April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


JWC TO JEANNIE WELSH; 17 May 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490517-JWC-JW-01; CL 24: 49-53


Holy Thursday [17 May 1849]

Dearest Babbie

Your unreproachingness is touching—upon my honour—almost equal to Mrs Allan Cunningham's1 who, when I called for her the other evening, after having let her alone for some eighteen months, during which interval she had left two cards at this house, exclaimed, heartily clasping me in her large arms; “Oh Mrs Carlyle, I'm ashamed to look you in the face”! There is more human patience and goodness in the world, than I gave it credit for. And it is rational of you as well as patient and good, to believe that my silence has not been this time more than any other time the natural expression of my feelings towards you—the more I have to say to you always, the less I like to write—the things I have to say being for most part Lamentations of Jeremiah, for which transient human breath is only too good. To write Lamentations has always you know been contrary to my ideas—and so—

I have had no more headachs since that dreadful one I told Helen about—now that the weather is warmer I can stand a pitcher of cold water on the back of my neck every morning and that always agrees with me— I have been to several parties—a dinner at Dickens's last Saturday where I never went before—“A great Fact!”—Forster might have called it.2 Such getting up of the steam is unbecoming to a literary man who ought to have his basis elsewhere than on what the old annandale woman called “Ornament and Grander”3— The dinner was served up in the new fashion—not placed on the table at all—but handed round—only the desert on the table and quantities of artificial flowers. but such an overloaded desert!—pyramids of figs rasins oranges—ach!— At the Ashburton dinner served on that principle there were just four cowslips in china-pots—four silver shells containing sweets, and a silver filigree temple in the middle! but here the very candles rose each out of an artificial rose! Good God!— Mrs Gaskell the Authoress of Mary Barton was there4—I had already seen her at my own house a natural unassuming woman, whom they have been doing their best to spoil by making a lioness of her5— Before dinner, old Rogers, who ought to have been buried long ago, so old and illnatured he is grown, said to me pointing to a chair beside him, “sit down my Dear—I want to ask you; is your Husband as much infatuated as ever with Lady Ashburton?”—“Oh of course—I said laughing, “why shouldn't he?”— —“Now— do you like her—tell me honestly is she kind to you—as kind as she is to your husband?”— “Why you know it is impossible for me to know how kind she is to my husband—but I can say she is extremely kind to me and I should be stupid and ungrateful if I did not like her”— “Humph! (disappointedly) Well! it is very good of you to like her when she takes away all your husbands company from you—he is always there isn't he?”—“Oh good gracious no! (still laughing admirably) he writes and reads a great deal in his own study”—“But he spends all his evenings with her I am told?”—“No—not all—for example you see he is here this evening.”—“Yes he said in a tone of vexation I see he is here this evening—and hear him too—for he has done nothing but talk across the room since he came in”— Very devilish old man! but he got no satisfaction to his devilishness out of me

—“On Earth the living
Have much to bear!”6

Poor dear Mazzini—all my affection for him has waked up since I knew him in jeopardy and so gallantly fulfilling his destiny—and not mine only—the public sympathy is fast going over to his side—under the atrocious injustice of the French—who one year ago loudly invited all nations to form republics and now procede to shoot lead into the only one that has obeyed the call— It will be the ruin of Napoleon's government this work in Italy7— I have had an Italia del populo8 sent me daily since Mazzini started it in Rome—and you may fancy how anxiously I expect it every morning—not sure whether its discontinuance will not indicate that the French have overcome— I sometimes feel myself up to wishing that the Romans and Mazzini included may let themselves be all blown to atoms and their city made into a heap of ruins—it would be perhaps that the best thing that could be done to rouse Italy into a right fervour of patriotism—

And now I must like Maggie9 “put on my bonnet” to go off to Laurence—to—sit for my picture!!!10— Actually I am just now sitting to two artists—“by particular request”! Bölte wants to possess my image—and that is natural enough as she likes me dearly—and has employed a German painter,11 under great obligations to her, to paint it—(gratis of course)—but the other picture—or rather drawing for it is to be in chalk—is a “grande mistero [big mystery]” Laurence wrote to beg I would sit to him as a personal favour—as if I were simpleton enough to believe that after having known me for twelve years he would be suddenly now when I am so old and ugly seized with an enthusiasm for my face!— No no!— Laurence has some other motive—most probably a money motive—someone who wishes my picture for the sake of my—what shall I say?—virtues—has employed him to draw me—not seeing any other way of attaining the end— I told him I knew there was a do at the bottom of the thing but I would oblige him by sitting all the same, and he laughed and blushed— I think I know who is fool enough to be up to giving fifteen guineas for a sketch of my faded charms— It is too ridiculous! And if you just saw what a fright I am just now!— Kindest love to Walter— God bless you, dearest Babbie—Don't drop the system of writing off a few lines at any willing moment

Your affectionate

Jane Carlyle