April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 21 October 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441021-JWC-JW-01; CL 18: 245-247


[21 October 1844]

Dearest Babbie

I have had a “crisis”—not such as the Italian exiles are liable to, which means neither more nor less than what we term in the Scotch dialect “cleanness of teeth”1—but a bilious crisis—dans sa plus simple expression [most simply]—viz! violent rheumatism in the head and neck— For five mortal days had I to lie on the flat of my back, incapable of turning this way or that except with my eyes! a spectacle of “heart-rending interest” to all beholders—for I would be beheld—moi! would lie on the sofa rather than in my bed—that red bed is such a horrid sojurn for me in the day time!—so associated with “all things most unpleasant in life!. Of course I mounted the black scarf—nay even a new black scarf—instead of the night-cap customary in such cases—and so escaped having as Fanny Kemble would have said, “a ba-wd effect”2— The reverse of that—I was told—by Mazzini—who never lies—that I had the effect of———the Priestess in Norma3— So every thing has you see its compensations—as we are religiously instructed—even that most inconsolable looking thing a stiff neck—

Meanwhile Darwin let “a piece of iron heavy and sharp” fall upon his foot—and will have to “lose a nail”—and was without hope of getting a boot on for two months—but he was here yesterday in a sandal—or rather to speak without flattery with his foot in a black silk handkerchief neatly tied round with ribbons. He Darwin is about to remove into a new house—which he calls “the baby-house”—not that there is the faintest shadow of an idea of its ever being applied to the purposes of baby-hood—but because of its exceedingly diminutive size— I cannot imagine what is inducing him to cram himself into such a Melusina's box4—it would make you quite uncomfortable to see him touching the diningroom ceiling with his forefinger—and stepping the floor at three strides— And for this crib of a place, dark too being overshadowed by the houses opposite, he is to pay a hundred a year—but then says Miss Darwin;5 “it is near Hyde park—and he will not have half the number of barrel-organs.”— He says, poor soul, that “he is sure I will view it with more favourable eyes, after having eaten a nice little dinner in it.” And he has already got the programme of this proportionable dinner in his head—“one smelt, one patty, and one pigeon, with a little bottle of canary” But surely all that would have suited the little Helps better than him. The Pepolis are returned to Felsina Cottage6 more than a week ago. I have seen her just once and that only two days ago, she having been doing a cold while I was laid up with my neck. She talks much of her enjoment of Scotland, but in that indescribable tone, with which Mr Alcott used to tell us that “HE was always serene and happy”—and which made it impossible for us believe him tho' he had sworn it on the bible! Pepoli she also says “enjoyed himself very tolerably”— But I take his own postscript in a letter of Elizabeths to Plattnauer as a more truthful picture of his feelings— After praising “Scotzia Melanconica [Scottish Melancholy]” he adds: “fa freddo [it is cold]” and that was in the heat of summer mind you.

I have this morning a fourth letter from Plattnauer for which I was very thankful to pay one and threepence—as he had this time exceeded the appointed week by several days I was beginning to get very anxious—it is a very long letter—perfectly sane if it were not for that perputal hurry and struggle—forwards—to he knows not what—which seems never to leave him in peace for an hour— I will send you the letter for sample of his state of mind but not today—till I have first shown it to Miss Clayton7 From what he says I utterly despair of his family making any active exertions on his behalf— What is to be done for him if he return to England as he left it?— But sufficient for the day is the evil thereof8

By the way Babbie—talking of evil it seems to me you are demoralizing more and more— When I smiled at your promises of energetic exertions to rehabilitate your spirit, if you were only some where else than just where you were you looked rather piqued and said “you dont believe me; but you shall see.” Well! now I have seen!— I told you that the great things which were to be done when this or the other change in ones circumstances took place—never so far as I could speak from experience came to much—“Here or nowhere is America”;9 must one say to oneself if one is not [to]10 be turned back by the first difficulty or disgust— There you are now “in the Country”—are “with Walter”— —and stocked with german books and all sorts of preparations I doubt not for “making your soul” (as the poor Irish say—) And what is the result?—visitings—among people you despise—and compensation for the same in “sitting with your feet on the fender (a very idle posture let me tell you) quizzing those you have visited!— If I am believing you it is on your own showing— Oh Babbie, Babbie I could give you a good shaking!—especially just now that being my self in a rather energetic state of well-doing—in spite of my biliousness—I have less sympathy to bestow on “good intentions always unfortunate” God bless you anyhow—my love to Walter and Maggie—

Your ever affectionate /

Jane C.