January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO WILLIAM ALLINGHAM ; 23 February 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560223-JWC-WA-01; CL 31: 37-39


5 Cheyne Row / 23d Feby 1856

Dear Mr Allingham

I like your idea. It is original; and like the notes of the nightingale “touching and strong.”1 I shall bear it in mind for my own use. Now and then I have met with a person “here down2 (as Mazzini calls it) whom absence did not sweep from my recollection, and to whom, in some dreamy moment I should have liked to say, “I remember you; do you remember me?” But it never occurred to me to do this, tho' so extremely easy to be done! without having gone thro' the slow preliminary to a regular friendly correspondence. and to regular friendly correspondences, indeed to regular anything I have a sacred horror of committing myself— This sort of impulsive irregular thing suits me exactly; so I thank you for your letter and answer it with right good will.

What you say of Ruskins book3 is excellent. “Claret and buttermilk” till one don't know which is which! But what could be expected from a man who goes to sleep with, every night, a different Turner's picture on a chair opposite his bed “that he may have something beautiful to look at on first opening his eyes of a morning” (so his Mother told me)4 Mrs Ruskin5 I suppose was not beautiful enough to open one's eyes on the first thing; and, hinc illae lachrymae [hence those tears]!6 you see Millais (I dont know how to spell him) and she have married—you wouldn't believe me, I have heard of her several times since her marriage, from people who had seen her in Scotland7—one said she looked ‘sad’; another that she looked ‘cross’; another that she kept Millais in order; and another that she was “in an interesting situation.”8 As for Ruskin; I never saw a man so improved by the loss of his wife!9 He is amiable and gay, and full of hope and faith in—one doesn't know exactly what—but of course he does. Twice last summer he drove Mr C and me and Nero out to his place at Denmark hill, and gave us a dinner like what one reads of in the Arabian Nights, and strawberries and cream on the lawn; and was indulgent and considerate for even Nero! and I returned each time more satisfied, that Mrs Ruskin must have been hard to please.10 One feels always, one could manage other women's husbands so much better than they do—and so much better than one manages one's own husband!

We lived in the same house with Alfred Tennyson lately—at Lord Ashburton's in Hampshire—and he read Maud and “other poems” aloud to us—and was much made of by all the large party assembled there.11 He seemed strangely excited about Maud—as sensitive to criticisms on it, as if they were imputations on his honour—and all his friends are excited about Maud for him! and an unknown Cambridge gentleman wrote to Mr Carlyle to ask him to be so good as inform him what was his opinion of Maud!!! You may imagine how Mr C would toss that letter into the fire, sending a savage growl after it!

Dear Mr Allingham be a Poet by all means, for you have a real gift that way; but for Gods sake beware of becoming too caring about whether your gift is appreciated by “the million”—of Jack asses. The nightingale dont trouble itself about appreciation—and sings none the worse for that.

I can't tell you how glad I was that you got back to humdrum work,12 yielding you visible means and not overworking your nervous system.

I never thanked you for the book of poems you sent me—the custom of this house is to send away the books of poems that come, to the first person one can think of that “cares for that sort of thing” When I tell you that your Day and Night songs, were not sent away; but on the contrary placed in my little private bookcase, in my own room, and still stand there; you will perceive they must have had some peculiar charm for me—either of merit or of affection—or of both together.13

Mr C says there is nothing of the least moment in the 4 vol edition of his Cromwell that is not in the 3 vol and supplement one—14

As to the atlases he does not discommend Brewer for he never heard of it before. But he thinks Arrowsmith's Gen' Atlas—the best little atlas he ever saw. Also Walkers England is very good, and the Govt map of Ireland (4 pieces) excellent.15 And now good by dear Mr Allingham—and as a German friend16 of mine wrote to me from America the other day “a serene mind to you in the new era”!

Very sincerely yours

Jane Carlyle