1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 12 February 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550212-JWC-TC-01; CL 29: 251-258


[12 February 1855]

BUDGET of a Femme incomprise1


I dont choose to speak again on the Money Question. The “replies[”] from the Noble Lord are unfair, and unkind, and little to the purpose.2 When you tell me I “pester your life out about money”—that “your soul is sick with hearing about it”—that I “had better make the money I have serve, at all rates—hang it!—let you alone of it”; all that I call perfectly unfair, the reverse of kind, and tending to nothing—but disagreement3

If I were greedy, or extravagant, or a bad manager; you would be justified in “staving me off” with loud words: but you cannot say that of me (whatever else) cannot think it of me! At least I am sure I never “asked for more”—to myself—from you or anyone—not even from my own Mother—in all my life; and that, thro' six and twenty years, I have kept house for you, at more or less cost according to given circumstances, but always on less than it costs the generality of People, living in the same style.— What I should have expected you to say, rather, would have been; “My Dear! you must be dreadfully hampered in your finances, and dreadfully anxious and unhappy about it, and quite desperate of making it do; since you are “asking for more”! Make me understand the case then. I can and will help you out of that sordid suffering at least. Either by giving you “more,” if that be found prudent to do; or by reducing our wants to within the present means.” That is the sort of thing you would have said, had you been a perfect man. So I suppose you are not a perfect man. Then; instead of crying in my bed half the night after, I would have explained my Budget to you in peace and confidence. But now; I am driven to explain it on paper, “in a state of mind”! driven; for I cannot, it is not in my nature, to live “intangled in the details.” And I will not! I would sooner hang myself—tho' “pestering you about money” is also more repugnant to me than you dream of.

You “dont understand why the allowance which sufficed in former years no longer suffices”?

That is what I would explain to the Noble Lord if he would but—what shall I say?—keep his temper.

The Beginning of my Embarrassments, it will not surprise the Noble Lord to learn—since it has also been “the beginning of” almost every human ill to himself—was The Repairing of the House. There was a destruction, an irregularity, an incessant recurrence of small incidental expenses, during all that period, or two periods; thro which I found myself, in September gone a year, ten pounds behind, instead of having some pounds saved up toward the Winter Coals.4— I could have worked round ‘out of that’ however in course of time; if habits of unpinched house-keeping had not been long taken by you as well as myself; and if new unavoidable, or not to be avoided; current expenses had not followed close on those incidental ones.— I will show the Noble Lord, with his permission, what the new current expenses are and to what they amount, per annum. (“Hear”! “Hear”! and cries of “be brief”)

1st We have a Servant of “higher grade,” than we ever ventured on before. More expensive in money. Ann's wages are sixteen pounds a year; Fanny's were thirteen;5 most of the others had twelve. And Ann never dreams of being other than well fed; the others scrambled for their living out of ours. Her regular meat-dinner at one o'clock, regular allowance of butter &c adds at least three pounds to the years bills. But she plagues us with no fits of illness nor of drunkenness no warnings nor complainings; she does perfectly what she is paid and fed to do. I see houses not so well kept, with ‘Cook’ ‘Housemaid’ and ‘Manservant.’ (“Question”!) Ann is the last item, then, I should vote for retrenching in. I may set her down, however, at six additional pounds.

2d We have now Gass and Water “laid on,” both producing an admirable result. But betwixt ‘water laid on’ at one pound sixteen shillings per annum, with shilling to Turncock, and water carried at fourpence a week, there is a yearly difference of nineteen shillings and fourpence; and betwixt gass all the year round, and a few sixpenny boxes of lights in the winter, the difference may be computed at fifteen shillings. These two excellent innovations, then, increase the yearly expenditure by one pound fourteen and fourpence. A trifle ‘to speak of’; but you, my Lord, born and bred in thrifty Scotland must know well the proverb “Every Little maks a Mickle”6

3d We are higher taxed. Within the last eighteen months there has been added to the Lighting Pavement and Improvement Rate ten shillings, yearly; to the Poor Rate one pound, yearly; to the Sewer Rate (one cannot mention it without a curse)7 ten shillings, yearly. and now the doubled Income Tax makes a difference of five pounds sixteen shillings and eightpence, yearly. Which sums added together amounts to a difference of seven pounds sixteen shillings and eightpence yearly! On Taxes which already amounted to seventeen pounds twelve shillings and eightpence! “There need be no reflections for want of Taxes!”

