August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 6 February 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440206-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 256-259


Tuesday [6 February 1844]

My very pretty Babbie

Walter M. would tell you most likely that he all but persuaded me to go with him to Liverpool! And you in your sobriety of judgement would take the statement with “a grain of allowance”— This much however I at first hand authorize you to believe, that Walter “urged his suit” with—————

Wednesday [7 February]

So far I had written yesterday—only so far when a shower of little strokes with the knocker stopt proceedings. It was Robertson who “on awaking that morning felt himself” he said falling into a state of collapse, so that he had resolved on flinging all work to the dogs, and taking instead a long walk with an agreeable object at the end of it”—it was then not twelve of the clock—at one came Mazzini—and we all three found ourselves called upon to discuss “the prospects of Democracy” till three (!) when Carlyle issued from his den and softly conveyed one of the men (Robertson of course) away with him—leaving me to spend the rest of Mazzinis visit in walking to and fro in the sunshine on Cheyne Walk—the first attempt at exercise in the open air which I had been up to since the day on which Walter saw me and would have persuaded me to go with him to Liverpool! Oh if [he]1 had seen me the day after, instead of that evening when I was feeling nervously unsettled and with a sort of tendency to develope the wings of a dove and fly away often the precursory state of illness with me how wonderful would then have appeared to him his own project! It was such a day of headach of retching and fainting as I had not passed the like of for twelve months—and ever since till yesterday I have been as smashed as kneaded together in consequence as a lump of glaziers putty! Oh no Dear! my heart is set on a visit to Liverpool, and God willing I shall make it out before very long—but at this season—and until I have got up my strength again—home with “liberty to be as ugly and stupid and disagreeable as I please” is the only rational place for me.

Walter spoke of being married in the course of a month—but I do not think he had any care about my assisting at the sacrifice at least he expressed none—his chief motive in getting me to Liverpool seemed to be a generous anxiety about———you!!—who he seems to have a fixed idea are always in need of my Shu-ping-sing faculty of seeing thro stone walls and setting all sorts of entanglements to rights— Now, it seems that you are spoken of with Andrew Crystal—and he (Walter) “does not know what to think of it,” and whatever he (Walter) does not know what to think of there is a need that I should think of, and descend as a Deus ex machina (a god out of a machine, since you have no Latin you poor child!) into the thick of! Now really dear Babbie granted that you are becoming as great a bore with the number of your “suitors” as Penelope2 was; I do not feel sure, that even if I were there transported by a wishing cap or other miraculous means applicable to my circumstances, with all my eyes and ears opened as wide as wide could be and my “Shu-ping-sing-faculty” to back them out, I do not feel at all sure that I could penetrate the “grande mistero [great mystery]”—in as much as I am still in a state of modest doubt whether there be one to penetrate—and suppose I could, did ever young Lady since the world began take counsel with the flesh and blood of her Cousin on the private affairs of her heart. She will regulate these by her own discretion or indiscretion let the Sapient Cousin say or sing what she likes. And really as she is the person chiefly implicated therein one cannot take it ill of her!— This however my good little girl I beg of you to lay to heart that if I find at any time that you have been getting up a little matrimonial transaction without (not asking my advice which of course you would not follow) but without letting me into a secret which I am so much interested in, from the very first moment in which it assumed an utterable shape, I shall think you a very graceless Babbie and shall tell you no more secrets of mine!— By which arrangement you are likely to be a prodigious loser.

—In sober sadness Babbie of my heart are you thinking to marry this Mr Crystal—or even thinking of thinking to marry him? “Why not?”— I am sure for my part I see no good reason unless it be that neither of you ever happened to conceive the wish. In that case it were certainly unadivisable but otherwise? Mr Crystal could keep your bit soul and body together could he not? he is as Carlyle would express it “not a fool nor a bad man”—is he not? and if these conditions be fulfilled—why should not Babbie marry Mr Crystal and Mr Crystal marry Babbie if they be both of that mind? You observe that I do not know him the least in the world all the while— I once I think met him on your upper stair—but I have not even the faintest recollection how he looked— Now do like a good child write me a letter to the point—if to that point and some other points included you would be doing me a sensible kindness for I cannot help giving a certain attention to these on dits when anything so precious to me as your future is in question— Tho I do not make much complaint on the subject I may just as well take this occasion to tell you frankly, that these letters which contain all sorts of things, except just the things in your own heart and the very things I want to be told about, if they do not anger me do always afflict me more or less— The wearing of ones heart on ones sleeve is a thing which I neither admire nor practise, but the utterly shrowding it up and hanging it over with all sorts of frivolous disguises, with the person who perhaps is in the whole wide world the likeliest to understand it and sympathize with it, does seem to me a piece of unwisdom—a willful rejecting of “the good the gods have provided” 3 one! Do I tell you all that makes ME ill just now and the time look “out of joint”4—no—but only because a word to the wise—that is, to the sympathizing, is enough—and I have spoken enough of these words to you—for enabling you always to divine all that I keep to myself— But you have yet given me no such talismanic word—or else I have not been wise enough to make it do.

Now you see dear this is a sort of preaching—or rather praying letter—and I will even let it stand for such without attempting to make the amende honorable [apology] by tacking any extraneous matter in the shape of news to the end of it— I am still very sick in spite of my airing yesterday and I write with effort tho with infinite facility of good will—

Mazzini was very glad of your letter tho he did complain that you had evidently “mended your pen at one place” a proceeding which I felt to be inconsistent with a due trustfulness of friendship

My kindest love to them all—and say yes I will come and cover them all with kisses but not yet— Bless thee my dear little good Babbie with many suitors—Your / own

Jane Carlyle