July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 30 December 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18581230-JWC-MR-01; CL 34: 256-258


5 Cheyne Row—Chelsea 30th Decr / 58

Oh young woman! there you go again! again a long silence! And—I will tell you how it will be; your silences will become longer and longer and be of more and more frequent occurrence, till—you fall out of acquaintance with me again! feel shy and distrustful with me; and speculate about “not having the accommodations of Lann Hall1 to offer”!! And oh my Dear, who the Devil will be to blame for that state of things but yourself! Like all very sensitive people, you need an Atmosphere of The Familiar to open the leaves of your soul in. The Strange, the Unaccustomed blights you like a frosty night! And yet, by Procrastination, which your Copy-lines told you was “the root of all evil3 you suffer the Familiar to become, by little and little, that ‘Strange’ which has such withering effects on you! Please don't! Not in my case for Heaven's sake! The more you don't write to me, the more you will find it up hill, when you do write—and from that to speaking about “the accommodations of Lann Hall” is but a step or two, in a straight line! You write such nice letters when your hand is in that they cannot be a labour to write. Then, do my Dear keep your hand in!—

Meanwhile I have sent you a newyears gift, which, if it come to hand safe, will, I am sure—at least I hope, give you a pleasant surprise; for really it will be like seeing into our Interior in a peepshow!4 It is the only one, of the size, that exists as yet; and I had it done on purpose for you. Another, smaller, is gone, inside of a large Picture book for Mrs Pringles children, to—Robert MacTurk!—a sort of amende honorable [making amends] for having failed to give him—myself! Good God! when he had some right to expect it—long ago—when I was an extremely absurd little girl! His good feeling towards me, after all, deserves a certain esteem from me and a certain recognition—which I hope has been put into an acceptable form for him in the ‘Peep-Show.

My last news of you was from Isabella Dunwoodie5— Poor “Mrs Powfoot”6 (as she insists on calling her) has given herself then, the supreme indulgence of disappointing her heirs!

But I must not be expatiating over things in general today for I am in a dreadful hurry! A great many letters to be written, besides that it is my day for driving out in what our Livery Stable-Keepers7 call “a neat Fly” (viz: a second hand Brougham with one horse) an expensive luxury which Mr C forces on me twice a week—“now that I am old and frail, and have a right to a little indulgence”; he says.

The fact is, I have been belated in my letters and everything this week—by having had to give from two to three hours EVERY DAY (!) to a man8 who has unexpectedly lost his Mother— He has five Sisters here, and female friends world without end—is in fact of all men I know the most popular—and such is relationship and friendship in London, that he has fled away from everybody to me, who wasn't aware before that I was his particular friend the least in the world!—But I have always had the same sort of attraction for miserable people, and for mad people that amber has for straws!9 Why or how I have no idea!

Mrs Pringle wrote me a long, really nice letter in answer to my acknowledgment of the intimation of her Uncle's death “She is a clever woman” (as the Doctor says) and has discovered now no doubt, that the style which suits me best is the natural and simple style and that my soul cannot be thrown into diliquium [swoon] by any hundred-horse power of Upholstery or of ‘Moral Sublime’!10 She is nice as she is!

I will get the money order for the poor women,11 in passing the post office and inclose it for you kind offices

Kindest regards to the Dr for whom I have a new story about Locock12—God keep you both for me and so many that need you


J W Carlyle