4th Provisions of all sorts are higher priced than in former years. Four shillings a week for bread, instead of two shillings and sixpence makes at the years end a difference of THREE POUNDS EIGHTEEN SHILLINGS ! Butter has kept all the year round twopence a pound dearer than I ever knew it, d16 instead of D14 (fresh) at the cheapest season, salt D148 instead of a shilling. On the quantity we use, two pounds and a half per week, quite reg'lar—there is a difference of TWENTY-ONE SHILLINGS AND EIGHTPENCE, by the year.— Butcher-meat is a penny a pound dearer; At the rate of a pound and a half a day, bones inclusive. (no exorbitant allowance for three people), the difference on that at the years end would be TWO POUNDS FIVE SHILLINGS AND SIXPENCE.— Coals, which had been for some years at twenty one shillings per ton, cost this year twenty six shillings; last year twenty nine—bought judiciously too! If I had had to pay fifty shillings a ton for them, as some housewives had TO, god knows what would have become of me! (Passionate cries of “question”! “Question!”) We burn, or used to burn (I am afraid they are going faster this winter) 12 tons one year with another. Candles are rizz. Composites a shilling a pound, instead of tenpence, dips eightpence instead of fivepence or sixpence; of the former we burn three pounds in nine days the greater part of the year (you sit so late), and of dips two pounds a fortnight on the average of the whole year. Bacon is twopence a pound dearer, soap ditto, Potatoes, at the cheapest, a penny a pound instead of three pounds for twopence. We use three pounds of potatoes in two days, neat. Who could imagine that, at the years end, that makes a difference of fifteen shillings and twopence! on ones mere potatoes! Compute all this, and you will find that the difference on provisions cannot be under TWELVE POUNDS in the year.

5th What I should blush to state, if I were not at bay (so to speak) Ever since we have been in London you have, in the handsomest manner, paid the winter butter with your own money! tho' it was not “in the bond.” And this gentlemanly proceeding on your part, till the butter became uneatable, was a good TWO POUNDS saved me.

Add up these differences

per annum £ s. d.
1st Rise on Servant 6. 0. 0
2dRise on Light and Water 1. 14. 4
3d Rise on Taxes 7. 16. 8
4th Rise on Provisions 12. 0. 0
5th Cessation of Butter 2. 0. 0
29. 11. 0

and you will find a total of twenty nine pounds eleven shillings. My calculations, I think, will be found quite correct; tho' I am not strong in arithmetic, never could learn the multiplication table in my life. But I have “thochtered[”] all this well in my head; and Indignation make a sort of arithmetic as well as verses!9

Do you finally understand why the allowance which sufficed formerly no longer suffices? and pity my difficulties instead of being angry at them?

The only thing you can reproach me with—if you like— is, that, fifteen months ago, when I found myself, already in debt and everything rising on me, I did not fall at once to pinching and muddling as when we didn't know where the next money was to come from; instead of “lashing down” at the accustomed rate, nay, expanding into “a regular servant.” But you are to recollect that when I first complained to you of the ‘prices,’ (at Addiscombe it was); you said, quite goodnaturedly; “Then, you are coming to Bankruptcy are you? not going to be able to go on, you think? Well, we must come to your assistance, poor Crittur; you mustn't be made a Bankrupt of!”— So I kept my mind easy, and retrenched in nothing; relying on the promised “assistance.” But when “Oh! it was lang o'coming, lang o'coming!”10 and my arrears taking every quarter a more alarming cipher; what could I do but put you in mind? Once—twice; at the third speaking, what you were pleasantly calling “a great heap of money,” fifteen pounds (well wanted) was— “what shall I say?”—flung to me. Far from leaving anything, to meet the increased demand of another nine months; this sum did not clear me of debt—not by five pounds.— But from time to time, encouraging words fell from the Noble Lord; “No! you cannot pay “the double-income-tax”; clearly! I must pay that for you.” And again; “I WILLA burn as many “coals” as I like! if you “can't” pay them somebody must!” All resulting however, thus far, in “don't you wish you may get it?”— Decidedly, I should have needed to be more than mortal, or else a “born Daughter of Chaos,”11 to have gone on without attempt ever made at ascertaining what coming to my assistance specifically meant? whether it meant 15£ without a blessing, once for all? and if so, what retrenchments were to be permitted?

