August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 15 June 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470615-JWC-HW-01; CL 21:231-233.


15th June [1847]

Dearest Helen

At length I have a day of calm—not a day of leisure yet; for I have much to do in the way of what you used to call “siding things” and making up accounts &c—my natural love of order having for the last fortnight succumbed to force of circumstances— But I am relieved from the worry of having to be amiable and lively all day long—and need not go to any party or public place for a month to come unless it be my own good pleasure. It is a fortnight past last Wednesday since Geraldine removed hither from her Ashursts—and ever since I have ‘lived and had my being’1 in a racket very foreign to my habits and tastes— Being up to going about however, so far as physical strength was required, and vexed by the recollection of the wretched time YOU had of it in winter—and the failure of Geraldine's first visit also—and never forgetting the endless pains she took to keep me comfortable and amused last year in Manchester I “felt it my duty” to accept for her behoof all the invitations that turned up—the more that on the strength of Zoe people whom I could hardly have intruded her upon before—were now quite glad to have her at their parties as a new specimen for their several menageries— Upon my honour I believe if a Lady had been tried for murder, so that she only escaped hanging or transportation; she would have a better chance of “getting on” in society here, than one of whom nothing had been talked— Geraldine was a much more lively and agreeable person in Company, when I knew her first—before her book—than now—but there was hardly a house in London then, to which I could have used the freedom of taking her along with me—and now because she has put her cleverness into a book—above all a book accused of immorality—(quite a new sort of distinction for a young Englishwoman) there is no house I visit at where the people would not thank me for giving them a sight of her and an opportunity of exhibiting her to their friends— She feels no misgivings about all this—she is received—politely—complimented on her book—and thinks the people are very kind, and it is all right— But I as her Chaperon have had considerable qualms I can tell you!— Especially at Breakfast at Richard Milnes's the other morning—got up on purpose for us two—Carlyle was not asked—and tho' he might have gone if he liked would not go—so I had to be responsible not only for myself but for Geraldine— I thought the first entrance would be the worst of it—but figure my consternation on finding ourselves in a room with eight men! and not one woman! “Lady Duff Gordon had fallen sick”— I never made such a comfortless breakfast in my life—the situation would just have suited Lady Harriet. but me it was too strong for—obliged to make conversation with all these men brought to meet us—and obliged at the same time to keep an ear open to what Geraldine was saying to her next neighbour least she should get on dangerous ground— She enjoyed herself immensely and was astonished afterwards to find I had been put about! She “thought it queerish for the first moment but when she remarked the perfect tranquility and aplomb with which I was going thro' the thing she supposed it was all quite natural”! So little do ones most intimate friends see into one's heart—provided one have self-command enough to keep clear of hysterics and such like outward visible signs. I did not tell her that the chief apprehension which haunted me—was least I should be mixed up in the minds of these men with the Chapel scene and certain other questionabilities in Zoe2— We breakfasted another morning at Rogers's and dined at the Macreadies with Jenny Lind of all people—and attended a ball at Mrs Procter's—in fact I am sick of gaieties and very thankful that Geraldine is gone into Essex to her Miss Darby— John did most of the sight-seeing with her—for a few days it looked almost as if he were trying to work himself up into a matrimonial sentiment for her— But she did not play her cards well—she made him take her to too many Plays &c—and John dislikes paying out shillings on all hands—she was becoming rather expensive—and his incipient sentiment was too weakly for bearing up against constant demands on his purse— On the whole I rather imagine no man will ever be found so constituted as to fall in love with Geraldine and think of her as a Wife—which is a pity—as her heart seems to me set on being married to any sort of a male biped who could maintain her—at all risks!— Tell me of Sophy3— There is no talk yet of summer schemes—nor will be while C's aristocratic friends are all in town— — I see very little of the Lady4—as usual when she is in her town-house—with plenty of other people to keep her from weariness

—I must be quiet for some weeks to come for I am required to give some heed to a large tumour on my throat—a result J Carlyle says of “e[x]treme5 physical irritation” —nobody knows of it but John—as I can cover it with the black lace I wear round my neck—but tho there is no pain connected with it as yet—it is too ugly for being allowed to stay peacably there—and besides as it is rapidly increasing it may come to choke me unless a stop be put to it— John bade me rub it nightly with Iodine ointment—but the nastiness of the process—the ointment being the colour of blood and giving my throat the appearance of having been cut,) put me into such a state of nervousness that I could not go to sleep—so now I am taking tincture of Iodine—which will answer the same purpose John expects— I have said nothing about it even to Carlyle— Speculating about it will not help to absorb it—and a tumour is not an interesting phase of human ailment— Besides as I have been able to hold my peace on the Physical suffering which has produced this beautiful little dumpling in my throat—I may surely hold my peace on a symptom which is not painful— I tell you—because should it turn to anything serious you would think it unnatural that I should have made a secret of it

And now I must off to my housewifery—

Ever your affectionate /


Love and kisses to my Uncle