August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 8 September 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420908-JWC-JW-01; CL 15: 76-79


Thursday [8 September 1842]

Why, babbie Dear, what sort of person is this Mrs Macall?1— Is she absolutely worse than nobody? for if she is only one degree better than nobody you would surely do well to go— I hope at least you will thoroughly understand that there is not even a varnish of duty in your staying to protect my house— The house has even in case of necessity protected itself—and with Helen it will need no other care either “paternal” or maternal— If thieves should break in, I fear a poor Babbie could make but little head against them, especially with no fire arms at hand— Had you indeed allowed me that night to buy the little pistol! but you threw cold water on the purchase and so have nothing to defend yourself with but your own bits of fists which would be instantly crushed like egg-shells in a robber-grasp. I know however that there are very many entirely respectable gentle women in this world to whose company nevertheless, one would prefer the Silence of La Trappe!— So I leave you to “consult your sensations”—relying upon it that you will consult these exclusively—without hampering yourself with any imaginating of what you ought to do, as a young woman unexpectedly finding herself the mistress of a small menage!—

I do not remember when I have been more angry at a thing I had so little business with as yesterday; when Mr Buller returned from Bury cold, weariest, sad-looking and with no Charles! Had it been the first disappointment he had given them, I should have concluded at once that he had missed the coach, and been as sorry for him as for his Parents—but he has been doing nothing but disappointing them ever since I came here— He was to have come when Parliament rose,2 and he went instead to “Lady Harriet's”3— As if he had not flirted with her the whole season thro'!— Then he went to Havre “to be near the sea”!—what on earth could be the benefit of the sea to a political town-wit and diner-out like Mr C. Buller? Then he would surely come at last!—but no—not yet—off to the Lady Harriet's again—then he finally fixed Tuesday—then some Thompson or Johnson asked him to dinner and he changed the day to Wednesday; and of his Wednesday's appointment this was the result! All this time his poor Father & Mother have tried to pretend indifference, declaring they knew him too well now, to care when he came, or whether he came at all—but every day they have been plainly sickening with “hope deferred”4—and yesterday when there had been a sort of slaying of the fatted calf5—where every body had been at work all Morning to have things in apple-pie order for him— when his Mother had put on her most becoming cap and gown—and his old father had gone off all smiles to fetch him—and he did not come after all, I declare I could not help crying for the poor parents of this distinguished son!—and a little too for the son himself, in thinking what a store of remorseful remembrances he was laying up for himself in after years—when he would not be able to buy back with all his blood one single hour of those caresses to which he was now prefering the poor frivolities of flirtations and fine dinners! Oh mercy if we could but, all of us, see the present thro the future!—if we could but give to it the significance which the future will give to it, when it has for ever escaped from among our hands! how differently would we live with those we love! But never was there a truer saying than that “we only recognize our blessings when we have lost them” and if sad experience makes us sensible of this fatal tendency of our nature; what we do, is to bewail the evil that has already resulted from it, rather than to prevent future evil by striving with all our soul and strength to recognize whatever blessings we still have!— You may be sure I exerted myself to help them away with their dull evening! From a sudden impulse I put my arm round Mrs Bullers neck and kissed her— “O” said she with TEARS IN HER EYES, “I am not disturbing myself—I am merely sorry that Mr Buller had the long drive to no purpose!”— “A well” said the poor Father as we sat down to an unusually lavish dinner—“the fatted calf you see, Mrs Carlyle! but no Charles!” “My dear” said his wife kindly, “I thought you had grown philosophical about Charles—as I am?” “O hang it!” says he so I am; but I dislike going to fetch anyone and having to come back without my errand; suppose it were only a pointer”!— “Well,” said she with one of her lovely smiles, “you may be provoked today—for you have been cheated of BOTH a pointer and Charles”— She has been ransacking all Suffolk this week back for a dog for Charley to shoot with—and one was to have been sent in the carriage—but had not been procurable— I recommended to him Carlyles remedy for all ills—a tumbler of hot brandy negus!—which he at last agreed to take, on my declaring I wanted some myself—and instead of one we played three games at Chess!— Mrs Buller and Regy went to bed at ten—Mr Buller and myself at eleven when the chess was finished— About twelve I was just falling asleep when a horse in the park under my window began to neigh with all its might—“The devil fly away with you”! thought I—then there was a loud rumbling—“more thunder” thought I—then there was a great opening and shutting of doors—and finally something in creaking boots entered the room adjoining mine— It must be Charles I said to myself now broad awake—and so it was— He had been too late for the Bury coach—had come by the one to Newmarket and so, on in a post chaise—

I was glad at his arrival tho it did cost me half my nights sleep— Today all faces have a look of sunshiny gladness—only Mr Charles's face I have not yet seen— I had breakfasted with Mr Buller before he came down—and have kept in my room ever since—tho it is now one oclock—in a sort of spirit of reaction against the extravagant homage which he is used to receive from all people, especially women—

That black letter6 frightened me so that I opened it without observing the postmark—otherwise I should have spared myself the sight of documents from Thornhill. Oh my God what have I to do with the Thornhill postmark now.

I wish Carlyle would come the weather looks very portentously today—black clouds and violent wind— Mrs Buller has engaged us to dine at the Bunburys on Saturday with Lady Agnes and all the rest of it— I wish I were home now that the quiet is at an end.

I congratulate you on being done with the impossible Don Carlos7—Good child! take a volume of Musaeus tales8 you will find them on the shelf in my dressing room four or five little light coloured volumes

affectionately yours

J C.