September 1864-April 1865

The Collected Letters, Volume 41


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL; 10 October 1864; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18641010-JWC-MR-01; CL 41:65-67.


5 Cheyne Row Monday [10 October 1864]


Nature prompts me to begin the week with writing to you. Tho’ I have such a pressure of work ahead as I can’t see day light thro’—with no help in putting to rights: for my large beautiful House-Maid is like a Cow in a flower-garden, amongst the “curiosities and niceities1 of a civilized House!— Oh thank God for the precious layer of impassivity which that stone-weight of flesh has put over my nerves! I am not like the same woman who trembled from head to foot and panted like a duck in a thunder-storm at St Leonards, wheniver2 a human face showed itself from without, or anything worried from within! Indeed my nerves are stronger than they have been for years! Just for instance yesterday,—what I went thro’ without having “the irritation” increased, or my sleep worsened! as soon as I was in the Drawingroom George Cooke came—the same who wrote to tell you of my accident— Now this George Cooke is a man betwixt thirty and forty,—tall, strong, silent, sincere,—has been a sailor, a soldier, a New Zealand settler, “a Man about Town,” and a Stock Broker!!! The last man on earth one would have expected to make one “a scene” But lo! what happened! I stood up to welcome him, and he took me in his arms, and kissed me two or three times, and then he sank into a chair and——burst into tears! and sobbed and cried for a minute or two, like any schoolboy! Mercifully I was not infected by his agitation; but it was I who spoke calmly and brought him out of it! He accompanied me in my drive after, and when I had come home and was going to have my dinner, a carriage drove up. Being nothing like so polite and self-sacrificing as you I told Helen, to say I was tired, and dining, and would see no one— She returned with a card—“Please Mam the Gentleman says, if you will look at his name he thinks you will see him”— The name on the card was Lord Haughton—a very old friend whom you may have heard me speak of as Richard Milnes,3—“Oh yes! He might come up”— Nobody could have predicted Sentiment out of Lord Haughton!—but good gracious! it was the same thing over again— He clasped me in his arms! and kissed me, and dropt on a chair,—not crying—but quite pale, and gasping, without being able to say a word!—

When the emotional stage was over—and we were talking of my stay at Holm Hill—I mentioned the horrid thing that befel, just when I was leaving—the death of Mrs Baird4— “Where?” said Lord H—“at Closeburn Hall”— He sprang to his feet as if shot, and repeated “dead?—dead? dead?” till I was quite frightened. “Oh did you know her? I asked; I am sorry to have shocked you”— “Know her! I have known her intimately since she was a little Girl!— I was to have gone to visit her this month!”

He told me she had had a romantic history— She was granddaughter to a Brother of the Acton who was Secretary of State at Naples.5 The family got reduced, but struggled bravely to keep up their rank in Naples—chiefly helped by this girl who was “most brave and generous.” They afterwards came to England; and here too it was a struggle. “The girl” went on a visit, and at her friend’s house, Mr Baird saw her, fell in love with her, and proposed to her. The Girl “shuddered at him! he was a coarse uncultivated man, perfectly unlike her—and she would not hear of such a marriage; but the Father and Mother gathered round her, and implored and reasoned and impressed on her that with so rich a Husband she would be able to lift them out of all their difficulties, and make their old age comfortable & happy, till at length she gave in. Having once married the man (Lord H said) she made him a good wife and he was a good Husband.”6

After these two enthusiastic meetings, I was sure I should get no sleep— But I slept much as usual during the last week. Not at all as I slept the first night—but better than my fashion of sleep during the last weeks with you.

My bed room is extremely quiet. my comfort well attended to by——-myself! I miss little Mary for more things than the “clipping o’ the taes”!7 Bless her!

I was at Elise’s8 to get the velvet bonnet she made me last year stript of its finery! white lace and red roses don’t become a woman who has been looking both death and insanity in the face for a year!— I told her (Elise) that I had seen two of her bonnets on a Mrs Henry9 in Scotland— “Oh yes she has every article she wears from here”— “You made her Court dress—didn’t you—that was noticed in the morning Post”? Yes—yes I dressed the whole three10 Mrs Henry’s dress cost three hundred pounds! but she does[n]t mind cost.”

Dear love to the Dr

Your affectionate J Carlyle

Interupted in the forenoon and now I am too late for todays post