January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO MARGARET WELSH ; 10 January 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560110-JWC-MW-01; CL 31: 3-5


The Grange, / Thursday [10 January 1856]

MY DEAR MARGARET,—Your kind letter was very welcome indeed, and I ought to have answered it sooner. But if one did all the things one ought to do; where would be the use of that prayer in the church-service for those who ‘leave undone the things they ought to have done’1—one must make an omission now and then just out of respect for the Prayerbook—which is infallible.

I wasn't poisoned after all—only nearly so—and I am now sleeping a little, without morphine; and feel as well as, perhaps rather better than when I left home. For the rest; I can't say I have been as happy as I ought to be; considering that I have lived all these weeks in a perpetual whirl of talent and wit, and that I have had champagne to dinner every day!! God help me! what a number of ‘distinguished’ men have passed through this house since I came into it! even men of science—(tell John)2—we had Dr. Carpenter and a Mr. Grove for three days;3 and Dr. Carpenter amused the company every evening—at least the female part of it which chose to be so amused—with a small travelling microscope!— I like Mr. Grove best—because he is bad at sleeping and we compared our night-experiences together and got quite friendly on that basis. I wish Colonel Sykes had been among them—as I should like to make a little more love to him for John's sake.4 Then there have been Poets; Alfred Tennyson among them, going about asking everybody if they like his Maud—and reading Maud aloud—and talking of Maud, Maud, Maud, till I wished myself far away among people who only read and wrote prose or who neither read nor wrote at all.5—Oh Heavens! Yes! I am getting to the same conclusion as George Sand, that the only pleasant people to associate with are the idiots!6

I think there must have been about sixty or seventy people staying here since we came—every one of them nearly pretending to be ‘one and somewhat.’ The only two perfectly unaffected and human individuals were Lord Bessborough and his wife, the daughter of a Duke.7 They ‘put on strong shoes’ and went out together to take long walks, under an umbrella in the rain—and I couldn't but think how much less pretension I have always observed in people of really high rank, than in the philosophers and novelists who make believe to rail at rank.

There was too, an old Scotch engineer for two days, called Fairbairn,8 whose broad Scotch pleased me so much that I sat next him at dinner both days and paid him delicate attentions, to which he seemed duly sensible. Henry Drummond I was also glad to meet because I could talk with him about Edward Irving.9 At present we are in a stratum of Oxford Professors—one of them the stupidest looking mortal I ever saw in a coat and trowsers—I can hardly help screaming with horror every time I look at him10— Another of these Oxford Professors has his wife with him—on the strength of her being ‘a beautiful Greek’ and called Zoe— She is the insipidest little thing you ever saw under the name of a beauty—and after all it was only the mother of her that was a Greek—her father being a Scotchman.11

We go home on Monday however—out of it all. The Ashburtons go to town on Monday themselves, on a visit of three days to the Queen at Windsor so there is no fear of our being asked to stay beyond the month—and of Mr. C. consenting.

I shall go to see you in your new quarters very soon12—kind love to John

Yours affectionately / JANE W C 13