January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 5 August 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450805-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 129-132


Tuesday [5 August 1845] Seaforth House

No letter today— Well I had one yesterday which was more than bargain—only think; your Saturdays letter lay all thro' Sunday at the little postoffice within five minutes walk of me!— Letters seldom arrive at this house unless brought by Mr Paulet; so that it is not a rule to send to the postoffice and I, having no idea of a house in which the post office plays so insignificant a part, never thought of asking: had they sent?—but when no letter came at eleven, took it for granted there was none. I even walked to the postoffice myself afterwards with my own letter and put it in without inquiry—so it was produced on the Monday, an unexpected blessing.

I go on beautifully here—sleep, and eat, and am “happy”—to a certain extent— I fancy that being very much made OF agrees with my constitution— I have not had a headach since I arrived or any sort of illness, except yesterday morning a fit of sickness which made my life from five in the morning till ten—what Mrs Ames in her Italian journal1 calls the road from Genoa to Pisa “one succession of Interests”—every quarter of an hour I found myself fainting away and the bell in the room is—broken! Finally Mrs Paulet sent the maid to see what was come of me—and then herself brought me tea—which put me all to rights—and to guard against such extremities of fate for the future “the great Saloon ALARM-bell” was brought and set down at my bed side where it still stands, exploding me into laughter as often as I look on it— I imputed the small crisis to a dreadfully long walk which I had taken the day before—having put my letter to you in the post office, I strolled on solitary, in a spirit of adventure, to try whether I could not get up a sentiment, more or less, towards Nature. and “I came and I came till I came to”2 a little boy—seven years old—herding cows—and—smoking a pipe! I asked him when he learnt to smoke, and he answered that he did not remember! then I asked him how I could get back to Seaforth without going the same road I had come—and he gave me long most uncockneyecal directions which landed me at a Seabathing village called Crosby and from Crosbey I had still to walk some three miles to Seaforth—when I got within sight of it I saw the children on the leads playing the part of Sister Ann3—and the moment they discried me ‘coming’ they rushed off to relieve the anxieties of the rest, who had been kept waiting dinner for me, more than an hour—for we dine here at two—sans facons [unceremoniously]—have tea at five and supper at half after nine—yesterday Mrs Ames came to dinner and staid till this morning— She sung me delightful songs from Don Giovanni4 while Mrs Paulet and Geraldine rubbed my feet!!— My dear I wish YOU would take a notion to rub my feet! it is so soothing to the feelings— Mrs Ames told me that James Martineau5 in one of his sermons had said; “it has been observed by the wisest man and profoundest thinker of the age—that”—“someething very Carlyleesque”—she did not remember what—but that the hearers might be in no doubt as to the man meant he went on “and if this has been Carlyles experience what must it have been for others”? Geraldine came yesterday afternoon—looking even better than when in London—and not “triste [sad],” as Robertson expected, by any means. She has brought a good stock of cigarittos with her—which is rather a pity—as I had just begun to forgot there was such a weed as tobacco in the civilized world— She is very amusing and good-humoured—does all “the wits” of the party—and Mrs Paulet and I look to the Pure Reason and Practical Endeavour!!! I fancy you would find our talk as “amusing” as Dr Julius6 found my marmalade—that is, if you could assist at it in a cloak of darkness—for one of the penalties of being “the wisest man and profoundest thinker of the age” is the royal one of never hearing the plain “unornamented” truth spoken—every one striving to be wise and profound invita natura [without help from nature] in presence of such a one and making himself as much as possible into his own likeness— And this is the reason that Arthur Helps and so many others talk very nicely to me and bore you to distraction—with me they are not afraid to stand on the little “broad basis” of their own individuality—such as it is—with you they are always balancing themselves like Taglioni on the the point of their moral or intellectual great toe! If I were going “at my age and with my cough” to take up a “mission”—it would be the reverse of Fanny Wrights7—instead of boiling up individuals into the species— I would draw a chalk circle round every individuality and preach to it to keep within that, and preserve and cultivate its identity at the expense of ever so much lost giltlacker of other people's isms— But I forget that Robert8 is going to town so soon as I have finished—the post here being already missed— Mrs Paulet talks of our all going over to Holywell9 to spend a day with her mother— I for one am quite willing— What an amazing feeling it must have been for that mother to see all her children so soon as they came to the years of reflection dash off into new religions— Mrs Paulet a freethinker—Julia a roman Catholic—Emma an emancipated Evangelical—writing books to show the evils of Sectarianism and how all christians'10 should meet together “on the broad basis” of Crayst—Rebecca a strong Church of England Woman—Caroline adhering alone to Wesleyan methosim Noedes11 an Epicuraean Philosopher and Frank a Unitarian minister!!! A hen beholding her brood of ducklings take the water were a feeble comparison for such a case as poor Mrs Newton's— Suppose a hen to see one day her brood all take wing one to water another to air another to fire! what a cruel surprise! worse than Basil Montague's damp gunpowder refusing to go off at the critical moment!12

What “babbles” I am writing God bless you dearest

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