August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO DAVID DAVIDSON ; 29 December 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18571229-JWC-DD-01; CL 33: 141-142


5 CHEYNE ROW, CHELSEA, 29th December 1857.

DEAR FRIEND,—Don't estimate the warmth of my thanks by the length of time they have kept silence; unless indeed you think like Mr. C. that “all good things are silent.” The photograph was more than a pleasure to me, coming just when it did; it was a consolation under several things! particularly under the mortal ennui of spending long evenings with two female cousins, who talk incessantly “Bonnets,” “Miss Clark” (a distinguished milliner),1 “collar and sleeves,” and all that sort of thing, which even Martha2 would have been ashamed to “trouble herself” about! Fancy me for eleven evenings in succession, living in a Milliner's “showroom” (figuratively speaking). In one of these dreary worrying evenings came your Valentine, bringing with it airs from a better life—and you may fancy how glad I was and how grateful I was! Though I have never all my life had a head for dates, I did not for a moment mistake the packet for a Valentine, it was so like outside to certain presentation copies of “Early Poems,” “Thoughts in Rhyme,” “Metrical Leaves,” as I am constantly receiving from young gentleman and young ladies “of Genius.” I let it lie unopened till I had finished my tea, and then tore it up with small reverence and less hope, and saw you!—and gave a scream of joy! like a little girl who had still to learn that all is weariness under the sun!3 The likeness4 is recognisable anywhere. I should have known it if I had found it lying in Piccadilly addressed to nobody. Still it has a want for me which your real face has not, I cannot by any effort of imagination gather out of that photograph the faintest image of the tall pale Boy that my Mother was so fond of, and that I called David, in the course of nature. For a portrait of Major Davidson at Greenhill,5 however, I am pretty well satisfied with it. And now I send you the photograph of my husband according to promise—the best likeness of him that exists—only it was done before he set up a beard6—also two of myself—no less! not knowing which is likest. You may choose between them, and burn one when you have chosen. I congratulate you both on the new Baby,7 though I do think with the merry little boy,8 that you have a great many children now!9 But there will be plenty of room for them in the hearts of their father and mother. Certainly if you were to have so many children, you could not possibly have had nicer ones or better brought up. I am at present in what Mr. C. calls “a welter of things”—accumulated on me during the fortnight my cousins stayed with me, on their way to the Isle of Wight—and complicated by “the season,” and a violent tendency to catch cold—so you must excuse a dull letter, and a briefer than I should wish to write to you if I had more time and spirits. God bless you and all your belongings. My affectionate remembrance to your wife, and a Kiss to the new Baby.—Yours ever affectionately,


I say nothing of “a happy new year,” that sounds such an irony nowadays.