January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO KATE STERLING ; 14 May 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560514-JWC-KS-01; CL 31: 95-97


5 Cheyne Row Wednesday [14th May 1856]

Darling! No letter from you, nor from anyone, was ever welcomer! I was not expecting it; I had taken leave of you, Kate Sterling that day when I opened the door for you, and you walked out into the rain—without an umbrella!1— I had returned to the fireside and taken “a good cry,” because I should see or hear no more of you; till you should reappear from over the horizon as Mrs Ross;2 and did I know whether I should like Mrs Ross, as well as I had liked Kate Sterling? It “might be strongly doubted”3 (as they say in Edinr). Certainly Mrs Ross would not like me as well, or anything like as well, as that dear, romantic, impetuous Kate had done!— And was there not here matter enough for crying?—if one have a tendency to cry.

God bless you Dear! I ought to say all sorts of sensible and encouraging things to you at the present crisis,— —“improve the occasion” in fact—but I can say nothing but just this short and simple prayer—God bless you!

After all I have never found the least good, myself, in what others say to us, either for comfort or edification! One must work out for oneself every lesson of Life, or it is merely like a mathematical proposition learnt by rote—turn the figure upside down, or change the letters, and you stand confounded in your pretensious ignorance! Ah Heaven Yes! Havn't I, for example been privileged for the last quarter of a century, to hear “the Greatest Thinker of the age” denouncing the sins and shortcomings of the World, the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, and have I hated and despised the world's ways a bit the more for all that—? “quite the contrary”; I turn sorry for the poor bad world, and every feeling of mercy and generosity in me is roused to take its part! that is the effect of exhortation on me,—being of a contradictory turn. My dearest, I heard a great deal in praise of your future Husband from a friend of ours Mr Masson the other night. He had been at college along with him.4 If he make you happy—that is if he help you in making yourself happy (for I dont believe in any mortal's power to make another either happy or miserable) I shall like him at first hand5If he dont—! just mention to him, casually, that I have two daggers—and the spirit of a Charlotte Corday, or Clocking Hen6 where you are in the case.

I met Mr Maurice7 last Wednesday night at a huge Soirée at Bath House.8 He looked to me white and lean—not fit to be THERE,—unless to denounce us all as a pack of idlers and fools! which he did not do; while I staid.— Pity!—

We took with us to that party, at Lady A's request, Mr Ruskin! And considering how people have stared at that man—ever since he had the happiness to be divorced by his wife, I displayed, I think, a certain force of mind in taking his arm to go in, instead of Mr Carlyle's and getting myself announced “Mrs Carlyle and Mr Ruskin”! How horribly ill bred people are,—as a general rule!

I have had no news either from or of the Colonel since I saw you—that reminds me of Mrs Tierny;9 She and her idiot-husband10 have been hanging—like ravens—over the deathbed of Sir Edward Tierny the Husbands father11—and they are now in the agonies of “waiting for the opening of the Will.” Ann Farrer12 is rushing about telling all her friends that “the old man” had called Mary “My dear Child” and “added in a whisper you will find I have not forgotten you.

I really should take a malicious pleasure (I fear) in hearing that the remembrance had amounted to fifty pounds for a mourning ring, instead of the twelve thousand a year they hope for— Oh my dear it is the most hopeless symptom of your uncle that I know of—his partiality for these people before all his oldest friends and own flesh and blood—they are such worldly minded, trashy people!

Darling Kate I clasp you to my heart with the warmest truest kisses

Your affectionate

Jane Carlyle