October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 1 November 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18451101-JWC-JW-01; CL 20: 39-40


[ca. 1 November 1845]

Dearest Babbie

The first of your two letters found me just set in for reaping Virtues Own Reward in the shape of a violent cold—my virtue had been strenuous so the cold has been proportionately excruciating—pain in my breast and sore throat, enough to frighten one to death (figuratively speaking) even independently of association of ideas which is always the most discouraging part of colds for me—and independently also of the annoying consideration that I had fallen ill exactly at the wrong moment—when I should have been girding up the nerves of my soul and my wardrobe to carry into effect that visit to the Grange—but Destiny considers none of these things “the least in the world”— I am better somewhat, and Carlyle has written to say that I shall be well and up to the enterprise in a few days— Of course he knows— so I have nothing to do but keep myself easy—and warm—till the few days are over—the last week however has sadly abated my courage for eight-oclock dinners—and dressings—and sittings in state— I look round on my snug little room here with a sigh—and am not so grateful to Providence as might be expected for having opened to me the Golden gates of the Aristocratic Paradise—such as it is!— Another vexatious feature of the business is the uncertainty I am in about Mrs Paulet—if she should arrive in London with her blind Husband, during my absence it would be a real grief to me—and at one time I had every reason to fear such a contretemps— but she writes to me that Alexander 1 is going down to Liverpool to see another patient he has there, and Mr Paulet will await his coming in the first instance—perhaps he may even perform the operation there— So this news which would have been disappointing in other circumstances neutralizes the necessity of my going as soon as I am fit for it—“two afflictions put together making a consolation”—according to the adage—

It seems to me I must have a volume of things to tell you by this time— but my head is of the muddiest at present—and I have no facilities for writing such as I used to have—Carlyle sits always in the same room with me since he returned, with no work on-hand—and you know I cannot write in the presence of a fellow creature—especially one who is apt to say when I have finished a letter: “now read it to me”! When he walks before dinner someone is sure to come in and take up the happy moment— I do not at all like what you say about your hea[l]th2—at your age one ought not to be ailing—ill is allowable—but ailing is only for women of a certain age—like me—or women who have had more of life than they can can well keep themselves erect under—like me again if you like! All this illness without specific name has more to do with your moral state I am certain than with climate—these Drs are great humbugs with their talk about Climate—and very pernicious humbugs too when they persuade people they cannot and need not expect to be well in the air they have been born to— It were contrary to all one observes of the economy and goodness of Nature to believe that men and women are not capable of being healthy in their native air just as Animals and plants are— Good heavens I know a family here who all grew up in the atmosphere of a soap-boiling establishment— which would have choked you or me—and the Father Soapboiler having grown very rich built a fine house in a heal[t]hy situation and now they all candidly declare since they left the old place they have never been without sickness in the house. No no—there is something else than the air of Liverpool at the bottom of your want of circulation—not that I love the air of Liverpool—far from it—but I cannot impute to it your condition of health. And I think I could give you a better deliverance on your case than the Glasgow Dr or Mr Neil3 either—but that were too long and grave a theme to enter on in the present letter written with a heavy cold in my own head and in expectation of Carlyle coming in every minute— Besides what were the use of telling you where you are ill unless I could give you a sound prescription—and even if I could do that would you follow it?—not you— you would mean to try to follow it—and voila tout [that is all]!—

How are the servants going on? that is a practical matter I am always interested in—give my compliments to poor Margaret— Gambardella is off or just going off to Manchester to paint Mr & Mrs Shunk4—and some others—and will probably be in Liverpool— Mazzini was here today—with a cold—but I have no convenience for entering on him either nor on Platnaur who is returned—all that next time—kisses to my Uncle and for Godsake make him take care till the turn of the year is over love to Maggie and Helen careless Cousins

Ever your affectionate

J Carlyle