August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 26 February 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440226-JWC-JW-01; CL 17: 281-283


[26 February 1844]

Dearest Babbie

Before I forget will you tell my Uncle with a kiss that I consider him the most virtuous father of a family I have ever known, and that having thus a whole “Society for the Suppression of Vice1 within his own breast, there is every ground to believe that his Daughters will pass thro' life like living snow-drops!! And do not you embezzle this message because you cannot understand it—to my uncle it will be quite as intelligible as his message was to me—

For the rest Babbie you must be content with a small return this day for your two long letters— All the last week I was kept in a very violent state of nervous excitement about a thing which you will think lay a good way out of my road—

But when one is disposed to be excited it makes little difference whether the immediate cause be personal or no— And so my blood has been kept at the boiling point all last week by a — —crim. con. process before the Guild Hall2—in which I was neither a principal nor even a witness—but John was a witness, and I made it my own affair—from esprit de corps Carlyle says.

There never was I believe a more infernal prosecution raised against any woman than this which occupied the Guild Hall Court for four whole days of last week and has been filling many columns of the daily Papers. Did you ever hear us speak of a William Fraser—it was he of whom John said so many times over that “with the best intentions he was always unfortunate”3—till the phrase became a by-word in our house. Now and for a long while back he has been worse than unfortunate with good intentions—having performed one atrocity after another till he has consumated all by a crim con process against the best friend he ever had in the world and his own ill-used long since deserted wife— I cannot enter into the details of the transaction—if you were to read the papers the impression left on your mind would probably be that Mrs Fraser was guilty but with such extenuating circumstances that no really just and humane person could lay his hand on his heart and say that she was really very blameable for having been guilty—but Carlyle John all the men and women who have known personally the sort of woman she is, and the sort of life she has led, firmly believe her innocent in spite of all the perjured circumstantial evidence brought against her which after all was only inferential— Think of its being made criminal to say to a man who for years had been dining four or five times a-week in the house by her husbands invitation “my dear will you ring the bell”!!4 Merciful Heaven—what criminalities have I walked over the top of without knowing it! At length on Thursday night she had a verdict in her favour—and tho from what passed in court it seemed to have been due to the evidence of her husbands monstrous usage of her rather than to that of her own innocence it was received with “tremendous cheers” in the Court house and all along the street— John had been in court all the four days and sent me a d[a]ily5 bulletin of the proceedings—always like a Jobs comforter as he is winding up with “that” in spite of internal heartfelt convictions, there was every chance of its going against her”— And then Sterling sent me daily the Times—and there I sat fuming—wishing to be in the court to show up mistatements which nobody seemed to notice to draw palpable inferences which nobody seemed to draw. or at all rates to be with the poor woman comforting her—but as I had never seen her but once in my life just after my first coming to London I feared she would not receive me while she was enduring the horrible uncertainty— “So soon as it is decided” I said to Darwin “I will go and nobody shall prevent me”— “whichever way it goes”? said Darwin— “Yes” said I “and all the faster if it goes against her”— “Bravo!” said he—with a benignant smile— “Oh said Carlyle the woman is not that sort of woman at all—if you knew her you could not for a moment believe her to have done anything beyond imprudences—such as calling people my Dear and all that” (looking significantly at poor me)— “Ah!—for my share” says Darwin “I cannot even see the imprudences”! “Thank you for that” exclaimed I with effusion!— The day after the verdict I had meant to go—having sent her word before by John that I must see her—but that day I had my hands full at home from six in the morning till six at night I carried on one incessant alternation of fainting, retching, screaming, even Cromwell had to give place to me!—and Carlyle was out and in fifty times during the day—not with the usual “how are you now Jane”?—but—“merciful heaven what is this?—what can I do for you?” These superlative headachs coming back with “a certain” regularity are “a baad outlook” as Helen says— I have had as bad many years ago but then I had more stuff in me for resisting them—and they were in some measure compensated by having a perfectly clear head during the intervals—which is not the case now—for they leave me all beaten into impalpable pulp—to speak figuratively— Next day however by help of Sterlings carriage I got to the poor woman—whom I found in bed—in such a state as you may fancy a modest woman to be reduced to who had just been dragged before the public in such a shameful way— Tomorrow I go to her after breakfast to stay all day and Carlyle God bless him will come to fetch me home— so soon as she is able I will fetch her here for a few days and if any body things it “an improper connection,” they are at liberty to cut my acquaintance— I really see no such natural way of showing my gratitude to Providence for having had my own reputation always mercifully preserved, than in affording the countenance of it to one who has been less fortunate— I will tell you all about her next time at present I have written as much as is prudent—for my physical state—belss6 you all Your own


I have seen nothing of the Walters7— —except a most poisonous looking piece of Bride Cake which came in a little box from a Liverpool confectioner