The Collected Letters, Volume 10


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 27 May 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380527-JWC-HW-01; CL 10: 85-87


Cheyne Row 27th May [1838]

O Cousin, Gracious and benign!

Beautiful is it to see thy tender years bearing such blossoms of tolerance! for tolerance is not in general the virtue of youth; but only of mature or even old age,—experienced age, which after long and sore ‘kicking against the pricks,’1 has learned for itself what it would not take on heresay, that the world we live in is, of necessity, and has been, and ever will be an erring and conditional world; that in short all men, women, and children, beginning with ourselves are shockingly imperfect, so that there is none justified in saying with self-complacency ‘black is the eye’ of another. Indeed I should have felt it hard to have been reproached by you for not writing—You, who have health, and no cares, cannot at all est[i]mate the effort I make, in doing anything that can be let alone without immediate detriment to the State or the Individual. I have had so much to bear for a long long time back from the derangement of my Interior, that when a day of betterness does arrive, I am tempted instead of employing it in writing letters or in doing duties of whatever sort, to make a sort of child's play day of it—and then when my head is aching or my cough troublesome—O Helen dear; may you never know by experience how difficult it is in such circumstances, to write a letter all about nothing, even to a sweet-faced well-beloved Cousin!

But it were a shame not to give you some news of me when you ask it so kindly— By the way it is precisely a fortnight past on Friday since I received your letter, and it is good two fortnights since Mr Gibson mentioned Walter Macgregor;2 being in town. I state this for my own justification in case of the letter having been detained; as you mentioned it was to go by Walter. Of course it bore no date; so that I could not judge by simple arithmetical computation how long it had been in coming to hand. We were just then in the first ferment of our Lectures, which are still going on, and keeping up an extra degree of tumult within and without us. However he has been born thro the first eight ‘with an honourable thro'-bearing’3 and I dare say will not break down in the remaining four.4 The Audience is fair in quantity (more than fair considering that he is a Lecturer on his own basis, unconnected with any ‘Royal Institution’5 or the like) and in quality it is unsurpassable—there are women so beautiful and intelligent that they look like emanations from the Moon! And men whose faces are histories in which one may read with ever new interest. On the whole if he could get sleep at nights while the lecturing goes forward, and if I might look on without being perpetually reminded by the pain in my head or some devilry or other, that I am a mere woman—as the Annan Baily reminded the people who drank his health at a corporation-dinner that he was a mere man (“O Gentlemen! remember that I am but a man, of like passions with yourselves”!!)6 we should find this new trade rather agreeable. In the meanwhile, with all its drawbacks it answers the end—O Gloire”! says a French Poet donnez-moi du pain”!7 And glory too often turns a deaf ear to this reasonable request. but she is kind enough to grant it to us in the present instance. So Allons [Forward]—let us “eat-fire”8 as Carlyle calls it since people are disposed to give their money for such exhibition over and above their applause—

We have been expecting my Brother-in-law—but his Countess has taken a new thought and talks of remaining abroad—in which case or indeed in any case we talk of spending the winter in Rome— My Husband wishes and needs a change—and a climate where I should not need to be confined for months together to the house (I may say to two rooms) were a manifest improvement in my lot.— It was dreary work last winter tho' by incredible precautions I kept myself perpindicular, and the winter before is horrible to think of even at this date. A simple woman (by your leave be it said[)] may be laid up with comparative ease of mind—but in a country where a man is allowed only one wife, and needs that one for other purposes than mere show, it is a singular hardship for all parties when she misgives anyhow so as to be rendered wholly ineffectual.

I had a box from Mother the other day which came I believe th[r]o' you— “Every thing rich, every thing rare / Save young Nourmahal was blooming there”9 By the way Carlyle breakfasted with Thomas Moor the other morning and fancied him.10

I hope very sincerely that my Aunt is quite well again—and should like to be assured it by some of you—give her and Uncle and the whole generation my warmest affection. Carlyle joins me in good wishes for you all and behold I remain your faithfully attached in-spite-of-appearances Cousin Jane Carlyle