July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO JANET PRINGLE ; 23 November 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18581123-JWC-JPR-01; CL 34: 242-244


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [ca. 23 November 1858]

My dear Mrs Pringle

With a great effort I got up to breakfast this morning, the first time for a fortnight, having again my cold; and by the disheartening light of a London Fog, I perceived one letter on the table for me, black edged—which proved to be an announcement of your Uncle's death!1 His poor Wife2 who seemed so fond of him! I feel very sorry for her,—if my sorrow could but do her any good! which it can't! I remember when I was there you considered his Life a precarious one; but he looked so hale and hearty,—was so full of kindness, and fun, and life, that day we dined with him,3 that the news of his death has shocked me more than my slight acquaintance with him seems to make natural.— Do write when you can find time, and tell me if his death was sudden, and what was his malady,4 and how his wife bears it. And, when you find a fit opportunity, give her my kind regards, and tell her I have a grateful remembrance of his and her kindness to me, and sincere sympathy with her affliction.— Oh Dear! what a comfortable, hospitable cheerful House Bermin5 looked to me that day! And what fun we made about “Aunt Kates” puff-paste, and all that—and now—!

I have been expecting and wanting a letter from you. Plenty of people are kind to me here—very kind; but when one has found a place so good and pleasant for me as Tynron was, one likes to attach a thread (like little Tom Thumb) to the bushes along the road! in plain prose one likes to keep up ones relations with those who made it so pleasant.

I was agreeably astonished yesterday, to receive a call from Mary Hoggan!6 She is really a nice creature; and it was like a glass of “Champagne” to have her sitting here in my own room at 5 Cheyne Row Chelsea!

If you care to hear the last accounts of me “from an eye witness” drive over to Bellevue7 some day soon; for she was going home this week. From her I heard that the “new Tutor”8 was come to Lann, and was “a very gentlemanly young man”— So far so good!

It is rather vexatious, don't you think, to have gone and laid myself up so early in the winter? It was Lord Ashburton's Picture that was the innocent ostensible cause! I told you I think of the beautiful Picture of little Friz and his Sister Whilelmina which Lord A would give me,9 and which I had no place for in all my house, unless I removed the great Bookcase from the Drawingroom to the room below. It was sent on his return to London exactly at the wrong moment, when the weather had become intensely cold. At least at the wrong moment when there was a remarkably impatient Husband in the case! I would have let it stand on the parlour floor, for my part, until there was fitter weather for a household Earthquake. But every day Mr C suggested; “My Dear when are you thinking of &c” “Is the paper made yet for that wall?” “Are you never going to &c”? till mortal patience could stand it no longer! and I sent for the Carpenter10 and the paper hanger,11 and the staircase window had to be taken out; and all the doors flying, and myself flying—to direct blockheads for a whole day. So at night I went to bed in a high fever—quite another sort of “fever” from any you ever saw me in!—and for three successive nights I never closed my eyes, and was in agonies of face ach &c &c— And now I am shut up for six months I expect with my cough and all the rest of it. But the cough is not so bad as last year, and I have more strength to bear it. Thanks to Bay House and Lann Hall! Pity there is no sunshine in this world without shadow! That Picture is very charming to look at from my sofa; but such a cold is a heavy price for the pleasure!— I remember as if it were yesterday travelling all night in a post chaise with my Mother and an old East Lothian Farmer,12 who was going to meet my Father at Craigenputtoch, and advise about drains. My Mother and I were to be dropt at my Grand Fathers,13 I was mad with joy to go on my first journey, but oh so sick in a close carriage always! one minute I was chattering like a magpie, the next vomiting out of the window! In the course of the night I lay down at the bottom of the chaise, my head on my Mothers knees and whimpered and moaned. The old Farmer got tired of me—naturally—and said with a certain sharpness, words that cut into my small heart with a sudden mysterious horror! “Little girl,” he said, “don't you know that there is no pleasure to be had in this world without pain!” No! I didn't know it! But it was dreadful to hear for somehow I thought he who was old must be speaking truth. And I believed him, all in shrinking from him as a sort of cruel ogre! That was my initiation into the dark side of Life What was yours?

Now good night— Love to the Boys14 Is the nursemaid15 gone to fulfill her Destiny?

affly yours /

Jane C Welsh—

Oh! I mean Jane W Carlyle