1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


JWC TO KATE STERLING; 2 April 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550402-JWC-KS-01; CL 29: 280-282


Monday [2 April? 1855]

“Ach pretty Kate! my darling Kate” 1

If there be any great public or individual benefit to acCRUE (no relation of Mrs Monkton Milnes)2 from the putting down of your and Julia's affection for me; it must be owned that, with a perfectly Roman disinterestedness, I myself do the impossible towards that end! The Committee of Management, with ‘the Captain’ at their head should really vote me a Testimonial—a silver teapot or some such thing—for my help in “carrying out” their views.3 Such a dear kind letter as your last left unanswered so many weeks! this single instance of apparent coldheartedness, would well deserve from them, it strikes me, a silver teapot or at least creampot all to itself! at the present time when those who ‘deserve well of the republic’ are no longer crowned in the Capital4 but paid for their virtue with a sum of money or piece of plate.

My Dear! The eternal east wind has got into every corner of my heart and brain, shrivelling up my faith, hope and charity,5 as it had ‘already’ shrivelled up the outer skin of me! I think seriously of retiring to bed, and abjuring my fellowcreatures—all but Nero—till it turns into the West; I have such difficulty in keeping myself from flying out at every body, and telling them considerable portions of my mind! Poor Geraldine is worst off with me—for having unbounded confidence in her devotion, I don't bother to keep up appearances with her, but scold at her whenever we are together which is twice a day at least!6 Her new novel is much praised in the newspapers7 and among my acquaintance. but she has some half dozen other peoples novels passing thro her hands every week to be reviewed;8 and knows how soon the “most successful novel of the season” is superseded by another with “others yet behind”—and is not the least “carried” by this lyrical recognition of her own one— “My Dear,” she said yesterday, if they will buy it as well as praise it, so that it may go to a second edition; I shall get 50£ more you know! but praising is one thing, and buying another, and I dare say I have got already more for it than it is worth.” I chaperoned her to a party at Milnes's one night where she was solemnly introduced (by Milnes) to Miss Wynn's Sister Mrs Gaskell.9

I never chaperoned a young Lady in my life before, and I found it distracting work! I was constantly losing her, and “feeling it my duty” to recover her. and every time she opened her mouth I dreaded an outrage to the “three thousand punctualities.”10 That was my only SOIREE for months. I have been twice out at dinner since Xmas,—my Gaities are not killing. In fact we live here up to the eyes in Frederick the Great—and he is become such a horrid bore to me that I dream about him in my bad nights!11 Under these circumstances it is clear I cannot write an amusing letter—and to be edifying is not my line. When I would say anything “for edification” I come in mind always of an old woman in my own country who being ill of a deadly malady, was visited and exhorted by a self complacent old neighbour until she lost all patience with him and one day seizing her pillow, flung it at his head crying “out o' my sicht ye clavering gowk! It's easy for thee to speak! thou hat a richt hale Heart (whole body).” So when I am tempted to medle or make at other peoples souls I see always a (figurative) pillow shied at my head, and hear old Janet's “clavering gowk its easy for thee to speak!—” Love and a kiss to dear Julia— Ditto to Miss Wynn if you dare

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