The Collected Letters, Volume 11


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 22 September 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390922-JWC-HW-01; CL 11: 187-189


5, Cheyne Row. / Sunday (22 Sept., 1839)1


After thefirst of January, when the penny-post bill comes into action, I shall surely send “Sibilline leaves”2 all over the world, and you shall get your share of them. But in the meanwhile (our members being all serving their country in the moors a-shooting of innocent grouse) it is a questionable kindness to take fourteen pence out of your purse for any good I can do you by writing. For the consolation of my own conscience, however, I must articulate my thanks for your irish-collar3—must give some explanation of our crow's-flight southward—must assure you that my cousinly feelings towards you have by no means been steeped out of me by my wet sojourn in Scotland, but have been preserved quite snug in a warm corner of my heart to bloom luxuriantly, I trust to the end of time—that is to say—of my time. There was in the Liverpool letters, which came while I was at Templand, indications of a beautiful delusion in the cousinly mind on the subject of my “improvement”—tho' in what, if not in the virtue of patience, I was at a loss to conceive. For my looking-glass assured me that I was growing thinner and yellower every day—and headaches, rheumatism, ennui and desperation were my portion every day and all. How could it be otherwise—it rained without ceasing, my occupation was gone,4 and there was no human speech to be got out of Mundells Macveahs5 and the like—but only inhuman clatter. I cannot conceive how my mother manages to exist in that place, yet she appears to find it quite satisfactory, nay to think it a sort of fairyland where everybody must thrive, unless thro' own perversity, and wilful resistance to its “improving” influences.

When the time came for returning Southward all heart for other visiting was entirely cut out of me. I longed for my own No. 5 Cheyne Row with the passion of a lover; where I might at least declare myself unwell, if I felt so, without offence to mortal, and where my hands should find something to do more or less profitable. Nevertheless we were all in readiness to start for the lake country, as in duty bound, having promised Mr. Spedding to that effect for the last two years—but just then, a death occurred in his family which put our visit to him aside for the present—and the other two visits, my husband and I taking sweet counsel together opined might be shirked without much harm done—so we made our excuses like a couple of liver-hearted travellers, as it must be admitted we are, and tempted by my Brother-in-law John's experience who had just come down by the Preston Railroad we renounced Liverpool also, and putting ourselves into a coach at Carlyle Carlisle (is that it?), found ourselves in London twenty hours after. At twelve on Tuesday we started from Scotsbrig in our gig—at half after one on Wednesday we were in London. This was losing no time. Our little maid had arrived according to orders the night before, and opened the door to us with a half glad “half Magdeline” aspect. There was nothing a-missing—but a pair of scissors had been put in. Darwin, who had my sheets and silver spoons in keeping, was out of town, which caused a serious destitution at first. But we have got all back now except the sugar tongs and my work box, and are restored to tolerable order. Helen goes on well hitherto, and I only pray that she may not bethink her some fine day that her “resolution deserves a dram.”6 Miss Fergus had become “La contessa Pepoli” two days before our arrival, and is now domesticated with her angelic Conte within a quarter of an hour's walk of me. They both look well content; if the romance of the thing could but hold out! She will be an acquisition to me, and I hope her bold step (not to say rash) may be justified by a better future than onlookers predict for her. Old Sterling, who had been to see her, said to me to-day “Heavenly Father! what a wreck she is! She is fifty by Jove!” But love has no arithmetic. Cavaignac says “Voilà un homme condamné à rendre sa femme heureuse! J'espère qu'il se donnera cette justification!”7 I hope so too. Mr. Darwin says “Ah!”—and perhaps that is the best that can be said of the matter. London is very dead at this season—but one gets the more good of the people that are in it. It is also contrary to custom very rainy. What are you all doing in your City? How is my uncle? Is the worsted work all done? Surely you will write and instruct me of your doings and sufferings. … Carlyle joins me in kind love to you all. Is my uncle going to Templand? My mother never ceases to expect him.

Ever, dear Helen, / Your affectionate cousin,


I see nothing in the world to hinder your taking a forenoon drive here. Is there anything?