October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO GEORGE LILLIE CRAIK ; 5 May 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570505-JWC-GLC-01; CL 32: 139-141


5 Cheyne Row / Tuesday [5 May 1857]

Ill”? dear Mr Craik! I should think so! When, in the memory of man, was I ever well? And didn't I tell you in my last letter, that I was confined to the house with a protracted cold, which I had no expectation to shake off till warm weather come? I put it to you as a man of veracity and candour if warm weather have come yet! I am not however so ill as I was; my cough is all but gone I get about half instead of a tithe of the sleep normal to Human beings, and I eat certainly as much as Nero eats, or rather, is allowed to eat. When the Eastwind has blown itself out, which wont be (Mr C's tailor1 says) till “the 26 of June”; I expect to be “about” to more or less purpose.

Et tu Brute!2 Oh how could you fill so much of your paper3 with the Life of Miss Bronte.4 a topic I have got to almost scream at the first word of! I am so sick of Mrs Gaskell,5 Miss Bronte poor thing,6 and all that “day of (literary) small things”!7 I dont think I am malevolent the least in the world, I cant usually be at the trouble to hate people enough to wish them ill; but upon my honour it was with a sensation wonderfully like pleasure, that I heard from dear old John Richardson8 two days since, a prosecution is commenced against Mrs Gaskell by “that woman” whom she has so needlessly, indelicately and cruelly gibbeted. Who the Devil wanted to know the amours of a low scamp like young Bronte? And who constituted Mrs Gaskell the avenging Deity of public morals? Is no woman to be obscure enough for escaping the prying eyes of bookmakers and penny a liners? I am so glad Lady Scott has had the courage to step forward and say; “you mean me, and you lie.9 And I hope Mrs Gaskell will be made to know that “A Nemesis” may “follow” a woman in Paternoster Row as well as in Mayfair10 Sir George Stephen11 who has undertaken the prosecution has telegraphed to Rome, where Mrs Gaskell, having thrown her poisoned shaft in to “that woman's” heart and life (she thought) had gone to disport herself with her two daughters,12 leaving her Husband (this Rhadamantha13 of conjugal life) to nurse the younger children and keep the house, as he has to do one half the year! And desired Mrs Gaskell to come home and defend herself against the charge of defamation— Lady Scott denies the whole accusation and declares Mr Bronte to have been mad and a great liar— Her Husbands will, she says, contained no mention of Bronte whatever—and he left his fortune to her without a single condition. I am the readier to believe the poor woman innocent or at least nothing like so bad as Mrs G has painted her; because I have had the evidence of my own senses that Mrs G speaks too fast, and nothing she narrates is to be wholly relied on— The novel writer tendency to dramatise everything, the desire to ingratiate herself as a popular Lioness, and (I think) a natural deficiency of precision both in her thoughts and feelings make her I have found a person rather dangerous to associate with.14

As for Whitty, I think he needs to be covered up, and left to stand—like a barrel of gooseberry wine—till he settles and clears—I do dislike that sort of working drummly stuff; however much spirit there may be in it15

I am anxiously looking for Georgina's Book16She wont empty her mind out, dregs and all, in that nasty impertinent fashion but will pour off the wine clear, I expect—

Carlyle says he knows nothing of that College17—“never heard of it and does not wish to hear of it!”

Love to the girls18

Yours affly /

Jane W Carlyle