January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 15 June 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430615-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 197-199


[15 June 1843]

Here is half a sheet of pretended foreign paper for you Dearest—the other half is gone only yesterday to Cavaignac— You may think what a worry I have been in, since I have not answered even his pressing demand for a letter sooner!— The Devil has been in the wind for me these two or three weeks—every kind of thing that could be imagined in the shape of business and interruption has come to trouble me at one time. My business is still at the thickest but I may anticipate some alleviation from the interruptions—one fertile source of these embarked in a steamboat for Scotland last night—not to return these two years god willing I think I mentioned to you that Bishop Terrot was here—but you could hardly attach all the sad importance to the fact which it deserved— The man is mad I think—when I admired him long ago as the clever man of the place he scarcely showed any preference for me—now that I admire him no longer but on the contrary regard him as what Mazzini would call a “self-constituted imposter”—and have hardly patience to be reasonably civil to him for old acquaintance's sake; he seems to have constituted me into his Santa Maria!—has been coming during his stay in London at a rate which it is almost fearful to look back upon—staying each time three mortal hours at the least—making me all sorts of extraordinary confidences—never seeing Carlyle who hated him, and kept himself determinedly out of his way—and in short keeping me I will not say in hot water—but in a sort of lukewarm water even more detestable—Thank heaven he is gone at last—with his bits of black leggings and shovel-hat—and shovel-heart and soul! In all the arguments we had—and they were many—it seemed to me that it was I always who defended the religious side of the question, and he the worldly—the devil's side— —and he dares to go about in black leggings and call himself Bishop!1— Bah!

Then that german romance—which I spoke of2—I am still in the third volume of it—and the interest (to use Godwins curious phrase) is “rather exquisite”3—with all my remarkable foresight I cannot predict the catastrophe—but certainly George Sand in her most impassioned moments never wrote any thing equal to it—you understand me?— But the engrossing business of all—my poor family4—Heaven and Earth! what am I to do with them?— I will enclose you some thing that was printed about the Father at the time of his death—about a year ago—so that I need not speak of him—(send me back the paper) But the family's history has been this—briefly; for it would take hours to tell it with all the details I know—The widow and five children, all daughters except one, a boy of fourteen—“a very bright boy” (the poor mother called him) was left quite destitute—a small subscription was raised among those they were known to which just sufficed to pay the Undertaker's bill of 30£—and some such like bills— Their rent was still unpaid—the Landlord put an execution in the house—and all their furniture books &c were sold for an old song— They removed into one wretched appartment for which they paid 5 shillings a-week and subsisted—or rather starved on what they could earn by sewing “slop-shirts” at a penny—farthing a piece—and stitching five stays for EIGHTPENCE! With hardship of one sort and another the Mother fell ill of Typhus fever—she recovered—but the boy—the one boy—her hope in life—caught it—lingered six weeks—died!—another burial to pay for! and then—a chandler with whom they had accumulated an account of 5£ during this agonizing period seized the mother—and before her first tears were dried for her only son—threw her into prison—for 5£! She lay there three weeks—desperate it would seem for she appealed to no one—a stranger a Russian heard tell of her case and set her free, another stranger gave her 5£ more for immediate need—and this was her situation when I first heard tell of her—

She thought that if thirty pounds were given her she could start a small school—being an educated woman—a woman that has herself written things for journals—and that by this together with needlework she and her daughters might make an independent livelihood—she talked like a practical wellmeaning woman—I though[t]5 one should get her a hundred pounds—to give her a fair start—too little would only be flung away in an impossible attempt— And I seemed in a fair way of getting it till there arose certain insinuations that she had been improvident in her better times—nay that she had indulged too much in stimulants—all that by the minutest investigation I have been able to ascertain to her disadvantage amounts to no more than what would be quite easily pardoned in any body but in one who is asking help—in matters of charity however peoples consciences are extremely nice! and so because in her hard labours of writing to her husband's dictation from morning till night for fifteen years—and being often very savagely used by him—and educating at the same time all her children herself—because thus situated, she may have been tempted to take more drink than was Lady-like— —the subscription I am told must be abandoned—can only at least be carried on among private well-wishers—and where are they? except myself and Professor Gillespie of St Andrews6—I know of none that trouble their heads about her— I must move heaven and earth to find situations for the girls—such of them as are fit for situations—and then they if they are good for any thing will be able to assist their Mother— Geraldine who has continued like the wonderful being she is to write me twice or thrice a week—the longest letters—without ever getting a word of answer—wrote last week to beg that I would send one line at least to say if I were ill—so I wrote that I was occupied—with a family in great economical affliction on this small notice she writes instantly again proposing—

Enter people— / no more time / Your own

Jane Carlyle