August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO TC ; 30 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570830-JWC-TC-01; CL 33: 57-59


Sunny Bank / Sunday

[30 August 1857]

Thanks! you are really a good correspondent—considering. Wherever I have been, praises have been showered on your “punctuality in writing”—your “attention to me” &c &c. But it isn't “with the reciprocity all on one side”!1 tho' nobody praises my punctuality in writing—my attention to you!— Oh my Dear! I was prettily frightened in finishing up my last letter! I had reason to believe I was taking ‘A COLD’ (in my emphatic sense of the word!) and what was to become of me? how was I to get home? Worse and worse I grew all the evening, my skin burning and violent pains in my face and back! By a decided inspiration of Nature, I asked Miss Jess to give me a stiff little tumbler of Hollands Toddy!!!2 I drank it off, and retired to bed, while the intoxication lasted; fell into the soundest, longest sleep I had had for some years! and got up next morning as well as ever!

But how I wish now, I had my long journey safely over! If I could only like “the Princess of China” (in the Arabian Nights) be carried thro the air, asleep in my bed, and set down on the roof of my own house!3 I fear far more the journey back than I did the journey hither. I seemed then to have nothing to lose—now, I am so desirous, (God knows, for your sake as well as for my own) to take back my little gains of strength, and sleep, and cheerfulness unbroken in upon by any exposure or fatigue. Oh Dear! that one should ever live to have to bother so much about oneself! I have been considering about making two days of the journey, and would do it, if I could find a travelling companion, or had any known house to put up at in the road. But all alone in a Railway Hotel! no amount of Hollands, I fancy, could put me to sleep in that circumstance!

Well— no more about it just now, for I haven't yet fixed my day! haven't been up to speaking of it! It takes more courage than I have always at hand now a days, to answer the pleadings of these dear old old women with; ‘I must’ ‘I will’!

Meanwhile I am reading the sheets to them—they most likely will not live to see the finished Book— You never saw more ardent listeners! My Godmother with her head bent forward, hearkening with her blind eyes as well as her ears, might sit for a picture of Attention! And every now and then one or other asks some question, or makes some remark that shows how intelligently they listen Miss Jess said one good thing, “To look merely to the wording, it is so brief so concise, that one would expect some obscurity in the narrative or at least that it would need a great effort of attention to understand it; instead of which the meaning is as clear as glass.” and Miss Donaldson said—

“I see more than ever in this, my Dear, what I have always seen in Mr Carlyle's Books; and what I think distinguishs him from all the Writers of the present day; a great love of Truth—and what is more (observe the fine discrimination!) a perfect detestation of Lies!

I was afraid having to read in a voice so high pitched, my reading would not do justice to the thing. but—Miss Donaldson asked me last night. “My Dear, does Mr Carlyle read—what he writes to you bit by bit”? “Oh dear no!—he does not like reading aloud.” “Then I suppose you read it often over to yourself? For I was noticing that in reading those sheets, you did it so—so—natural like; just as if it was coming out of your own head!”

You may well say what a letter of Lord Ashburtons! Curious! that man seems in a general way so sweet-natured; and yet the only sentiment I ever see him express in a real human way is anger! Several times, for moments, I have seen him really, humanly angry. (tho' shriekily and hysterically enough) but all the rest of his sentiments (his grief included) seem no more really HIS than the sentiments of Macbeth are William Macready's indeed not so much! He plays the part of his own Life like a third rate actor who cant identify himself for a moment with the feelings he has got to express—unless you make him angry!

Poor little Mrs Royston!— I am sure Chancellor's Dunghill4 is concerned in this! Mrs Royston herself has never had a weeks health in that house. And the Hazzlets5 were always ill in it and left it on account of the Dunghill— It is a shame that, with so much fuss making about drainage,6 such a thing should be permitted— I am quite sure its mischief reaches in hot nights to own own7 house— I was dreaming last night about going to some strange House—among strange people—to make representations about cocks!8 I went on my knees at last, weeping, to an old man with a cast metal face and grey hair, and while I was explaining all about how you were an author and couldnt get sleep for these new cocks, my Auditor flounced off, and I became aware he was the man9 who had three serpent-daughters and kept people in glass bottles in Hoffmans Tale!10 I forget his name—but knew it well enough in my dream—a kiss to Nero—

Yours ever JWC