August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 17 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430817-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 59-61


Thursday [17 August 1843]

My Child

The sympathy that is between thee and me has something of—what shall I say—supernatural in it. Morally and materially we go on at this distance in the beautifulest fellowship of worries—first heart-worries that cannot be put on paper—then household-worries from cleanings &c—and finally indignant worries with one's maid—during the last week I have been exercising a quantity of philosophy that will never be known or estimated “here-down,” in merely abstaining from taking a poker and killing Helen for the woe she has brought me—

But to start fair— After I wrote to you last I was really very ill— I did not get over my horrid Ryde expedition so easily as I expected— I had a spell of headachs and the most extraordinary aches in my limbs as well making it imperative on me for one day to keep my bed— Well I had got on foot again, Carlyle had begun to talk of coming home— I must wind up my fag ends of radical reform and get in readiness for him—and just when I was sitting down to breakfast with a feeling of the necessity of despatch making me rather flighty—says Helen “My!— I was just looking up at the corner of my bed this morning, and there ye ken what should I see but two bogues (anglicê bugs!) I hope there's nae mair”! “Good god said I you hope? It will be a precious affair if you have let bugs into your bed again after the fright you got five years ago”!

And off I ran to investigate with my own eyes—I had killed two in the first instant—and on pulling the bed separate I saw—oh heaven and earth plenty of “little beings” (as Mazzini would say) moving—I told her so in despair— But now she considered her honour concerned—went and investigated after me and returned very angry to tell me “there was not a single bogue there—SHE had looked and there was nothing of the sort—needless to argue with a wild animal—so there was nothing for it but to have back Pearson and get the bed taken down— Which Helen left me to do with him myself, going out messages during the time and staying—that she might not be openly proved in the wrong— It was just as well for plainly she would have been an insecure hand to have delegated such a critical business to— We found them as Pearson phrased it “pretty strong” and the slaughter was a thing to make ones blood curdle to think back on. With my own hands I threw some twenty pails of water over the kitchen floor to drown any who might attempt to save themselves—and all the bed was then flung piece by piece into water and steeped for several days—and emboldened by my former victory. I do opine that there is no bogue alive therein But in the course of my bug investigations I had made another discovery the woolmatrass under her was absolutely alive with moths threatening soon to eat up the whole house—so all that had to be pulled in pieces and washed and boiled and put in again—and then I could not rest till I had all the other beds taken down and looked into—all except my own—in which so long as I am not bitten I may be perfectly sure there is no shadow of a bug— A simpler way would have been to have gone and slept in them all by turns but that idea was too horrible to me.

So you may figure what a week I have had—for seeking after bugs and slaying them is a mission that cannot be delegated— I have been up at seven every morning and not in bed til twelve—and have never got half done that I proposed to do in the morning— So you may figure that when the letters that must be written to the master of the house were written I had little faculty never to speak of time remaining—the idea of his arriving at home after such a time consumed in brightening the outside of the platter and finding me in a beastly mess of this sort being an idea that has chased me all thro the day and even haunted my dreams—

Surely some time again we shall be at leisure Babby!— It does not look like it yet—

I do pity you with your servants from the bottom of my heart— And what is to come of you?— You cannot go away and leave strangers in the house? Should not Helen return now and let you go a while—

I have a hundred things to tell you some of them much more poetical than what I have told—but it is midnight and I am dead weary—and if I do not go to bed I shall put myself entirely off my nights rest which I need of all things

The quantity of needlework too that I have done! the beautiful house that I have maid—for absolutely nothing at all so far as money is concerned! If I had you now to shew it you all and then kiss you—after twenty times what a difference

Your own /

Jane C

The garters! never once thanked you for them—Ah—but they had passed away from me! Only think I gave them to Darwin and said you worked them for him and the poor man blushed up to the eyes and so will you at hearing of it—never mind I put it all to rights after I told him you had worked them for me who cannot wear that sort and that I could not have them wasted on anybody you did not care for He declared he should be delighted to receive them—!

Just as I was going to seal I bethink me of that eternal picture—(and I have not a bit of writing paper left)— Only, fancy it— When I was thinking that at last you had it safe—for they were so beautifully packed in wadding—and tied up and all sealed there comes a note from Geraldine—saying “she had received from Juliet Mudie a sealed parcel for you to her Care that she knew at once—it was my picture—she struggled with her inclination for two days—finally she could hold out no longer but broke the seals and now there I was sitting very like myself on the drawingroom table!!! “—so much for confession—then for humble request” might she—surely she might get Patten to make her a sketch from it!1 Considering all the dreadfull trouble she has taken for me about these Mudies I could not refuse so small a mercy—nor blame her very severely for what she had done—tho it was unjustifiable— so this is why you are still without it— Better say nothing to Gambardella of this he might chance to take it ill