August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO LADY AIRLIE ; 11 September 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570911-JWC-LAI-01; CL 33: 77-79


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea / Friday

[11 September 1857]

Dear Lady Airlie

Decidedly a large lump of angel (whatever else!) must have gone to making you! or you wouldn't have written me this nice letter, while the former was still unanswered. The fact is; that former letter found me in “a bilious crisis”1—no less!—a sort of crisis as engrossing for the ordinary mind as that other which foreign réfugiés call par excellencethe state of crisis”; meaning thereby “cleanness of teeth.2— I “did design” to write you a long letter so soon as I was restored to my normal state; but meanwhile the day was just at hand for your leaving Cortachy3 (according to the intentions expressed in your letter) so I made a compromise between my wishes and my powers, and directed to you that touching photograph, which had just been transmitted from London, by the bewitched Artist,4 who spends his life in photographing Mr C and his belongings in every possible phase!

Later—when I was up to writing—I didn't know your address—a “Forrest” in Space seemed too vague. Besides; during the fortnight I staid with my Aunts at Morningside (Ednr), I was so preached to (at the rate of five sermons a-day!) and prayed for morning noon and night, “before meat” and “after meat” that I got quite bewildered and stupified; and when I could escape to my own room, it was not to read or write, but just, like the Piper's Cow, to “consider”—arriving too at much the same conclusion.

“The Cow considered wi hersell
Music would ne’er fill her;
Gie me a lock o’ wheat stra
And sell yer wind for siller!”5

From Morningside (the Scotch Campo Santo [cemetery]6) I returned to my dear old Ladies at Haddington—and spent another blessed fortnight with them— The day before yesterday I took leave of them at eight in the morning—the younger sister (84) WOULD come down to pour out my tea at half after seven! The oldest I took leave of in her bed—she covered my face with kisses and tears! and when, ten minutes after, I passed her door, which was a little a-jar I hear her weeping and sobbing like a young girl! My heart was like to break at the sound of it—

I found my luggage increased by a hamper and a deal box!— When opened at Chelsea the hamper was found to contain no end of honey and honeycomb and preserves &c—and in the deal box there was a magnificent silver-bread-basket!— But none of these things comforted me so much under our parting as something that befell me at the outset of my journey. I had taken my seat in an empty railway carriage and was crying on as if I should never stop again, when a voice said “Mrs Carlyle”!— I looked up, and saw a gentleman7 leaning over the door— It was a man who had loved me thirty five years ago! and I had seen him just once, for a few minutes, since! Moreover he has had two wives since;8 and has a son married!9— “Mrs Carlyle”; he repeated, looking as agitated as if it had been thirty five years ago—“I am going with you to Longniddry to look after the shifting of your luggage—I couldn't resist it”! And he came into the carriage, and I dried my tears to thank him; and he not only saved me all bother—but found at Longniddry a gentleman10 going all the way to London whom he gave me in charge to—and I never made the long journey more smoothly in my life— They call men “inconstant”—“heartless” No such thing! I have seen far mor[e] constancy and deep disinterested affection in men than in Women—with all their row about “devotion”—“self-sacrifice” and so on!

My Dear; you offer me a haunch of venison—now as neither Mr C nor I eat venison—and as no dinner-parties come off in this house, here it would be clearly a superfluity. Still, if you can easily give me the thing; I should like to have it to give away—to my cousins at Auchtertool who eat and feel no “consequences” and who have at the rate of two dinner parties a-week.

If you would order the thing to be addressed to Mrs Carlyle / Auchtertool Manse / Kircaldy / I could write and inform them I wish them to keep it—

If you think this too much to require—by no means do it—I shan't be disappointed—only dont send it here—there is no creature in town to give it to—and as I have said with ourselves it is no go

I will tell you some books next time—but at this moment I am belated— God bless you—

Yours very faithfully / Jane W Carlyle