April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 14 June 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480614-JWC-LA-01; CL 23: 49-50


Wednesday [14 June 1848]

Not so fast! dear Lady! I saw yesterday two other young women, the last of whom looked to me the best of the whole lot, but as I have only her looks to go by as yet; I must take time to seek up her details. She came quite incidentally to offer herself to me, sent by my Brother-in-law's Landlady, who knew of my late casualties.1 I was just going to bed with a sick-headach at the moment, so I could not investigate her very minutely: but even thro the universal disgust of a sick-headach, she looked to me a fine, frank, intelligent affectionate creature (tho' Mrs Atchison2 probably does not insist on that last quality; it is a help rather than a hindrance in even a scullion) with the light compact make of a clever servant, and a little up-to-anything-air which quite won my esteem. I will go today and inquire into her history a little—& if nothing comes out to belie her appearance, will send her to Lady A.3 rather than any of the others.

Nothing brought home from yesterday's lecture except a Persian Proverb—“For the Man who wears a shoe, it is all the same as if the whole earth were covered with leather.”4 And this startling assertion of Emerson's own; “Men now-a-days are born with knives in their heads!”— no wonder one has such headaches!

What little attention I was able to bestow on anything yesterday got spell-bound by the Duchess of S.'s gown!5 As my Helen exclaimed over a Virgin & Child in the National Gallery “My! Oh My! how expensive!6 and the leading idea of it so incomprehensible! White lace “wandering at its own sweet will”7 all a-down a figured grey silk—and interspersed with the oddest looking little plantations of grey and white ribbon—her beautiful arms were bare up to the elbows, for the thin white lace which covered them so far was mere delusion—and her cloak and her bonnet who shall dare to describe? She was escorted yesterday by Lyall the Geologist who looked, my Husband said, “very much embarrassed poor fellow”!8 and sat where she could be seen in detail—in the enclosed space for the Lecturer!— I shall be delighted to go to you with C on Friday— Meanwhile I will go while it is fair and take perquisitions of the little Sarah Green9

Ever yours