August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO GEORGE ELIOT ; 21 January 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580121-JWC-GEL-01; CL 33: 164-165


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea 21st January / 581

Dear Sir

I have to thank you for a surprise, a pleasure, and a—consolation (!) all in one Book!2 and I do thank you most sincerely. I cannot divine what inspired the good thought to send me your Book; since (if the name on the Title Page be your real name) it could not have been personal regard; there has never been a George Eliot among my friends or acquaintances. But neither I am sure could you divine the circumstance under which I should read the Book, and the particular benefit it should confer on me!— I read it—at least the first volume—during one of the most (physically) wretched nights of my life; sitting up in bed, unable to get a wink of sleep for fever and sorethroat; and it helped me thro that dreary night, as well—better than the most sympathetic helpful friend watching by my bedside could have done!

You will believe that the book needed to be something more than a “new novel” for me; that I could, at my years, and after so much reading, read it in positive torment, and be beguiled by it of the torment! that it needed to be the one sort of Book, however named, that still takes hold of me, and that grows rarer every year—a human book—written out of the heart of a live man, not merely out of the brain of an author—full of tenderness and pathos without a scrap of sentimentality, of sense without dogmatism, of earnestness without twaddle—a book that makes one feel friends, at once and for always, with the man or woman who wrote it!

In guessing at why you gave me this good gift; I have thought amongst other things; “Oh, perhaps it was a delicate way of presenting the novel to my Husband, he being over head and ears in History.”— If that was it; I compliment you on your tact! for my Husband is much liklier to read the Scenes on my responsibility than on a venture of his own— Tho’, as a general rule, never opening a novel, he has engaged to read this one, whenever he has some leisure from his present Task.3

A severe Influenza, which fell on me the same day I had the windfall of the book, and from which I am but just beginning to recover, must excuse the tardiness of my acknowledgments.

I hope to know someday if the person I am addressing bears any resemblance, in external things to the Idea I have conceived of him in my mind—a man of middle age—with a wife from whom he has got those beautiful feminine touches in his book—a good many children—and a dog—that he has as much fondness for as I have for my little Nero! for the rest—not just a Clergyman; but Brother or first cousin to a Clergyman!— How ridiculous all this may read, beside the reality!

Any how; I honestly confess I am very curious about you—and look forward with what Mr Carlyle would call “a good, healthy, genuine desire” to shaking hands with you someday— In the meanwhile I remain your obliged

Jane W. Carlyle