The Collected Letters, Volume 26


JWC TO JOHN WELSH; 7 January 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510107-JWC-JWE-01; CL 26: 6-9


5 Cheyne Row / 7th January [1851]

dear, estimable Uncle of me!

Have you been reading Thackerays Pendennis?1 if so you have made acquaintance with Blanche Amory, and when I tell you that my young lady of last week, is the original of that portrait, you will give me joy that she, Lady's maid, and infinite baggage is all gone! Not that the poor little “Tizzy” (Theresa Revis) is quite such a little devil as Thackeray who has detested her from a child has here represented2—but the looks, the manners, the wiles, the Larmes [tears] “and all that sort of thing are a perfect likeness—the blame however is chiefly on those who placed her in a position so false, that it required extraordinary virtue not to become false along with it— She was the only legitimate child of a beautiful young “improper female” who was for a number of years Arthur Bullers mistress3—she had had a husband a swindler—his Mother took the freak of patronizing this mistress, saw the child and behold it was very pretty and clever. Poor Mrs Buller had tired of parties, of Politics, of most things in Heaven and earth: “a sudden thought struck her,” she would adopt this child; give herself the excitement of making a scandal and braving public opinion, and of educating a flesh and blood girl into the Heroine of the three volume novel which she had for years been trying to write; but wanted perseverance to elaborate!— The child was made the idol of the whole house—even Charles did whatever she pleased—her showy education was fitting her more for her own Mothers profession than for any honest one—and when she was seventeen and the novel was just rising into the interest of love-affairs—a rich young man having been refused—or rather jilted by her—Mrs Buller died—her husband and son being already dead and poor Tizzy was left without any earthly stay and with only 250£ a year to support her in the extravagantly luxurious habits she had been brought up in— She has a splendid voice and wished to get trained for the Opera— Mrs Buller's fine Lady friends screamed at the idea—but offered her nothing instead—not even their countenance—her two male-guardians, to wash their hands of her resolved to send her to India to Sir Arthur Buller, whose wife4 hated her—naturally—being the child of her husbands ci-devant [former] mistress— To India she had to go however; vowing that if their object was to marry her off—she would disappoint them, and return “to prosecute the Artist Life”— She produced the most extraordinary furor at Calcutta, had offers of Sudor Judges5 and what not? every week—refused them point blank, terrified Sir Arthur by her extravagance, tormented Lady Buller by her caprices, “fell into consumption”—for the nonce—was ordered by the Doctors back to England! and to the dismay of her two cowardly guardians arrived here sich6 months ago—with her health perfectly restored! But her Indian reputation had preceded her and the fine Ladies who turned their backs on her in her extreme need now invite a girl who has refused Sudor Judges by the dozen— She had been going about from one house to another, while no home could be found for her! The Guardians had a brilliant idea— “Would we take her”?— Not for her weight in gold I said—but I asked her to spend a day with me that I might see what she was grown to, and whether I could do anything in placing her with some proper person— The result of this invitation was that alarming arrival bag, and baggage on newyearsday! She has saved us all further speculation about her however by engaging herself to a Capt. Neale (from Ayrshire)7 who came home in the ship with her and seems a most devoted lover— SHE “does not love him a bit” she told me— “had been hesitating some time betwixt accepting him, or going on the stage, or drowning herself—” I told her her decision was good, as marrying did not preclude either ‘going on the stage’ at a subsequent period, or ‘drowning herself’—whereas had she decided on the drowning; there could have been no more of it”— I have my own notion that she will throw him over yet; meanwhile it was a blessed calm after the Fly rolled her away from here on Saturday—“Oh my Dear!” Mr C said “we cannot be sufficiently thankful!!”—indeed you can have no notion how the whole routine of this quiet house was tumbled heels over head— It had been for these three days and three nights not Jonah in the whale's belly8—but the whale in Jonah's belly!—that little creature seemed to have absorbed this whole establishment with herself—

There is a long story for you! which perhaps you cant take any interest in— I am sure however you would be amused with an account of our visit, the other day, to Pentonville Prison—if I had left myself time and breath to tell it— “Oh my!” (as old Helen used to say) “How expensive”!9 Prisoners costing 50£ a year each!—you may fancy their accomodations are somewhat remarkable— In each cell I saw a pretty little corner cupboar—on one shelf of which was the dressing apparatus a comb and brush and small tooth comb! laid on a neatly folded-up towel—a shaving jug with mettle top on one side, an artistic soap box on the other!— In one cell I remarked a blue tassell with a bit of steel chain attached to it hung from a brass nail— “What is the use of that tassell” I asked the Inspector— “That tassell Mam—why—that tassell is—a fancy of the Prisoner's own!—we allow them to have their little fancies!”— They all wear masks when in each others presence—that should they afterwards meet in society their feelings may be spared—they have such charming bath rooms(!)—each man has a good sized court all to himself to run about in for an hour at a time—and while we were there they all “went to school” with books and slates under their arm—masked!!— If any man wants to have the comforts of life, and be taught—and “have his fancies” let him rush out and commit a felony!—— We went to hear their religious teaching in the Chapel— An under Chaplain stood on the Altar with a bible in one hand and a red book (like a butchers) in the other he read a passage from the bible then looked in the red-book for the numbers (they have no names) whose turn it was to be examined—for instance he read about the young man who came to Jesus and asked what he should do to be saved—then after consulting the red book he called out “Numbers 32 and 78, what shall I do to enter into eternal life”?—32 & 78 answered, the one in a growl the other in a squeal, “sell all that thou hast and give to the poor”10— Now, my blessed Uncle did you ever hear such damned nonsense? If a grain of logic was in the heads of 32 and 78, mustnt they have thought; “Well what the devil are we taken up, and imprisoned and called criminals for; but just, because we take this injunction seriously, and help YOU to carry it out, by relieving you of your watches ‘and other sundries’11

I should tell you too that each prisoner has a bell in his cell!—one man said to some visitor “and if I ring my bell a fool answers it”!

Uncle dear, good night— If you and I were the Government wouldn't we sweep such confounded humbug out of creation

Ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

Love to the children