August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 25 October 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18431025-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 158-160


[25 October 1843]

I entreat Miss Babbie that you would devote ten minutes of your valuable time just to certify me that you are alive and whether you be returned to Liverpool— To be sure you may think in a commercial spirit (wholly unworthy of you) that whilst your last long letter from Helenburgh remained unanswered I could not have any desire to know about you—at all rates if I had any such desire that I did not deserve to have it gratified—but I have my own idea babbie that if a Radamanthus had to administer justice in this case1—he would pronounce unmitigated sentence on you, whereas me he would find “guilty under extenuating circumstances” and commute my sentence to a one-farthing fine— When that letter arrived hoping that my troubles would pass over with the blue pill—I was already up to the ears in them. Pearson with his troop of incarnate fiends carpenters bricklayers whitewashers plasterers has already spread themselves per ogne dove [everywhere]—and Helen, at sight of such unexpected finale to her cleaning labours had been struck with a temporary ideocy—so that I had to follow her about and supply her with wits as well as with active help at every turn, and with such heart as you can imagine—besides having to ward off the deluge of confusion from the man himself—who conducted himself on the occasion much like a half-conjuror—finding that he had not the counter-spell to allay the storm which himself had raised he raged and lamented and all but rent his garments and tore his hair2— The front-bed-rooms were to have been thrown into one in TWO days according to Pearson—in ten days the workmen had finished there!—then the room had to be instantly fitted up for Carlyles sleeping room—at least so long as the people should be breaking out a chimney and instituting a small fire place in his dressingroom, which last plan had dawned on his mind as the probablest escape from the piano forte—another week they were messing there—Carlyle unable to sleep in the new room—not for noise—his stuffed window shutters fastened on with as many screws and bolts as if they were for the windows of a mad house almost wholly exclude all noise from the street—but merely from the nervousness always incident with him on “finding himself in a new position”— There were wanderings about during the night—fires kindled with his own hands, bread and butter eaten in the china-closet!—all sorts of what shall I say-strange things upon my honour done—and I all the while lying awake listening with a bouncing heart but afraid to meddle with him—even to offer any assistance—then the sort of days sure to follow that sort of nights! I will not try to describe—to have overlived them was botheration enough,—no sooner were the workmen out of the dressing room than back he must be moved bag and baggage into his old bedroom—and at this point of the business I caught a fine rheumatism in the back of my head and shoulders—in consequence of spending a whole forenoon in papering the broken parts of the plaster and all the afternoon of the same day in nailing carpets— —that is a thing that Helen can not do—and the hands of me are absolutely blackened and coarsefied with the quantity of it I have had to transact this season——— To make the mess still thicker the dining-room grate which you may remember was a perpetual source of execration was finally voted insupportable for another twentyfour hours— —another must be got—and then—as all our things are never to be made like other peoples but on some superior plan of our own—the new gratewith cover of dutch tiles—needed ever so much of the chimney to be pulled down and a man building and plastering at it for two days and a half—of course all the carpets and furniture of that beautifully clean room had to be removed also——— [Ten] days ago I nailed down the carpets of it—and readjusted the things and today I have nailed down all the stair and passage carpets—at last!—there is still a good piece of work for me in the front bedroom which will be all the fitter for your and our visitors reception in consequence of what it has undergone— but if he had only allowed me to do these things when I was about it in the summer it would have spared a world of fash [bother]—and such a sickening feeling towards “household good” as I do not remember ever in my life before to have experienced— I am physically ill of the long continued discomfort and the cinderella labours in which I have had to put forth the activity of a maid of all-work—along with improvisation and inventive-faculty of a woman of genius— —The fact is I have spoiled Mr C—I have accustomed him to have all wants supplied “without visible means”3—until he has forgotten how much head and hands it takes to supply the common resource of a good round outlay of money When one had not any money—it was all well—I never grudged my work—but now that we have enough to live on it would be good sense in him to say “get in a carpenter to nail your carpets” and a few other such considerate suggestions—no matter—I shall get my hands kept clean and put into mitts for a time so soon as I have patched together a carpet for the new bedroom—and will be on the sofa by heaven for two weeks and read french novels!

It was not that I was so eternally in motion from morning till night that I could not write to you—one can always find a half hour during which it is possible to sit still if one looks for it but my temper was so bad that I could not compose it to write even to you—and as I have said my health has been bad as well as my temper—indeed these two things with me pretty invariably go with one another—

I will tell you of all the rest—that is about people &c &c next time— Write you little false hearted gipsey— Love to them all Ever your affectionate / Jane Carlyle