You asked me at last money-row, with “withering sarcasm;” “had I the slightest idea what amount of money would satisfy me? Was I wanting fifty pounds more? or forty? or thirty? Was there any conceivable sum of money that could put an end to my eternal botheration?”— I will answer the question as if it had been asked practically, and kindly.

Yes! I have the strongest idea what amount of money would “satisfy” me. I have computed it often enough as I lay awake at night; and “didn't I wish I might get it?”—indeed, when I can't sleep now, it is my “difficulties” I think about, more than my sins; till they become “a real mental agony in my own inside!”— The above-named sum 29£, divided into quarterly payments would satisfy me. (With a certain parsimony about little things; somewhat less might do.) I engaging my word of Gentlewoman, to give back at the year's end, whatever portion thereof any diminution of the Demand on me might enable me to save.

I am not so unpractical, however as to ask for whole 29£, pounds, without thought or care where it is to come from. “I have settled all that” (“derisive laughter” and “Hear”!)—so that nine pounds only will have to be disbursed by you, over and above your long-accustomed disbursements (“Hear,” Hear”!)— You anticipate perhaps some draft on your waste-paper basket! No, my Lord! It has never been my habit to interfere with your ways of making money, or the rate which you make it at; and if I never did so in early years, most unlikely I should do it now! My Bill of Ways and Means12 has nothing to do with making money, only with disposing of the money made. (“Bravo!” “Hear”!)

1st Ever since my Mother's death, you have allowed me for Old Mary Millls three pounds yearly. she needs them no more13Continue these three pounds, for the House.

2d Thro' the same long term of years; you have made me the handsomest Xmas and Birthday presents; and when I had purposely disgusted you from [made you lose an interest in] buying me things, you gave me at newyear—5£. (Oh I knew the meaning of that 5£ quite well.) GIVE me NOTHING; neither money nor money's worth! (I would have it so anyhow) and continue the 5£ for the House.

3 Ever since we came to London you have paid some two pounds (I guess) for butter—now become uneatable— Continue that two pounds, for the House; and we have already ten pounds which you can't miss not having been used to have them.

4th My allowance of 25£ is a very liberal one; has enabled me to “spend freely” for myself; and I don't deny there is a pleasure in that, when there is no Household crisis; but with an appaling deficit in the House exchequer it is not only no pleasure, but an impossibility.— I can “keep up my dignity” and my wardrobe, on a less sum—on 15£ a year.—A silk dress, a “splendid dressing gown,” a Milliner's bonnet the less! what signifies that at my age?14— Nothing!— Besides I have had so many “gowns” given me, that they may serve for two or three years; By then; God knows if I shall be needing gowns at all! So deduct ten pounds from my personal allowance and continue that, for the House.— But why not transfer it privately from my own purse to the house one. and ask for only 19 pounds? It would have sounded more modest—“figured” better!— Just because “that sort of thing” dont please me! I have tried it, and found it a bad ‘go’—a virtue not “its own reward”! I am for every herring to hang “by its own head,"15 every purse to stand on its own bottom. It would worry me to be thought rolling in the wealth of 25£, when I was cleverly making 15 do, and investing 10 in coals or taxes. Mrs Brookfield is up, to that sort of self-sacrifice thing, and to—finding compensation in the sympathy of ‘many friends’ and in smouldering discontent, with “William” for having no intuition of her maganimity. I am up to neither the magnanimity, nor the compensation. But I am quite up to laying down ten pounds of my allowance, in a straightforward, recognised way; without standing on my toes to it either. And what is more I am determined upon it. Will not accept more than 15 pounds in the present state of affairs.

