January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 18 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450918-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 201-203


Thursday [18 September 1845]

My Dear—One of the enclosed letters came this morning; the other, the Keswick one, had I been punctuality's self, instead of a modest approximation to it, should have been forwarded yesterday;1 and I “did intend” TO: but the history of Panizzi was this;2 just when I had finished a long epistle to Mrs Buller, which had been lying on my conscience these two months, the rain, having made two successful days of it, cleared off; and, there being no Saloon or Veranda here to have recourse to in impossible weather, I “felt it my duty” to go out for a walk, while the play was good, and at the same time put my foreign letter in that postoffice which understands things— I got to the far end with impunity; but I had no sooner turned my face homeward, than such a pelting horizontal shower overtook me, that in spite of all my umbrella could do I was wetted into the very shift; and what with having to change every stich of my clothes when I came in, the fatigue and discomfort of the whole thing, and the stupifying effects of a spoonful of brandy taken to avert consequences; both you and the letter were put clean out of my head for the hour that remained till post-time. There is another piece of unpunctuality to be accounted for; the non-appearance of your last Examiner—it was sent by mistake to Mr Doby instead of his Tablet3—not my mistake of course—for that is not the sort of stupid thing I do. I asked John to make up the Tablet, and I would address it myself— He presented me with a paper made up which I addressed accordingly, and these with other two, which he said were for you—it was only on finding the Tablet still lying here that a question arose what had been sent to Thornhill?

I have got quite over the fatigues of my journey which had been most provokingly aggravated for me by a circumstance “which it may be interesting not to state”; the last two nights I have slept quite as well as I was doing at Seaforth. The retirement of Cheyne Row is as deep at present as any one not absolutely a Timona of Athens4 could desire: “There is “in the first place (as Mr Paulet would say) the physical impossibility, (hardly anybody being left in Town); and then,” the weather has been so tempestuous that nobody in their senses (except Mazzini who never reflects whether it be raining or no) would come out to make visits. He (Mazzini) came the day before yesterday, immediately on receiving notification of my advent—and his doe-skin boots were oozing out water in a manner frightful to behold. He looked much as I left him, and appeared to have made no progrès [progress], of a practical sort— He told me nothing worth recording except that he had received the other day a—declaration of love! and this he told with the same calma and historical precision, with which you might have said you had received an invitation to take the chair at a Mechanics-Institute-dinner! Of course I asked “the particulars”—“why not?” and I got them fully, at the same time with brevity, and without a smile! Since the assassination affair5 he had received many invitations to the house of a Jew-Merchant of Italian extraction, where there are several daughters “what shall I say?—horribly ugly—that is; repugnant for me—entirely”!6 one of them is “nevertheless very strong in music” and seeing that he admired her playing she had “in her head confounded the playing with the player.” The last of the only two times he had availed himself of their attentions; as they sat at supper, with Browning and some others—“the youngest of “the horrible family” proposed to him, in sotto voce that they two should should drink “a goblet of wine” together, each to the person that each loved most in the world. “I find your toast unegoist” said he, and I accept it with pleasure. But said she when we have drank we will then tell each other to whom? Excuse me said he we will if you please drink without conditions. Whereupon they drank, and then this girl—what shall I say—bold—upon my honour! proposed to tell me to whom she had drank and trust to my telling her after—“as you like”!— “Well then it was to you”! “Really? said I—surprised I must confess.” “Yes said she pointing aloft—true as God exists”— Well! said I, I find it strange! Now then, said she to whom did you drink— Ah! said I that is another question—and on this, that girl became ghastly pale—so that her sister called out Nina! What is the matter with you?—and now THANKS God she has sailed to Aberdeen”— Did you ever hear anything so distracted—enough to make one ask if Robertson has not some grounds for his extraordinary ideas of English women— The said Robertson presented himself here last night in an interregnum of rain—and found me in my dressing gown (after the wetting) expecting no such himmel-sendung [gift from heaven]! I looked as beautifully unconscious as I could of all the amazing things I had been told of him at Seaforth— He talked much of “dreadful illness” but looked as plump as a pincushion and had plenty of what Mr Paulet calls “colours in his face”— He seemed less distracted than usual and professed to have discovered for the first time “the infinite blessedness of work”—and also to be “making money at a great rate—paying off his debt by five or six pounds a week”— I remarked that he must surely have had a prodigious amount of debt to begin with—kind regards to your mother and the rest