January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 25 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450925-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 213-216


Thursday evening [25 September 1845]

Here is an enclosure, that will “do thee neither ill nor gude”! it lay along with two Brochures, one blue one pea-green—the thinest Brochures, in every sense that ever issued from “the womb of uncreated Night”!1 “the insipid offspring” of that “crack-brained Enthusiastic” who calls herself Henri Paris, one entitled Grossmütterlein [Little Grandmother], in verse; the other, Oh Heavens! La femme libre [The Free Woman] et L'émancipation de la femme [The Emancipation of Woman]


a propos des Saint-Simoniennes [Rhapsody on the Saint-Simonians]2 in prose—dead-prose. I have looked into it over my tea, and find that the only possibility of emancipation for femme lies in her having “le saint courage de rester vierge [the sacred courage to remain a virgin]”! Glad tidings of great joy for—Robertson! “Guerroyez donc, si vous pouvez, contre les hommes [Make war, if you can, against men]!” exclaims this great Female Mind in an enthusiasm of Platitude, “Mais … pour qu'ils daignent accepter votre défi, prouvez-leur, avant tout, que vous avez appris . … à vous passer d'eux!”!3

I rose yesterday morning with an immense desire for “change of air”— I had made the house into the liveliest representation of “Hell and Tommy4 (I “Tommy”) and it struck me that I should do well to escape from it for some hours; so John and I left together; in the Kings road he picked up a cab to take back for his luggage, and I went on to C[l]arence Terrace where I dined,5 and by six I was at home again to tea— Mrs Macready had returned to Eastbourne, having only come up for a day to attend the Play. That I was prepared for, as she had invited me to go along with her—but I was not prepared to find poor Macready ill in bed with two Doctors attending him— He had caught a horrible cold that night from seeing Mrs Milner Gibson to her carriage thro' the rain “in thin shoes”—had been obliged to break an engagement at Cambridge6— Poor Letitia7 was very concerned about him but would still not let me go without some dinner. Today she writes to me that he is better. There seemed a good deal of jealousy in Macreadydom on the subject of the Amateur-Actors— A ‘tremendous’ puff of the thing had appeared in the Times!!—“more kind really than ever the Times showed itself towards William”!8 John when he came at night to pay “his compliments of digestion” suggested with his usual originality “it was probably that (the puff) which had made Macready so ill just now”! Forster, it seems bears away the palm—but they have all had their share of praise “and are in such a state of excitement, poor things, as never was seen”! “It will not stop here”; Miss Macready thinks—

Today I have not been out at all— I rose at seven to receive— —a sweep! and have been helping Helen to scrub in the Library till now—seven in the evening— John9 came rushing in soon after nine—this morning—he had “left a breast-pin in the glass-drawer” and “supposed it would not be lost yet”! Then having found it, he brought it to me in the Library where I was mounted on the steps—covered with dust—to ask whether I thought “the diamonds real”—and what I thought “such a thing would cost.” It was the Pin he got years ago in Italy— I told him I could not take upon me to value it, but I could learn its value for him—“from whom”? “from Collier the Jeweller”— “Where does he live”? (with immense eagerness) “at the top of Sloane Street—” “But wouldn't he tell me—if I asked him? me! myself”? “I dare say he would,” said I soothingly, for he seemed to be going rapidly out of his wits with all-absorbing desire to know the value of that pin!— If I had not seen him the night before playing with his purse and some sovereigns I might have thought he was on the point of carrying it to a pawn-shop to get himself a morsel of victual! But when giving up the diamonds as glass he passed to the individual value of the turquoise in the middle; flesh and blood could stand it no longer; and I returned to my dusting in silence. Whereupon he looked at his watch and found he “was obliged to go off to the British Museum.” What in all the world will become of him? he seems to be more than ever without “fixed point”—without will, without so much as a good wish! unless it be to enjoy a tolerable share of material comfort without ‘amt [position]’ and as much as possible without ‘geld [money]’ However now that he has “concluded with his Landlady” it is no business of mine how he flounders on “abating no jot of heart and hope”10 my own life is rather of the floundering sort; only I have the grace to have “abated heart and hope” in it—to such an extent, as to think sometimes that “if I were dead, and a stone at my head, perhaps it would be be-ter.”!11

Not a soul has been here since Alfred Tennyson—except the “dark-fated” Krasinski12 who did not get in— I knew his rap and signified to Helen to say I was “sick—or dead”—what she liked!— So she told him “the mistress was bad with her head tonight” which if not precisely the naked truth was a Gambardella—“Aspiration” towards it. But besides Miss Macready yesterday I saw Helps who seems to me “dwindling away into an unintelligible whinner”13— I met him in the Kings road just as John hailed his cab and he walked back part of the way with me—decidedly too solemn—for his size!

I get no letters in these days except from you— Geraldine even has fallen dumb— Still out of sorts I fancy—or perhaps absorbed in her “one-eyed Egyptian”—perhaps scheming a new “work”—I care very little which— Kind regards wherever they are due— J C