JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 12 October 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351012-JWC-TC-01; CL 8:222-227.
JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE
[12 October 1835]
A newspaper is very pleasant when one is expecting nothing at all, but when it comes in place of a letter it is a positive insult to ones feelings. Accordingly your first newspaper was received by me in choicest mood, and the second would have been pitched in the fire had there been one at hand, when after having tumbled myself from the top story at the risk of my neck, I found myself deluded with “wun penny im.” However I flatter myself you would experience something of a similar disappointment on receiving mine, and so we are quits and I need not scold you—
All is going as well with me, as I am thankful to find it is with you. I have not been a day in bed since you went[,] have indeed been almost quite free of headach[e] and all other aches, and every body says Mrs Carlyle begins to look better and what every body says must be true. With this improved health every thing becomes tolerable, even to the peesweep Sereetha1 (for we are still without other Help)[.] Now that I do not see you driven desperate with the chaos; I can take a quiet view of it, and even reduce it to some degree of order. Mother and I have fallen naturally into a fair division of labour and we keep a very tidy house. Sereetha has attained the unhoped for perfection of getting up at half after six of her own accord[,] lighting the parlour fire, and actually placing the breakfast things (nil desperandum me duce [never despair with me as leader]!)2 I get up at half after seven and prepare the coffee and bacon-ham (which is the life of me making me always the hungrier the more I eat of it)[.] Mother in the interim makes her bed and sorts her room— After breakfast Mother descends to the inferno, where she jingles and scours and from time to time scolds Sereetha; till all is right and tight there— I, above stairs, sweep the parlour, blacken the grate—make the room cleaner than it has been since the days of Grace Macdonald3—then mount aloft to make my own bed (for I was resolved to enjoy the privilege of having a bed of my own) then clean myself (as the servants say) and sit down to my Italian lesson. A bit of meat roasted at the oven supplies two days cold and does not plague us with cookery—Sereetha can fetch up tea things—and the porrid[g]e is easily made on the parlour fire—the kitchen one being allowed to go out (for economy) when the peesweep retires to bed at eight o'clock— That we are not neglected by the public you may infer from the fact that this very night Peesweep fetched up four teacups in the tray, and when I asked the meaning of the two additional, she inquired with surprise “were there to be no gentlemen”? In fact the kindness of these people!4 “beats the WORLD”5 [.] I had some private misgiving that your men would not mind me when you were not here, and I should have been mortified in that case, tho' I could not have blamed them—but it is quite the reverse—Little Grant6 has been twice to know if he could “do any thing for me”—Garnier7 has been twice!! the first time by engagement to you the second time to meet Pepoli8 whom he knew in Paris and wished to reknow and who proved perfido [unfaithful] on the occasion—Pepoli has been twice and is gliding into a flirtation, with—mia madre [my mother]! who presented him in a manner molto graziosa [extremely graceful] with her tartan scarf. From John Mill I have been priviledged [sic] with two notes and one visit— He tried evidently to yawn as little as possible and stayed till the usual hour lest, I suppose, he should seem to have missed your conversation— John Sterling and the Stimabile9 of course—the latter was at tea last night to meet Mr Gibson10—one of my fatal attempts at producing a reunion—for they coincided in nothing but years. The Stimabile was at Brighton for several days and goes again next week so that he has not been deadly.11 Our visiting has been confined to one dinner and two teas at the Sterlings and a tea at Hunts!! You must know Susan Hunter12 came the day after you went and stayed two days—as she desired above all things to see Hunt I wrote him a note asking if I might bring her up to call— He replied he was just setting off to town but would look in at eight oclock—I supposed this as usual a mere off put but he actually came—found Pepoli as well a[s] Miss Hunter [,] was amazingly lively, and very lasting; for he sta[yed] till near twelve— Between ourselves it gave me a poorish opinion of him to see how uplifted to the third Heaven he seemed by Susans compliments and sympathizing talk. He asked us all with enthusiasm to tea the following Monday[.] Susan came from town on purpose and slept here—Mrs Hunt behaved smoothly and looked devilish and was drunkish. He sang, talked like a pengun,13 ever to Susan, who drank it all in like nectar; while my Mother looked cross enough—and I had to listen to the whispered confidences of Mrs Hunt— But for me, who was declared to be grown “quite prim and elderly” I believe they would have communicated their mutual experiences in a retired window seat till morn[in]g— “God bless you Miss Hunter” was repeated by Hunt three several times in tones of ever increasing pathos and tenderness as he handed her down stairs behind me—Susan for once in her life seemed past speech. At the bottom of the stairs a demur took place—I saw nothing but I heard with my wonted glegness [keenness]—what think you?—a couple of handsome smacks! and then an almost inaudibly soft God bless you Miss Hunter! Now just remember what sort of looking woman is Susan Hunter and figure this transaction! If he had kissed me it would have been intelligible but Susan Hunter of all people!— By the way Mr Craik14 is immensely delighted with you and grateful to Susan for having brought you together— Mrs Cole15 came the other day and sat an hour waiting for me while I was out and finally had to go—leaving an obliging note offering me every assistance in procuring a servant— Mrs John Sterling takes to me wonderfully—but John I perceive will spoil all with his innocence— He told her the other day when she was declaring her wish that he would write on theology rather than make verses that she “might fight out that matter with Mrs Carlyle who he knew was always on the side of the poetical”—tho he accompanied his words with a sort of hug I saw by the colour that came to her face that he had done me an ill turn. He (Sterling) has written a positively splendid poem16 of half an hour length—an Allegorical shadowing of the union of the Ideal and actual— It is far the best thing he ever did—far beyond any thing I could have supposed him capable of— He said when he was writing it he thought sometimes “Carlyle will be pleased with that”[.]
To descend to the practical or I should rather say ascend, for I have filled my whole paper with mere gossip. I think you seem so far as human calculations avail, to have made a good hit for to the servant17—character is not worth a straw but you say she looks intelligent and good humoured is young and willing [—] fetch her then in Gods name—and I will make the best I can of her— After all we fret ourselves tomuch [sic] about little things[;] much that might be laughed off, if one were well and cheerful as one ought to be, becomes a grave affliction from being too gravely looked at— Remember also
meal and o for goodness sake procure a dozen of bacon-hams! There is no bottom to my appetite for them. Sell poor Harry by all means or shoot him— we are too poor to indulge our fine feelings with keeping such large pets (especially at other peoples expence)— What a pity no frank is to be got!— I have told you nothing yet— No word ever came from Basil Montague— I have translated some songs into Italian written a long excessively spirituosa [spirited] letter to “mia adorabile [my adorable] Clementina,”18 and many graziosa cartuccia [elegant notes] besides. In truth I have a divino ingegno [divine spirit].
You will come back strong and cheerfuler will you not? I wish you were come any how. Dont take much castor—eat plenty of chicken broth rather—dispense my love largely
Mother returns your kiss with interest— We go on tolerably enough but she has vowed to hate all my people except Pepoli so that there is ever a “dark-brown shad”19 in all my little reunions. She has given me a glorious black velvet gown realizing my bea[u] Ideal of puzz [Putz: finery]. I shall keep the beverage20 for you darling.
Did you take away my folder pen knife? We are knifeless here—
We were to have been to Richmond today with the Silverheaded21 but to my great relief it turned out that the steam boat is not running.
God keep you my own dear Husband and bring you safe back to me. The house looks very empty without you and my mind feels empty— Your Jane