August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 18 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430818-JWC-TC-01; CL 17: 61-65


Friday morning [18 August 1843]


If you expect a spirited letter from me to day either; I grieve that you will be disappointed. I am not mended yet; only mending—and that present participle (to use Helen's favourite word for the weather) is extremely “dilatory.”1 The pains in my limbs are gone however, leaving only weakness, and my head aches now with “a certain” moderation!2 still enough indeed to spoil all ones enjoyment of life—if there be any such thing for some of us—and what is more to the purpose—enough to interfere with ones “did intends,” which in my case grow always the longer the more manifold and complicated. Darwin came yesterday after my dinnertime—I had dined at three—and remarked in the course of some speculative discourse that I “looked as if I needed to go to Gunter's and have an ice”!3 do you comprehend what sort of look that can be? certainly he was right anyhow; for driving to Gunters and having an ice revived me considerably—it was the first time I had felt up to crossing the threshold since I took Bessey Mudie to the railway the same evening I returned from Ryde— Darwin was very clever yesterday: he remarked—apropos of a pamphlet of Maurice's (which by the way is come for you) intitled: A letter to Lord Ashley respecting a certain proposed measure for stifling the expression of opinion in the university of Oxford4—that “pamphlets were for some men just what a fit of the gout was for others—they cleared the system—so that they could go on again pretty comfortably for a while.”— He told me also a curious conversation amongst three grooms—at which Wrightson had assisted the day before in a railway carriage5—clearly indicating to what an alarming extent the schoolmaster is abroad! Groom the first took a pamphlet from his pocket saying he had bought it two days ago and never found a minute to read it yet— Groom the second inquired the subject— 1st Groom “Oh a hit at the Pusseyists”! 2d Groom:—“The Pusseyists?— Ha—they are for bringing us back to the times when people burnt one another!—

1st Groom—(tapping 2d Groom on the shoulder with the pamphlet)

Charity “MY BROTHER”! Charity!

3d Groom— Well I cannot say about the Pusseyists—but my opinion is that what we need is more christianity and less religionism”!!! Now Wrightson swears that every word of this is literally as the men spoke it—and certainly Wrightson could not invent!

I had a long letter from Sterling which stupidly I flung into the fire in a rage (the fire?—yes—it is only for the last two days that I have not needed fire in the mornings!) and I bethought me afterwards, that I had better have sent it to you, whom its cool Robert Macaire6—impudence might have amused—tho I, still suffering from his vile conduct felt only enraged by it— Only fancy his inviting me to come BACK and “this time he would take care that I should have habitable lodgings”—His letter began—“the last chord which held me to existence here is snapped”—meaning me! and—so on!— Oh “the Devil fly away with” the old sentimental curmudgeon!

I had letters from both Mr and Mrs Buller yesterday—explaining their having failed to invite me—she appears to have been worse than ever—and is likely to be soon here again— Poor old Bullers modest hope that the new medicine “may not turn Madam blue” is really touching!

Here is your letter come—and you have not yet got any from me since my return! Somebody must have been very negligent for I wrote to you on Sunday added a postscript on Monday and sent off both letter and newspapers by Helen in perfectly good time. It is very provoking after one has been (as Helen says) “just most particular” not to vaix you, to find that you have been vaixed nevertheless— You ask the state of the house Pearson & co are out of it— Both the public rooms—are in a state of perfect habitableness again—a little still to be done in the needlework department—but nothing (like Todger's Boy's nose) “to speak of”7Your bedroom of which the ceiling had to be whitened and the paint washed &c &c will be habitable by tomorrow— The front bedrooms into which all the confusion had been piled are still to clean—but that will soon be done— my own bed room also needs to have the carpet beaten and the bed-curtains taken down and brushed—all this would have been completed by this time but for a most unexpected and soul-sickening mess which I discovered in the kitchen—which has caused work for several days—only fancy while I was brightening up the outside of the platter to find in Helen's bed a new colony of bugs!!— I tell you of it fearlessly this time, as past victory gives me a sense of superiority over the creatures. She said to me one morning in putting down my breakfast—“My!— I was just standing this morning, looking up at the corner of my bed ye ken, and there what should I see but two bogues— I hope theres nae mair”— “You “hope”?” said I immediately kindling into a fine phrenzy—how could you live an INSTANT without making sure?— a pretty thing it will be if you have let your bed get full of bugs again”— The shadow of an accusation of remissness was enough of course to make her quite positive—“How was SHE ever to have thoughts of bogues formerly?—? What a thing to think about!—but SINCE she had been just MOST particular! to be sure these two must have come off these Mudies shawls”! I left her protesting and appealing to posterity8 and ran off myself to see into the business—she had not so much as taken off the curtains— I tore them off distractedly—pulled in pieces all of the bed that was pullible and saw and killed two—and in one place which I could not get at without a bed-key “beings” (as Mazzini would say) were clearly moving!! Ah mercy mercy—my dismay was considerable!—still it was not the acme of horror this time as last time for now I knew they could be annihilated root and branch— — When I told her there were plenty; she went off to look herself—and came back to tell me with a peremptory tone that “SHE had looked and there was not a single bogue there!” It was needless arguing with a wild animal— I had Pearson to take the bed down and he soon gave me the pleasant assurance that “they were pretty strong”!— Neither did he consider them a recent importation—Helen went out of the way at the taking down of the bed—not to be proved in the wrong to her own conviction—which was “probably just as well” as she might have saved a remnant in her petticoats—being so utterly careless about the article.— Pearson who shared all my own nervous sensibility was a much better assistant for me— I flung some twenty pail fulls of water over the kitchen floor in the first place to drown any that might attempt to save themselves—then we killed all that were discoverable and flung the pieces of the bed one after another into the great tub full of water—carried them up into the garden and let them steep there two days—and then I painted all the joints—had the curtains washed and laid by for the present, and hope and trust there is not one escaped alive to tell— Ach gott— What disgusting work to have to do—but the destroying of bugs is a thing that cannot be delegated—in the course of the bug-investigation I made another precious discovery—that her woolen matrass was getting itself absolutely eaten from under her with moths—that had to be torn up next all the wool washed and boiled and teazed—and I have a woman here this day making it up into a matrass again——— I have small apprehension of bugs anywhere else—in your bed I had ocular conviction9 that there were none—when it was in pieces—in my own I have inferentential conviction for they would have been sure to bite me the very first Adam & Eve of them in the front room—nothing is discoverable either— but I shall take that bed all down for securitys sake before I have done with it—either THAT or go up and sleep in it a night—but then imagination might deceive me—and even cause spots!— “The troubles that afflict the just”10 &c—

We have warm weather these two days—not oppressive for me, but more summerlike than any that has been this season—

Oh I always forgot to tell you that in the railway carriage going to Ryde my next neighbour was Robert Owen (the Socialist) he did not know any thing of me so that I had the advantage of him—I found something of Old Laing in him particularly the voice— I like him on the whole—and in proof thereof gave him two carnations11

your affectionate


I have heard nothing further of Father Mathew knowing how busy he was and supposing him not much used to corresponding with women of genius I worded my letter so as to make him understand I looked for no answer—as to the stuffed Pope12 I thought of him (or rather of it) but I felt too much confidences in Father Mathews good sense to fear his being shocked