The Collected Letters, Volume 10


JWC TO FRANCES WEDGWOOD ; 15 October 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381015-JWC-FW-01; CL 10: 204-206


Monday [15 October 1838]

My dear Mrs Wedgewood

I was walking pensive “sul margine del rio” [on the riverbank] when the Postman poked his head under my bonnet, and with a self-complacent smile handed me your letter. An observant Twopenny! he knows that nobody receives the favours made to pass thro' his hands, in so thankful a spirit as I do; and would run a dozen or even two dozen yards out of his beat at any time for the purpose of hastening my satisfaction, and witnessing the sensation which he a humble terrestrial Twopenny is thus enabled to produce on an interesting female of the higer [sic] orders! I seized the God-send with a passion for letters in the abstract, not to be found surpassed, I am sure, even in “Miss Wisby's Establishment for Young Ladies” hard by;1 but when I perceived it was from you,—you who could only have been incited to so strong a measure, by a strong impulse of kind remembrance—my feelings rose to a pitch of enthusiasm, and I should have answered it in the ebullition of the moment, had not the Husband of me been coming home that very night, and certain tag-rags of preparative arrangement demand my wifely superintendence and cooperation.

And he did actually come—not however till after I had counted every instant from four o'clock till midnight—all the wheeled things which passed thro' the street during these many hours, having been successively mistaken for the happy cab which had the honour of bearing a Man of Genius. Think of that! in a street thro' which all Chancellor's omnibii pass not to mention washerwomens-carts world without end!— Nay the very tea kettle, which I dare not let go off the boil began at last to make a sound like the rumbling of wheels in the distance as if on purpose to increase my distraction! He came at last however, and it was all right. I find him somewhat cheerfuler for having had his humour out, and brown as a nut by exposure to air—further than this I see no difference. To the eyes of true Philosophy, indeed, which would take in the Clothes as an inseparable part of the whole man, he must exhibit a touching spectacle of demoralization—not a shirt left that would look ‘respectable’ on a crow-boggle (as we call it in Scotland) Anglice scarecrow! precious result of travelling about the world without one's wife and needles and thread! Striking illustration of the truth of the maxim “a stitch in time, saves nine”! And it is I, poverina [poor little one], who must now put in these nine stitches multiplied by nine—I who “being an only Child” like Charlotte Jeffrey—“never wished to sew.” But there is a long winter before us— For his locomotive tendencies have quite worked themselves out for the present and there is no talk of Italy any longer to bother the peace and quiet of 5 Cheyne Row— My Brother in law, indeed “did design” to go back to Rome for the winter and to practice there on his own footing, but such design I believe will prove to have been nothing more than a devout imagination, he is a highly imaginative man!— Moreover Lady Clare now wishes him to wait for her till February. And he is no sooner off into Scotland than she sends Courier after Courier scampering to Chelsea with reiterated expressions of “Ladyship's wish to see him”—and finally, for aught I know, has sent a Courier scampering to Scotland to bring him back by vive force [main force]2 These people of quality should really cultivate patience, if it were only for the ease of their domestic servants——which leads me to Harriet Martineau—I can give you no news of her except that she was seen by Mr Robertson at Newcastle with a tail which beat poor dead Glengarry's all to sticks! and that she “monopolized the personal pronoun there” as Robertson elegantly expressed it— If any man woman or child said “she” or “her” you found on listening further that Harriet was the person meant!3

Of Mr Darwin you probably now know more than I do which amounts to the bare and melancholy fact that on Tuesday gone a fortnight he started for Shrewsbury—leaving a vacuum in my ordinary existence which as he engaged to return in three weeks, I have not thought it worth while to make any strenuous efforts to fill up— Of all the dear ‘black Ladies’ I hear not a whisper: In fact the stagnation, outwardly, is considerable—inwardly things go briskly enough—for my health has been very tolerable, this autumn and, when that is the case I defy fate to make me spiritless I wish however you would come back subito [directly] I love you—on the word of an honest woman, and I always think when you are absent “next time I shall surely get more good of her than the last.[”]— Your velvet gown too wants [to] be made up—so pray gather yourself together, and put yourself in some vehicle that is road worthy, and return to your “top of speculation” where I can think of you at least without the chilling feeling of impossibility

Carlyle begs to present his love

Your affectionate /

Jane Carlyle