January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO SUSAN HUNTER STIRLING ; 21 October 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18591021-JWC-SS-01; CL 35: 236-239


5 Cheyne Row / Chelsea [21st october 1859]

You dear nice Woman! There you are!—a bright cheering apparition to surprise one on a foggy october morning—over one's breakfast—that most trying Institution for people who are “nervous” and “dont sleep”! It (the photograph) made our breakfast this morning “pass off,”—like the better sort of breakfasts in Deerbrook,—“harmoniously” (If you ever read that book, in which people seemed to have come into the world, chiefly to eat breakfast in every possible variety of temper!1

Blessed be the Inventor of Photography!2 I set him above even the Inventor of Chloroform!3 It has given more positive pleasure to poor suffering humanity than anything that has “cast up” in my time! or is like TO; this art, by which even “the Poor” can possess themselves of tolerable likenesses of their absent dear ones— And mustn't it be “acting favorably on the MORALITY of the Country”?! I assure you I have often gone into my own room in the Devil's own humour—ready to swear at—“things in general”4—and some things in particular; and my eyes resting by chance on one of my photographs—of long ago places or people—a crowd of sad gentle thoughts has rushed into my heart and driven the Devil out, as clean as ever so much holy water and priestly exorcisms could have done! I have a photograph of Haddington Church-Tower and my Father's tombstone in it—of every place I ever lived at as a home—photographs of old lovers! old friends, old servants, old dogs!— In a day or two, you, Dear, will be framed, and hung up among the “friends.” And that bright, kind, indomitable face of yours will not be the least efficacious face there, for exorcising my Devil; when I have him!— Thank you a thousand times for keeping your word! Of course you would! that is just the beauty of you that you never deceive nor disappoint!

Oh my Dear! my Dear! how awfully tired I was with the journey home! And yet I had taken two days to it! sleeping—that is attempting to sleep at York— What a pity it is that Scotland so far off! All the good one has gained there gets shaken off one in the terrific journey home! And then the different atmosphere is so trying to one fresh from the pure air of Fife—so exhausting and depressing. If it hadn't been that I had a deal of housemaiding to execute, in my own person, during the week I was here before Mr C returned; I must have given occasion for newspaper paragraphs under the head of

Melancholy Suicide

But dusting books, making chair covers, and “all that sort of thing” leads one on insensibly to LIVE,—till the crisis gets safely passed. A “Melancholy Accident” however, happened to the dog of the wife of Thomas Carlyle, has strangely enough escaped publicity! Did you ever see my little Nero?— He called on you, did he not along with me? He is a not very bright dog, but has an excellent heart! or rather had—before old age came upon him, chilling his “finer sensibilities”5 and making him a rather selfish and sensual little “Party.” Well! Such as he is, he went for a walk with Charlotte one night, about a week after my return, and was brought home in her arms, all crumpled up like a crushed spider, and his poor little eyes protruding and staring glassily out of his head! A Butchers cart, driving like Jehu,6 had driven over the creatures throat! That he was not killed outright on the spot was a revealation to me of the strength of the throats of dogs! He lay some four and twenty hours insensible—motionless! then I saw his bit tail just try to wag itself, when I lovingly spoke his name! It was a time “rather, exquisite”! (Godwin would have said)7 Ten days passed over my anxious head before the creature got the use of his limbs, and could raise a bark!— His first attempt at barking was like the shriek of a young child! Touching upon my honour! But he is now in what may be called his “frail usual.”8— Only my interest in him has been raised to enthusiasm like that of the Neurenbergers in Caspar Hauser after his attempted assassination!9 I cant bear him out of my sight; which has its inconveniences—for “others” as well as myself.

My Dear! I haven't time—nor inclination for much letterwriting— Nor have you, I should suppose;—but do let us exchange letters now and then—a friendship that has lived on air, for so many years together, is worth the trouble of giving it a little human sustenance.10

Give my kind regards to your Husband11— I like him. And believe me your ever affectionate

Jane Welsh Carlyle