July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 1 November 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18581101-JWC-JC-01; CL 34: 234-236


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [early November 1858]

My dear Jamie

I was near screaming when I read Isabella's note to Mr C and found you were cherishing ideas of sending meal and potatoes!— On no! For the love of god no more meal! no more potatoes! I went out for a drive the other day, and when I came home, there was hardly a possibility of getting in, for great casks in the passage, and men with flaring tallow-candles, trying vainly to move them! I thought we must have got the forty thieves barrelled up in this devoted house! You never saw such enormous casks! As to getting them down the kitchen stairs it was out of the question, so the assistant1 (called in from the neighbourhood) had to knock the tops off in the passage, empty them, then roll down the empty casks and fill in the contents—the casks being the only feasable place for keeping all those dreadful potatoes in! Oh I may well say dreadful, Jamie Dear; for as sure as I live these potatoes have the disease! and I know that in a short time they will have to be given to the pigs, and here one has no pigs! At all events the last thing on Earth that would be welcome to us just now is clearly potatoes—and meal! for at the top of one cask was a ‘bole2 of meal!!! I gave away the half of it, the first thing I did, to our next-door neighbour3 who has little children that like porridge. But I have still more than we should consume ourselves in six years, and am looking out for other meritorious individuals to give some to.

Mr C dines so late at present (often not till seven of the evening) that he cant do with any supper. And I who dine like a Christian female at half after 2 have recently discovered that whisky toddy (good gracious!) and a biscuit is the best supper for a woman puzzled to get to sleep before four in the morning! You would laugh to see me measuring out my whisky in the sort of little glass thing the Drs use for measuring laudanum and prusic acid in! I am so afraid of increasing the doze! It is useful to me in the meanwhile really, but all that sort of thing loses its effect in longer or shorter time. I am not to be called an Invalid at present however, only a delicate woman who mustn't take the least liberty with herself. I am never out of doors after sunset; so I might as well be living at “Craig o' putta” for any parties I get to! I do continue to go out in the forenoons tho'; having kept off colds hitherto and my friends are very kind to me, in coming to see me at home tho I AM “a Vetrinary Surgeon's Daughter!”4— Do you know that was how you came to get the Illustrated news? It was sent here by the miserable blockhead who wrote the article,5 and Mr C packed it up, and addressed it to you, and sent it immediately out of the house that I mightn't get my eye on that piece of news about myself!—The Dr, my Cousin John Welsh, and all my acquaintance conspired to keep me ignorant of it—Considering very sensibly that the one stupid impertinence about my Father would move me a hundred times more than any amount of laudation of Mr C—whose praises one is really blasé upon! But Tait—the man of the Picture6—the man who always does the flatsoled underbred thing took care to enlighten me at the earliest opportunity—and that offered itself today! He then tried to smooth me down by showing a letter that had been published in last weeks Illustrated news signed M.D. and professing to be from “a townsfellow of Miss Welsh's” (poor Miss Welsh what has she done to be so shown up?) now about Birmingham7—who “could not suffer my Father to be so misrepresented”—and certainly his account of him showed a devoted admiration which had lasted a long time! If he had only stopt there but he proceeded to extoll my “charms of body and mind” (as Miss Welsh of course) in terms that must make me the subject of infinite merriment I should say!8 When I told Mr C, he was very angry with Tait and told me that Martin9 had come here to make excuses and had said that ever since that Paper appeared they had been perfectly bombarded with letters extolling my Father and stating the fact about him—fifty letters had been received in one day! This comforts me—I care more about that testimony thus made to my Fathers memory and after so many many years by so many who knew him, than about having been introduced as a Vetrinary Surgeon's Daughter to the General Public!— So good night—kind regards to Isabella

Yours affectionately /