October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 20 April 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570420-JWC-MR-01; CL 32: 130-133


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea / Monday [20 April 1857]

My dearest Mary

This is the fourth day I have sat down to write to you! Three several times I had hardly made a beginning, when I was interrupted by something or some body, that could not be set aside. Today is so cold and threatening; that I may hope the external world will leave me in peace; and the internal world looks auspicious enough; only that I feel to have wool in my head instead of brains!— The week before last we had three days of the heat of summer! and I went out—both on foot and in a carriage. But this favourable weather lasted just long enough to enable me to ascertain by experiment how weak I was! Ever since, it has been fierce north-East wind again and I have had to keep within doors. Anne said this morning while lighting my bed-room fire, “Upon my word, those three warm days were given us for a complete deception”! I could not help saying aloud “Gracious! if my Aunt Anne1 heard you”!— My cough is almost gone however, and I get generally about five hours sleep— I am wearying to know how you go on in that particular. It is anything but a consolation to me to think of another being as ill off, or worse than myself. Thackerays daughter's2 were here yesterday, and speaking of their Grandmother's3 sleeplessness—she had just come from Paris to try what change of air would do. “We told her about you” said the eldest Miss Thackeray, “we thought it would be such a comfort to her to hear of somebody in the same way as herself—and you can't think how pleased she was!!”— Naive at least! I do think a young Human-being who has never known a day's sickness or sorrow, whatever good humour may lie on the surface, is as cruel as a young Tiger! For after all one cannot bring intelligent sympathy into the world with one; as one brings one's hair or teeth! It has to be learnt, painfully, by experience— It takes fellow-feeling to “make us wond'rous kind.”4 I should have loved you, dear Woman, in whatever circumstances I had had opportunity to know your good, pure heart, and winning ways; but I could not have entered into your present grief as I do, if I had never lost my own parents; and if I had slept soundly all my life, I should not have shuddered as I do, in hearing of your bad nights. And so, I felt no temptation to box poor Annie Thackeray's ears when she made that hard speech, looking the while ready to burst with health and happiness! I merely thought; “poor girl! you will understand better about all that by and by!”5

The german project rests in abeyance. Indeed I am sure Mr C will not have the two volumes of his book off his hands in time to go any such road for a good many months to come. And a winter at Berlin (which he seemed to contemplate) I would positively not agree to. The cold there is dreadful in winter; and I am not so suicidally disposed as to subject my delicate lungs to its action I would do a great deal that is disagreeable to meet his wishes and keep him quiet; but I would not carry my complisance so far as to go and die and be buried among strangers.

However I escape a great deal of angry discussion by letting all his ideas take their course till the moment of carrying them into action. So few of them ever reach that point! and they efface themselves all the sooner for not being stimulated by contradiction!

A Lady here, a shrewd old Maid,6 said to me once “I never knew any wife that might get her own way so completely as you; if you only managed well! You have but to pretend always to want the OPPOSITE of what you really do want”!!—

Only think! my little dog is to have his picture in the Exhibition this year! A friend of ours went into an artist's studio the other day, and saw a picture he was just finishing to send; “Why, said he, that is Nero?” “Yes said the Artist (the man who did your photographs) but he did not sit for it, I painted him from his photograph.” And if he had painted only him in the picture, I should have been well pleased; but the poor little dog has been used up as an accessory to the figure of a—stark-naked Woman! just stepping into a Bath!7 Now I dont like this at all for as my dog has a very extensive acquaintance, and the portrait of him, I am told, is recognizable at any distance, and the dog was never seen but in my company I am in horror lest the naked figure should be taken for me!!— The only comfort is, the naked women in pictures are always plump—and I am but two degrees removed from a skeleton at present.

Has Mrs Maitland of Eccles really set up a baby?8 Have you been to see Mrs Veitch yet?9 I should be so glad to hear of your having taken some little excursion.

Do you remember my promising you something to keep your tea-pot warm, that would be better than the cloth you wrapped about it? I had had one of the tea-warmers I had seen made; and had written part of an absurd letter to your Husband to accompany it—being sure it was on his account you took so much pains with the tea; when that relapse befell me, and I had to take to bed, leaving the letter unfinished in my blot-book. Alas! before I was well enough to finish it, came his sad news!10 and the half written letter begun in foolish spirits was thrown in the fire, and the thing shoved out of sight for a while—even now I send it with misgiving—lest the gaudy colours should be unpleasant to your poor sad sleepless eyes.

God comfort you my Darling. My Love to your Husband.

Ever affectionately

Yours Jane W Carlyle