April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 11 June 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480611-JWC-LA-01; CL 23: 44-46


Sunday [11 June 1848]

My dear Lady Harriet

Mr C. must make you the Report of Lecture 3d;1 for this one “tacked on” to The Sublime rather than to The Ridiculous, and my memory (more shame to me!) is retentive of only the Ridiculous in human speech. He (my Husband) likened the former Lecture to the Tune of ‘Over the Water to Charlie,’2 as he had once heard it played on an indifferent fiddle; the last was more in the style of ‘With one consent let all the Earth’ played on a (barrel-)organ;3 or of that mystical Fantasia on the violincello with which Albert in the last chapter of Consuelo thrills the two Artist-souls who had come from remote lands and up a steep mountain to ask him for ‘The Solution.4 The audience were quite charmed; so beautiful it all sounded, so profound, and lofty, and prophetic! but ask any one of them, or the man himself, what that tongue-sonatewished of you,’ and the answer could only be; “Dont know the least in the world; further than, that you should “prick the slumberous side of the Giant who dwells in the unseen—the Angel who stood by God in the day of Creation—and stimulate Him (the Giant—the Angel) into all-searching, all-pervading activity,” said Giant or Angel having been precised as “The Instinct within us—that first Look of the Soul into every object.” By all which, if he meant to say in plain English, that it would be well we should give more heed to our instincts, I, for one, whatever the fish or flower may do, most cordially “think along with him.” On the whole we shall none of us be wiser for the Lecture I fear, but they amuse, and can do no possible harm— “a song of triumph”—over no victory—voila tout [that is all]!

The new-charmed Duchess has not come again—has found, it would seem, something more unintelligible for her elsewhere.5 Lady Byron sat in her place, pale and transparent as a wax candle6 Ah!— I recollected how I once walked half an hour, to and fro, in the rain, before an Edinr Book-shop; to catch sacred glimpses of—that woman's skirts! and I sighed, that “the rude hand of Time” should have so effectually “swept the down” (as a Lady once said to me) “from the cheek of my beautiful enthusiasm.”7

Miss Wynn told us in returning from the Lecture that Lord Sligo in his capacity of Special Constable had “seized two cart-loads of arms”—probably some old brace of pistols—and that the Rising was looked for today instead of tomorrow—but I hear only church-bells, no Tocsin8— She told us too, what you have perhaps heard, that a gentleman (?) went up to Milnes in the House of Commons, and said he understood that he (Milnes) now sent his washing to Mrs Cuffy;9 but that there was so little of it, and what was, so thoroughly soiled, that poor Mrs Cuffy was frantic. And Milnes had “taken this joke very much to heart.” If I were Milnes, I would call out a few of these Jokers and shoot one, at least, dead—for the example's sake.

Mrs Philips, Mrs Buller's niece, was here this morning and told me that Lady Lewis was going to Richmond tomorrow to try to dissuade Mrs Buller from her scheme of “building a small house in Kensal Green”—“something in the form of a Temple over Mr Bullers grave—which they may retire to when they like—”10 Dear! dear! She must not be suffered to do that!

Emerson is dining here today and a Welshman whom Mr C once staid three weeks with,11 and my Brother in law—and they are now looking for tea I suppose—the dinner went off charmingly—well-cooked and well-waited—and what is of more enduring interest to my household good my maid12 has persuaded me that her two ‘accidents’ really were accidental, and stays under the condition that I am to regulate her intercourse with her Lover according to my own ideas of propriety.

What a letter! Ever yours / JWC