July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 5 July 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470705-JWC-HW-01; CL 22: 7-11


Monday [5 July 1847]

Dearest Helen

It was thro a special interposition of Providence under the simple form of Reflection that you did not receive a letter from me yesterday dated 3 o'clock of Saturday morning! What sort of letter it would have been, written at that hour—in my night-clothes of course—and with dreadful goings on in my “Interior”—also of course, may be more easily imagined than told!— Reflection however suggested, after I had opened my blot-book and dipt my pen in the ink, that if I could not sleep, nor even lie like a Christian in bed, I should abstain at least from aggravating my nerves still further by so exciting an occupation as writing always is to me, with the house all to myself— Needle-work—some dull book would answer better— I could not find any needle-work suitable for being done in one's night shift—so I remained till six in the morning down stairs having risen in despair of sleep at two, reading first Segur's Campaigns of Napoleon, and then Douglas Jerrald's newspaper1— I then returned to bed sick and weary, envying the birds who had been singing for hours—and slept—a few minutes—beautiful work—

I have been worse than usual all last week and do not seem tending to betterness this week— Perhaps the iodine of which I had been taking daily (by Johns2 order) for a fortnight ninety drops (!) at three takings, had got to disagree with me— Anyhow I gave it up on my own judgement—leaving the dumpling to its fate for the present— John approved my doing so—when I told him—but all Johns prescribings are on the pattern of that one recorded by his Sister Mary when her children had the measles3 “You had better give them some sennaor perhaps you had better not”— The lump has got no larger—neither is it perceptibly diminished and as it gives me no pain and no inconvenience the least in the world beyond that of having to wear something round my throat it may stick there till it grow more formidable and then I will consult some regular Dr

If it had not been for my plenty of headaches; I would have sent you sooner, for the benefit of my Uncle chiefly, a penny-a-line account of the Grand-Duke's visit to Cheyne Row—and now it looks an old story, and I cannot get up even penny-a-line-steam about it— Here however is the fact of the business— Saturday gone a week the Secretary announced in official style, that “his Royal Highness Reigning Duke of Saxe Weimar” would call for Mr Carlyle next day at twelve if convenient4—and received of course an affirmative reply— On Sunday morning I dusted all my little things very accurately—put clean water to some flowers I already had—saw that Anne5 bloomed out into her best gown—(for Anne unless expressly ordered would not dress herself out of the usual time for Queen Victoria, never to speak of a foreign Highness—) and then—I walked off into space!

Had I staid at home I was going to have felt myself “in a “false position6—either I must have been put au secret [in solitary confinement] in my own house—or invited down to my own sitting room, as an ineffable condescension—and I did not feel any besoin [need] of the condescension of anybody— With Carlyle it was all right—the Prince had to do with him—and the visit was honourable to both parties—but I should only have embarrassed his Highness and he me—and so I went up to Mrs Buller's7— She insisted on my staying till her driving hour, when she would take me home— I came in half an hour after the dinner hour expecting to be reproved—but C's first words were “you have just missed these people by ten minutes”!— “From twelve till twenty minutes after five”? What a frightful royal visit I thought; but it had not been so bad as that— At twelve the little Secretary had arrived “all in a sweat” to say the Queen Dowager (our visitors Aunt)8 had insisted on his going to Church with her!! So it was hoped an hour or two later would make no difference— About four they came that is to say the Prince his Chamberlain9 and Secretary in a handsome open carriage with two servants behind, who excited Ann's admiration by their “genteel dress—plain black coats, blue breeches, and white silk stockings— Nothing the least fine about them except their—gold garters!” Another thing seemed to have struck her rather forcibly— “So soon as the carriage stopt the Prince took off his hat and then all the rest did the same—and at going away they all remained bear headed till the Prince put on his hat after he had sat down in the carriage” And all this uncovering of heads I really believe Ann considered honour paid to— —her Master!— In which blessed illusion I allowed her to remain, as a new reason for cooking his chops to the best of her power!— C liked the Prince very well—but who would not like a Prince that comes to pay one a morning visit,—he is only some four or five and twenty—very handsome C said, “with beautiful blue eyes” “extremely aristocratic looking”—(who is to look aristocratic if not Kings and Queens?)—“the most dignified German” C had ever seen “More dignified, than Plattnauer,”10 I asked— “Why—no—the indistructable dignity of Plattnauer in all sorts of coats is what one never sees the like of.” When they arrived C was doing a Yankee of all things—introduced by Emerson, but he had him up stairs and dismissed him summarily—with apologies—the Yankee loitered, and seemed to think it strange that he should not be invited to assist at the interview11

When C came down to the low room he found his Highness standing with the other two men. He apologised for intruding on his retired habits &c &c then said looking about that he could fancy himself at home in Weimar here; so many reminiscences of Goethe and of Germany:—then he went about looking at the various portraits of Goethe and finally seated himself on the sofa and invited C to be seated— That was one of the prospective etiquettes that scared me out—having to stand till I was permitted to sit down on my own chair!— He staid some hour and quarter talking “intelligently enough” and being talked to I imagine emphatically enough— He invited C to Weimar—promised to show him various things—promised to send him a scarce book they had talked of—begged that “he would not forget him”—(how touching! and I should think superfluous) and then went in peace—

I have heard nothing of Geraldine for many days12 She is is13 very busy finishing her book down there— By the way I had to write to Mrs Paulet14 the other day that I must have back my miniature— When she got it I told her it was C's property—but a chance of he would remember any thing about it till after my death when she was to be sure and restore it— You had one picture of me already and if she liked to have the keeping of it I thought it better there than here in a dark box15— But C happened to ask where it was and much displeased at its being at Seaforth “where it would be either lost or spoilt like every thing else” and desired I should immediately write for it so I have written and desired her to take it to Maryland Street—that you may send it by the first person you know of coming to London—

The long Mr Fairy16—is going North—in search of two things—neither of which do I think he will ever find—for lack of a strong enough wish—an occupation—and a Wife!—I gave him your address in case— —

Pray send this letter on to Babbie17—I will write to herself in a day or two—about the Bazaar 18

Ever your affectionate /


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