JWC TO AGNES HOWDEN ; 24 October 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18571024-JWC-AHO-01; CL 33: 103-105
JWC TO AGNES HOWDEN
5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [24 October 1857]
Simpleton!—not you, my Dear; but me!— There was I all a-gog at having found quite a jewel of a correspondent! a correspondent, actually, who would go on with not exactly “all the reciprocity on one side”1 (as the dear Irish say) but pretty nearly so! The very sort of correspondent I had been wishing for all my life. Ach! and “dont I wish I may get it”?— You, like the rest, it would seem, write only on the letter-for-letter principle; and, bless your sweet face, no thanks to you then!— Plenty of men, women, and children will write me letters on the simple condition of my answering them—nay plenty of men, to do them justice, will write me one, two, three letters on the condition of my answering the third. But even that does not suit my humour always. I like to be left to the free, spontaneous use of both my pen and my tongue. And any one, who stands on “the three thousand punctualities”2 with me, doesn't know his or her own interest.
Well—in consideration of the ivy leaf in your last I forgive your silence, this time.— But look sharp! and dont disappoint the romantic faith I felt in you. At my age and with my experience of the world, it costs one such a wild effort to believe in youthful enthusiasm that when one has believed and, finds oneself cheated, the reaction is formidable.
What a mercy your Father has no crop on the ground to day!—if there is like here. It has rained what a scotch servant of mine used to call “hale water”3 ever since I got out of bed, And to complete my discomfort I am lamed in the two first fingers of my right hand; burnt them very bad—“with sealing wax of course”? a Lady4 asked me. the “of course” was a piece of fine-Lady logic: which I met by the startling avowal—“no—with the handle of a brass pan, in preserving cranberries”— And now I shall be regarded by that Lady with a sort of sacred horror as a woman who has handled a brass pan; for being grandchild of a mechanic, she shudders “of course” at anyone who has the use of his (or her) hands, or at least uses them. The cranberry jam has turned out excellent, anyhow; and for the rest; it was worth while, almost, burning oneself; to ascertain the superiority of cotton-wool, beyond all the appliances for burns I ever tried before!— That reminds me to ask; does your Father prescribe Pepsien5 in Stomach complaints? has he ever seen the blessed thing? ever heard of it? If he havn't; no more shame to him than had he missed to hear of the pretty little French Empress's very latest caprice in dress! This Pepsien (I don't know if I spell it right but as the word is made out of dyspepsia without the dis; I can't be very far wrong) is just the very latest caprice in medicine; that's all! It is something scraped off the inside of peoples stomachs (dead the people must be before one can conveniently scrape their stomachs!) or the stomachs of beasts for that matter; (the Bear-stomach is understood to supply most of this something) & being scraped off, it is boiled and distilled and bottled and sold and taken in drops; and the patient thus furnished with a fictitious gastric juice, which enables him to eat and digest—like a Bear!! The Drs here are prescribing it at no allowance—and the Druggists say they cant get enough for the demand and one hears of emaciated wretches with one foot in the grave plumped out like partridges on the strength of it, and taking a new lease of their lives! Pleasant isn't it, the idea of swallowing the scrapings of—say a malefactors stomach—in drops! What next?— I have been wondering if the whole calve's stomach I brought salted from Scotland to make rennet for curds6 (alas that the cream is not included) mightn't serve all the purposes of Pepsien at a cheap rate? I shall try some day— I should greatly prefer that to Palmer's or Miss Madeleine Smith's (if she had been hung)7 for my own use—
Your sister in law8 told me a sad little bit of Haddington news—that Mrs David Davidson's good old Mary9 was dangerously ill. I am very anxious to know the sequel— Many a Peeress could be better spared than that Maid-of-all-work. I can see no life for her poor Mistress without her
Has your Brother “seen the grave-digger” yet? and got little Ann Camerons poor little tombstone set up in his garden;10 as he promised me—of course not!— And yet it would have been a pious deed—to do!
My writing is such as a right hand minus its two principal fingers can produce so pray be content with it. Do you want more autographs?
Remember me to everybody that cares for my remembrance— Yours affly
Jane W. Carlyle