January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 29 August 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560829-JWC-TC-01; CL 31: 200-202


Auchtertool / Friday [29 August 1856]. Bedroom

There! I have put my foot in it!—I was well to a wonder; hadn't had one hour of my sickness, nor one wholly sleepless night since I left Chelsea! and the idea must needs take me, that Sunday I was in Edinr, to have out my humour to hear Dr Guthrie!1 and so, for two hours I was slowly simmered as in one of Soyer's ‘patent Stewpans’!2 (the crush to hear him being quite as great in Edinr as in London). And then I had to walk to Morningside in a cutting east wind—and then at the far end a miserable refection of weak tea and tough toast, by way of dinner! when I needed to have stimulants “thrown into the system—” (My Aunts “always dinning on tea—on Sunday that the servant may attend both morning and afternoon services”) The consequences of all this bad management was a cold on my nerves, which the crossing next day, and the blowy drive in the dogcart brought to a height! And I have been two whole days in bed “suffering martyrs” (as poor Paulet used to say)3— And am still very poorly tho' today I can sit up and write as you see. Indeed last night I never once closed my eyes.

Nothing could be more illtimed than this illness—two dinner Parties having gone off here in the meantime to my honour and glory! And “gone off without effect” so far as I was concerned—Mr Peter Swan (the other brother) was at the yesterday dinner—Walter thinking, after my speech to the elder Swan,4 that he could not be too hospitable to that Family— Poor Walter! his poor little stipend must be dreadfully perplexed to meet all the demands his munificent spirit makes on it!

Besides these dinner parties we have a house choke full. Jeanie and her Husband5—come over to see me chiefly—and Sophy from Liverpool,6 with “Jackie” a remarkably stirring little gentleman of three and a half years—and another human mite that rejoices as yet in the name of “Baby.” And in the dead watches of the night there will arise a sound of “infants weeping in the porch.”7 And on the whole—it is not now so like paradise here; as it was in my first two weeks. I should have staid still here while the coast was clear and only been going on my Haddington visit now. But above all I should not have gone and got myself all stewed into mush, hearing a popular preacher! tho', out of all sight, the very most eloquent preacher I ever heard—or wish to hear! Never was there such exquisite artistic simplicity! never such gushing affluence of imagery. It reminded me of these god daughters of good Fairies in my nursery Tales who every time they opened their blessed mouths “pearls and rubies rolled out”8— But alas—they were the pearls and rubies of a dream! One brought away none of them in ones pocket; to buy a meal of meat with if one happened to need one.9

So long as it is in my head—please send me three or four autographs for my Aunt Ann to give to some friend of hers10 who has applied to her to beg them of you for some philanthropic purpose or other— I have had a knot in my pocket handkerchief to remind me of this for some time—

As to Samuel Brown—“the history of Samuel Brown is this”11— For seven years he has, as you know, been grievously afflicted with some derangement of the bowels, which was always expected to terminate fatally in iliac passion— Some weeks ago he seemed beyond recovery—and indeed they were watching him for death— At last his bowels being moved by some very strong medecine there was passed a little bone!—a bone of some sort of game—grouse they think—about half an inch long only and this having fixed its sharp end into the bowel had caused (the Drs are positive) his whole illness! He has no recollection of ever swallowing the bone. As it left an open hole in the bowel, and he was already so weak, they did not think he would [be] able to struggle thro the cure—but it is now a good many weeks and he is still alive (I believe) and if he escape the danger of having the bowel closed up in the course of healing the hole in it, he will be restored to perfect health the Drs think!12 All this which I was told by Susan Hunter13 in Edinr was corroborated for me by the poor man's own sister14 at Haddington— Isn't it a strange story? such a poor, little, little cause producing so much torment and misery

I have written till the perspiration is running down my face—not wise! but too well15

Yours faithfully /

Jane W C