JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH ; 20 March 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480320-JWC-JW-01; CL 22: 270-273
JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH
Monday [20 March 1848]
Had this last note been from myself, it would have boded a violent headach just coming on, that feeling of vague impatience and restlessness, and that straining of the heart after objects out of it's immediate circle—after the Past and the Distant—is a sure sign with me of some approaching convulsion of my nervous system—and yet one is thankful for such moments even at the cost of bodily pain! they at least prove to one that one “yet lives”! a fact which is apt to become dubious for oneself, if not so for others, in certain helpless hopeless moods one gets into—and which both you and I, it strikes me, are more apt to indulge in than the generality of women. But it is just then that a letter means something, and is really welcome and precious— Such an “unsatisfactory scrap” as you call your last is worth a dozen of the three-sheets-of-note-paper-letters I usually get from you—which are filled with all the anythings or nothings you can clutch out of the air, so to speak—to conceal under multitudinous words, the deficiency of one word out of Babbies own heart, which my heart would need and look for. Write me always such scraps—write to me when you are sad—when you are out of humour—when the Devil is in you, if you like— I love you all the same whatever is in you—whatever you tell me out of yourself finds comprehension and sympathy from me—but what you tell me “out of the air”—that enrages me—I feel as tho' having been a-thirst you had given me to drink the— —contents of your ink-bottle! So mind this Babbie! do not henceforth wait for a convenient season to write me a long elaborated letter of news and “all that sort of thing”—seize the moment of “real, genuine, authentic” inclination as it flies1—if a thought comes into your head that you would like to impart to me rather than to any other—if a sadness, or a longing, or a perplexity, or a bedeviledness falls on you that you think I could sympathize with better than any other (and what of that sort has not experience taught me sympathy for?) then down with it on paper—tho' only six lines or six words—send it off to me—(we live under a penny-post “thanKS God”!) and you will see that our correspondence will right itself again & that we will both get to write to one another and to be to one another as in bygone better years.— One thing more about writing before I quit the subject—a beautiful hand—is not requisite between friends—does not enhance the value of letters of friendship—but if you would dear Babbie just give heed enough to your hand that it may not become wholly ILLEGIBLE (!) I assure you I have to read your letters like greek and it is dreadfully aggravating in a letter like your last, so free-flowing and straight out of the heart, as to the sense; to be stuck up for five minutes together over whole lines every now and then not one word of which will disclose itself on first inspection. I think the chief fault (for I really speak with a serious practical view) lies in your neglecting to join your letters so that one never knows how many of them go to one word. and then as to giving loops to your es or any more than one side of a g, o, &c that you never dream of— Could you ever guess, for example unless you had made it yourself that the following word stood for “only” and this for “get”? Here is a long word 2 that were I told with a loaded pistol at my breast to say it or die—I should have to die “and no mistake”! Do not be angry with me—if nobody else finds fault with you for what in itself is so puerile a matter, it can only be because no one else likes to accept the ungrateful service of a faultfinding friend—but I cannot let you spoil the pleasure of your letters without entering my sincere protest.
And now of myself— My cough is quite gone, and I have been out some half dozen times. To say that I am well would be a misapplication of the word; but I am no longer what people call ill. For the rest; I must take another day for telling you of it, or of as much of it as you would care to hear—for Mazzini will be here in a few minutes to take leave. He went to Paris so soon as Louis Phillipe decamped—to see I suppose if anything could be arranged for a new “Savoy's Expidition”; the distinct prospect of being permitted to return to Genoa “in peace” being extremely distressing to him!!3 He had no time to come before he went—merely wrote—and since his return I have not yet seen him. He wrote that he would be here today at two o'clock; and was going off again to Paris on Wednesday—probably not to return4— I shall hear if he got your note5— I take the prospect of his final departure with a calm that would surprise you. Whether it be that my feelings have got extremely chilled by years and suffering—or that he has worn them out—perhaps both causes have operated towards making me tolerably unconcerned. God bless you Babbie
Ever your affectionate
Plattnauer is still in Ireland—still keeps sane in spite of these Revolutions—so far as I can judge from his letters—he is a noble man—and true as death! Love to Walter6
Not one word said of the beautiful little mats! and one of them all the while before my eyes—in the tray that holds my “details”— Thanks— it is curious how these net-things have always come just at the right moment— I had got a beautiful amber-box from Capt Sterling which I was afraid of getting chipped in a hard tray—and was thinking of what sort of round thing I could make to lay in the tray—when voila! these! the little one; the beauty—lies in the little black Templand tray in my bedroom which holds my watch— While I was ill I made my bedroom so pretty with all the pictures and little things belonging to the Past that I set most store on Cavaignac's Medallion7 amongst the rest I thought I should like to die amid all these things