July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO HENRY LARKIN ; 9 August 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580809-JWC-HL-01; CL 34: 115-116


Bay House, Alverstock, Hants, 10th [9] August [1858].

OH, MY DEAR MR. LARKIN, upon my honour I all but burst into tears (!) this morning, at your kindness! and I astonished the company at breakfast, by the new views of the world it had given me! It was impossible to keep one's stand on Misanthropy in the face of that watch! ‘Excuse me,’ said a Lady-visitor to the mistress of the house, who had taxed her with not returning her salutation on entering the room, ‘I was so confounded at hearing Mrs. Carlyle say, “It was a good world,” that I quite forgot myself!’

It came to hand going, the watch! and I wound it up immediately. It gave me such an odd feeling of aliveness, that ticking away amongst cotton, all along the rail from London to here; I felt inclined to say to it, ‘How do you do? dear little thing,’ and to expect an articulate answer.

I am all the more thankful for it, that the Bells were no longer to be trusted. On Sunday morning I sat reading, wearying for my breakfast, till a House-maid bounced in with dust-brush and pitcher and the usual &c.'s. I stared, and so did she. ‘It is not time to go down, is it?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes, Mam, breakfast must be nearly over!’ ‘But only one Bell has rung yet.’ ‘Yes, but that was the Breakfast Bell; no Prayer-Bell rings on Sundays!’ And so I had to go down to reproaches on my laziness, accompanied by the coldest tea and the toughest toast!

We have the loveliest weather here, and I flourish ‘like the green Bay Tree,’—unhappy simile!1 I have been once to ‘The Island,’ (as they say here), and am going again. We have a Lady in the house,2 who, tho' the oldest of us, has an untiring love of ‘expeditions,’ and in her hands we are safe from stagnation at all rates. To-day, after luncheon, she is going to take me on board The Renown.3 It is the gayest country place. A quarter of a mile off is a field all covered with snow-white canvas Cones; which, in my simplicity, I took at first for the most stupendous gipsy-encampment. But it is a regular Camp, where some two thousand soldiers idle about. Then, just outside the gates, a grand new Fort is building, the most interesting peculiarity of which is, that the guns of it, if ever they are fired, must smash right through this House.

I am not going home this week either. So that blessed Dog must just console himself with the Sparrow! When I do return, it is possible I shall soon start off again! as soon as I have got clean ribbons to my bonnet, and a few other feminine necessities supplied. It is very dreary spending one's life coughing alone, in that House of Cheyne Row, with which I have hardly any4 associations that are not saddening, or worse!—very dreary!— And why should I do it? When I am not needed for “The Cares of Bread” (as Mazzini calls Housekeeping), or the cares of Buttons or of mislaid papers! Whether Mr C goes to Germany or not, I dont think he will be home till October— So I have still a good few weeks in which to “wander at my own sweet will”!5

If all have gone right Mr C is at this hour showing the Lions (or rather, the Lambs) of Dumfries to Lord Ashburton!—Lord A had arranged to leave London tomorrow morning, with his eldest Sister, for the Highlands; “Consequently6 he took a sudden whim to start from London today and spend an evening and morning with Carlyle at Dumfries, leaving his Sister to proceed to Glasgow, with the house Doctor!!7 He is perfectly charming that man, for giving those about him a never flagging series of surprises!—

I continue to improve in health—hardly cough at all now—and have bloomed out into the most captivating head-dresses—“regardless of expence”! I hope to return to London with such a look of living, that no man will dream of kissing me into a fright; however dramatical his line!

Love to your Mother— And to all your family remember me—and believe in my gratitude and affection— Jane Carlyle

Your letter and the watch arrived together