April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL; 31 December 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18491231-JWC-MR-01; CL 24: 317-319


5 Cheyne Row / 31st December 1849

Dearest Mrs Russell

To think that I should never have written you one line since the distracted little note I sent you from Nottingham in July last! and so often as I have thought of it too! Nay, I actually began a letter one day of October—I had just been writing Drumlanrig Castle Thornhill1 on the back of a letter to Lady Ashburton who was on a visit there, and had written me out the address as particularly as if I had never heard of Drumlanrig in my life!—and it struck me as something quite unnatural that I should be writing Thornhill after any other name than yours, just as when I first wrote to you I found it so very strange and sad to be writing that place after any ones name but my mothers— And so by way of making amends to Nature, I began a second letter, one to you—to go by the same post—but some visitor came in, and what does not get done by me at the right moment is apt to miss getting done altogether—

When I wrote from Nottingham I remember I durst not trust myself to tell you any thing about me even if there had been leisure for it— I was in such a nervous state—promised to Mr C and to my own mind to go to Scotland, but afraid to make my purpose known, lest after all I should shirk it at the last moment, as I had done before— And even if I got into Scotland, I could not have told you, for my life, what I was going to do there—where I should go or not go—sometimes in brave moments I thought of visiting Thornhill as well as Haddington and then it seemed all but impossible for me ever to set foot in either place and if I did I was not sure that I would show myself to any living person of my friends in either the one place or the other— So I thought it best to say nothing to you of my intentions till I ascertained by trying what part of them I could carry out— It was not till I was in the Railway for Haddington that I was sure I was really going there— And I did spend a night there, in the principal Inn the windows of which looked out on our old house, without any one suspecting who I was—I arrived at six in the evening and left at eleven next day after having walked over the whole place and seen every thing that I wished to see—except the people!— I could not have stood their embraces and tears and “all that sort of thing” without breaking down entirely—so I left that part of the business till the agitation caused by the sight of the old place should have subsided and I could return with my nerves in good order—which I did for three days after having been six weeks in Fife and other places with which I had no associations either sad or gay.— It was the same when I went to Annandale—till the last moment I was not sure I could go—and would not have gone but for the pain I was going to give my Husbands family by passing them by— Actually when I left Edinr for Ecclefechan I did not know whether the Railway went thro' Thornhill!—had not dared to satisfy myself!—and at all the stations after I got into Dumfriesshire I kept my eyes shut— This will sound to you like sheer madness—but it was no worse than extreme nervousness—which I could not controul, and so must be excused for— I stayed only two days at Scotsbrig and then hurried on to Manchester where I was retained by severe illness— Another time it will not be so bad I hope and I shall behave more like a rational woman— You may believe I got little good of the country under such circumstances I returned to London so ill and continued ill so long a time that I got into the way of doing nothing I could possibly help—and so it happened that having lightened my conscience of the half sovereign which a Miss Skinner2 undertook to convey to you I postponed writing till—now!—

If anniversaries be in many respects painful things there3 useful at least in putting orderly people like me on settling up their duties as well as their accounts—and so I am busier this week than for months back bringing up my correspondence &c &c— Fortunately I am on foot, and even able to go out a little in the forenoon—tho' the frost is hard enough— I seem to have got off this winter with only three weeks confinement—for the rest the pleasantest fact in my life for a good while is that I have got a beautiful little dog—that I hope I will not make such a fool of myself with as Mrs Mundel4 used to make of herself with—what was the objects name?— He is not of course either so pretty or so clever as Shandy—and if he were I should not think so—but he is “better than I deserve,” as Coleridge said of his cold tea.5 and I like him better than I choose to show—publicly— The sad part of the business is that I dare not take him out with me without a chain, for fear of the dog stealers who are a numerous and active body—

I am sending you for good luck a book which I hope you will get some amusement out of—perhaps the best newyears gift one can make—a little amusement I mean— The two bits of things for Margaret and Mary6 you will give them with my kind remembrance—and the post office order I need not point out the use of— God bless you dear Mrs Russell—with Love to your Husband and Father I am ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

Please to tell me how old Mary stands—when is her money due—I always forget