January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 7 July 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430707-JWC-JW-01; CL 16: 238-240


[7 July 1843]

Oh Babbi!—would thou wert here to do my hair!— Words cannot paint it Babbie! Infernal?—that is too mild an epithet by far, for the “hubbub wild and dire dismay” which I am now actually in the midst of! In the Lobby—close at my ear there is a noise as of the tumbling down of continuous cart—loads of hard-ware—diversified by snatches of wild strains—the youth is there scrubbing the wainscot with pumice-stone preparatory to painting and is cheering his soul under the discordant task by singing bits of “the Red cross Kinghts”—Evelyn's Bower &c &c—,1 in a voice almost as unmusical as the pumice-stone itself—this part of the operation had already lasted two days—it is impossible to hear oneself or anyone else talk thro it—yet this is the only room left tenable—yesterday Mrs Chadwick came—Robertson was here at the same time2—and no sooner had the lady seated herself on the sofa beside me and begun to utter the usual civilities—when bang, bang, crash, screetch, came the pumice stone over the room door to the tune of “Oh rest thee my darling,” in a way that made us all with one accord start from our seats and utter a loud simultaneous scream— which was followed by fits of laughter— “It was too ridiculous for anything” Then ev[e]ry3 time one ventures up stairs one is bespattered with whitewash—and the smell in this hot weather!— Oh upon my honour it is awfully grand!

For my plan of reformation this time is on a very extended scale— I am whitewashing all the ceilings—design to have that closet taken away which gives the library the look of a person with one eye—to paint and paper that room and paint the passages and staircase—not before they needed it—Carlyle said I might lay out ten pounds—my estimate is for fifteen—but if he grudges the additional five when he sees it all done—why I can pay it out of my own pocket thank goodness!— Then I am making with my own hands new slips for the furniture—and shall have a tough job at window curtains when they come from the dyer. and if you take (to use the Dumfries Courier's favourite expression) “a birds—eye view” of all this—and then reflect on the extraordinary attentions which the public thinks it proper to pay me always, when I am alone—and the letter to be written to him every day—with so many other letters that his absence involves me in answer[in]g, you will not wonder that I say oh that you were here to do my hair!

I awake regular[l]y every morning at four to sleep no no more— —get up at six when the workmen come—with a vague feeling that I have “grandes choses à faire” The night before last indeed I felt in such a press of things that I could not sleep at all—but sat in my shift at the open window looking at the sultry rain—drops falling on the sleeping grass and trees—and then I cannot eat anything to speak of—yesterday I went entirely without dinner and almost without breakfast also and felt the better for “wanting” them— Most days however, you will be glad to hear, that Sterling brings his carriage and drives me wheresoever I please— I have him in perfect subjection at present— On Wednesday I dined there to meet Charles Barton poor Mrs John Sterlings brother4— He told me that Sterling's phrase of invitation to him had been “Will you come to me at half after five—that Angel dines with me today—that Angel of consolation and mercy”—!!!— Last evening I had a quiet walk in Battersea fields. with Plattnauer—the only good hour I have passed since Carlyle went away—we talked of “that sweet girl5 as we often do—that young man improves under my “angelic ministrations”—there is an earnestness a something of noble of self-sacrificing in him now which gives him about the same amount of resemblance to Cavaignac spiritually which I used to find in him externally—it is not very striking—but still something to be glad of—

Mazzini is still confined to the house with his face but he professes to be quite well otherwise—I have not seen him for a week— It always puts me into such a bad humour going there—to see the mess in which these wretched Tanceonis keep him. and the silly way in which he submits to be made their prey as it were—that I never go except in case of necessity—and last day the sight of his face was a sight to make one dream bad dreams of him for a week after— Had he taken care after the first abatement of the swelling it would have been all well—but he went fussing out day after day on the business of the Italian school and got more cold in it—and then the tumour came outside and burst and had to be lanced—and heaven knows when his face will look as it did—but what cares he how it looks? I wish you would write him a little note of enquiry—he needs all the kind attentions possible from without, his consolations at home are so few!— And now what of yourself—after all this about myself—are the rest gone? I hope so—for the getting of certain persons fa[i]rly off is a devil of a business, as I was fully sensible the last Sunday and Monday morning— I have no paper—so be thankful for the backs of old notes—love to all that are at home and to Walter6—I hope he will soon seek me in my chaos— Bless thee darling of my heart—

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