The Collected Letters, Volume 28


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 30 December 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531230-JWC-MR-01; CL 28: 367-369


5 Cheyne Row / Friday night [30 December 1853]

My dear Mrs Russell

Ever since I received your note by Mrs Pringle,1 I have been meaning to write to you—yet always waited for “a more cheerful season,” and now here is newyear's day at hand, and my regular letter due, and the season is not more cheerful, and besides I am full of business; owing to the sudden movements of the last two weeks; and Mr C's absence; leaving me his affairs to look after as well as my own.

We went to the Grange (Lord Ashburton's) in the beginning of December to stay till after Xmas. I was very glad to get into the Country for a while, and have nothing to do but dress dolls for a Xmas Tree—for the last months had quite worn me out. I had had nothing but building and painting for so long. varied with Mr C's outbursts against the “infernal cocks” next door. which had made our last addition of a “Silent Apartment” necessary, Alas! and the silent apartment had turned out the noisiest apartment in the House! and the cocks still crowed and the Macaw still shrieked! and Mr C still stormed! at the Grange I should at least escape all that for the time being I thought. The first two days I felt in Paradise, and so well! the third day I smashed my forehead against a marble slab—raised a lump the size of a hen's egg on it, and gave a shock to my nerves that quite unfitted me for company— But I struggled on amongst the eighteen other visitors, better or worse, till at the end of a fortnight I was recovered except for a slight lump still visible— When Mr C came to me one morning, all of a sudden, and told me I must go up to London myself, and take charge of some business—nothing less than trying to take the adjoining house ourselves, on the chance of letting it, and get our disobliging neighbours turned out; and there being but six days till Christmas (the time for giving them notice to quit) of course despatch was required; especially as the owner of the house lived away in Devonshire— I thought it a most wildgoose enterprize I was sent on, and when Lady Ashburton and the others asked him why he sent poor me instead of going himself, and he coolly answered—“Oh I should only spoil the thing—she is sure to manage it.” it provoked me the more— I was so sure I could not manage it. But he was quite right— Before the week was out I had done better than take a house we did not need—for I had got the people bound down legally “under a penalty of 10£ and of immediate notice to quit, never to keep or allow to be kept, fowls or Macaws or other nuisance on these premises.” in consideration of 5£ given to them by Mr Carlyle—I had the lease of the house and the notice to quit lying at my disposition but the threat having served the end I had no wish to turn the people out. You may fancy what I had suffered thro the effects of these nuisances on Mr C, when I tell you that, on having this agreement put in my hand by their house agent2 I—burst into tears!—and should have kissed the man if he had not been so ugly! Independently of the success of my diplomacy about the cocks I was very thankful I happened to be sent home just then—otherwise I should have got the news of my Cousin Helen's death in a houseful of company. It was shock enough to get it here— I had received a long letter from herself a day or two before leaving the Grange, in which she told me she was unusually well. and the night after my return I had sat till after midnight answering it— Two hours after it had gone to the post office came Mary's letter announcing her death—and the same day came Mr C who had suddenly taken the resolution to go to Scotsbrig and see his Mother once more—John's letter indicating that she was dying fast. I hurried him off all I could for I was terrified he would arrive to find her dead—and he was just in time. He writes he will probably be home tomorrow night— It has been a continuous miracle for me Mrs C living till now after the state I saw her in last July— But poor Helen Welsh! One has to think hard that she had a deadly disease, with much suffering before her—painful operations before her—had she lived—to reconcile oneself to losing her so suddenly.

Tell me when you write if poor Mary got her comforter?— Mrs Aitken3 forgot it for a long time but on my telling her you had not received it, she sent it, she said, at once— I send the money order for the usual purposes Mary Margaret4 who else you like— I hope Dr Russell is quite strong now kind regards to him and your Father Tell Mrs Pringle when you see her that I regretted being from home when she called and that I really think my own full second cousin might have come to see me without a recommendation—and at first instead of at last—as she left word she was going next day there was nothing to be said or done—

If you should not receive the usual donation from my cousins for old Mary be sure to tell me— She must not be worse off at this advanced age. But I dare say Maggie5 will be very desirous to continue her Fathers good deeds—poor little Maggie—I am like to cry whenever I think of her! kind patient active little nurse—and now—transplanted to another country6—her occupation gone

Your affectionate /

J W Carlyle

I send you for newyears luck a book, which I hope you have not read already