July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


GERALDINE JEWSBURY TO J. A. FROUDE, 22 November 1876; 2002; DOI: 10.1215/ed-30-geraldine-jewsbury-to-froude; CL 30: lastpage-30-262-266


GEJ-JAF, 22 Nov. 1876. MS: privately owned. The MS is on 4 pieces of folded letter paper (11 pp. of writing), which are inserted into the front of the first volume of JWC's Journal (MS A) and fastened by strips of adhesive paper. Pbd: Froude, LM 2:273–75 inc; John Clubbe “Grecian Destinies: Froude's Portraits of the Carlyles,” Carlyle and His Contemporaries: Essays in Honor of Charles Richard Sanders (Durham, N.C., 1976) 329–31 inc. Clubbe's version is from an incomplete transcript in an unidentified hand, the date of which is uncertain (MS: Houghton). For further discussion, see Ian Campbell, “Geraldine Jewsbury: ‘The Closest Friend of Carlyle's Wife,’” The Carlyles at Home and Abroad, ed. D. Sorensen and R. Tarr (Aldershot: Ashgate, forthcoming 2004). Letters in square brackets were omitted by Jewsbury.

Geraldine Jewsbury to J. A. Froude, 22 Nov. 1876, is placed as an appendix because, though closely related to the main body of the Collected Letters of this volume, it is not written by either of the Carlyles.



Walnut Tree House 7 oaks Kent / Nov 22-76

dear Mr Froude—un[t]il today I have not been able to open the little book you lent me I now return it as registered letter.—

Many thanks for the same. the reading of it has been like calling up Ghosts—There are many lacunas in the Journal—not only of blank days but of events & incidents It was a very bad time with her just then.—no one but herself or one constantly with her knows what she suffered physically as well as mnilly1 In many ways I feel how poor & misleading is all I have said to you about her— I have told you facts but I have failed to give you any real clue to them—she was miserable. more abidingly & intensely miserable than words can utter—the Misery was a reality no matter whether her imagination made it or not. With her habit of pushing every thing to the extreme—and of expecting to find the most logical consecutiveness in what people said did or professed— I don't know wh[o] fared the worst the people or herself.— Mr C— once said to me of her that she had the deepest& tenderest feelings—but narrow Any other wife wd have laughed at Mr C's bewitchment with Ly An but to her there was a complicated aggravation wh. made it very hard to endure— Ly A. was admired for sayings & doings for wh she was—snubbed. She saw thro' Ly A's little ways & grande dame manners & knew what they were worth. she contrasted them with the daily hourly endeavours she was making that his life shd. be as free from hindrances as possible—he put her aside for his WORK—but lingered in the “Primrose path of dalliance”2 for the sake of a great lady who liked to have a philosopher in chair— Ly A. was excessively capricious towards her. & made her feel she cared more about him than about her—wh was always lèse majesté with her.—she was never allowed to visit any where but at the G—3 & the mortifications & vexations she felt tho' they were often & often self made were none the less intolerable to her. At first she was charmed with Ly A.—but soon found she had no real hold on her. nor ever cd or wd have. The sufferings were real intense & at times too grievous to be borne.— C— did not understand all this & only felt her to be unreasonable Mrs C— was proud—& proud of her Pride. it was indeed enormous. but a quality she admired in herself & in others. The only person who ever had any influence over her was her Father—he died when she was 14—4 & she was left to herself. her mother & she never agreed well when together—tho' she adored her at a distance—& worshipped her after she was dead.—

Now about another point on wh. you have perhaps wrong ideas—wrong because they are the natural conclusion you wd be quite led to make from certain facts—some of wh I told you myself—& you remarked. But was it not behaving very ill to C—”? NO. her allegiance was never broken—5 that, you must please believe. on my word— She liked to be worshipped—to have people give their life & soul & spirit to her— I mean those whom she “allowed to love her” as she wd have put it. but all even the only two she really cared for, & who had the power to make her suffer—broke themselves against a rock. her will was as strong as her Pride & she never did any thing in her life wh. she wd have considered ignominious. The feelings of pity tenderness generosit[y] (false if you will) wh softens & bewilders most women—NEVER disturbed her—the clear pitiless common sense wh she always kept never failed her— She was not heartless, for her feelings were real & strong, but she had a genuine preference for herself— From her earliest girlhood this was her characteristic in all matters where men were in question—

She would be the first person with every body man or woman whom she cared for enough to wish to subjugate—& her power to inspire the most intense desire to lay life soul body to consecrate to her all one had of the best & strongest in one's nature was something like enchantment—she had the power of appealing to & of exciting all that was really the best & most heroic in one's nature—& of really keeping one up to being one's best—& she could and she did inspire those who loved her with the desire to give themselves & all that was in them just to supplement & to fill up all that was lacking to her happiness in life— It was like trying [to] fill the sea—shortcoming and unprofitableness were marked on all we did or ever could do—the more we cared for her. the more lame & poor seemed the best we cd offer.— The lines on wh. her character was laid down were very grand—but the result was blurred & distorted & confused— If when she flung off the outside doctrine of the Scotch Kirk6 she cd have felt & believed that the spiritual religion contained in the hard rough shape she had broken continued as real & vital as if the Kirk had never been She wd have had a source of help & strength wh wd not have failed her like human beings—but she never did or could realise that religion & the Scotch Kirk were not identical—there never was a creature who so intensely yearned after & felt the need of religion in her soul—

In marrying—she undertook what she felt to be a grand & noble life-task A task wh as set forth by himself touched all that was noble & heroic & inspired her imagination from its difficulty—she believed in him—& her faith was unique—no one else did—Well but she was to be the companion friend—help-mate—her own gifts were to be cultivated & recognised by him—she was bright & beautiful with a certain star like radiance & grace—she had devoted to him her life—wh so many other men had desired to share She had gone off into that Desert with him—wh you know.—she had taken up poverty obscurity. hardship even—cheerfully willingly & with an enthusiasm of self sacrifice—only asking to be allowed to minister to him— The offering was accepted—but like the precious things flung by Benvenuto into the Furnace where his Statue was molten they were all consumed in the fierce flame—7 & he was so intent & occupied by what he was bringing forth that he cd take no heed of the individual treasures—they were all swallowed up in the great whole—in her case it was the living creature in the midst of the fire wh felt & suffered—he gave her no human help nor tenderness;—bear in mind that her inmost life was solitary—no tenderness no carresses8 no loving words—nothing out of wh ones heart can make the wine of life A glacier or a mountain wd have been as human a companionship She once told me what the earliest period of her married life was. & of the way in wh her whole nature was crushed & ground down & wounded—he suffered too but he put all into his Work. She had only the desolation & barrenness of having all her love & her life laid waste— Six years she lived there— & she held out—she had undertaken a task & she knew that whether recognised or not, that she did help him—her strong persistent Will kept her up to her task of pain— Then they came back to the World—& the strain told on her then—she did not falter from her purpose of helping & shielding him but she became warped “We have this treasure in earthly vessels”—9 and the vessels get cracked & broken & disfigured & people do not see or understand the treasure wh is thus carried. & they misjudge & measure & criticise but the Treasure is there & the broken blackened misformed unshapely outside appearance is swallowed up by Death and “I believe in the forgiveness of sins & the Life Everlasting Amen!”10 G. E Jewsbury