January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 12 July 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450712-JWC-MR-01; CL 19: 97-100


5 Cheyne Row / Chelsea / 12th July [1845]

My dearest Mrs Russell

I wonder how you are all going on at Thornhill—it is so long that I have had no news of you. Do write—there is nothing you ever tell me that is not deeply interesting; there is not a tree or a stone about Thornhill that I should not like to hear about, never to speak of the people!

For us here; we go on in much the old fashion—my Husband always writing—I always ailing—which is perhaps the most laborious business of the two, tho' yielding less result— I was confined four months to the house during winter and spring, taking care of a cough—but it went when the warm weather came— Since then however I have never felt to have got back even my usual limited amount of strength and spirits—so I am going to try what people call “a change”— My Husband is going to Scotsbrig so soon as his weary book is completed which he expects will be in the course of next month—and he has been very urgent on me to go to Scotland also, and even without waiting his time which will be rather late in the season. But I do not fancy the object of my going from home would be attained by encountering so much painful emotion as a visit to a country made so desolate for me would excite. I have tried to bring my mind to it—but it will not do— So I am going to Liverpool some ten days hence—and then to Seaforth a place in the neighbourhood belonging to a favourite friend of mine—where I enjoy the inestimable advantage of being let alone— My uncle and Jeanie start for Helensborough again on the first of August and would have had me go there with them—but on one hand there was the sea voyage which occasions me such horrible suffering that only the hope of seeing my Mother at the end of it ever could make me undertake it—or if I went by land I must have passed thro Dumfriesshire—stayed some days at Scotsbrig—and the notion of all that was too sad— If there were any positive duty to be accomplished by going to Scotland I hope I would not be so weak as to let the pain of it withhold me— But going there merely to recover my strength and spirits!— No no it would be labour worse than lost.

I had my Uncle Roberts eldest Son1 here for two or three weeks lately— He wrote me a letter about “natural affection” and all that sort of thing, which was taking me on my weak side—and as he stated moreover his intention of coming to see London—I was simple enough to invite him unknown and unseen to take up his quarters here,—tho pretty well aware in the secret of my heart that the sudden development of his “natural affection” for me had just this for its object, to get himself invited— And so he came and in my life I was never more thankful when a visit ended—for a young gentleman full of selfcomplacency, and Edinr logic, and without the faculty of being still for two minutes of his existence together was no joke in a household like ours. He is not a bad fellow at heart nor stupid—but he has grown up in the idea that he cannot possibly be de trop in any environment—and that his pleasure is to be the law of the Universe—so far as he can make it so—and his opinion the dominant opinion of the times! Then he was out and in—in and out; at all hours, like a dingledoozy!2—sightseeing—alas—by night as well as by day—and taking it as the most natural thing that I should sit up for him night after night till two in the morning—while he frequented the Houses of Parliament the Theatres and what not! Oh Heaven defend me thro all coming time from young gentlemen educated in Edinr who come to London to see sights! Hating sights myself I have no sympathy with the passion some people put into seeing them.

I saw a very curious sight the other night, the only one I have been to for a long while—viz: some thousands of the grandest and most cultivated people in England all gazing in ecstasy, and applauding to death, over a woman, not even pretty, balancing herself on the extreme point of one great toe, and stretching the other foot high into the air— Much higher than decency ever dreamt of! It was Taglioni our chief dancer at the Opera,3 and this is her chief feat repeated over and over to weariness—at least to my weariness—but Duchesses were flinging bouquets at her feet—and not a man (except Carlyle) who did not seem disposed to fling himself. I counted twentyfive bouquets!—but what of that? the Empress of All the Russias4 once in a fit of enthusiasm flung her diamond bracelet at the feet of this same Taglioni— “Virtue its own reward” (in this world)? dancing is and singing, and some other things still more frivolous—but for virtue?—“it may be strongly doubte[d]” (as Edinr people say to every thing one tells them.)

Monday is my birthday—how fast they come these birthdays of mine! and how little are they marked by any good done— I cannot even balance myself on the point of my great toe!—but that perhaps is not much to be regreted!— I send rememb[rances] for Mary and Margaret5—for Mary tea—to Margaret perhaps you had better give the money in case she might like some other little thing better—

God bless you dearest Mrs Russell—you and all that belong to you—my gratitude for your kindness to my beloved Mother in her last days is as strong now as it was in the first moment I read that letter in which she so touchingly expressed her gratitude to you and your husband— May your kindness to her be returned to you when you most need it!

Ever affectionately / Yours

Jane Carlyle