August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO WILLIAM DODS ; 19 September 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570919-JWC-WDO-01; CL 33: 87-90


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea / Saturday

[19? September 1857]

My dear “William Dodds”

Nature prompts me to write you a letter, “all out of my own head” (as the Children say);1 to thank you for the good you did me the other morning—more, I dare say, than you proposed to yourself: for you not only smoothed my journey to London, as by magic; but you diffused some sunshine on my Life-journey at a point where it was drowned in tears. Decidedly; you played the part of Deus ex machina that morning, as successfully as on that other morning, long, long, long ago; when you lent me your white, cotton stockings, good God!

How well I remember it! and what a morning to be sure! all glancing like diamonds, and smelling of hawthorn and sweet briar, with the dew on them!— Don't you find this Earth has changed its face amazingly for the worse, since then; especially in the mornings; before breakfast has put a little life in one?— Ach! It was in 1814 that Arcadian transaction of the cotton stockings! I cannot get the date forgotten; for it stands written, after my name and designation, in your hand-writing, on the rim of my mathematical-instrument-case I will show it you, if you like, when you come to see me.

You may be sure I lost neither myself nor my luggage with Mr Trotter for escort. At Dunbar he got his ticket exchanged for a first class one; and from that moment, “stuck closer” to me “than a Brother”! Had I been a box of gold-dust with thieves lying in wait for it; or an Infant, with no capacity except to suck; I couldn't have been kept more in his eye or more assiduously tended! Good innocent Man! And I to have gone and forgotten him out and out! Really, as much a stranger he was for me, when you brought him up and he stood there in his shoes, as if he had dropt that moment, full-grown, out of the Moon, and his name along with him! He asked if I recollected his “stealing a piece of jasper” from me; which he afterwards got cut into a seal? Oh no! not even that! But had he been in the way of getting above me in the class; shouldn't I have remembered him with a vividness!—as I have always remembered Tom Dodds2 whom I only got the better of “by one”!— My utter oblivion of him proves, I think, that dear Mr Trotter must have been, as a boy, “a considerable of a dunce”!

I “drew out the cushion” (as you directed) and lay most of the way at full length—a great mitigation of my fatigues Pray, did you find out that property of the cushions “by your own sharpness”? They look as immovable as Arthurs Seat!3

On the whole, I suppose one should be thankful for the convenience of being shot, as out of a cannon, from Scotland to London “in no time”—(my handkerchief when taken out of my reticule at Cheyne Row still wet with tears shed at Haddington! Think of that! all the way from Haddington to Chelsea travelled over, before tears had time to dry on a bit of cambric!) Still it seems to me always a sort of travelling, that, more suitable to the Infernal Regions, than to Beings of flesh and blood, with sense of hearing, and not damned—yet!

I heard from Miss Jess Donaldson that your Wife4 “called next day,” to tell them of my having an escort to London—I knew it already, without being told; as well as if I had seen her, thro Prince Ahmed's5 wonderful Telescope, or in the little mirror Beauty got from the Beast,6 put on her bonnet and shawl, and take the road to SunnyBank, and go in. Because, you see; it was exactly what a kind-hearted thoughtful woman would be certain to do; and when I kissed your wife at parting, it was exactly because I had seen in her these qualities, in a high degree.

Please tell her with my love; I hope she will go often to my dear old friends. They are not without people enough “dropping in” to call; but people who drop in to call are not invariably good company; when one happens to have some sense and feeling!— I often pitied them from my heart, straining their poor deaf ears, to hear stuff I should have been ashamed to talk to my dog! and they so wise and good! Your Wife appreciates them as I do, and sympathizes with their earnest, saddened manner of being. I perceived that, in the little talk I had with her alone. So it would be a comfort to me, in thinking about them, at this impracticable distance, to hear they saw her very often.

Oh Heaven! what a pity it is, one cannot live in more than one place at a time! or that there is not now a ‘flying carpet7 or a ‘Wishing Cap8 to be had for love or money! But for that; I would spend at least one hour at dear old Sunny Bank (hang its new name!)9 every day of my life.

Well! there is no truer proverb than that “two afflictions make a consolation.”10 For example, the affliction of not being able to live in two places at the same time is quite consoled for me just now, by this other affliction of being hardly able to live at all! I have gone and taken a shocking bad cold again—and am “suffering MARTYRS11 (as a foreign friend of mine says)

Speak of remorse! Had I made one crash of the whole, ten commandments I couldn't feel more downhearted than this feverish cold is making me! It all comes of a “delicate attention” of my Husbands—what he calls “letting in a little fresh air on you, my Dear”!—(in point of fact keeping me always in a violent draught.)12 There are many ways of killing a wife besides those that appear in Police Reports. But the absurdity here is that my Husband really wishes me to live!—

Kind remembrance to your wife— Yours affectionately Jane Welsh Carlyle