January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 25 April 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430425-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 136-139


Tuesday [25 April 1843]

My dearest

I was hurried off yesterday at the early hour of twelve oclock before I had got well begun— In fact I begin to be sick of the extraordinary occupation that has been appointed me for these last ten days, viz: dry-nursing my great, big, obstreperous infant of an old Sterling! Actually I have not had five minutes speech with Mazzini for the last week! At first I went to him from the impulse of my own compassion—then I ceased to go; really thinking that at least until the funeral was over they would be better without visitors— On Tuesday forenoon I was desirous of having a mouthful of quiet talk with Elizabeth1 whom I had not got a sight of for many days— I had not been seated more than ten minutes when we were startled by the sound of Carlyle's voice in the lobby enquiring for me— I thought the house must have taken fire, such an occurrance as C's coming to seek me anywhere was so unprecedented—“My Dear” says he opening the drawing room door “here has old Sterling been to seek you roaring and greeting [weeping]! and I have had to bring him after you! You must go away in the carriage with him somewhere and keep him quiet”! I departed with a sigh on my difficult mission—and we drove—all thro the streets! crying the whole way (that is to say he crying.) and I bottled up beside him in his very small carriage—looking I am sure the very picture of what Harriet Martineau defined Queen Victory2 to be “a young woman in prodigiously difficult circumstances”! On Wednesday Mazzini had just come in and we had just placed our two pairs of feet on the fender when the little carriage drove up again and in rushed the old man exclaiming “Oh my friend—my dear dear friend comfort me! Sooth me!” I was on the point of lifting up the poker to kill him—when he disarmed my wrath by adding—“I have a NEW disaster! John's wife has been carried off by inflamation”!3— You know I never felt any affection for Mrs John but the news of her death under such circumstances was truly shocking—and I became quite sick— “Oh come with me says he come and let us walk a few turns in the pure air of Battersea Bridge”!!4— “I am unable to walk at this moment” says I—“Then I wont go—I must not separate myself from you! We will drive since you cannot walk—only for the love of God let me stay by your side”!!— Mazzini was standing all the while—staring as you can fancy—the sound of his voice was not heard any more! So off we set again—thro the Streets! Thursday ditto—friday ditto-Saturday ditto—on Sunday he came with Mrs Anthony5 who had arrived—but mercifully I was already gone with Walter to the Pepolis— And yesterday he came again while I was writing to you— But I begin to see he is merely prolonging his wailing in the view of exploiting my compassion and getting better treatment from me than he has been used to— His real sorrow is already pretty well cured!! Already!— Yes it will be just as his son Anthony told me —“You will see that in a few weeks he will be back to his Carlton Club6 and all his old haunts and the past will be for him as if it had never been”— I thought Anthony cruel to say so but he knew his Father better than even I did— In the depth of his despair he proposed to me to go away with him to the Isle of Wight or some secluded place for a few weeks—and I in my simplicity actually did not positively refuse and Carlyle in his simplicity—said “yes it would be well done”— But my last drive with him has given me other thoughts— And now I am going to say a horrible thing which I entreat of you not to read aloud—“Upon my honour” Babbie I do not think I should be—“what shall I say”—safe travelling alone with him old as he is—!! Plainly for all so old as I am, I have not yet arrived at a thorough understanding of human nature for it is always revealing itself to me under new and a priori incredible phases—

John is still here and to all appearance without the remotest idea of ever taking himself off into an establishment of his own— The situation (as physician to Lady Holland) which Jeffrey managed to get offered to him, he at once and peremptorily declined— —If the Queen should take a fancy to have him, and press him very much, and bribe him very high—perhaps he might condescend to engage with her—but otherwise I see nothing that is likely to be good enough for him—in this lower world— Meanwhile he treats both Carlyle and myself as pieces of furniture—appendages to the house which he cannot conveniently rid himself of or he would— To respect our privacy to study our habits in any one respect—in fact to let alone tormenting us continually forms no part of his programme. How long Carlyles patience will hold out under all this—or rather I should say how long his impatience will rest satisfied in venting itself in tirades against him addressed to me—and in general ill-humour heaven only knows. But the house is made almost uninhabitable for me—and I have not even the consolation of thinking that I am victimized in a good cause—

I hope my Uncle has by this time entered into possession of his book— I do not mean Bamford but Past & Present which letter7 was to go in the Booksellers parcel to Liverpool— He will find it I should think a piece of tolerably tough reading—indeed I should not wonder tho' he could not make away with it at all—

You have seen Walter? And heard from him perhaps that all the Laings were in raptures over your Babby-picture8 on Sunday—taking it for a youthful likeness of Carlyle! in his “indivisible suit of yellow serge”—made mention of in Teufelsdrock!9— —By the way your old Lover10 inquired after you in the very first breath—and the young Mamma (now)11 had heard you were to be married to Gambardella

—What do you think of Walters likeness?12— I hope Helen was not affronted by my sending her a half-worn gown—if it had not been made by that dear departed Madame Chardonnell13—I should not have thought it worthy of her graceful acceptance—give her my love and six kisses—and go thro the like ceremony with my uncle and the rest—

Your own /

J Carlyle