April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 20 January 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490120-JWC-HW-01; CL 23: 205-206


Saturday [20 January 1849]

Dearest Helen what a shame! The only real business I have, “here down,”1 (as Mazzini used to say) seems to be writing to the people who like to hear from me —and see how I bestir myself in that! The fact is; nobody that is much caring to do ever the “things that they ought to do,”2 and even the things they intend to do should live in London—even on the most domestic principles; there being here a parti pris [preconceived opinion] on the side of the pigs to “Run thro'” all ones “best laid schemes”:3 I have been interrupted dreadfully these two weeks, but the wonderfulest “go” of all has been a child!4 Yes indeed! I have had a child—to keep,—to sit at meat with, and sleep with (good God!) and dress dolls for, and wash and comb and all that sort of thing—and also (—most fatiguing of all—) to protect it from Mr C who gave manifest indications of a tendency to wring its neck! Where did I pick the creature up?— Ah my Dear! the creature picked up me—“quite promiscuously”5—I went some six weeks ago to call at the Macreadys—and dined at the childrens dinner and was reminded that I had a Godchild, by seeing it. Not one godmotherly thing had I ever done towards that child! and really it was a Godchild to be proud of. So now I took it on my knee and kissed it and, like a fool; asked “will you go with me?” I should like it very much said the Child. “That she would” said the Mother; “and you need not be afraid of her misconducting herself for she is a good child”— I saw the thing had been taken on the serious so I backed out of it as well as I could, “Some time we shall see!—when I come again with a carriage.” Well! ten days ago I went there again with Anthony Sterling—and was asked gravely by the eldest daughter6 if I “meant to take Jane Lydia back with me”? “She had never ceased talking about her visit since I had been there.” I was in for it! so I said “not today”; (it was necessary to prepare C's mind as well as my own) “but if her Mother would bring her any day she liked to name I should do my best with her”— So Saturday was named—and the little creature delivered over to me in a transport of joy, (hardly mutual) to stay as “long as I could be troubled to keep her”— I modestly suggested that three days and three nights—just the time that Jonah was in the whale's belly7—would probably be enough of it for her as well as for me—and the Mother went and I remained alone—with a child of six years—very stirring and very small and delicate! during the first day I “ran horses” at her bidding, and performed my new functions with a determined energy— —but the night came, I durst not put her to sleep in the spare room—for fear of her crying in the night—and awaking Mr C, and being herself very miserable so after infinite perplexity in getting off her clothes (all sewed together) I laid her in my own bed, where she soon commenced—singing!—after an hour's waiting upon her I left her still awake—when I went up again she was asleep but lying right accross the bed—at twelve I placed her properly, and went into bed myself; but of course not to sleep: all night long she pitched into my breast with her active little heels—and when she awoke at seven and threw her arms about my neck calling out “Oh I am so glad to be here!” I had not once closed my eyes and in this state to have to wash and dress her and play at horses again! it was a strange and severe penalty for being a Godmother—next night I put her in the spare bed at all risks—with a good fire and trusted in Providence—and she did very well there—but I had got some cold by the job and the idea of being laid up in such a cause after having got so far thro' the winter on foot was very vexatious so I kept the house a few days and when the childs time came Anthony Sterling took her home for me!! I have a great quantity more to tell you about this “go” and other things—but Mr C has been bothering ever since I began to write about helping him to pack a boxful of old clothes and things for Scotsbrig—and in an hour I have to be off to Mrs Buller so I will finish this letter to Babbie— God bless you all your affectionate

Jane Welsh