There only remains to disclose the actual state of the Exchequer. It is empty as a drum! (“sensation”!) If I consider 29 more pounds indispensable (things remaining as the[y] are) for the coming year, beginning from the 22d of March;—it is just because I have found it so in the year that is gone. And I commenced that, as already stated, with ten pounds of arrears. Now, you “assisted” me with 15 pounds, and I have “assisted” myself with ten pounds—five last August which I took from the Savings Bank, and the five you gave me at newyear, which I threw into the coal account. (Don't suppose, “if thou's i' the habit o' supposing” that I tell you this in the undevout imagination of being repaid; by all that's sacred for me—the memory of my Father and Mother—(what else can an “irreligious creature” like me, swear by?) I would not take back that money, if you offered it, with the best grace, and had picked it up in the Street! I tell it you simply, that you may see I am not so dreadfully greedy as you have appeared to think me—latterly.— Setting my ten pounds, then, against the original arrears, with fifteen pounds in “assistance” from you; it would follow from my own computation, that I should need fourteen pounds ‘more’ to clear off arrears on the weekly bills, and carry me on, paying my way, till the 22d of March (next quarter-day). (cries of “shame”! and “Turn her out”!) I say only, “should need.”— (Your money of course is yours, to do as you will with—) And, that I would like to again “walk the causway, carrying my head as high as—” Mr Allan, the upholsterer!16 “owing no man anything” And, that dearly I would like to “at all rates let YOU alone of it”; if I knew who else had any business with my housekeeping, or to whom else I could properly address myself! I cannot address myself to myself for the moment; as what with that expensive, most ill-timed Dressing-gown, and my cheap, illtimed chiffonnière, and my halfyears bills to Rhind and Catchpole;17 I have only what will serve me till June come round.— If I were a man, I might “fling the gauntlet to Society, join with a few brave fellows, and rob a Diligence.” But my sex ‘kind of’ debars me from that!— Mercy! to think there are women, your friend Lady Ashburton for example (“rumeur” and “sensation”) I say, for example; who spend not merely the “additimental” pounds, I must make such pother about; but four times my whole income in the Ball of one night! and none the worse for it; nor anyone the better!— It is—“what shall I say?”—curious “upon my honour!” But just in the same manner Mrs Freeman18 might say; “to think there are women, Mrs Carlyle, for example, who spend three pounds, fourteen shillings on one dressing-gown! and I with just two loaves and eighteen pence (from the Parish) to live on, by the week!” There is no bottom to such reflexions; the only thing one is perfectly sure of is “it will come all to the same ultimately.” and “I can't say I'll regret the loss of myself—” for one!

I subjoin a schedule of Expenses on the last 50 pounds, before beginning to eat &c—that you may just see what remained for living, washing, candles, and all the odds and ends of housekeeping, for three months—in London!

Also account of the 25£ check you gave me to pay your own bills with—inclosing the balance, every shilling.

“I add no more; but remain, dear Sir, your / Obedient humble Servant”

Jane Welsh C

Demand on the last fifty pounds (supposing there had been no tagragery of arrears with the weekly bills) independent of living, washing lighting, and all the odds and ends of a house.

£ S D
Brown for cleaning clocks 1 2 6
Ann's quarter's wages 4
House Rent 8 15
(half year's) Church Rate 5
(half year's) Income tax 5 16 8
Coal account 14 9 6
(half years) Poor Rate 2 10
House account to Hacking 16 7
(chiefly things ordered by you
Alsop19 1
38 15 3

£ S D
38. 15. 3
Balance 11. 4. 9 !

Account of your 25£ £ S D
Account for carpet (discount deducted) 9
Haskings bill 4 18 9
Money order 1
Pocket money 5
Till—for Flys 14
15 17 9

£ S D
5. 17. 9
Balance 9. 2. 320