January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


JWC TO SUSAN HUNTER; 30 June 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350600-JWC-SS-01; CL 8:159-161.


[June or July? 1835]

My dear Susan Hunter,

What an infidel you are to dream of my ever forgetting either your existence or your kindness1

Woman tho I be; and tho Mr John Jeffrey once said of me [not in my hearing]2 that I was “distinguished as a flirt” in my time; I can tell you; few people are as steady in their attachments. that I was attached to you a person of your quick penetration could hardly fail to observe.

You were very kind to me, and that was not all: you were several things that women rarely are—straight-forward and clear-sighted among the rest3—and so I liked you and have continued to like you to this hour. Never have I thought of Edinr since we left it without thinking of you and the agreeable evenings I spent with you—

Such being the case you may believe it is with heartfelt gladness that I find you are again within reach.

Do come—tomorrow evening or Thursday—whichever suits you best—and know that we possess that rarest of London accommodations a spare bed; so that if you consider the thing in the same reasonable light that I do; you will undoubtedly stay all night— My dear Susan (do let me dispense with formalities) I am so glad that I have not even taken time to mend my pen—

Your affectionate friend /

Jane Carlyle

5 Cheyne Row / Tuesday Morning


Susan Hunter of St. Andrews, now and long since Mrs. Stirling of Edinburgh, was daughter of a Professor Hunter in St. Andrews University, and granddaughter of a famous do. do.,4 whose editions of Virgil and various other Latin classics, all excellently printed in the little county town of Cupar, Fife, are held in deserved esteem, not among ourselves only, but in Germany itself, by the best judges there.5

To an elder sister of this Susan the afterwards famous Francis Jeffrey, then a young Edinburgh advocate, had been wedded, and was greatly attached; but she soon died from him and left him a childless widower.6 A second sister of Susan's, I believe, had married John Jeffrey, younger and only brother of Francis; but she too had died, and there were no children left.7 John Jeffrey followed no profession, had wandered about the world, at one time been in America, in revolutionary France, but had since settled pleasantly in Edinburgh within reach of his brother, and was a very gentle, affectionate, pleasantly social and idly ingenious man. I remember Susan and her one younger sister as living often with John Jeffrey;8 I conclude it was at Craigcrook, at Francis Jeffrey's, that we had made acquaintance with her. She was a tall, lean, cleanly-trim and wise-looking, though by no means beautiful woman, except that her face and manners expressed nothing that was not truthful, simple, rational, modest though decided. Susan and a brother of hers, John,9 who sometimes visited here in after times, and is occasionally mentioned in these letters, had a great admiration and even affection for Leigh Hunt, to whom John was often actually subventive. Susan's mild love for poor Hunt, sparkling through her old-maidish, cold, still, exterior, was sometimes amusingly noticeable.