August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 2 February 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470202-JWC-JCA-01; CL 21:151-152.


Bay House / Tuesday [2 February? 1847]

My dear Jane

I had best not delay writing to you any longer, lest I find myself again in the condition of that poor Ecclefechan woman whom I often remember with intense sympathy— “a-maist ashamed to say a'-s no better”1— For the moment I have the p[r]oud2 consciousness of being really better—enough for practical purposes— Of all ill-advised places to be sick at this “beats the worl”! and of that I was fully aware when I came, and accordingly I came with any thing but an assured mind. So long as you can keep on foot, and play your part as an agreeable—at lowest a not boring member of society you are treated with courtesy and may be well content—“if thou's in the habit o' being content”—but fall ill—have to take to bed—and you are lost!— The Lady never comes near you—the housemaids do not find it in their department to look after sick visitors—you are like an unfortunate toppled over in the treadmill—in danger of perishing there while the general business—or rather I should say amusement of the house rushes on over your body! Knowing all this beforehand you may fancy my horror in finding myself a few days after my arrival attacked with a feverish sore-throat, which there was no bearing up under— If anybody had proposed carrying me down and flinging me into the Sea during my confinement to bed I should not have offered the least resistance—so desperate did I feel over my “state and prospects”— However I recovered faster than I anticipated—and on my return to the drawing room the Lady received me with her choicest smiles—and so, there was an end of it— I have now no cold about me and am stronger than when I left London— I have been out twice for a few minutes in the garden—but the weather is still too cold for my taking regular exercise— For the rest; what I do here or what anybody does it were [hard to]3 say—to learn to go idle with dignity seems to be the highest end proposed— On the whole I cannot reckon it amongst my complaints of Destiny that I was not born to be a fine Lady—and I shall not be sorry to get back to the training of my Maid-of-all-work—and the rehabilitation of my house which Helen's departure followed by my sickness had made a horrid mess of—

My little new maid looked as if she were going to answer rather well—she seemed orderly cleanly and careful—is a much better cook than Helen was, and has I think more “basis of reason” above all I was charmed to observe symptoms in her of a capacity of getting attached and