August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 18 August 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420818-JWC-JW-01; CL 15: 28-30


[18 August 1842]

Babbie of my affections

Thanks to thee for the nice long clever letters! which supply for me the place of John Sterlings powerful telescope— A Babbie that really shines in narration!— every thing, from Sterlings Champagne1 down to Helens sore leg, is set before me with a most praiseworthy distinctness and “not without” (as Carlyle would say) a certain sly sarcasm, peculiar to the family— Continue to keep me up with the current state of my household—it is the least you can do in return for the generous confidence I repose in you!— I do not mean in the matter of allowing you to run up and down stairs, tiring your life out, and to take on yourself the charge of a sore leg—but I mean in having left you alone with my husband, without having first possessed myself of that seductive dressing gown!— He writes to me the other day “little Jeannie comes down in the morning in a kind of shawl dressing gown, almost with the air of a little wife to make coffee to me!” Oh yes! I know very well how like a little wife she looks!—and if there were a spark of jealousy in my disposition I would have taken out my seat in the next Bury coach, immediately after reading that sentence—and returned in all haste to put a check to such dangerous illusions.

The weather is the hottest I have known for years—and the upper part of this house, being of a cottage make, pretty nearly uninhabitable— For the last two or three days I have not crossed the threshhold till after dinner—even then there would be no going out without a carriage—but the evening drives are delicious—the country about would not please Carlyle—there is a want of hills—but for me, born in flat East Lothian, it is quite satisfactory—and there is such an air of sufficiency and peace all over it, that one hears of these insurrections so near, as tidings from another world— I am SURE the poor people here are not ill off—one can see it in their faces and in the pride they take in ornamenting their bits of thatched cottages—nevertheless there has been calamity here also— One farmer had a stockyard, value twelve hundred pounds, burnt to the ground the other night, and another had his barn burnt to the ground—neither misfortunes were willful however—the latter was caused by a boy's setting fire to a wasp's nest the former by having stacked the grain before it was ready for it—there has been a willful fire further off—on some nobleman's place—I forget where—but all the walls at Bury were stuck over one night with placards on which I read the words pardon—£50 reward—fire

We go to Bury tonight again—and in time I hope to post this letter there.

Our life is the most quiet and regular heart could desire—the drive and the game at chess are the excitements of the day, the last indeed is becoming rather too exciting— It is long since I laid aside my chess-playing honours—and that anybody has been welcome to beat me— I was sure that I could never play well again, because I had lost all interest in the game, and could not conceive myself recovering the interest—but one night soon after I came, Mr Buller having beaten me with his usual facility, said in the most provokingly slighting tone “I do wish you could improve a little”! and at this all my past triumphs stood up before me—and somehow I felt myself injured— He should see—I was determined that I could play if I liked—and so I beat him the next game and the next—and he has had sore [threshing?] of his brains for any game he has won from me since— His astonishment is very amusing—but such laborious play is not a good preparation for sleep— Among our excitements I should not have omitted to mention the wasps! We have no flies here—but in their stead multitudinous wasps, that take all the liberties of flies, congregate on the spoonful of appletart one is putting into ones mouth, drown in the cream jug and the wine decanter! and keep up a continual attack on the public tranquillity—at this moment while I write they are buzzing all about me and lighting on my hands, as if I were made of sugar.

I was so sorry to have missed old Mr Dobie—but I must see him before he goes—I hope you were both very kind to him—and that you will tell me when he returns,— I feel somehow as if he were come from the place to which she2 is gone, instead of only from the place she has left— Alas alas, he—nobody can bring me any news from her more; but only the Angel of death—in that must be all my hope henceforward—hope full of terror too—for how unfit I am to die—but dear babbie I was not meaning to sadden you with any talk of this sort— God be with you dear.—and believe me always your affectionate

Jane C

Tell Carlyle I have on his collar and cuffs today—and cannot sufficiently admire myself in them— I do wish Helen were better—poor little cinderella that you are