January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 27 March 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430327-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 99-102


[27 March 1843]

My Hearts-Babbie

Never apologize to me for being “cross”—I should not like you half so well if you were always the same sweet placid Babbie ‘without shadow of change’—I should not feel sympathetic with you, if you had either an imperturbable temper or what is called “a SUBDUED temper”— As Darwin says “defend me from a subdued temper”!—and the imperturbable is nearly as bad! your last note I assure you was very much after my own heart—and I would have sent you a little word of encouragement by return of post—only that I had something else to do for you, which I considered would be of more permanent use— What?—“Ah that is the mystery

Of this wonderful hystory
And you wish that you could tell”!1

But it were cruel to keep you puzzling your bits of brains!— Well then—know that on Saturday I sat from twelve till four to—Gambardella—for my picture!—to be given to you!—and again yesterday from eleven till four!—and you all the while expecting him in Maryland Street on his way to London!!

On Friday morning he scampered up to this door on a grey horse— and took the house as it were by storm— I found him fatter—more hairy—and more in love with himself than ever—but the same good hearted fellow as ever— He spoke of you all in greatful and approving terms!—but it is my Uncle who is his passion in the family— He was “a grand man”—“a noble man—especially when excited”—“Oh there was nothing in Liverpool he liked so well as to see Welsh excited”— He talked a vast quantity of nonsense, not without flashes of good sense—and ended by telling me that I must come to him immediately to sit—“without any words about it”—he had “promised the picture to Jeanie, and if he did not do it before he began to other wo-k he would never probably find leisure to do it at all”— Of course I was quite ready to sacrifice my humility or as you consider it my vanity—when “Jeanie” was to be the gainer—so I appointed to go to him the following day—I was very unwell however the morning he came—but as he complimented me on my looks, I thought it needless to call myself ill—and besides I hoped to be better by the time I should need to go to him— Thack[era]y and Fitzgerald were to dine with us that day (Friday)2— I baked a mutton pie and a raspberry tart in a state of great suffering got thro the dinner—hoped to get thro the tea—and then promised myself to go to bed—but just before the men came up stairs, my affairs reached a consummation—I fainted—and had to be carried to bed—and lay for three hours alternating between fainting and retching—Helen blubbering over me, and the men, increased by the arrival of Spedding and Robertson,3 raging and laughing in the adjoining room— Oh I assure you I have not passed such an evening for a good while. The following morning I felt too broken to get up to breakfast and was still in bed at ten oclock, when down came G. again— Helen told him I had been ill and was not up— “Well then”—says he—“you tell her not to be later than twelve and to be sure to bring the black veil I have seen on her head”!—“Lord preserve me” says Helen “you can never be expecting the mistress to sit for her picture to day!—the thing's an impossibility!”— “Did She bid you say that?” says he—“No”, says Helen, but anybody may see by her that she is not fit for any thing of the kind”!—“Oh never you mind” says G. “you tell her what I say”—and off he went like a passing whirlwind— —Nobody knows what he can do till he tries thought I—and so I rose—and dressed myself and actually went and sat four hours! and yesterday again five hours!—and I am not dead—only near it.

—I hope the result will be satisfactory for you— One is not a good judge of ones own likeness and no one else has yet seen this of mine— I incline to suppose it is e[x]tremely4 ressembling—but not very well conceived—the features are every one of them exactly what I see in my looking glass—but the expression he has given them I never saw there—it may be that my “habitual look” is as he says it is, this which he has painted me with—the look of a rather improper female DOING a sort of St Anthony's ecstacy!5 and doing it not well—but you will see it in good time and perhaps it will strike you differently— However it strike you you will be pleased with the great pains which he has bestowed on it— If it had been to have yielded him fifty guineas he could not have taken more—

But all this while I have said nothing of my uncle's picture—my own more immediate concern.

—In the first moment—I was disposed to quarrel with the eyes—he held it too near me—and I was not used to the want of the spectacles— still I thought it a good likeness on the whole, and was fully as content with it as I had expected to be—but after a while, rising to warm my feet at the fire, my eyes fell on it unexpectedly where he had placed it behind a screen, which let in the light on it only from above—and absolutely I gave a little scream—and ran forward to kiss my own identical little uncle— Oh it is perfect in that light—the dearest little life-like kissable thing!— If Gambardella had not been by; I must have cried over it when I recognized how good a picture it was—you can understand why— Oh I am so much obliged to him—give him a whole smotherment of kisses for me (my uncle I mean)— I have not got it home yet—it was framed—beautifully framed—but he must send the frame he said for a few days as a pattern to make the others by— for he meant to frame my picture for Jeanie himself—“as a present”6— This is equal to “Authors giving bound copies of their works”!

Speaking of Authors—tell my uncle for god sake that the name of our book is to be

Past and Present

The subject as you have rightly heard is the condition of England— only there is a long biography of your old friend Abbot Sampson of St Edmund's Bury introduced into the heart of it— I will tell him more of it next time and perhaps send a specimen but here has been Mazzini keeping me up till near post-time and I have still an enquiry to make in Carlyles name of Alick7— Will He (Alick) be so good as discover to a nicety the last day on which it would be quite safe— without the smallest chance of being belated for a packet8 to be in Liverpool to go to America. Carlyle thinks it is the fourth of April on which a vessel will sail but is not quite sure—also will he mention the name of the steamer—and give a guess if he can at what would be the probable charge for carriage from Liverpool to Boston of a packet weighing some three or four pounds—the last query is the least important to have answered with precision— Moreover could you tell me all this if possible by return of post—as I shall have no peace till he knows about it—

I have a great deal more to say—and do not end—only interrupt my writing— Bless you loveliest Your own / J C