October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 19 May 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460519-JWC-JW-01; CL 20: 193-194


Tuesday [19 May 1846]

Dearest Babbie

Few deaths could have surprised me more than Mr Liddle's; he had so little the look of one born to die young! I can well believe that all who were in habits of intimacy with him will long mourn the loss of such a cheerful kindly soul. For me; I am got to that with it now, that I can no longer feel sorry for the one who dies but only for the friends he leaves behind to miss him— One escapes so much suffering by dying young!—all the good one could possibly have enjoyed in longer life is not it seems to me to be put in the balance against the evil which one must necessarily have suffered. Surviving one after another of all one loved—one after another of all one's beautiful illusions and even most reasonable hopes, surv[iv]ing1 in short one's original self!— You cannot understand yet how life may grow to look no such blessing—even for those who have no claim to be considered exceptionally unfortunate—long may it be before you feel this as I do! it is a weary, dreary feeling, almost making one regret the feelings of acute sorrow out of which it grows— And yet it is well to be prepared for it—that one may have it in as gentle a degree as possible by beginning early to pitch ones hopes from the world rather low—and by laying in as many good thoughts and good actions as one possibly can to look back upon for comfort, when one ceases to feel any comfort in looking forward. I have not got into a Socinian zeal for the “pleasures of a good conscience” tho' the foregoing sentence might lead you to that idea— I do not pretend to know by experience what the “pleasures of a good conscience” may really be—but I fancy them like all other pleasures that I have experience of, a feeble refuge against the pressure of existence as it hardens gradually into old age—stript of all its early poetical illusions. but without any Socinian selfconceit I may say to you, of my own knowledge, that the natural sadness of the latter part of ones life may be cruelly embittered by the reflection, that ones best years, which might perhaps have produced something good have been suffered to run to waste, fertile only of tares and nettles!— But enough of moralising—

I have not been well—as Mrs Paulet said—but not more ill than when Mrs Paulet spread such fine news of my improved looks!— People must talk—about other peoples looks and much else that comes readiest—but what they say for talkings sake is not worth a minutes recollection Ach gott! how little even those who like one divine of one's actual state!—unless one put oneself into words and hardly even then, can the generality of one's friends tell whether one is glad or sorrowful—feeling pain or pleasure!— I called at the Macreadys the other day—in a humour that a person under sentence of death need hardly have envied— For days and weeks a cheerful feeling had not been in my mind—but of course one does not make calls to show oneself as a spectacle of woe— I talked talked—about the feats of Carlyle's horse &c—and they laughed till their tears ran down I could not laugh—but no matter—perhaps my own gravity made the things I was saying only more amusing by contrast. By and by Mrs Macready who is in the family-way began to talk of the dreadful “depression of spirits” she occasionally laboured under— “Ah said I, everyone I suppose has their own fits of depression to bear up against if the truth were told”— “Do you say so” said Miss Macready— “Oh no surely!—some people are never out of spirits—yourself for example I really believe you do not know what it is to be ever sad for a minute!!! one never sees you that you do not keep one in fits of laughter!” I made no answer—but congratulated myself on having played my part so well— I wish I could find some hard work I could do—and saw any sense in doing— If I do not soon it will be the worse for me—

Meanwhile all around me goes on as usual— C is just getting done with his work—speculating about “where to go”— The usual people come about; but seldomer I think—seeing that I am less disposed to amuse them—new people come—but I have lost my talent for “swearing everlasting friendships”— All my talents seem to be going one after another—

Did I ever tell you that Plattnauer had gone quite mad again—committed follies rather dangerous—for her sacred Majesty the Queen—and finally been obliged to leave the country—I hear he is in Paris—still at large the very man for actually shooting Louis Philipe!2— God grant he may not come back here anyhow—he had become really dangerous and what I considered worse to tolerate—a dreadful bore from his fatuous vanity——

God bless thee Babie love me while you can

Ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

Kind regards to Walter