January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 31 January 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450131-JWC-HW-01; CL 19: 15-17


[31 January 1845]

Dearest Helen

If there be not luck for you, tell me what is! When I read your suggestion that the ring might be still in the box I thought it very hopeless. but I went immediately nevertheless to inquire into its (the box's) present circumstances. ‘where was it’? ‘In the cellar with the rest’— ‘Were the shavings emptied out of it’? ‘Only a part—what of them was put into the back-parlour grate’ (we turn things to the best account in this house!)— I had the box brought to me then, and turned up on the kitchen-floor—where Helen and I shook the shavings with equal interest— I was just putting them back again, saying “alas! no! it is not there but we may also look in the grate’; when my eye caught the glitter of the ring on the floor— It was quite a little “good joy”1 for me the finding of it, and Helen clapped her hands, and then leapt into the air, declaring she was “as prood as if it had been her ain

I am tired to death to day and as stupid as two or three donkies for I did not get to sleep till after four this morning. the consequence I suppose of having excited myself too much in doing the honours of a tea party I do not remember when there was a party here by appointment before—and I was forced into this one by an offer from the beautiful and deaf Mrs Mackenzie to come—and I dreaded having her all to myself, so asked Miss Wilson and her brother—and that bedevilled husband no 2d whom I told you of— I did not ask his wife but he took it for granted that he might bring her.2 My programme when I last told you of them was to cut the lady and wean the gentleman away from the house—but neither would she be cut nor he be weaned— After I had treated him with the most marked coldness and even impertinence for many weeks, he came one day and finding I was alone sent away his carriage saying he would walk back— “Humph! thought I, heaven send we are not going to have an explanation!”— So it was— presently he began to complain of my repulsive manners to him—he “was persuaded I had the greatest dislike of him—he thought it very unjust—heTHEY had always liked me so well!— He had wearied his patient (Oh!) wife with wonderings what I could mean &c &c &c but the cruelest of all had been for him to see the other day my reception of Darwin!!3 “When he contrasted my sunshiny cordial looks of welcome, and hearty shake of the hand for him—a person whom I really liked—with the apathetic air and the fingers presented to himself he felt finally convinced that I not only had a dislike to him but wished to mark it”— I was quite touched with the weakness of this confessed jealousy of Darwin—and told him goodhumouredly that every body could not expect to be received like Darwin— that I had known Darwin these ten years—and besides that Darwin was quite an exceptional man!—but then if he would not TAKE ON so about it; I would do my best in future to look pleased when he came in, and to shake his hand with a certain emphasis”!— He was quite comforted with this and since then I have not found it in my heart to treat him ill—for himself is really a good man—of considerable talents and acquirements—besides the wife seems to have got ashamed of herself and is ready to make me all sorts of advances and submissions now—last night she was quite endearing and be hanged to her! was going to have a dinner-party a fortnight hence and “absolutely could not do without me”—and then she laid hold of my arm and said “Oh do do come we quite depend on you for helping us thro' it.” I dare say!—for tho very beautiful to look at she can no more entertain a dinner-party than my cat can—and it is the feeling of all that I suppose that she is not up to her husband or her position that makes her take into jealousies—so I must be sorry for her I suppose— I shall not however go to her party—for her parties bore me to death— Mrs Sterling is now quite well—outwardly— Her feelings towards me remain in full force to judge from the terror her husband is in least it should come to her knowledge that he sometimes sees me—but she gives dinner-parties and conducts herself with all the propriety that ever she had which was not much to begin with—

Carlyle went to dine at Mr Chadwicks4 the other day, and I not being yet equal to a dinner altho I was asked to “come in a blanket and stay all night!” had made up my mind for a nice long quiet evening of looking into the fire, when I heard a carriage drive up, and mens voices asking questions, and then the carriage was sent away! And the men proved to be Alfred Tennyson of all people and his friend Mr Moxon5— Alfred lives in the country and only comes to London rarely and for a few days so that I was overwhelmed with the sense of Carlyles misfortune in having missed the man he likes best, for stupid Chadwicks especially as he had gone against his will at my earnest persuasion. Alfred is dreadfully embarrassed with women alone—for he entertains at one and the same moment a feeling of almost adoration for them and an ineffable contempt! Adoration I suppose for what they might be—contempt for what they are! The only chance of my getting any right good of him was to make him forget my womanness— so I did just as Carlyle would have done had he been there; got out pipes and TOBACCO—and brandy and water—with a deluge of tea over and above,— The effect of these accessories was miraculous—he professed to be ashamed of polluting my room “felt” he said “as if he were stealing cups and sacred vessels in the Temple” but he smoked on all the same—for three mortal hours!—talking like an angel—only exactly as if he were talking with a clever man—which—being a thing I am not used to—men always adapting their conversation to what they take to be a womans taste—strained me to a terrible pitch of intellectuality— When Carlyle came home at Twelve and found me all alone in an atmosphere of tobacco so thick that you might have cut it with a knife his astonishment was considerable!—twenty kisses for your long amusing letter—the books came perfectly safe—love to all Your own affectionately

Jane Carlyle