The Collected Letters, Volume 13


JWC TO MARY SCOT ; 25 March 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410300-JWC-MSC-01; CL 13: 67-69


5, CHEYNE ROW, Wednesday [late March 1841].


Your letter found me in bed, transacting that abomination to which they have given the mellifluous Italian name Influenza—the hardest mouthful of German gutturals would better suit it. But it would lead one into endless quarrel with the world if one should insist on everything going by its right name: so let Influenza remain Influenza; and many other things besides sound musically, so that an unexperienced person would almost desire to have them, while they are—what we know. What I had to tell you, more to the purpose, is, that I got out of bed a day sooner than I should otherwise have done for fear of missing your young Hopeful;1 and this is fact, and not blarney. He had sent on the letter by post, with no other indication of his whereabouts than the tolerably vague one contained in the postmark ‘Cheapside’;2 so I expected from day to day that he would come to justify this unnatural proceeding. But no; and now it is so long, that I fear he is actually gone on his way, and I am not to see him at all. This is really a considerable bêtise [stupidity] which the young gentleman has committed at the very outset of his travels. There was Giovanni Ruffini, asking me continually ‘was he come?’ having been instructed by his brother in Edinburgh3 to show him all the second-hand gratitude in his power to show; and Mazzini himself, the first of Italian men, the young chief of Giovane Italia [Young Italy], had offered me some letters for him, to Florence and elsewhere. And then, only think of the stupidity of not coming to see my Husband! one of the most popular London sights at present, which he might have seen ‘for nothing’; not to speak of the interest which he ought to have felt in myself, who knew him before he was born, and whom he must all his life have heard tell of as an ornament to Humanity!

By the time he comes back from Italy, he will have learned, it is to be hoped, to look a little sharper to his own interests. Meanwhile, what can one do but recommend him to Providence?

I wish you had come along with him to see him safe out of the kingdom; not that I have any fears about his safety, but that I should like to have had you here, and I know that people so rational as you are never fatigue themselves, except for the benefit of others. If you who saw me in the Desert4 saw me in Chelsea, you would admit that never was a poor woman so tried between “fierce extremes”;5 and I would like you should, that I might have a confidential fit of laughter with you over this melodramatic life which has been appointed me to live here below, or a fit of crying, whichever you liked best.

But among all the people I see it is so seldom I look upon a face that speaks to me of long ago—so seldom I hear a voice with a tone of home in it. The few people I know here connected with Haddington are so disconnected, so incompatible with the sort of thing we live in, that I have long since renounced all attempts to piece them into it. James Aitken6 makes me a visit once a year or so, and brings me news tolerably out of date; and George Rennie,7 whom I have more of, looks always so out of humour when I speak of East Lothian!—as is natural perhaps in him.

Ann Veitch and her brother James8 called for me two days ago, and I had not seen them for two years. Ann looks worn, poor soul, but not broken; looks as if she made a good fight against bad luck: and I have no doubt but she does. Captain Veitch, or (as my maid announced him, familiar with foreign names, and taking him on the strength of his own pronunciation for some Russian), Mr. Keppen-witch, seems to me since I saw him last to have been “learning himself to be gay,” the result, like such attempts [at] the falsifying [of] nature, is rather odd, to say the least of it.

I do not know what Augustine Ruffini wrote to you, but I know that of you he wrote such things as I, who do not myself deal in couleur de rose [rose-color], should feel it indecent to repeat. Had Margaret9 read the letter which he wrote to me about your treatment of him, your manner of being, etc., etc., she would have proposed sending him two turkeys, or even three. I thank you for that little notice of her; it brought all the woman before me better than the best drawn picture could have done. How I should like to assist at the eating of one of the said turkeys! Some day perhaps I may. The first summer I am in Scotland I WILL go to Haddington, whether this summer or no is uncertain. Here is somebody come to take me a drive—Erasmus Darwin: not the old doctor,10 of course, but his Grandson, who is the best friend I have here—in fact, the likest thing to a brother I ever had in the world, not even excepting my brother-in-law.11

Moreover, my pen is practically protesting against writing any more.

Give my love to all the people. Do write to me when you are idle and would do a good action.

Affectionately yours, /