August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO SUSAN STIRLING; 25 November 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461125-JWC-SS-01; CL 21:96-97.


Wednesday [25 November 1846]


This is the second letter intended for you within the last few days—one dated Saturday 1 o'clock was finished and sealed and all but off to the postoffice—the purport being to beg you to enquire if my woman had actually gone!—as no tidings of her had reached here twenty four hours after she was due! But just as Carlyle was going out at the door with the letter the woman and her trunk came in, and so spared her friends a fright and you more trouble

She had had a rough and tedious passage—which her imagination, unused to maritime affairs, magnified into the nearest possible miss of a shipwreck!— Accordingly she arrived white with her past terror and qualms—and very unlike the blooming character you described her. her look and voice and manner are prepossessing enough—I find a great air of you in her!! especially in the sound of her voice —But Ah, my good gracious! what a destruction of all peace and comfort for the time being has been produced for us by the departure of that little ugly dottle! and the substitution of this “decidedly respectable-looking servant”— I know not very well what to predict just yet— She is soft and slow—but on the other hand methodical and orderly— My Aunt Anne1 it seems, has stuffed her very full of “free grace” and I should not wonder if she had more of that than of works'—but she looks like a person who would fall into no sort of vice anyhow—and the worst trouble I am likely to have with her is from her faint heartedness and inexperience—for she is not by any means trained in any one department I have yet tried her in—has a sort of idea about cooking and cleaning out rooms—and waiting— —but it is an idea needing an immensity of practical development. I find—the worst I see in her is the faint heartedness—a terror about her work not apparently because we should be disappointed if she proved inadequate but because herself would be disappointed in the easiness of the place— However I am mercifully pretty well just now—and I can work like a house on fire when I can keep my feet, and am obliged to do it—and I can also be very patient and encouraging for a tolerable while—not always certainly, but for long enough to give her a fair trial. But oh dear—after the easy life as to household matters which I have been leading of late years I feel it monstrously tiresome to be running for ever “up stairs, down stairs, in my Lady's chamber,2 and explaining to this Novice the simplest rudiments of things! In fact ever since she came the house has been like a sort of battle of Waterloo—and when I lie down at night it is with something of the same feeling Napoleon must have had when he went to sleep (I forget where) under the fire of the Enemy's cannon! She tells me she has ‘seven Cousins’ in London and several friends at service—so she is not likely to be too dull! as I cannot find in my heart ever to “carry on” the London law about ldquo;followers”—when a servant is solitary in ones house

I will write in a few weeks and tell you how we go on—relying on your sympathy always I enclose the money order and will thank you to write a line—that I may be sure you have got it safe a great many thanks for the trouble you have taken for me—and a deal of love besides

Ever your affectionate