1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


JWC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 9 May 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540509-JWC-JAC-01; CL 29: 93-96


Tuesday [9 May 1854]

But—my Dear! You astonish me!— This statement of Mrs Fraser's, that I suggested to her to go out of town and let her house to you, is wholly and absolutely false!!1 I certainly called for Mrs Fraser last Saturday and sat some twenty minutes with her— But the rest is without an atom of foundation. Mrs Fraser is too well up to managing her own affairs for me ever to have dreamt of offering her a suggestion. Besides that, just as little should I have dreamt of striking unasked into your affairs, now that you have a wife of your own to arrange for you. In short the two ideas—your coming and Mrs Frasers house never so much as pointed towards each other in my brain!

Really if the little woman wished to let her house, she ought to have offered it to you on her own responsibility; instead of using up my call of condolence for that end.

For the rest, if you like the situation, I see no objection to the house. It is sure to be free of bugs—and there is room enough for temporary purposes—and it is not beyond my walking powers—tho' I should have liked you had gone no further off than where you stayed before2— Your old Landlady Mrs Thorburn has removed some time since into a nice large house in the Kings road—one of those with the gardens in front—when I last saw her, her first floor lodgers had just gone— Had you been seeking lodgings and applied to me—I was meaning to go and examine these—which are within five minutes walk of here. But if you have settled with Mrs Fraser; there is no more to be said or sung. I suppose you would bring the Ladysmaid with you to Mrs Frasers? or does she offer you her servants too?— At all events look well into that condition—if she have made it one. She told me her cook was a “nasty creature whom she did not at all like”— Housemaid she has had none latterly only a char woman.

I have got the Influenza again—caught cold returning from a dinner-party at the Procters on saturday night, and am at present in the third stage of the thing—the coughing and sneezing stage—

I saw “the Noble Lady3 that night—and a strange tragic sight she was! sitting all alone in a low-ceilinged, confined room at the top of Proctors house—a french bed in a corner—some relics of the Grand Bedford Square Drawingroom4—(small pictures and the like) scattered about—Herself stately, artistic as ever—not a line of her figure, not a fold of her dress changed since we knew her first, 20 years ago and more. She made me sit on a low chair opposite her—(she had sent for me to come up) and began to speak of Edward Irving and long ago as if it were last year—last month! There was something quite overpowering in the whole thing— The pagan grandeur of the old woman—retired from the world, awaiting death, as erect and unyielding as ever, contrasted so strangely with the mean bedroom at the top of the house—the uproar of company going on below—and the past which she seemed to live and move in felt to gather round me too, till I fairly laid my head on her lap and burst into tears. She stroked my hair very gently and said “I think, Jane, your manner never changes, any more than your hair which is still black I see.” “But you too are not changed” I said—“You know she said when I was still a young woman, I dressed and felt like an old one and so age has not told so much on me as on most others.” When I had staid with her an hour or so she insisted on my going back to the company—and embraced me as she never did before Her embrace used to be so freezing always to my “youthful enthusiasm”5 but this time she held me strongly to her heart and kissed my cheeks many times heartily—like a mother—I was near going off into crying again. I felt that she was taking eternal farewell of me in her own mind. But I dont mean it be so—I will go again to see her very soon. The great gentleness was indeed the chief change in her—not a hard word did she say about anyone—and her voice tho' clear and strong as of old had a human modulation in it. You may fancy the humour in which I went back to the party which was then at a white heat of excitement—about nothing!

Mrs Newton is to go to the Lady from India to whom she was recommended by Dr Buller of Southampton6—on the 5 of June— It will be of immense advantage to her to get to work—and away from here for a while— Her fatherinlaws death7 has made her quite ill—one of the daughters8 having written her a most cruel letter on the very day it happened accusing her of having caused it by her separating herself from Nodes!! She was much attached to her Fatherinlaw—and he alone of all her husbands family had been kind to her. Nodes, as you predicted gets better instead of dying. And so she is likely to have sorrow enough thro him yet.

There is a great deal of talking about the Ruskins here at present. Mrs Ruskin has been taken to Scotland by her parents—and Ruskin is gone to Switzerland with his—and the separation is understood to be permanent there is even a rumour that Mrs Ruskin is to sue for a divorce9— I know nothing about it—except that I have always pitied Mrs Ruskin while people generally blamed her—for love of dress and company and flirtation— She was too young and pretty to be so left to her own devices as she was by her husband who seemed to wish nothing more of her but the credit of having a pretty well dressed wife— With kind regards to your wife

Yours ever /