Daughter, a very tasty young Leddy in his (the cooper's) opinion; but she went away into England poor thing and died there!!”—Perhaps that old Cooper had better information on my subject than the rest of the world had. I certainly left his shop that summers evening with a horrible apprehension of being “thin air”—the “pretty white heels” and all!— Well! if one went largely into the question who among us is really alive, and who only walking the upper earth by sufferance, there would be no continuing in such a spectral world as one would find this to be— So leaving all that, let me assure you that your loving remembrance is very precious to me—not that people dont love me any longer, in a general way—quite the contrary—from my dog upwards, creatures still attach themselves to me with a certain enthusiasm—but Oh dear! a little old love, bringing with it airs from long ago (God bless it!) is worth a vast deal of new love—at least to my retrospective turn of thought

I suppose it is in the highest degree unconventional to tell another man than one's lawful husband, that one cares about his love and is grateful to him for it— But what matter? I never followed “the three thousand punctualities”2 when I was a girl, and yet got thro' with character, enough for practical purposes; why on earth then should I take the conventional Law on me now, when I can point to the cipher in your letter “40” years— Ah! about a love of “near 40 years” standing one may speak with freedom enough!—— Especially backed out by several hundred miles of intervening space! For until I can bring myself to wear a cap like other women of England,3 to conceal my hair which wont turn grey, I cant precisely turn my age alone to all the credit one might suppose.

I am sitting here in what might be called fitly “the belly of Chaos”!—for ten unblessed weeks has this house been undergoing “a thorough repair” and I staying in it!— I shall know for the rest of my life what “a thorough repair” means, and never be so mad again as constitute myself the presiding Genius of such complicated night mare. I was to have gone with my Husband to Germany but to leave these operations to their natural snail's pace would have been unworthy of the excellent house wife I wish to pass for, so I let him go without me, and am earning “virtues own reward” amidst noise and dust and disorder indiscribable, spending my days in superintending thirteen consequences of the Fall of Man—Carpenters, Bricklayers, Plasterers Painters Plumbers—and my nights in being eaten by—what shall I say?—bugs Oh Heavens!—in a hired lodging; or suffocated with smell of new paint at home!—or what I once called home—for now, as I have said, it is converted, this poor house, into the belly of Chaos! And d'you know “virtues own reward” dont feel to be quite worth the candle in this case—

At all events I must cut short(!) my writing—and go off to the City—and try my Genius in a wholly different line—viz. in persuading a bookseller to publish a female M S4—not my own—if it were I would give more for its chances of getting published—

My little dog sends you his kind regards and hopes to make your acquaintance some time and I remain—what I have always been for you—yours affectionately

Jane W C

I was out of town for a couple of days when your letter came and yesterday I was ill with headach and couldnt write