August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 2 October 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18571002-JWC-MR-01; CL 33: 92-94


5 Cheyne Row

[2 October 1857]

Dearest Mary

I couldn't for shame write to you last week—for I couldn't in writing have withheld the fact that I had—got a shocking bad cold!—(again!)— Really I found myself making apologies, and explaining the cause to every body who came in—as if it had been a punishable offence against society I was committing. Harriet Martineau used to say of me, with that show of accuracy never accurate which distinguishes her: “Jane Carlyle has eight Influenzas annually; I wonder how she survives it”! Now it is getting to be one Influenza lasting all the year round— However I must not lose heart; tho it was disappointing to fall ill just when I had been taking all that trouble to strengthen myself, and with tolerable success apparently— But really I should have needed the thick skin of a horse, instead of being “born without skin” as the germans call those born, (as I was) in the seventh month;1 to resist the masked batteries of cold air, Mr C brought to bear on me during the east wind ten days ago! He has a mania about “fresh air,” this man—and is never happy unless all the doors and windows are open. From open violence of draughts I can partly defend myself; wearing a cloak and bonnet the same as if I were out of doors! &c—but when he surreptitiously opens a window at my back (the back of my seat) when I am out of the room, and the curtains are drawn over it, I often receive my first notice of the fact in the form of a sore throat— As he never takes cold himself, he can't be made to understand how sitting between two open cross windows, at midnight, in an east wind, should not be excessively bracing and healthy for me!— However I have had the weather in my favour, and seem to be getting over the attack which was sharp enough while it lasted—

I was really thankful to hear from you— For I had been working myself into a worry about your health.—That being the rock a-head with myself always—; I am apt to fancy it every bodys rock a head, when there is any delay I dont understand—

I hope to hear of you from my Aunt Ann more particularly than you ever tell me about yourself— Grace wrote the other day that she (Ann)2 was gone to “her beloved Dumfriesshire” but didn't say to what place of it first.

Poor Mrs Scott!3 What horrid anxiety she must be kept in! I thank God I have nobody belonging to me in India just now. It is miserable enough to think of the wretchedness of those who have! I fear it will be long enough before there is any safety for those who are there, or any peace for their friends at home. All the Indian officers I have seen, who have any sense, and experience of India think very badly of our chances of reducing it back to tranquility and if Madras and Bombay join the revolt they think we shall lose India altogether.

I wait anxiously to see what Sir Colin Campbell will do4— The one sensible thing one has seen done by the Home Government was sending him.

My London Friends are almost all gone into the Country and the Town looks strangely dull—the more so from our having been used to spend this part of the year at the Grange— Lord Ashburton has been in the Highlands deer-stalking as usual, and is going to Ireland with some friends—not being able to face the Grange— He thought of going to India—for a resource!—but was advised off that scheme,— It is not so much sorrow that troubles him one would say, as bewilderment— He looks like a child who had lost his nurse in a wood— I expect some scheming woman will marry him up—not because he is likely to care for anybody, but because he does [not]5 know what to do with himself, and would be glad that some one took the trouble of him off his hands.

Ann goes on well— I was afraid her temper might suffer under the loss of absolute mistressship—but she has stood it pretty well, and her qualities and capabilities as a servant come out very strong in comparison with the Servants at Auchtertool—where it is “toil and trouble”6 from morning till night—with three regular servants and two supernumuaries—and nothing able to go on without Maggie fussing and fuming like a little steam engine! I wouldnt lead such a life! but Maggie seems to like it! and as Walter seems to think dinner parties the chief end of life, it is well for her she does like it— But it made me both sad and angry to see such waste—of every thing—time and strength and human faculty as well as of money— Mary was fast falling into her old bad way when I was there—which I did not wonder at, considering the late and perfectly irregular hours they kept and the stew of hot over crowded rooms—but Dr Dewar7 put her on milk diet again—and under orders—and I hear she is improving— But oh dear it is a precarious life hers and its precariousness not sufficiently recognised by either herself or others— As for Jeanie (Mrs Chrystal with her infant and its two six feet high nurses—attending her about shed a series of visits— Such an affected bedizzened! caricature of a fine Lady I never came across I could hardly keep my hands off her— My Mother always predicted what she would grow to—

Yours affly / J W C

love to the Dr