August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


JWC TO GERALDINE E. JEWSBURY ; 29 February 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440229-JWC-GEJ-01; CL 17: 285-289


[29 February 1844]

Dearest Geraldine

If my sympathy could do you the least good; you have it “hot and hot”— nobody can appreciate the utter wretchedness of all that better than I! Sick selves; sick helps— Ach gott [O Lord]!— But the sick going out in a cab to seek their dinner! there is a cut beyond even me! We have sometimes gone without dinner in this house for want of somebody to cook it—and once when Helen had lain all day on the floor dead-drunk, and I could not go on doing her work without victual; I went in all simplicity to a neighbouring cookshop and brought away a quarter of a pound of cold beef in a piece of grey paper! But mounting with Carlyle into a cab, and driving off madly to repair exhausted nature at the house of a friend is a new idea for me, which I shall bear in mind for future emergencies! The very day I last wrote to you, finding after I was in it that I might take Sterlings carriage to the Strand, I drove to Chapman & Halls and presented myself to these Dignitaries, without either M.S.1 or Credentials but on what Mrs Mudie would call “the broad basis” of my own feminine merits! You may think that it was taking my hens to market in a rainy day, going with my feminine merits to an old dingy bookshop in the Strand2— But trust me for always knowing where and when I can turn my womanhood to account—that I believe is an instinct which every woman beyond the rank of an idiot brings into the world with her— Mr Chapman had been several times to this house on business with my husband—and on my husbands invisible hours had been shown in to me as a substitute—and on these occasions he had—blushed as if he were going to break a bloodvessel! and I having a great feeling for blushing men (when they are not sheepish withal) treated him with “a certain” marked politeness— So I said to myself thou hast thrown thy bread on the waters and shallt find it after many days.3 Accordingly I asked not for Messrs Chapman and Hall—but for Mr Chapman and was told—that his Sister was just dead and he could not be seen—but that Mr Hall was forthcoming— I had chosen precisely the wrong moment— However to come away with nothing whatever accomplished was contrary to my nature so I requested to see this Hall—and a poor little insignificant spectacle it was! Sterling having followed me into the shop, not choosing that he should hear me talking business-like; I requested to be taken into a private room and the small Hall with a look of considerable perplexity bowed me into his dark Sanctum where stood to my consternation poor Chapman leaning on the mantlepiece and all bewept! the large face of him absolutely swollen with weeping—however such is the ennobling power of a deep grief that he received me this time without any embarrassment but with the air of the most perfect Gentleman, and it was to him that I addressed myself after all— I told him my own impression of your book, the impression which it had made on two men of cultivated minds,4 and my husbands idea of your general tallents “tho he had not had time to spare from Cromwell to inspect this particular manifestation of them. And moreover I told him you were a sister of Miss Jewsbury5—but very unlike her—and to my thinking a person much more likely to suit our existing public taste—on which Chapman surprised me by saying “Oh he remembered you perfectly he had seen you one day in my house”—tant mieux [so much the better]— The result of this first visit was a promise from both Partners to “give the M S their most serious consideration”— I did not however send it to them immediately—judging that it would be better to wait a little till Chapman should have got thro' the sad cares of his Sister's funeral and be a little more in a condition for giving “serious consideration” to any earthly thing— Meanwhile I got a note of general recommendation from Carlyle—which I am sorry I did not keep a copy of for your amusement— He had not read this M.S. himself, he said but “a friend of mature years (that's me!) quick insight and sufficiently impatient temper had read it all thro even in its Manuscript state and without a single expression of weariness—but with apparent interest and pleasures, a fact which of itself said much he considered to its credit.” To this note I added a repetition of my own favourite opinion, backed with that of the Thunder of the Times and the Author of the Pictorial history of England6—and having tied up all this along with a kind message to Mr Chapman not as a Publisher but a Man and the Corpus delecti itself of course. I left it at the shop on Saturday last7—and am now waiting with my “sufficiently impatient temper” for their answer.

I wish something would really prosper in my hands—just to show me that I am not like Mazzini under a fatality.

Oh Geraldine have you been reading the daily papers last week? If so you could not miss a crim con process which filled many columns of them for four successive days. But little would you think of the down-right agony of suspense in which I was watching its progress— I neither a principal nor even a witness! I was not when this infernal prosecution was first started a friend of Mrs Fraser's— She called on me at my first coming to London with her “handsome husband”8 but they were just newly married then and she looked so happy so triumphant over her bad bargain that I did not take to her—never returned her call—refused their invitation to dinner—and there our intercourse terminated— John afterwards became intimate with her at Munich where her husbands extravagance compelled them to reside for several years—and from him I had heard much of her virtues as a Mother and housewife—and Carlyle who dined with them after their return to this country had also a good opinion of her—and was very sorry for her when after a horrid course of dissipation and extravagance her husband finally deserted her some two years ago—about a month before the birth of her last child!9 When this Process came to light Carlyle and John were both certain of its atrocity and that the poor woman had done nothing—for me after such treatment I should have stood up for her whether I believed that she had done anything or no—in fact I have quite made the case my own— “Esprit de Corps my Dear”? says Carlyle— Before her acquittal I sent her a message by John that I begged permission to come and be of some comfort to her—and on Saturday I went to see her—perfectly indifferent in the warmth of my indignation how many people might cut my acquaintance in consequence. Had you found her as I did—streching out her arms to me from her bed, with a burst of hysterical weeping—so pale and wasted and nearly out of her wits you could hardly have resisted the temptation to go off and assassinate the wretch of a husband on the spot— I fear she will never be herself again in this world—tho the verdict was in her favour it appeared to be due to the Jurys detestation of her husbands conduct rather than to their conviction of her innocence and this is the public feeling about it—for me I solemnly believe her innocent—but that as I have said would hardly have increased my sympathy with her.10

I was to have gone again on Tuesday to have staid the whole day and Carlyle had generously promised to come and fetch me back—but she was quite light in the head on Monday—and continues in a dreadful way— She has a young lady staying with her—and her Sisters and intimate friends adhere to her and believe in her thank God— I will do all I can to console her—but it is so little! for I fear after all his diabolical usage and this infernal climax to it, she is still in love with her own husband! several things she said to me the other day left that impression on my mind—and that sort of feeling makes a woman eternally irrevocably a victim

I have been very ill again myself—but I have no more time for writing—

God bless you Your affectionate / JC