August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 29 October 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421029-JWC-JW-01; CL 15: 151-155


Saturday [29 October 1842]

Oh sympathetical Babbie! sympathize with me! If I had three heads like the hydra, three pairs of hands and ditto of legs, with three times the largest female patience—(setting aside of course such impossible examples as the Lady Godiva, patient Grizzel &c &c, mere creations of the masculine brain1 got up for its own diabolical purposes!)—if I had all this tripled power to think, and do, and run, and bear; it would all have been little enough to meet the demands of the last few days!— It has been too bad, “upon my honour”! So much “receiving” (as Plato2 calls it) so much obligatory writing—so many other-people's-businesses devolving on poor me—unsought, unlooked for—as the kittens that came “tumbling from on high” and put-out Mazzini's candle! If I could tell you all I have had to undertake for “the welfare of others” this week; you would not know whether, most to wonder at the part of Providence which my friends put on me, or to grieve for my being so little up to it! A correspondence about a house-maid for Mrs Wedgwood—a correspondence about a theatrical engagement for the now starving Madame Fochetti!3—new correspondence about the immortal Mariotti—five pounds, a journey after “inconceivably cheap chintz” to cover the delicate furniture of Mr Charles Buller—three journeys and as many notes about the geneva watches—deep consultations about the getting up the anniversary of the Italian school—with a running accompaniment of small household worry—such as “am I never meaning to take any steps about getting home that picture frame”— “Strange! that a man cannot have a morsel of cake baked in his house having the meal, an oven, and two women.” And with all this and much more too long to tell, you are to take along with you that—two days ago his Wisdom “kicked up a rumpus”—thereby flurrying me out of two nights sleep— this time it was not for my inhumanity as in the case of “poor Craik” but for my “George-Sandish excess of humanity,” apropos of poor Mrs Revis!4— “My doctrine on that whole matter,” he would have me to know was infamous—and also, my practice, in making myself the advocate of W———s5—it behoved me to reform—”! I should have laughed at a charge so preposterous and which he himself was ready to laugh at five minutes after— But as I had spoken of Mrs Revis merely to amuse him, when tired and cold I would much rather have eat my dinner in sullen silence, I felt that virtue had not been its own reward, and cried like a simpleton and so made bad worse— All this of course is strictly private—and the result was as I said two heart-beating nights—

This morning we breakfasted very late and then came the picture frame beautiful—for only three pounds!—a deal of time was spent in dethroning poor Mrs Sterling and hanging up the new Lady instead— She looks not at all amiss—better there however than here—when I told Helen Mr Carlyle proposed to hang her over this mantle-piece she set down some plate she held in her hands with a slam, and uttered an “impossible”! from which there could be no appeal—“Oh mercy no”! she added “that can never be! it WOULD be a fell sicht [severe sight] there”! The picture business well over I sat down at last to write to my Babbie by this day's post—but hark the softest possible rip, tip, tip! Enter Mazzini—a days delay had been gained in paying some bill he owed, so that one more trial might be made to sell the poor watches at 6£ cash instead of 56—but only one day—so I had to start up and set off, first to Boulter's and then to Collier's the Jewellers at the top of Sloane Street— Collier I think will take them at that money—but would not say positively till his workman had examined their insides— In short my dear I have been “troubled about many things”7 and so you have been kept waiting—

I remember now two of the things I meant to tell you—one dates from the day I went that far journey in quest of the picture framer—in the evening, as I was lying very tired on the sofa, C. said quite suddenly “he seems a great talker that Mr Thingumigig—“Mr Whatummy?” says I—not having the gift of divination— “That Mr What-d'ye-call-him who was here today”— “I know of nobody that was here today but Countess Pepoli”— “Oh I forgot—you did not see him—it was that brother of Walter Macgregors”!—for the rest he seemed to be rather disappointed in his “interesting appearance,” he supposed, because I had led him to expect too much— He Mr Finlay,8 told him he was going to write a book upon Greece—expressed the greatest detestation of London—and the interview seemed to have gone off, if not rapturously, at least amicably enough—

The other thing was still less momentous and yet worth telling to ones Babbie—it was a shock that was given to “the deep deep Sea”— The young Lady had been very incessant one forenoon—and Carlyle was in a fix with his writing— He tried to vent his impatience in walking violently to and fro over my head—at last seized with a movement of fury he took up the poker, and with the head of it gave two startling blows on the wall “exactly opposite where he fancied the young Lady seated.” The Music—if music it can be called—ceased in one moment—and all was quiet as death in No 6 for the next twelve hours!

Darwin and Mazzini met here the other day and the three of us sat with our feet on the fender—the folding doors being closed—and talked about “things in general” forming the most confidential little fire-side party I have seen for a good while—Mazzini said that Sismondi9 had at one time been “nearly lapidated”—“Nonsense said I, you should say stoned, there is no such word as lapidated in that sense”—“let him alone said Darwin—he is quite right lapidated is an excellent word—” “Do not mind him said I to M. he only wants to lead you into making a mistake”—“But are you sure? asked M. with the greatest simplicity—in the Bible for instance, does not SHE call it lapidated in speaking of St Stephen?— This femalizing of the Bible so delighted Darwin that he gave a sovereign to the school!!—the deficit will surely get filled up in time— Nay he almost promised to attend the anniversary—when all the organ boys are to have a supper and the best learners receive medals. Carlyle will not go I fear—but if I am well enough and can front all the black black eyes that will flash out on me if I present myself, along with the Capitano I will go and put my sovereign into “the bason or box what shall I say” that is to be placed at the door— Elizabeth also wants to go—but Pepoli hesitates—from political fears— Pepoli I think needs only to show his face to make Austria entirely at ease respecting his purposes—whether he appear as a patron of the school or no—

Dear Child I write you all this wash tonight while I have leisure— And one knows not what tomorrow or next day may bring forth— I have generally leisure in the evenings but when C is sitting opposite to me at the same table, besides his objecting to “the squirting of my pen” I feel always as if there was a shadow between me and the person I am addressing— You will understand this feeling better than you once could have done—having got accustomed yourself to a certain seclusion while writing or doing anything with your head!

Tonight C is gone to Darwins.

I am truly sorry for the infirm state of your household—and shall be relieved to hear that Helen especially is recovered— My love and kisses to them all— Love me my child and be sure that I will love you always always like the dearest little sister—

Ever yours /

J Carlyle