The Collected Letters, Volume 27


JWC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 15 September 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520915-JWC-JAC-01; CL 27: 288-290


5 Cheyne Row / Wednesday [15 September 1852]

My dear John

I always think the last days the busiest that have yet been or ever can be! No maid of all-work in a lodging house was ever put to more base uses than my elegant self at this time! To write during the day is almost impossible, and at night I am so wearied that I have no heart to do anything but sit on a chair, “looking from me,” and scheming what I shall do on the morrow. As the place gets cleared, I have to move those awful piles of goods and chattels and distribute them over the house, and every thing is got so dirty and spoiled that I am “entangled in the details and make no way.” ThankS God, however, the workmen are gradually “returning from the thirty years war.” My Plasterers and Plumbers are gone, and my Bricklayers and Carpenters going, and I have now only painting and paperhanging to endure for a week or two longer. The worst is that the whole thing cant be finished at this earthquake. The drawing room and front bedroom cant be papered till next spring on account of the new plaster. And the parlours I dare not begin painting, in case of Mr C coming home in the midst. Oh Heaven defend me from ever having to make another house “habitable”! the discomfort is nothing to the fret.

Meanwhile the Duke of Wellington is dead.1 I shall not meet him at Balls any more nor kiss his shoulder poor old man. All the news I have had from the outer world this week is sad. You remember Miss Farrer, the prettiest of the two. She was on a visit at Sir W Clayton's,2 and they took her to church in their carriage with her back to the horses, which always makes her sick. Not liking to confess this weakness, she insisted on returning from church in the rumble, and one of the party said “Oh, Miss Farrer prefers getting up into the rumble to show her handsome ancles.” So not to show her ancles in getting down; she leapt, and her dress hindering, fell smash with her face on the pavement a small vessel was ruptured in her head and the blood gushed from her mouth and nose, and when the surgeon came and was plugging her nose to stop the blood he found it was broken in two places! The poor girl is returned home with a black mask, and her nose continues dreadfully swelled, and tho' the London surgeon says it will not disfigure her, I dont believe but she is a fright for life! She bears it beautifully as yet.

Do you know anything of Herzen? a Russian who sent Mr C a book—Saffi brought him to me the other night. And Count & Countess Reichenbach were here—there were five of us and we spoke four languages—and all four in the same sentence sometimes. It was like talking in a Madhouse! He is a brave energetic looking man Herzen but with a basis of barbarian His tawny eyes have a hungry animal look that made me feel as if he might easily spring at me and eat me.3 Little Oscar is getting better, which is a great mercy, very little would drive the little Countess as mad as her brother.4

“Like Mrs Newton”—that is charming!5 When shall I see her? it is really very pleasant to me the idea of a new sister in law! What on earth puts it in peoples heads to call me formidable? There is not a creature alive that is more unwilling to hurt the feelings of others, and I grow more compatible every year that I live. I cant count the people who have said to me first and last, “I was so afraid of you! I had been told you were so sarcastic”! And really I am perfectly unconscious of dealing in that sort of thing at all— I think one sarcastic person in a family quite enough. and limit my own ambition to being liked not feared. So depend on it the Baiying will be agreeably disappointed when we meet—

But now I should be in bed—Nero is already loudly snoring on a chair.

Goodnight yours affectionately

Jane W Carlyle