January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 28 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450928-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 221-224


Sunday night [28 September 1845]

Well if yesterday was rainy and dreary enough to set one on reading The Purgatory of Suicides,1—had there been time for it; today, I have had (as Gambardella would say) “some pleasant excitements”—as pleasant almost as his last feat—which appeared in the Times—running a race with Green's baloon and being in at the Descent!2 Today I have sat an hour with—Lady Harriet! and a quarter of an hour with—old Sterling!

Last night I received a note from Lady Harriet stating that she was in town for only a few days—not able to go out—but would send the Brougham for me today at two if “perchance” I could come and see her. Of course, today at two, I was all in readiness “guy ticht [very tight] aboot the head; I think I had on my new bonnet; I was rather surprized to be set down at a great unknown House3—and conducted thro large Halls and staircases by unknown servants—if it had not been for the indubitability of the Brougham I should have begun to fancy myself kidnapped, or in a Fairy Tale! Eventually, in a large dressing room at the top of the house I found the Lady on a sofa—a gentleman was just coming out—Irish I should fancy from the fact of his leaving—his hat behind him! on search being made for it by a Servant some five minutes after, it was found—with difficulty—under the chair I had sat down upon!— The Lady was ill only in a feminine sense— “My Dear I am not up to going out just at present”—that sort of thing— She “would be able to return to the Grange on Tuesday”—spoke of being to dine at Landsdown house on Monday— She was very gracious and agreeable—repeated pressingly the invitation to Alverstoke— I told her all about the Play4 which she had heard of with immense applause from—Lady Holland!5 who was there! It seems that a great many of the Aristocracy assisted at that Tom-foolery—“entertained (by me at least) unawares6— I thought it rather “a rum-looking” gathering! The German books had reached her safely—if you wrote about them, that letter had not yet reached her—the one you wrote on your arrival, she bade me say, was duly received and she would have answered it before now, “if she had not been moving about more than she had anticipated”— When she got back to the Grange she expected to rest for a while and then write. It was to Richard Milnes I owed the pleasure of seeing her—he had been there the same evening he called on me, and mentioned having just seen me in an unprecedented state of confusion— I recommended her to read Cecil7 (which I like immensely) and she recommended me to read Blanco White's Memoires8 about which she was all agog— She asked what I had heard said about it—and I told her Darwin's criticism—that “it greatly took away from ones sympathy with a man's religious scruples to find that they were merely symptoms of a diseased liver”— To which she replied very justly that “until the dominion of the liver was precisely ascertained, it were safest to speak respectfully of it!” The Brougham was waiting to take me back again, and she was on a sofa—so for both reasons I was careful not to make my visit too long: altho she did ask me in a sort of a way to stay and dine with them at five o'clock—on the whole our interview went off quite successfully—and I dare say in spite of Mrs Bullers predictions9 we shall get on very well together—altho I can see that the Lady has a genius forruling—whilst I have a genius for——not being ruled!

On my return Helen met me with the surprising intelligence that old Sterling had called!10 a Lady in the carriage with him—“not very lady-like”—she fancied it must be his Landlady—“so thin she could not have known him—and so glad that he even shaked hands with her”! It was “most-waisome to see him”!— John also had been down and left a note on the table—in French—longer and more genial than he is in the habit of writing in English11— Decidedly he should stick to French! So soon as I had swallowed a mouthful of dinner I went off again to see the poor old Goose whose visit under such circumstances quite melted my hard and stony heart— I called for John on the way in case he chose to walk up with me, but suggested he should not go in in case Sterling fancied we wanted to make a job of him—“better not stay above five minutes, you may bring on another fit if you do”!—were his rather alarming last words—but I seemed to do the old man nothing but good—physically he is stronger than I expected—can walk alone—staggering a little—I do not know whether it be his thinness, or the consciousness of death being quite near him—but he has much more dignity in his appearance than ever he had in his best days,—in the first minutes I thought he looked more intelligent too, than I had ever seen him— He made me less of a scene than was to have been expected—merely stretched his arms towards Heaven—as if“thanking God for having created friendship—the consolation of the Unfortunate”— Ah but he is not laughable any more!— “I am very glad to see you so well as this” said I—“And I am very glad to see you—at all.” said he—he offered me the easiest chair—offered me wine—with a courtesy which reminded me of that German Noble (what was his name) who took off his hat, when dying, to his Bishop12—none of the old bluster—but a quiet painful eagerness to do all that was polite and kind by me— After a few minutes talk about his illness he said in a whisper pointing to his head and shaking it mournfully—“it is here, that all is over with me! gone gone gone!” and then tears ran down his cheeks—and almost down mine to—for he said that not as he used to say such things—but with the simplicity of perfect truth— The thought about his head seemed to produce confusion in it—for from the minute he spoke of his head he talked quite incoherently could not remember any name or any date—began mysterious sentences and left them unfinished— John was waiting in the street to go home to tea with me—he got afraid that I would stay till I “brought on another fit”—so had himself shown up—I promised to go to him again tomorrow evening—and kissed his brow—and he gave me his blessing which really sounds now as if it were worth something And here I am—John long gone—writing at half after eleven which is not wise— But tomorrow will bring its own businesses—I will send you a letter I have had from Julia Paulet—read it pray and judge if it be not promising for a girl of fifteen13 Kind regards to all

Yours ever


Have never yet contrived to get myself some envelopes!

Monday morning

I had sealed my letter, like a wise woman, last night—and here is now a letter from Emerson14 come along with yours— If I had not heard this morning I should have been vaixed15— Writing till Midnight even without any strain on ones powers of composition is a virtue which decidedly has not its reward—what with that and the image of old Sterling together I did not get to sleep till four in the morning—a bad preparation for “the order of the day”— It is a bright beautiful day however,—for beating carpets!——