October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 15 March 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570300-JWC-MR-01; CL 32: 103-105


Chelsea, ‘[mid-]March, 1857.’

My dearest Mary— … If only you could get back your sleep, Darling! It is dreadful when sorrow1 cannot have the relief which nature has appointed it in sleep, in forgetfulness, but must be endured by night as well as by day! and every sad image that presents itself is thrown out in such gigantic relief on the darkness, and made so haggard by bodily weariness! … There is nothing I feel so much sympathy with as sleeplessness; for there is nothing I have suffered so much from myself. However kindly disposed one may be, it needs always that one should understand another's trouble before one can rightly sympathise with it. My comfort about you is, that your Husband, besides being a kind Husband, is a skilful Doctor; and whatever can be done to overcome your wakefulness will assuredly be done. Do you know he has helped me to get better sleep, by what he said when I was at Thornhill, about the injuriousness of Morphia, and such things. … I have also abstained from something else Dr. Russell did not prohibit, nay rather by example inculcated; I take no tea,—only what they call in Scotland “content”—not even that quite, for I take milk and water without sugar. For the rest, I am decidedly recovering now. And even while your mind must needs be full of your own sad loss, I know you are unselfish enough and love me enough to be interested in what I write of myself, and glad that it is so favourable. I have been out four times in a carriage; and I feel stronger body and mind. The cough is not gone yet but there is no pain connected with it now; and it will need warmer weather to break the habit of coughing. I was beginning to think with Dr. Russell that I had taken a too serious responsibility on myself in doctoring myself thro’ this last illness; but now I am glad, for any of these slapdash medical eminences who had seen me a few weeks ago not knowing how many of the same sort of seizures I have weathered, would for certain have ordered me to Madeira, or the south of Italy,—to the complete upsetting of one's domestic convenience, and the progress of Frederick the Great! It is seventeen years now, since a Doctor Morrah,2 who attended me here, in such another illness, told me I “should never live through another Winter in England!!” He was a man of high reputation, whom I shouldn't have disliked having again, but he died soon after. Well, I resolved when the next Winter came, to stay and take my chance! and I have lived 19 Winters in England; and ten of them I have walked about in the coldest frosts, at the rate of six or ten miles a day! To be sure the Pitcher goes often to the well and gets broken at last.3 This time again, however, the poor little brittle Pitcher will come back from the well whole, I think; or with only a little crack in it. And cracked things often hold as long as whole things,—one takes so much better care of them.

The last two or three days, I have been more anxious about my maid than about myself; she has excellent health; has not been an hour unable for her work since she came to us three and a half years ago! But the other day she cut her finger severely; did not come to tell me, but fussed on with it herself; and it bled half a pint, and was badly wrapped up; and kept her awake all the night after, with the pain of it. To which I impute the billious attack she had the next day. She is going about again now quite well, only a little weak; but for three days I had two strangers,—that is to say, new hands in the house (I have one of them still), to fill her one place—and so inadequately! And I had to wait on her myself, instead of being waited on.

I must tell you an instance of Ann's gentility: it was in shaving a bath-brick4 that she cut her finger. To-day when she opened the door to the Lady Alice Hill5 (a lovely girl whom Ann respects very much as the Daughter of a real live Marchioness),6 Lady Alice, who is the most bewitching little monkey in the world, said, “Oh Ann, what ails your hand?” “I have cut it, my Lady.” “How did you cut it?” “Well, I did it in cutting up a—fowl!!” She told me this substitution herself. “You know Ma'am,” said she, in telling of Lady Alice's kind enquiries, “I couldn't go and say to a real young Lady that I did it cutting a bath-brick! that sounded so common! I thought a fowl was more the thing!!”

… I will write soon again.

Your affectionate /