July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


JWC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 14 November 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18551114-JWC-LA-01; CL 30: 113-115


Wednesday [14 Nov. 1855]

Indeed, indeed, dear Lady, it never entered into “the imaginating of the thoughts of my heart,” that at such time of year and on so short a stay, you might, could, would, or should, have driven down to Chelsea! Far from that, I did not even find it permissible to seek to see you at Bath House on that ‘one day’; tho' I had already walked to the end of Bolton Street1 in the course of making up my mind, whether I might ask to see you or had best not.

“There is no chance of our coming to the Grange?”—Isn't there?”! I was fearing something quite different; that there was no chance of our being invited. I don't think Mr C's staying sulking at home last winter, turned out so well for him, body or soul, that he should ever again “take that line” (your phrase) as long as he lives. Even if there weren't a book in the House, he would go this year, I am sure, if only you were so goodnatured as to invite him— As for me, it was no illusion on the advantages of giving up the only bit of cheerful life that the year brought round for us, and ‘sticking to one's work’ in grim silence at home— I did not need to miss our visit for the next twelve months, to make me know what I had gone and done!— I knew it perfectly well at the time— But it was all but impossible for me to go last year, under the circumstances.

I saw Mrs Brookfield three days ago—looking lovely in a new bonnet with large blue flowers, she had just been to get the character of a cook—the one who was having hysterics in their house last May, on account of her Husbands death in the Crimea, being now to marry another soldier! I will call today and tell Mrs Brookfield your words about a shawl—

Poor little Mrs Twislton has been suffering agonies from acute rheumatism—caught at sea on their return from America2— She is now out of bed on a couch in her bedroom, He was so upset by the sight of her sufferings that he actually blasphemed a little, in my own hearing!

Mrs Wedgwood took me last night to hear Lord John lecture in Exeter Hall—and a horrid headach is what I have gained by it— Certainly if Lord John aint particular about the quality of praise he must have had quantity last night to his heart's content— Thousands of young shopmen and shop-women frantically beating with their hands and feet—till their faces were wet with the exertion— I missed much of the lecture, being far off, and Lord John's voice of the feeblest; but what I did hear was only remarkable for its insipidity—good gracious!—if Mr C had been there, I am confident, he would have shied something at the little man, when HE was putting down Dr Johnson, for saying “The Magistrate had a right to persecute and the holder of truth a right to suffer”— It was more of a sermon than a lecture—but what I found most curious; every time his Lordship named “christ,” which was very often, the House thundered applause so loud and long and obstreperous that I expected it always to end in “hip hip hurrah”!— Was it surprise and admiration that a Lord should have heard of christ? Or what was it that set their hands a clapping and feet thumping at that name? One time Lord John had said something very complimentary to Christ, and the applause began—but I heard one man cry ‘order’—‘order’—and another ‘no! no’—3

We were waiting at the door for the carriage when Lord John, with his wife4 on his arm passed out— They were looking as happy as two little children— There were cries of “he's coming! he's coming!”—and the people in the long passage fell back on each side leaving the way clear to the pair—whom they testified their adoration for in a sort of loud purring— But one man, bolder than the rest—(a cheese monger by look) perfectly perspiring with enthusiasm, called out “Thank you!— Thank you Lord John! for—for—the Lecture.” Lord John nodded kindly to him, and said “thank you—for your —” I lost the last word in the hurrahs that recommenced at the sound of his voice— “Oh my! How expensive!5 as “white whiskers”6 remarked on the Virgin & Child

Excuse this horriblest of steel pens

Yours faithfully JWC