The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 10 March 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500310-JWC-JCA-01; CL 25: 45-46


Sunday Chelsea [10 March? 1850]

My dear Jane

The Spirit moves me to write you a letter this morning; if I impose it on myself to begin with excuses, the impulse will get overlaid by the difficulty of the thing, and stick short in a mere ‘good intention’; so here goes “quite promiscuously.”

I have little to tell you worth even a penny stamp—oneself—at least myself is a sort of irish-bog-subject in which one is in danger of sinking overhead—common prudence commands therefore to ‘keep out of that,’ whatever else—and my days do not pass amidst people and things so interesting in themselves, as to be worth writing about to one safe and sound on the outside of all that as you are.

What good would it do you for example to have even the ‘most graphic’ description of the great ‘flare up’ we had at the Wedgewoods yesterday—where all the Notabilities Mrs W had ever got a catch at, were hauled in, “at one fell swoop,”1 making a sort of Tower of Babel concern of it; that has left nothing behind for me “as one solitary individual”2 but a ringing in my ears, and a dull headach?— What a tenacity there must be in human nature, that people can go on to the oldest age with that sort of thing! The young ladies in wreaths and white muslin with “the world all before them where to choose”3—a husband—those one can understand delighting in such gatherings—as a young irish lady told a friend of mine, “I go wherever I am invited, however much I may dislike the people who ask me; for nobody knows on whose carpet one's lot may lie”!— But the people who have already taken up their lot—and found it—as who does not? a rather severe piece of work—what they get or expect in such scenes to compensate the cost and fatigue I have no conception— I was sitting beside old Mrs Fletcher of Edinr4 last night—she is seventy four I believe—when old Sir R Inglis5 was brought up to her “to renew their acquaintance”—“I dare hardly say” said Sir Robert “how long I believe it to be since I had last the pleasure of meeting you in society”! “It is just forty oneyears replied Mrs Fletcher! And these two old people did not burst into tears or “go aboot worship” but fell to talking trivialities just like the young ones! Well I shall be dead before I am anything like as old as Mrs Fletcher—and I shall not wait till I am dead to retire from public life— My beau ideal of existence this long while has been growing further and further from that “getting on” or rather “got on” in society which is the aim of so much female aspiration and effort!—

I suppose John will be coming back soon now,6 and that will be one good thing—I have a little dog that I make more fuss about than beseems a sensible woman—the next time I go to Scotland he shall accompany me, and if he dont “ingrush himself with people”!7 He walks with me this creature, and sleeps with me and sits with me—so I am no longer alone any more than you are with your bairns—tho' the company is different!—mine has one advantage however it needs no sewing for, and then too I am troubled with no anxieties about its prospects in Life— An old Eastlothian friend8 turned up for me lately who comes a great deal and makes terrible long stays—the last time I had seen her she was riding away in bridal finery beside her artillery officer husband I found her now, after thirty years and odd, without teeth, all wrinkled, in weeds for that same husband, whom however she had long been separated from— So goes the world—here is a specimen of a new sort of ladys' work—the embroidery is cut out and stitched on—it is done very fast with kind regards to James Ever your affectionate J C