April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


JWC TO JOHN R. STODART; 30 September 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490930-JWC-JRS-01; CL 24: 257-259


Sunday [30 September 1849]

Well to be sure—After all!— But I have not been so much surprised by that letter as you would naturally suppose—your frigid reception the other day1 did not quite take in me: it only satisfied my Aunt Anne that I “had wasted a good half hour of my one day on a person who to all appearance did not care three straws for me—had no more feeling than a stone”! “Yes,” I told her “to all appearance it was even so: but I had a mild trust that appearances might be, in this instance as in so many others—deceitful.” For old affection spoke up for you in my heart, that a quarter of a century even, however it might “make a great odds” on a man as well as “on a girl,”—could not have changed his nature—nothing but death is up to doing that—the “dear John” of 1816 was loyal, constant, deeply affectionate, that was his nature and all that he must be still, must be always at heart; however years and sorrows, of which doubtless he had had his share as well as I, as well as all who live long, might have frozen and deadened him outwardly. And how reconcile such abstract notions about you with my Aunt's notion of your “not caring three straws” for myself? Indeed I did not so much try to reconcile them, it would amaze you to know how surely I relied on your affection for me; how surely I have relied on it thro' all these years: tho' no sign of it was discoverable thro' the minutest microscope! never a visit, nor a message, nor anything to show you recollected my existence! and when at last you were obliged to see me “quite promiscuously,” looking at me as if I had been my own cousin twenty times removed. But in all that I saw only “force of circumstances.” Not that I have a vanity equal to anything—equal to fancying myself so very loveable, that wherever I have “been known and appreciated” (as your cousin Mrs. Aitken is always saying of “David”) my image must have been, henceforth and for ever preserved in lavender!— Oh dear no! Whatever I may have been as a girl, as a woman I am not vain the least in the world! I should like to see the individual vanity that could hold its own in the position of worser half to a “celebrated author”! Decidedly it has been no egregious sense of my own loveableness, past or present, that I have believed myself always dear to you, but simply from my immense faith, taken up long ago, in your affectionate and constant nature.

So you see how it is that your letter did not at all astonish me.

You tell me you have lost your fortune, and are obliged to work for your bread. Well! to speak truly, I feel no sorrow over this. If your heart ache; work, above all, obligatory work is the only remedy worth trying. Oh don't I know what a privilege is that of sitting, with folded hands, thinking over a past that is past, because in the present and future all is too dark—ailment and sorrow overclouding the present and the future without hope or object! Oh depend on it, dear John, the loss of fortune or whatever it be that curtails one of that privilege is a thing to thank God for, is perhaps the one interposition that has saved one out of madness!— But your health, the loss of that is indeed a thing to grieve over, ill health is the misery of all miseries, complicates life for one to a degree that none can understand who have not tried it. It seems to me always that if one was quite well it would be so easy to be good!—that every sort of amiable quality would bloom up in one like the bean tree in the fairy tale so soon as that physical pressure was lifted off! and one must go on, good God! getting always more hardened, more difficulter to live and more difficult to live with! Is it not very sad?—but is not life all very sad? I have found it so. A person who tells me he is “happy” looks to me either the greatest of Imposters or the greatest of miracles!— So changed I am since the days when we danced quadrilles and divined nothing of all that!

I do not know whether you meant me to answer your letter, but I have followed the monition of nature in the matter—and I have written with my accustomed indiscretion I suppose.— But you will burn this, and it will be all the same as if I had written to the dictation of Mrs Ellis’ à la Women of England.2 Come next time and see if I be still here—meanwhile I wish you “for a reason which it may be interesting not to state”3 to write no other letter to me till I have seen you or written to you again

Ever affectionately / Your


I got home a week ago—very ill and have continued very ill ever since. As in your case the Drs and I interpret in a different sense4