October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 5 June 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570605-JWC-MR-01; CL 32: 159-161


5 Cheyne Row—Chelsea Friday [5 June 1857?]

Now my dearest Mary will you mind this? When you have a headach, you are never to make a matter of conscience of writing to me! One does that sort of thing to people one is on ceremony with—people who only believe in one according to one's outward acts and words from moment to moment—but surely you and I are got beyond that surface-state of things—and you might keep me waiting for a letter, till your poor head was out of pain; without risk or fear of my thinking you fickle or negligent. I know that a feverish activity is often an accompaniment or premonitory symptom of headach, and that just because one is ill, and needing perfect rest, one gets into a fuss of mind “about many things” and over exerts oneself needlessly—but you, my Dear, a Drs wife, should have learnt to be on your guard against that false activity and to repress it. If you had not told me you had a headach I should have known it all the same, from the anxious tone of your letter. How many such letters have I myself written under the same physical pressure! Oh don't I know that tone to my cost!

I felt very sorry for you with the worry of new servants a-head; and you so sad and weary! but I dont know but that, like a nauseous medecine, it will be good for you in the long run. I have often found, in looking back that a thing which I had looked forward to with dread, and found detestable when I was in it, had been the very best thing that could have happened for me—the very thing I needed, to rouse me, or to calm me down, to cure me of some morbidness or other, and bring me back to a healthy practical being. Good Heavens how tormented I used to be at Craigenputtoch with the incapicity of my servants! and how hard I felt it that I should have to bake bread, and make cheeses, and all that sort of thing; “I who hadn't been brought up to it”— my Dear! but that for that very bother with the Practical I should have—gone mad at Craigenputtoch! as sure I am now sane! No woman brought up as I had been—with the vehement nature and romantic ideas I then had—could have lived four years at that place and kept her senses; without a good heavy load of practical difficulties and annoyances to keep her down to the firm earth!

I shall be very relieved however to hear that the new servants bid fair to suit. At all events you will be delivered from the sore feeling you must have had to the old ones, who had failed you in your time of need. It is miserable to live under the same roof, and in the constant presence of anyone whose hardness and coldness is like a wall of ice, that all one's sympathies break themselves against!

My Anne, I am thankful to say, gets more human every year. The manner she had acquired in her London services, gradually thaws under my persevering efforts to get at her heart. Perhaps someday she will get really “attached” to me! at present, after four years and a half's trial; she rather approves of me as a woman and a mistress! and has no thought of leaving me! Which I am glad of for she is a capital Servant—and gives entire satisfaction to Mr C, who is in fact not easy to satisfy! of course I should like her better if she had warmer feelings—still; the faults one knows and has used one'self to are far preferable to those one has to learn.—

I was greatly benefitted by my visit at Easthampstead Park1— The people were adorably kind, and the place like—Scotland! Large tracts of heather and whins and plantations of Scotch fir. The house is a very grand old “rambling” house, which was given by James 2d to the Ancestor of the present Marquis.2 But except the grandeur of the place and the establishment there was no other grandeur to freeze or alarm one— Such a natural family I have not seen in England. It was like living in one of the old english novels for me. I could have fancied myself Evelina or Cecilia3 or some one of these fortunate Heroines, who as sure as fate, always, at one time or other, went to visit “a Marchioness” and had a charming time of it.

Now I am back to the heat and dust and the noise!—and Mr C saying no word of moving anywhere! He is so busy that he hasn't leisure to notice how thin and pale and weak I am and being content here himself at present has no notion how much I need a change, and I am so childish in these things that I dont like to call his attention to the fact!4

My kindest love to Dr Russell

Your ever affectionate

Jane W Carlyle