The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 2 September 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500902-JWC-TC-01; CL 25: 187-190


5 Cheyne Row / Monday night 2d September [1850]

Yes indeed, Dear! a letter from you on Saturday night would have been more to my purpose than the lot of newspapers, which I never look at, except for “a bird's eye”1 glance at the Leader, just to see how the creatures ‘get thro' it,’ and more to my purpose than even the new Copperfield which came at the same rush, and which to this hour remains uncut; the former one having given me no feeling but remorse for wasting mortal time on such arrant nonsense: but on Saturday night there came no letter; both your letters arrived together this morning, puzzling me extremely which of them to open first. It is much to be wished that one had a post that knew what it was doing again, and Law-makers that knew what they were doing—if I were the Government I should feel rather ashamed of making regulations one month, and unmaking them the next—but “folk maun do something for the bits of bairns” (as Adam Bogue2 said when reproached with ruining himself in race horses)

Before you receive this I hope your Mother will have got the volume of Chalmers. I found on inquiring at the postmaster in Piccadilly, when I posted my last letter on my way to the Library, that books of any weight could be sent by post, at the rate of sixpence to the pound; so I despatched the bulky concern today with nine blue stamps and all the newspapers at the same time, deferring the writing of my own letters to the evening, partly because I thought you had literature enough by one post, and partly because “I felt it my duty” to go and ride all the forenoon in an Omnibus—instead of aggravating the sickness I was feeling by writing or any indoors work. On my return I learnt from Emma that “a Gentleman in a carriage, with two servants” had been here—names are a thing she does not [at]3 all meddle with—but a Pendennis4 on the table told that Darwin had returned, the first of the Romans! Yesterday I had Elizabeth Pepoli for three hours—I wondered at the length of her visit, and wondered at the softness of her manner; today the whole thing is explained it was our last meeting! I asked her, “when are you going?” and she answered, “soon, but don't let us speak of that”—“Well, I said at parting, I shall go to you on Tuesday or Wednesday”: tonight is come a note saying “dont come here dear Jane for you will not find me”! Alas! what a way to part! a saving of emotion certainly to both; but should we never meet again as is most likely some farewell words, would have been a comfort for the survivor to recall, Pepoli is in depths of tribulation at present—thro “something very particular” having occurred to prevent his Virtue (in the case of old Manfredi5) being “its own reward.”—(or is it not always thro the virtue on which one piques oneself that one gets over the fingers in this Life?) He would take a Painter into his house, “regardless of expense,” and of the comfort of his wife, and having played out that freak of princely generosity without justice, and old Manfredi being “eventually” dead and “buried beautiful”; the Manfredi relations in Bologna (“if so obscure a person can be said to have relations”) institute a prosecution against Pepoli for having dishonestly appropriated and made away with immensely valuable pictures belonging to the old man he pretended to protect!! (“the female Satyrs suckling their young” was the best of these pictures Elizabeth says, and was sold for ten shillings to keep Manfredi in brown sugar which he licked—) the idea of figuring as a swindler in his native town has taken possession of Pepoli's whole soul, and caused the attack of cholera—but the worst result is, that it has decided him to return to Bologna instead of settling in Ancona where Elizabeth anticipated fewer disgusts— John Fergus is “better but far from well yet”

What a dismal story is that of the Curries!6— Poor old man! he will surely die soon; the best that could be wished for him!—

Passing along Paradise Row the other day I found two mutes standing with their horrid black bags at Maynard the Butchers door. There was a hearse too with plenty of plumes and many black coaches and all the people of the street seemed turned out to look; “is old Mrs Maynard dead?”7 I asked the Omnibus Conductor, surprised, for I had seen the long son at our door in the morning as usual, and had heard of no death in the family “Oh no—not the old Lady, it is the son George”! the handsome young man that has latterly come for orders with the cart!—on the Thursday he had come and I shook my head at the window and he touched his hat and drove on—that same day he had “three fits,” which left him delirious, on Sunday he died—and there, on the day week that I had seen him, was he getting himself buried!— His brother tells me that altho he “would work to the last” it was “a happy release” that for years he had been suffering horrors from a disease of the liver. but “he wouldn't give in, for he was as fine a lad as ever breathed,” the tall butcher said with a quivering mouth. Just think—going round asking all the people what they wanted for dinner and returning home to die!

I think the new servant will do; she looks douce, intelligent, well-conditioned. very like Lancaster Jane, (if you remember her) with a dash of Anne8 and of Phoebe Baillie! She is not what is called “a thorough servant,” but that will be no objection to signify, as I am not “a thorough Lady” which Grace Macdonald defined to be one who “had not entered her own kitchen for seven years.” I must say however, that so far as I have seen yet, I have not discovered wherein she falls short of the servants who give themselves out for “thorough.” yet she is only twenty, and for the last two and a half years has been acting as nurse maid! However she may turn out; I am certainly under great obligations to Geraldine's old Miss Darby for having hunted up this girl and taken much trouble to “suit me”; in a situation that was really very desolate my state of weakness at the time considered— But all is going on decently now again.

And so good night for it is time I were in bed—love to your Mother and the rest.

Ever yours affectionately

Jane W Carlyle

Pray do not go ahead in milk-diet too impetuously “In every inordinate cup the ingredient is a devil”9—even in an inordinate cup of innocent milk—