August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 21 December 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421221-JWC-JW-01; CL 15: 245-248


Wednesday [21 December 1842]—

My darling Babbie

Before committing myself to the general stream of things; I must beg your attention to a brief exposition of my difficulties in the one matter of writing—

For the last week or two we have breakfasted later than usual, C. seldom coming down before half after nine—tant mieux [so much the better], so far as that goes—by the time the table has been cleared for writing and oneself emerged out of dressing-gown into fit-to-be-seen-in gown eleven has probably struck— Say that I then fall to writing—first comes Helen “what about the dinner Mum”?—“Chops!”—that at least is quickly settled—but then perhaps comes Carlyle to say “Jane, these cloth-boots of mine are in iminent need of some repair,” or “Jane these cloth trowsers of mine must have a new hem at the bottom”—or “Jane, some thing or other” alike inconvenient at that particular moment— Or perhaps Elizabeth Pepoli comes (she comes very often at present) “to catch me before I go out”—or perhaps the Postman brings some note or letter that makes it imperative for me to turn my writing into another channel than the premeditated one of Babbie.— There is hardly a day that one or another of these perhapses does not come to pass—then, if all the forenoon were at my own disposal, as it used to be, Babbie might still get her letter—but at one o'clock—I am forced to go out—every day, unless it rains—which at present it seems resolute not to do—now that this odious walking forms part of my medical treatment there is no evading of it without getting myself into worse trouble— If, after coming in, there be a leisure half hour or so before dinner I am too much fagged to turn it to any earthly account—and in the evening I have neither privacy nor strength for writing— I am always wearied and sick in the evenings—the effect I suppose of the walking and the blue-pills— The beautiful part of it is that this sort of thing may go on for ever so long— John tells me that “if I can trace any perceptible improvement in myself after having continued the pills for a month, it will be as soon as I have any business to look for it”— Well, patience— And do you dear help me to be patient by writing always as if I made you the most liberal returns—

I received yesterday by rail-way a bundle of Manuscript from Geraldine and Mrs Paulet1—of which I am to give my opinion—partly from a sort of vague apprehension, partly for another reason I have not yet untied the parcel—this other reason is, that Carlyle has also a considerable bundle of M.S. not about Cromwell at all!—but about that old Abbot of St Edmonds Bury!!—which he “rather wishes me to read and give him my views about”—and until I have studied that which will be no light matter, I must abstain, for decency's sake from showing any curiosity about the other literary production in which I have only a friend's interest— My Dear, tho we are not trained here as in China to “the three-thousand punctualities”—we are always needing to look to our doings that we may not stumble over some nicety or other—

I have heard nothing yet from Margaret Hiddlestone—nor from Mrs Russel whom I wrote to at the same time2— People in the country do answer letters with a deliberation!— I wish she would write, and one way or other put me out of pain— Helen and I go on at present in the politest manner you can figure— I never speak to her except to give her my orders and that I do with the utmost mildness—there was so little of passion in my last replies to her insolence—and I have shown (whatever I may have left) such perfect indifference about her humours since that she cannot but see this quarrel is going to end differently from all our former ones She understands herself I think to be engaged by the half year—so that her time is not up till the twelth of March—I dare say she has been already and will be before then in a variety of different humours about going or staying—but I have lost all confidence in her—I never can treat her again in the friendly way in which she has been treated hitherto—and with her social tendencies she could not exist beside me on a silent principle—besides there is something very disgusting for me in the contrast between her professions and her practice— I could forgive I think even her outbreaks of temper in a person who regarded herself merely as my servant—but her pretence of loving me so fervently and feeling such gratitude to me for saving her out of drink (as she well may!) and at the same time revealing as she does every time she gets into a rage—a deep secret fund of rancour and spleen, gives me the idea she is but a humbug after all, and that she has staid with me so long, and made such a fuss about me more because she saw no prospect of a better place than out of affection and gratitude for me— I wish however she had chosen a better time for putting me to the inconvenience of changing—which is always a horror to my unpratised mind, and especially so at present—when I am too bilious and out of spirits to see the thing or anything without exaggerating its evils.—

Did I ever tell you that Mrs Millner Gibson lost her only child about two months ago—a little girl of eight years old— After so long she was not likely to have more children—and with her immense fortune I thought she must feel herself the most desolate woman on earth—I felt a more real compassion for her than I ever felt for an unknown person before— Well—see how one wastes ones “fine feelings”! Elizabeth went to a brilliant soiree at Lady Morgan's3 the other evening and there sat Mrs M Gibson and Elizabeth “really saw no change in her”!4— How do people get such griefs tumbled out of their minds in that way? Why! a cat will turn sick and go about pining for as long after its kittens have been drowned!

Another fact of an opposite sort I must tell you for the rehabilitation of poor human nature— I mentioned to you the death of the old dairy-woman and that her young husband was sore afflicted by it? I saw him yesterday leaning against the lamp post at his door—and if it had not been at his door I should not have recognised him—from a stout middleaged man he was become pale and emaciated and as old looking as the old wife—a very picture of woe—and the wife was turned of seventy—perhaps Pepoli loves Elizabeth after all!—but no—it is not in Pepoli to love any one as that Milkman-Mahomet must have loved his Kadijah

A letter from poor Betty—I answered it yesterday instead of writing to you—and you will not say I did wrong—a letter also about Harriet from Emily Taylor5— I send it to Helen for her autograph collection—but for godsake do not ask me what Books Emily Taylor has written for I always forget their names so soon as I have heard them—

And now I must go and tramp thro the ocean of mud—and with such a side! I do trust it will be some better “in a month” for at present it is worse than ever

Helen's letter has come since I began writing give her my thanks and three kisses for it—a kiss for every sheet— Oh dear how I wish we were all together—

Bless you my Babbie love to all the rest—

Your own /

cousin J W C