July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


TC TO JWC ; 14 July 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580714-TC-JWC-01; CL 34: 42-45


The Gill, 14 july, 1858—

A bad night again—Oh my poor little suffering Jeannie! I was halloohing before I was out of the wood; I come down a good few pegs again, by the news of this morning. But we must not be disheartened either; I will hope for unsteady progress; I remember that it cannot always be steady. Take care, only take care: we can do nothing more; and I will depend for that on you; for my sake and for your own, neglect nothing on that side.— The ugly Bramah1 botheration too! At least dismiss that from your poor head, once and forever; say I will settle it, on my return: far better pay the whole account, and end it, than haggle in your present state. Have done, you, with the wretches at any rate! The entire matter, so far as I remember, was a burble; drunken workmen &c &c: and perhaps there is a kind of natural necessity that we bear our share of that. It is nothing like the heaviest case of such nature we have had in our time and place! Think of Parsons, of Morgan:2 an insensible flea-bite compared with the vast blistering bug-and-spider operations man is liable to, placed down amid Anarchic Londoners at present! And on the whole come away from it, Dearest. Say, I will pay it; they shall get their money from me (tell them), and are commanded only to hold their tongues at present!—

Here too our weather is all gone to anarchy again. Grey blustering winds, oftenest driving. Scotch mist along with these; coming out occasionally in fierce batterings of rain. Yesterday I missed my ride on that account; might have had it earlier; but when the appointed after-dinner hour came, all was peppering and pelting; I went to sleep instead. Waited so till tea; then took Mackintosh and stick, and executed good 5 miles of independent walking,—very wild, grandly ugly and vacant, really rather interesting. As Darwin says of the bad tobacco, “It does just as well!”— I am not going back in health; I really believe myself on the advance all the same. The only thing mournfully certain to me is, my perfect do-nothingism: about that there can be no doubt at all. Scarcely 20 pages of a Book (some unimportant Book too, a German-Swedish Charles XII3 it is at present) are found read, when midnight comes, and I tumble into my horizontal posture again,—such a lullaby of roaring winds as you never heard; louder than a moderate cannon-battery, only constant. I write nothing; I think nothing,—dwell in brown continents of half-thought, of painful reminiscence; in fact, of the unthinkable. Being voluntarily idle, and here for the purpose of idleness, I never have “any wish to sew.”4—The three Tailors (I much hope) will get done before the week end: then that paltry care will be off me for long time to come.

I have read that Newspaper narrative of Bulwerism; your own (Fosterian,5 I gather) as preface to it. Nothing can be more life-like than yours: the other too I perceive to be essentially true. A most sad and shocking story altogether. The “Dr Thomson,”6 I think, has no business whatever with John's: I shd regard him as a man worth whipping at the Cart's Tail, and branding on both shoulders “S. F.” (Scoundrel Flunkey) that men might know to avoid him,—him and his partner7 in that detestable & damnable transaction of theirs. The poor woman, I perceive, is what we knew her in past years: no more mad than I am,—tho' unwise, ill-guided to a high degree, and plunging wildly under the heavy burden laid on her. I was thinking the other night, by suggestion of this thing, of how one cd scientifically define madness in contradistinction from folly such as hers whh in common speech is called “mad.” I found that if you cd conceive a change of heart (total stilling of these wild ragings and jealousies and diabolic passions, change such as the religious people call “conversion”), it wd entirely cure her; whereas it wd do nothing at a real madman; except mediately and by degrees (altering other derangements), nothing, but alter the figure of his madness. This, for the first time is a real distinction I have hit upon in that abstruse matter: if Goody take it in too, it shall be well.—For the rest, I confess my mind is in open revolt agt the so-called “stronger vessel,”8 and his conduct, especially in finishing this frightful affair. No man of real humanity, I think, in any case would or could have kept the once Partner of his Life, if he could have possibly helped it, in a state of poverty, for one thing. Remediable that one point! I have always wondered, how the wretched profligate Quack did not at least give her money enough. And that is still pretty much all that I can definitely say on the matter. That,—and that she must not and cannot be left to continue imprisoned as a madwoman: for that is nothing but a loud-spoken, huge and accursed Lie, brot out by him of “The Colonies.” Clever enough that other suggestion of “The Colonies” by the poor woman; do her description “ram's head, monkey's body”: clever, and truish both.9 In fact I am in a sensible (temporary) indignation agt that ugliest of existing human creatures;—such he on the whole is, of all contemptible vocal-quacks by far the most ugly to me: why does he not, like Herodotus's man, in a like or not nearly so bad case, “go to his father's grave,” and there honestly “fall upon his sword”10 (theatrical, rapier, Kean or Mathews11 wd lend him one), and finish in the Devil's name!— On the whole, Dear, there is one thing we must attend to in this matter (at least I): not to speak of it; for we can do nothing in it,—except easily enough mischief to ourselves and others.12 If Lady Br cannot get out of the Madhouse, then indeed— But there is not the faintest likelihood of our being needed in regard to that. Therefore, silence, silence!—

I shall long to know what becomes of Alverstoke & the Miss Baring invitation.— In fact there is a kind of remorse on my mind, since I read yr yesterday's account; and I had better tell you my poor little secret. In my eager anxieties on Saturday, and understanding that the Invitation was complete tho' unbestimmt [vague], I thought now and then of writing a hint to Miss Baring;—and on Sunday I wrote one13 (unable to think of any “help” I could do anywhere, and clutching eagerly at that shadow of help): don't be afraid; I wrote nothing wrong: I merely said, I found there had been some asking of you; and you “were (irresolutely) well enough inclined, but uncertain as to times &c” (these were my words): and that I wrote to say that it wd give me also very great pleasure if it took effect; i.e. if you cd be found well enough to go, and if the “times” &c could be shaped so as to suit you.— This was what I wrote; in very few lines, and delicately enough expressed: Miss Baring was to say nothing to you about it, or “nothing till she had you with her (if “that was to be the lucky upshot)”; to myself I gave her no address.— That way the matter stands; and alas I fear it may be a hindrance not a help,—tho' I hope it will in fact be neither. Any way you have it now; and I have made a clean breast! There was no shadow of begging in any corner of my Note: do it justice; judge the situation fairly! And go if you honestly can; God knows I wanted and want you in some such place. Adieu, Dearest. T. C.

N.b. There being a relapse or bad night again, I must revoke yesterday's permission to be silent. One little word to this rigmarole too.— My small paper is done!14