The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO HELEN WELSH ; 4 July 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500704-JWC-HW-01; CL 25: 110-113


Thursday [4 July 1850]

Dearest Helen

I heard from John that you were bound for Auchtertool yesterday or today,1 and I wished to send you a letter of goodby—which having failed in; I now change it into one of welcome— John would tell you I was extremely well—extremely gay—rushing after ball-dresses, good Heavens! and you would believe of all that as much as your credulity could take in— I am rather less sick and sleepless than I was last year at this time, but still consuming a quantity of inward suffering, which as I know John has no remedy for it I did not feel any call to trouble him with—especially as during the month he staid here, he seemed incapable of fixing his attention on anything for two seconds together—and it hurts ones sensibility to make complaints and be asked a minute after some question proving that not a word of them had been heard— So finding him in that line this time, I immediately adapted myself to it—and held my peace in every thing but the trivialities of the hour—

For company—I have indeed had more than enough of that of late weeks—not a day, hardly an hour of repose—so many strangers from foreign parts introduced to Mr C, and so many old friends of my own from a distance coming and going till the house has got to look like a Hotel with this only difference that no charges are made for the “entertainment to man and beast”

The Bath House Ball threw me into a perfect fever for one week—as I had got no dress for it; not understanding that I was to go—but Mr C was “quite determined for once in his life to see an aristocratic Ball and if I chose to be so peevish and ungracious as to stay away there was no help for me”— I pleaded the want of a dress—he “would pay for any dress I chose to get”; and then I fell back on the horror of stripping myself, of “being bare”—at my age after being muffled up so many years! and that if I didn't I should be like no one else—to which he told me angrily—“true propriety consisted in conforming to other peoples fashions!!! and that Eve he supposed had as much sense of decency as I had and she wore no clothes at all!!!”2 So I got a white silk dress—which first was made high and longsleeved—and then on the very day of the ball was sent back to be cut down to the due pitch of indecency!— I could have gone into fits of crying when I began to put it on—but I looked so astonishingly well in it by candle light, and when I got into the fine rooms amongst the universally bare people I felt so much in keeping, that I forgot my neck and arms almost immediately— I was glad after that I went—not for any pleasure I had at the time being past dancing, and knowing but few people—but it is an additional idea for life, to have seen such a party—all the Duchesses one ever heard tell of blazing in diamonds, all the young beauties of the season, all the distinguished Statesmen &c &c were to be seen among the six or seven hundred people present—and the rooms all hung with artificial roses looked like an Arabian Nights entertainment—what pleased me best was the good look I got into the eyes of the old Duke of Wellington—one has no notion, seeing him on the streets what a dear kind face he has—Lady Ashburton receiving all these people with her grand-Lady airs was also a sight worth seeing3— On Saturday I went to Addiscombe with a party of boys and girls and returned on Monday night Mr C and Thackeray came to dinner on Sunday but had to return at night every room being taken up— I cant imagine why Lady A always asks me to help her with these flirting young ladies and gentlemen I feel more disposed to wring their necks than take part in their riotous nonsense.

Now; all is changed in that quarter by the death of Peel—Lady A was deeply attached to him—she is off into the country again to escape parties; came here on her way, all in tears, and asked Mr C to come by himself this week—as one asks the Clergyman when one is in affliction!—indeed this death has produced a greater dismay than any public event of my time. Not only among his own set but crowds of working people pressed round his house all the time of his illness demanding news which a Constable lifted above their heads tried to make heard in vain—and written pape[r]4 bulletins were finally hoisted up to be read by the crowd from hour to hour— Mr C is mourning over him as I never saw him mourn before—went today to look at the house where he lies dead!—

But no impression lasts long in London society—in a few weeks they will all be visiting and “making wits” again as if nothing had happened—

I have seen little of Geraldine she comes pretty often but has always engagements to hurry her away— She has sworn friendship with Fanny Lewald the German Authoress who is also lionizing in London at present—and gives me much of her semi-articulate company—I also met Jane Eyre (Miss Bronte) one night at Thackeays a less figure than Geraldine and extremely unimpressive to look at5

Write to me how you feel after your journey— John wrote that you seemed to him much better than last year— kindest love to them all and kisses to my Uncle

ever your affectionate