The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 22 August 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500822-JWC-TC-01; CL 25: 166-169


Thursday night [22 August 1850]

Now Dear!— I have done a fair days work (of sewing chiefly) and can sit down with a certain leisure to write you a peaceable little letter. Yes Yes; I have “composed myself” am “quiet.” You shall have no more wail or splutter from me on this occasion. If I had been an able-bodied woman instead of a thoroughly brokendown one; I should surely have had sense and reticence enough not to fret you in your seclusion with details of my household ‘worry.’ But that dreadful Elizabeth “murdered sleep,” I “lost my happetite.”1 and became so weak and excited that I was really no more responsible for what I wrote than a person in a brain fever would have been. For the last three nights I have been getting into sleeping again; without morphine which had become worse than useless. and for the last three days I have eaten some dinner “to speak of” and now I begin to feel sane again and as John says “to see my way.”

Geraldine left me last night—very unwillingly. a little pressing would have made her throw over Fanny2 altogether, and remain here for an indefinite time. It was not my wish however that she should protract her stay longer than she had already done, the pleasure of having her to talk with and to rub my feet was not—at least would not have continued to be a sufficient compensation for the additional trouble of a visitor in the house—with no servant but a little girl who had “never been out before,” who could not cook a morsel of food or make a bed, or do any civilized thing without having me at her heels. One does not like, if one can stand on ones legs at all, to see one's visitor doing servants work, and besides poor Geraldine can't cook or make a bed any more than the girl that has “never been out,” and at the same time she is nothing like so indifferent as I am to eating and “all that sort of thing”— And then, to get on with “the rowans” and her here was impossible!—when I was not cooking in the kitchen, or in some way providing for the present moment, I must “lie down” and have my feet rubbed!

By myself, I get on quite nicely with the little maid—who, now that I have got her to tidy herself, and that she is no longer frightened, has developed a curious likeness to your Sister Jane,3 which makes me feel quite friendly towards her. Not being to keep her, I put off no time in training her, but use her up to the best advantage. Today for example she has been cleaning out the kitchen closets and presses—where many an abomination came to light, showing new cause why the “no-interference” principle should never more get “carried out” in this house, or any house of which I am the mistress.

Tomorrow or next post day I shall probably hear from Miss Darby something final as to the Essex girl she had in view for me.

I feel it very kind of you to offer to take me away, but I am perfectly clear that I should be here rather than any where else just now. In the first place locking up the house would be a foolish risk to run. there are more loose people about here now than when we did so formerly, and we are known now to be better worth robbing than we were formerly thought to be—and even then it was “a tempting of Providence”4 only to be repeated on necessity. I should like very ill to have the house robbed, there are so many odds and ends in it that no money could replace. Secondly, not foreseeing (how could I?) that I was to be left sole agent of my own will and pleasure, I commenced in the first week of your absence a series of operations, which I feel my house-wife honour concerned in bringing, without help or with such help as I can get, to a more or less satisfactory close; what I have tumbled up and pulled down must be restored to at least the habitable state I found it in, and no Brownies, I guess, would do that for me if I put the house-key in my pocket and went away. Thirdly (a woman has always three reasons) flying from the present inconvenience would be only postponing it—a servant must be found and set a-going in “the right way” sometime, and when better than now, when you are out of the way of being bothered by the initiatory process? Would it be preferable to arrive at home, hungry and travel-wearied, with our door-key, to usher ourselves into a dark, cold, foodless house—and go out the first thing next day to hunt up a servant? If Craik's woman could have been engaged for any particular time; that would have met the last objection— But my belief is that they will take her to Ireland and keep her there as long as she will stay— At all events I can elicit no particle of certainty about her, and indeed feel it indelicate to press them on the subject— So now, “compose yourself‘” and trouble your heart no further with my my5 “difficulties.” When I am not too ill for stirring about, as I have not been today, and do not mean to be for some time to come, and when you are not there to be put about by them; I make as light of material difficulties as any woman I know, find them in fact rather inspiriting; it was entirely the moral disturbance from Elizabeth that agitated me so absurdly at the commencement of the present mess.


Friday morning

So far I had written last night when the clock struck twelve, and Nero with his usual good sense insisted on my going to bed; he had gone half an hour before by himself, and established himself under the bedclothes; but returned at twelve and jumped till I rose and followed him.

I have hardly anything to tell you of the outer world— Mazzini is back from Paris, was here on Tuesday, The Revolution in Paris is postponed for the moment—it was anticipated that The President's reception, “would have been thro'—what shall I say?—bribery and so on—more enthusiatic” then the President “would have been emboldened to venture his great coup and the Communist party would then have tried conclusions with him—as it is, these “have nothing to fight against”—which is surely very sad!6 Another Concert7 had come off the night before—in which at the hour of commencement not a performer had arrived, nor for half an hour after! then all the gass went suddenly out! then a very fat, what shall I say?—drunk woman fell on Mazzinis neck and almost stifled him “upon my honour”!8 then the Principal Singer did not come at all, and had to be brought par vive force [by main force], “in a state of horrible drunkness” and was only sobered by Mazzinis taking his hand and “appealing to his—Patriotism”! then Mario and Grisi arrived for the last act without their music! and the music shops all shut!—my late difficulties dwindled into insignificance beside those of Mazzinis with that tremendous Concert—“but there will be much money”9

Anthony Sterling came up on Wednesday and took Geraldine to the Railway at night—I not feeling at all up to taking her myself—next morning he was to start for Devonshire to have a weeks yachting with Mr Trelawny (a dull man I used to see at the Bullers)10 Count Reichenbach started for Belgium the end of last week as mournful looking as he came. I have seen no one else lately except Mrs & Miss Farrer11 who called on Tuesday I think; the old Lady in a state for having her patriotism appealed to (it struck me) and the young one very pale—“needing some outing” she said,—and was to start on a yachting expedition this day— I never thanked you I verily believe for the heather or the peacocks feather, but they were carefully preserved nevertheless—I think they must have an empty room at Maryland Street just now Helen being still in Scotland—

Affectionately yours


I am sure the Nation miscarried thro no fault of mine—after the Fate of the former weeks Leader I was very carefull to put up the papers firmly and it was posted in Chelsea on Monday