The Collected Letters, Volume 25


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 6 September 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500906-JWC-TC-01; CL 25: 198-200


Friday night [6–7 September 1850]

Here is a letter from Lady Ashburton, the first I have had during your absence; neither had I written to her (till I answered this today by return of post—) partly because she had said at our last meeting that she would write to me first; and partly because in the puddle I have been in, I felt little up to addressing Serene Higher Powers,—before whom one is bound to present oneself in ‘Sunday clothes’—whereas I have been feeling all this while like a little sweep on a Saturday night!— But the letter you forwarded to me had prepared me for an invitation to the Grange about the end of this month, and I was hoping that, before it came, you might have told me something of your purposes, whether you meant to go there after Scotland, whether you meant to go to them in Paris that you might have given me in short some skeleton of a programme by which I might frame my answer. In my uncertainty as to all that, I have written a stupid neither-yes-nor-no sort of a letter—“leaving the thing open” (as your phrase is) But I said decidedly enough that I could not be ready to go so soon as the 23d— What chiefly bothers me is the understanding that I “promised” to go alone— The last day I saw Lady A she told me that she could not get you to say whether you were coming to them in September or not; that you “talked so darkly and mysteriously on the subject, that she did not know what to make of it”—that you refered her as usual to me, and then she said “I want you both to come Mrs Carlyle—will you come”? I said “Oh, if he go I should be very glad”—“But if he never comes back as he seems to meditate, couldn't you come by yourself?” I answered to that, laughing as well as I could; “Oh he will be back by then, and I dare say we shall go together. And should he leave me too long I must learn to go about on my own basis”1— Went to bed—Saturday— I dont think that was a promise to go to the Grange alone on “the 23d of this month.”— Do you think it was? most likely you will decline giving an opinion. Well! in this as in every uncertainty one has always one's “do the duty nearest hand &c2 to fall back upon; and my duty nearest hand is plainly to get done with “the Rowans,” before all else. Once more ‘all straight’ here, I shall see what time remains before the journey to Paris, and which looks easiest to do, whether to go for a week at the cost of some unsettling, or to stay away at the risk of seeming ungrateful for kindness. To descend—like a parachute; Who think you waited on me the night before last?— Elizabeth!— The last you heard of her was that she had gone away with the police-people; but that was not final— I did not tell you, having determined to fret you no more with my annoyances from her, that she presently burst out on us again, under the form of servant at no 8 or 9 in this street— —passed the windows often with house-key over her finger, shouting to make herself noticed— “Better than ever I was, my Love”! I heard her call one day across the street to some butcher who had asked after her welfare But either she must have been only filling up an interregnum in that house, or must have already “had enough of it”—for she came the other night to ask me to give her a character to a Lady who would write for it next day. She was gaily—much too gaily dressed—and came into the room with her head laid on one side and a soft smile on her face just as she looked when I hired her!— I said that after her outrageous behaviour I should have prefered her request for a character to have been made in writing— She needed to come she said because I would get the Lady's letter next morning—“as for her behaviour it was all-along of that fender and she would do the same over again”!— I told her “I would answer what questions were asked, with truth and fairness; her conduct towards me was a thing between ourselves; I hoped I should not be asked about her temper—and so there being no further business to be done I wished her good night.”—“Good bye Mam”—and away she went looking rather foolish, but quite unsubdued— As a companion picture to this interview—I had one yesterday with Mrs Thomas Eliza, sister, who came partly to tell me the result of her petition, but chiefly to bring me a message from Eliza on her deathbed! Yes! poor cross honest old Eliza3 is dead and buried! and she had laid it on her Sister to go and say to me that “on her deathbed she had remembered all my kindness to her and hers, and would have liked much to see me and bid me farewell”— She had begged of both her husband and sister to go and tell me of her illness and ask me to come to Deptford4 and see her—but they thought, stupid creatures, “that it was too great a liberty to take” and would neither do that nor call in a Physician “the only two things she had at heart” The surgeon who attended her said all the Drs in the world could not save her—liver and heart were so completely diseased—had been for many years—poor Eliza! her fretfulness had plenty of excuse it would seem. I am very sorry that she did not have her wish of seeing me—which might have been so easily granted.

I must tell you something that John will like to hear— Mrs Thomas's hundred and sixty copies of her petition have been answered by just two donations and one of these (3£) was from the Duke of Buccleugh!—the other was from Miss Cricket5 (2£)

Darwin came to tea with me at half after five on Thursday and is off again—to Shrewsbury this time—for a fortnight— Ventnor seemed to have been detestable—he looked as sad as the Autumn weather—

Mr Wynn is dead finally6—alas when one lives till people feel one's death “a happy release”! I have not seen Miss Wynn nor heard from her since—I wrote desiring that she would not answer until she wished to have me come there—

I shall send Alton Locke so soon as I have waded to the end of it—there is also come for you thro' Chapman, addressed in the writing of Emerson, a pamphlet entitled

Perforations in the Latter day Pamphlets

by one of the “Eighteen Millions of Bores”


edited by Elizur Wright7No 1

Shall I send it?— I vote for putting it quietly on the fire here—it is illustrated of course—and dully so—

But I must go and tidy myself a bit to receive the farewell visit of Fanny Lewald who has written with much trust that she would “take some dinner with me at two oclock”!— I have not seen her since her return to London kind regards at discretion

Ever your affly / Jane