August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 14 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430814-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 47-49


Monday Night [14 August 1843]

Dear darling of a Babbie!

Your letter followed me to the Isle of Wight and reached me there on Thursday last—and good faith; it was one of the few glad sights I had in my travels. Oh Babbie!—what distraction for a sky-rocket “to go out for to see the world in the same box with a red-hot poker!”1— The result needed no witch to foretell it, what else could it be but that the sky-rocket would fly off—and leave the red-hot poker to burn a hole in the box at its leisure?

But let me try to be a little circumstantial—my head indeed has had itself so unmercifully jumbled that it is not easy to rise above the Chaotic this evening—however I will try— Know then that I left this house last Tuesday—with a very small trunk and my “eternal dressing-box” (as Carlyle used to call it in our last journey) along with old Sterling—in a street-cab—Clark his man-servant—the only sane element of that household—being seated on the front— (From the commencement you will observe a strict regard to economy as characterising our movements) I felt a little “scandalized” at the beggarly turn out—however—the cab deposited us at the steamboat—the steamboat at the Vauxhall railway2—where there was as much demonstration about the buying of the tickets as if they had been to carry one into the Kingdom of Heaven———— I felt rather inclined to turn back then and there—and I wish to God that I had—after a wearisome journey of four hours we found ourselves in another steamboat—under a heavy dew—and half an hour's sailing landed us at Wight without our having been able to see thro the fog a yard before our noses—

The SECOND-RATE Hotel being filled—we were under the necessity of putting up for the night at the first rate—which Sterling told me often enough was “the dearest Hotel in Europe”—also he might have said the most uncomfortable in Europe—dinner tea and supper were combined for us “in their simplest expression”—tea made from a luke warm tea urn—butter tasting of straw—stale bread—and a fowl which the Waiter told us with triumph was “hardly cold”—formed our sad repast—after which having nothing to do but sound the depths of vacuum I retired to bed— “Bow wow wow” cried a great dog just under my open window—and a whole world of dogs in the distance answered fiercely “bow wow wow”—and this intercourse between the near dog and the far off ones was kept up without five minutes intermission throughout the whole night!— Of course I rose as I had lain down without one wink of sleep—in what a state to bear with old Sterling and the cold tea-urn you may figure! In the course of the forenoon we were transfered to “a quiet lodging” that is to say a very shabby one where you may take for symbol an old coffee-cup presented at dinner to help the mutton-broth!—and the morning and the evening were the second day3—and again I went to bed— I slept a little while—feverishly—then I awoke and tossed and tumbled about rather madly till day light— Then may eyes resting by chance on my lilly—hand I perceived—Oh Babbie—innumerable red-spots—“significative of much” —I rose and looked in the glass and one cheek and one side of my poor little neck was also covered with red spots. I put on my clothes and read the Vicar of Wakefield— But why be so minute?—enough to say that my discomfort, and indignation increased with every hour—and a letter or rather three letters from Geraldine received all at once, demanding the second Mudie to be sent off immediately, affording me a decent pretext for hurrying home, I told my fellow traveller that if he chose to stay longer in such a mess, I should go up to London by myself, on Saturday morning— He prefered staying I verily believe to save my expenses back—for he has fallen into an absolute disease of parsimony—such wretched meanness as he manifested on this journey I never had the shame of being connected with—only figure—tho he had a paragon of a Man servant there—his going to the shops himself and buying here a pound of candles—there two penny worth of bread—and there a quarter of a pound of butter!— &c— Actually I had to go to a confectioners and get myself some lunch both forenoons to be kept from starving!— When I arrived at home on Saturday forenoon I was scarce recognisable “upon my honour”— Mazzini said “My Dear you look most like what shall I say—Lady Macbeth in the sleeping scene.”—

But I deserved it all for having let myself be over-persuaded into such a frantic measure as going from home with him

That same evening I took Bessey Mudie to the Manchester Railway, and then I swallowed a tumbler of stiff brandy negus and tumbled into my own red bed—Heaven bless it!—and slept—Oh so sound!—like a dead thing—till the middle of the night when I was awoke with pain in my head— I sat up in my bed to ascertain if possible where I was and how it all was—and there in the middle of my bed I—what shall I say—lost myself!!

When I tried to lie down again I could not get the clothes about me and could not find any pillows!! After feeling all about with my hand— I at last got hold of the footboard at my head!! I had lain down with my head at the bottom!! that for me who generally awake into such perfect consciousness—if a Babbie do but look at me! Yesterday my head ached of course, but today after another nights rest I feel quite rehabilitated and the beastly soul-degrading bug bites are fading into invisibility— I have been working like a maid of all work the whole day helping Helen with the down stairs room—and now having told you my thun und lassen [daily activities] I shall go to sleep with a good conscience— Bless thee fair Child and help thee to a good Cook— Love me always / Your own

J C 4

Remember me affectionately to Gambardella— I pardon his want of conscience—if he still be true to my Babbie and affectionate also to myself.