October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 18 May 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570518-JWC-MR-01; CL 32: 146-149


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [ca. 18 May 1857]

Dearest Mary

I have been long in answering your dear letter; If you saw Lady Ashburton's death in the newspapers you would partly guess why; that I was shocked, and dispirited, and feeling silence best.1 But you could not guess the outward disturbance consequent on this event! The letters and calls of inquiry and condolence that have been eating up my days for the last two weeks! distressingly and irritatingly— For it does not require any particular accuteness to detect, in this fussy display of feeling, more impertinent curiosity than genuine sympathy. Some Ladies (of her circle) who never were here before, have come, out of good motives, taking to us as her friends, out of regard for her memory— But the greater number of these condolers have come to ask particulars of her death (which we were likely to know) and to see how we, especially Mr Carlyle, were taking her loss!

At no moment since the time she was first declared in danger could her death have come with more shock. Lord Ashburton had just been here for a week, making preparations for her immediate return to England, and he represented her as “progressing most favourably” Sir James Clark2 who had been to Paris to see her said the same. Lord A was to have gone back to Paris on the Sunday but on Saturday he got a letter from her, telling him to go to St Leonards3 and take a house there: “that she might be at the seaside, if she liked, during September”!— He went and took the house, and so did not get to Paris till the Monday; when she had been dead two hours! I never heard of so easy a death! She was dressing about four o'clock, felt faint and called for Dr Rousse (her private Dr) he told her, in answer to her question; “what is this”?— “You are going to faint, it is nothing; you mustn't mind these faintnesses”! He put his arm round her to support her, she clasped her hands over his other arm, leant her forehead on his shoulder, gave a sigh, and was dead!

Last Tuesday Mr C went to the Grange to be present at her funeral— It was conducted with a sort of royal state, and all the men, who used to compose a sort of Court for her, were there;4 in tears! I never heard of a gloomier funeral.

All this has kept me from getting the good I expected from the change of weather. My cough is entirely gone; but I am weak and nervous to a degree! and driving out thro’ these stifling streets puts no strength into me. I long to be far away— I feel as if one long breath of pure scotch air would cure me!— The German scheme is fallen entirely into abeyance— Mr C has commenced printing the first two volumes of his Book, and it will be a year he says before they are ready. “How was it then” I asked last night, “that you spoke of being done with them, in two months; telling me I must make haste and get well, to go to Germany"? Oh, said he, “one talks all sorts of things!”—“but, said I, that was a talk that cost me three nights sleep, and ever so many days of anxious uneasy thought"! “Bless me!” he said, quite astonished; “I said all that chiefly by way of cheering you up”!!! Oh men! men!, how stupid you are in your dealings with us poor egg-shell wretches! There is no fear of Germany then for a year anyhow!— And he will be too busy for going from home at all, if he can possibly stand the heat in Town. So that I fancy I shall be at liberty to regulate my own goings according to my own will; which however is hampered enough by many considerations;—chiefly that of his solitude and tendency to overwork himself when left in the house alone— For his material comfort Ann can care as well as I, now; the only difference being in our scales of expenditure—and even that is not exorbitant. It will be no kindness to him however, in the long run, to leave untried any feasible means of strengthening myself before the winter returns, to take me by the lungs; and certainly getting out of this and breathing fresh air awhile, under favourable moral circumstances, would be the most feasible means of all! No where could I be so well, and content, I think, as with you; And if I could go to you for a fortnight or so, without travelling further, and making more visits; I would say at once your kind invitation is believed in and accepted! But there are so many, in Scotland, who have always been kind to me, and whose kindness I would not for the world seem insensible to, who would be grieved and angered if I should be in Scotland without going to see them; and that sort of knocking about, as I experienced last year, is more than I have either strength or spirits for in my normal state; After this long illness and confinement to one spot and one circle of ideas, I shudder at the bare notion of going over the ground both material and emotional that I went over last year! But it is time enough to be making up ones plans— In the meantime I am going for a week to Easthampstead Park (the Marquis of Downshires)—almost immediately. But these great grand Country Houses are not the places nature prompts me to take my sick nerves and bad spirits to! especially when I am not going as a sort of animated, still wholly irresponsible carpet-bag, with Mr Carlyle's name on it; but on my own basis! The Marchioness of Downshire is an acquaintance I have made, myself, in a romantic sort of way—and not one of the flattering consequences of his celebrity. She has been very kind to me all winter, coming to see me, and sending me game and beautiful flowers; and for weeks before they left London, hardly a day had past without her daughter or boys5 coming to ask for me. She is a most lovely, natural woman; and so when she insisted it would do me good to go to this place of theirs I assented; hoping Mr C would come too, and help me thro’ it; but he is too busy and so I find myself engaged to a piece of work that I wish to Heaven were well over! I have quite forgot how to dress for dinner and all that sort of thing!

I have not made a single call yet; but when I have finished this letter I am going off in a cab to call for the old Countess of Sandwich (Lady A's Mother). (She said yesterday she would like to see me) and I tremble at the prospect! Her daughter and she could never live together without misunderstandings and disagreeableness; but now the poor old woman thinks of her and talks of her as “such a kind daughter as never lived”! “Would have given her anything she had in the world”!— Dear! Dear! When I think of the dreadful hard things I have heard Lady Ashburton say of her Mother, at all times and always; how am I to join in, about her kindness to that Mother! in a way to please the beautiful mystification of the Mother-heart!

I send you some poems—amongst which you will find some to like— God bless you my darling! Kindest love to your Husband. I was so very thankful to hear of your improved sleep.

Affectionately yours /

Jane W Carlyle

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