August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 8 October 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18571008-JWC-MR-01; CL 33: 99-101


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea / Thursday

[8 October 1857]

Dearest Mary

You would see that my last letter was written before receiving yours. Which was lying for me when I came in from putting mine in the Post Office!

I felt so keenly my old want of a “flying carpet” or a “wishing cap1 when I read about Ann “coming to tea” with you2—it would have been so pleasant to join the party in that snug little drawingroom! tho' I dare say Ann at least would have found that I was somewhat in the nature of those “pigs” that “run thro3 things when she was set in for an “improving” conversation! I like her so much but when she talks like “a plain human creature” (as the old Edinr Lady4 called herself) There is a mixture of humour and simplicity about her “plain, human” talk, that I find charming. She told me, when I was with them, the history of a little bad dog of hers, that made me scream with laughter as I havn't laughed these seven years! If I had been there that evening, I should have turned her into that vein, and tried to bring a smile to your sad face my poor Dear! Oh I can figure how sad it has looked this long while!

In sorting away some papers the other day I came upon a letter from your dear Father to Mr Carlyle about a book he had sent him. Such a nice letter and so beautifully written! I felt as if I had found a jewel among rubbish, and layed it carefully by among the things I keep as sacred.

Since I returned home I have written to my old Ladies at Sunny Bank once a week. Every Wednesday I write to them. Your Father's death has helped to make me tremblingly alive to the frail hold they have on life. Every year, every month they live seems a special mercy to me. And what makes me cling to them the more fondly is, that their affection for me seems to grow more intense, with the feeling of approaching separation. My parting from them was horribly painful. To see such old, old women weeping and sobbing as if their hearts would break! Oh I cannot recall it even now, without tears. The fact is I am more to them than anyone else living. Their own generation all dead and gone—and their nephews and nieces a frivolous, selfish set whom only the tie of blood attaches them to. When I think that someday before long, one will be taken and the other left!5Alone, utterly!—and which will be left?— But oh how vain such speculations! as if nothing killed but old age! I may not live to see their separation— They may outlive many now in the bloom of youth and strength! “Afraid of the day one was never to see” is such a good old proverb—

Be sure to tell me when you write if there be any news of Mrs Scott's sons. Poor woman! that her case is common just now makes it no less pitiable.

I know of an Edinr Lady who has disease of the heart.6 The Drs sent her to the seaside while I was there with strict injunctions to “avoid all excitement and agitation”—and she has a son of eighteen before Delhi! The only comfort I have had in reading about these Indian affairs is in the letters of some of the women— The men's letters are detestable generally—mess room slang and affected pococuranteism are shockingly out of place in these circumstances—if they ever are in place in any circumstances. But some of the women, afterwards murdered, write, in presence of their horrible fate, with a calm fortitude, and pious resignation that are sublime; and which effaces from one's thought of them all painful sense of degrading sufferings.7 No Devils torturings could make their death other than beautiful, holy, almost enviable! so grandly the brave souls assert themselves thro' all! I feel proud of my sex—and of my countrywomen—for the first time in my life!

I am almost ashamed to speak of myself after that other topic; but you will like to hear how I am going on— Well, my cold is all away, to the most trifling cough—which does me no harm—and as I am much more on my guard now against Mr C's masked batteries of night air &c, I shall perhaps escape a fresh cold before winter sets in. I should be very grateful if I might go out thro this winter—the imprisonment of the last was so depressing. But I have quite lost my fine gift of walking! a tenth part of the distance I was up to eighteen months ago finishes me off now. It cant be age altogether; for look at Countess Pepoli! she is fifteen years older than me,8 and can walk miles like a lamp lighter. Love to the Dr— write—

Your affectionate / Jane W Carlyle