JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 16 August 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450816-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 148-151
JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Saturday [16 August 1845]
I never know whether a letter is welcomest when it arrives after having been impatiently waited for, or like yesterdays, “quite” promiscuously”1—when I was standing “on the broad basis”2 of: “Blessed are they who do not hope; for they shall not be disappointed”! I assure you I am not the only person obliged by your writing; it makes a very palpable difference in my amiability throout the day, whether I have a letter to begin it with.
Last night we went, according to programme, to Mrs Ames's—and “it is but fair to state” that the drive there and back in the moonlight was the best of it. The party did me no ill however it was not a Unitarian CRUSH like the last but adapted to the size of the room—select moreover—and with the crowning grace of an open window. There was an old little gentleman a Species of Archdeacon Potts3 who did the impossible to inspire me with a certain respect. Yates they called him, and his glory consists in owning the Prince's Park4—and throwing it open to “poors”— Oh what a dreadful little old man! he plied me with questions and suggestions about you, till I was within a trifle of putting “my finger in the pipy o' im.”5 “How did Mr Carlyle treat Oliver Cromwells crimes?” “his what?” said I—“the atrocities he exercised on the Irish”— “Oh you mean massacaring a garrison or two?—all that is treated very briefly—” “But Mr Carlyle must feel a just horror of that—”— “Horror?— Oh none at all I assure you! he regards it as the only means under the circumstances to save bloodshed”— The little old gentleman bounced back in his chair, and spread out his two hands like a duck about to swim—while there burst from his lips a groan that made every one look at us— What had I said to their Archdeacon Potts?— By and by my old gentleman returned to the charge— “Mr Carlyle must be feeling much delighted about the academicial schools”?6— “Oh no! he has been so absorbed in his own work lately, that he has not been at leisure to be delighted about anything.” “But Madam!—a man may attend to his own work and attend at the same time to questions of great public interest”— “Do you think so?— I dont”— Another bounce on the chair— Then—with a sort of awe, as of a Demon more wicked than your wife7—“Do you not think Madam that more good might be done by taking up the history of the actual time than of past ages—such a time as this!—so full of improvements in Arts and sciences!—the whole face of Europe getting itself changed!—suppose Mr Carlyle should bring out a yearly volume about all that”? This was the Archdeacons last flight of eloquence with me—for catching the eyes of a Lady (your Miss Lamond of the gladiator)8 fixed on me with the most ludicrous expression of sympathy I fairly burst out laughing till the tears ran down—and when I had recovered myself the old gentleman had turned for compensation to James Martineau James had reasons for being civil to him which I had not—Mr Yates being his Landlord—but he seemed to be answering him in his sleep, while his waking thoughts were intent on an empty chair betwixt Geraldine and me—and ‘eventually’ he made it his own— As if to depricate my confounding him with these Yatess he immediately begun to speak in the most disrespectful manner of—mechanics Institutes9 “and all that sort of thing”!! and then we got on that eternal Vestiges of Creation10 which he termed rather happily “animated mud.” Geraldine and Mrs Paulet were wanting to engage him in a doctrinal discussion which they are extremely fond of— “Look at Jane” suddenly exclaimed Geraldine—“she is quizzing us in her own mind— You must know (to Martineau) we cannot get Jane to care a bit about doctrines.” “I should think not” said Martineau with great vivacity “Mrs Carlyle is the most concrete—woman that I have seen for a long while”— “Oh said Geraldine she puts all her wisdom into what she calls practice—and so never gets into scrapes”— “Yes” said Martineau in a tone “significant of much”11—to keep out of doctrines is the only way to keep out of scrapes”! was not that a creditable speech in a Unitarian?
Miss Lamond is a frank rather agreeable woman—forty or thereabouts—who looks as if she had gone thro a good deal of hardship—not “a domineering genius” by any means12 but with sense enough for all practical purposes—such as admiring you to the skies—and Cromwell too! The rest of the people were chiefly musical Mr Carlyle— Mrs Ames is very much fallen off in her singing since last year— I suppose from squalling so much to her pupils— She is to dine here today and ever so many people besides to meet these Rawlinss Doub[t]less13 we shall be born thro with an honourable throbearing14 but quietness is best—
And now I must go and walk while the Sun shines—our weather here is very showery and cold— I heard a dialogue the other morning betwixt Mr Paulet and his Factotum which amused me much— The Factotum was mowing the lawn Mr Paulet threw up the breakfast-room window and called to him—“Knolles! how lookes my wheat”?
“Very distressed indeed Sir”!
“are we much fallen down”?
“N-o Sir!—but we are black very black”
“All this rain, I should have thought would have made us fall down?”
“Where the crops are heavy they are a good deal laid sir but it would take a vast of rain to lay us!”
“Oh—then Knolles it is because we are not powerful enough that we are not fallen down?—”
It is because we are not rich enough?”
“Beg pardon Sir but I dont quite understand?” Mr Paulet shut the window and returned to his breakfast
God keep you dear
Your own /
Sunday [17 August 1845]
Besides the feminine characteristic of dating my letters by the day of the week merely—I have the peculiarity—moi—of writing that not first but last—when the letter is getting itself folded up. So it was only when I had finished yesterday that I had it brought home to my business and bosom that I was writing on Saturday— But as John has long been inculcating on inferior minds “there is no use in rebelling against Providence”!15— So I put my letter in my dressingbox instead of in the post office, and went to Waterloo16 all the same, and bought tape and thread to the amount of fivepence halfpenny At Six the company arrived—and I had the pleasure— such as it was of seeing and hearing the Aristocracy of Seaforth at “feeding time”— They were— “what shall I say”?—a rum set—“upon my honour!” but interesting as giving one an idea of another sort of men and women from any one had ever met before. When they became too tiresome for any thing Geraldine and I went up stairs and smoked a cigaritto— One way and another we got to the end of it— Mr Rawlins was given up to me as little Benjamins share17 of the intelligence going—but I am afraid I was not duly grateful—even his everlasting quotations from “Carlyle” could not disguise the fact that he was a bore, with his mechanics Institute and his Corn-law and his Mr Hodgson!18— And so I positively refused to dine at his house—or to let him make a picnick for me— The church is not out yet so the letters are not yielded up—tho I went myself this morning to overpersuade that postmaster this must go with the Servant who goes for the letters—so if there be one for me today—you will understand that I cannot acknowledge it, Ever your own