The Collected Letters, Volume 13


JWC TO THOMAS CHALMERS ; 22 October 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411022-JWC-TCH-01; CL 13: 284-285


5 Cheyne Row / Chelsea / Saturday [22 October? 1841]

My dear Sir

That letter from you “all to myself,” as the children say, made me both proud and glad. My romantic journey with you thro' beautiful dream-like places,1 seen then for the first time, and the last, with poor Edward Irving following desperately in our track, your and your wife's kindness2 to the audacious stranger-girl,—all that was not likely ever to die out of my recollection: but in reading, here, at Chelsea, kind words to me under your own hand; it seemed as if I were still hearing your voice in the improvised cart, amidst lochs and hills, or in the steamboat on the Clyde! I have seen you, however, more recently than you think—both seen and heard you, while I was the last person you were dreaming of— Some years ago, when you preached in the Swallow-Street-Chapel I was sitting there looking wistfully in your face, and feeling, at the rousing you were giving the people, almost as if I had a hand in it!3 It was the Preacher of my country, the Apostle of my youth, whom they were there listening to in breathless attention; and I felt as if I had a part and lot in you which they had not—I took such a long look at you in coming away that I think you must have felt some emotion at your heart without knowing what could be the cause of it! But I was no longer the head-long young Lady that used to start away at a tangent and catch people by the skirts in the open street; “actually believing” as my sarcastic uncle used to tell me “that every body was as pleased to see me, as I to see every body”! I could still have found in my heart to run after you, and catch you by the skirt, and take my chance! but my head protested against a procedure so startling, so affronting to all the convenances [propriety] of this world. I feared to importune you—to make a fool of myself—and so—let you go—with a sigh!— Next time that you come to London, you will perhaps be kind enough to tell me how you may be arrived at in a way more suitable to my years, and grave manners; or perhaps you will find your road to Chelsea, if it were only to give yourself the benevolent pleasure of seeing how improved I am—in common decency—whether or no in anything else; I never feel perfectly sure! Meanwhile I will read your Mrs Marshalls books4—very thankful to have them recommended to me by you, just at a crisis in my history when I was feeling “rather exquisitely” that the generality of books do not “touch upon my crime,” as the strangler Burke neatly phrased it.5 I do not disclaim the opportunities of making them more known which you attribute to my position, as my position is not of my making—and in all modesty I may own to its publicity.

My dear Mother, thank God is still spared to me, and enjoying tolerable health. I spent a month in Dumfriesshire with her this summer—after a separation of two years. I often think, because perhaps, having no children of my own, I am interested in finding reasons for not regretting it—how little good poor Mothers get of their married daughters, whom they have had such a world of plague in bearing, and nursing up, and training, and teaching, until they could shift for themselves! She will be heartily gratified by your remembrance of her, which I forwarded in my last letter.

My husband is upstairs with his inkstand and books—au secret—in so very strict a sense that even I dare not intrude upon him to tell him that I am writing to you—otherwise doubtless he would send some answer to your message, which I can answer for it he looked gratified in receiving—

Be kind enough to remember me affectionately to Mrs Chalmers, on my own account, and also on poor Edward Irving's who always talked of her to me with grateful affection. Alas! what traces of himself has that noble spirit left on this earth!—a few shrieking bewildered men collecting the rabble—and the police—at street corners! But surely that cannot be all! “throw thy bread on the waters and thou shalt find it after many days.”6 He threw his bread on the waters and—his life-blood after it—shall it not be made good to him even here?—

ever cordially and respectfully yours

Jane Carlyle