January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 24 February 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430224-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 58-60


[24 February 1843]

My dearest Babbie

If by the alchymy of affection, or other alchymy, you can manage to extract any comfort at all, out of such rags of letters as it is possible for me to send you under the actual circumstances—have them, my child, and welcome, Only I wish you could teach me your secret for transmuting stupidity into comfort—it is a secret as well worth discovering as the philosophers-stone.

I opened your letter today with less agitation than usual— I felt myself quits with destiny in the way of fright before I broke the seal of yours—for I found in the box along with it, one of those horrid black bordered notes which make ones heart jump into ones mouth— addressed to him and bearing the Ecclefechan postmark—nervous as I am in these days you may fancy the dreadful things that crossed my mind—but when I opened it—myself—I found it nothing worse than the announcement of the death of a Brother of William Graham's1—bad enough for poor Graham—but for us who never saw him! accordingly your news was more disappointing that I was not prepared for any falling back—it seems indeed to have been the result of imprudence—but that is small comfort— Oh dear me how I wish for all our sakes that he2 were going about again— The little touch of impatience about the Doctors was the most comfortable part of your intelligence— I hate to see a man who is not naturally a Job—behaving like one—it is always a good sign when a patient begins to get cross

Hang that cook—to be plaguing you with enquiring after servants just now— Be sure to tell me if Helen3 have got one—with two good ones left you have not such reason to dread changing as I have—still on any principle changing is bad— Helen4 has not plagued me with her temper much of late—but the reason of that is only I am afraid, that she is conscious of having been a sufficient plague to me in another way—for a great many weeks back she has not been at all up to her work—part of the time up to nothing— I am rather disposed to think that she will never be again the servant she was some years ago in point of work—these drinking bouts have undermined her constitution—and nerves coughs &c &c are likely to be henceforth her portion— I am not brute enough to be angry with the poor wretch for having her house all in a mess—and doing no one earthly thing as it ought to be done—while she is liable to be choked with coughing at every turn!—but—as she has got to the end of my affection for her which could have made me overlook such inconveniencies for the sake of having her beside me, I see very clearly that an easier place would suit her better—and a healthier woman would better suit me— However—laissez fair [let be] is my motto for the present—till the summer plans have assumed some positive shape—

Carlyle has sent the first part of his Book to press in a month or so I hope it will be off his mind—and then he will take to revolving fifty different projects—out of which I shall find some one I hope compatible with my private wishes and make that one predominant— What think you of a cottage on the other side of your water?5—why not there as well as elsewhere?—it were near Annandale for him—near Maryland Street for me—Maryland Street being all that remains for me— But at present the chief thing is to get my uncle well again—it were also a good thing if Geraldine would lay it to heart that I asked her just for two or three weeks—it will be three weeks on monday since she came6—three most uncomfortable weeks—and when she received a note yesterday from a Mrs Green in St Johns Wood7 reminding her of her promise to spend some time there and saying that she had actually accepted an invitation for her to a ball on the 3d of March she asked me what she was to do?— “of course you should go” I said “a ball is not to be lighted on every day”—“and stay all night? said she—“but then the long visit?—when is that to be executed?”— I wonder said I that you should go at all on a long visit to a person you dislike so excessively”—for she had been abusing this woman the whole morning— “Oh my dear said she I shall only be too happy to stay on here—till you desire me to go”—a pleasant footing to have her stay set upon! My astonishment is that he8 she is not as thoroughly enraged at me as I am weary of her—for I have a hundred times been quite unable to conceal my provocation— Of Carlyle she sees very little for ever since she came he has sat up stairs in the evenings as well as in the forenoons—and of other people she has seen very few—and all of these decline taking to her— One would say she had the poorest life of it here that can be figured—all the mornings she scribbles letters on her knees—and all the evenings she lies on the sofa and—sleeps! I speak little with her—for her speech is so extremely insincere that I feel in our dialogues always as if we were acting a play— —and as we are not to get either money or praise for it and not being myself an amateur of play-acting I prefer considerably good honest silence— intellect! Carlyle made a grand mistake when he held this Geraldine up to me as something superlative—she is sharp as a meataxe—but as narrow—there is no breadth of character in her and no basis of truth—in fact she is what Dunlop described the dumfries-womans hen—“nothing but just a fluff of feathers”9— She is off today to wheedle Mrs Sterling10— She is also wheedling John Carlyle at a great rate pretending all the while to have the greatest dislike to him—every sunday and on no other day—she makes a grande toilette [dresses elaborately]—comes down in the forenoon with a bare neck—and a black satin gown—or coloured silk!—all wasted I assure you— I wish tomorrow were come that I might have another letter Your own