August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 31 December 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18571231-JWC-MR-01; CL 33: 144-145


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [31 December 1857]

My dearest Mary

I have been soothing my conscience, and, what is more to the purpose, my heart by promising myself to write you a long, long letter, for your “first foot.1 and now I must restrict myself to a short one; my head being in such a state with want of sleep—almost total—for a week past—that it is quite a severe labour for me to put my words into setences, and one that I had best not apply myself to. My cousins Maggie and Mary have been here about a fortnight—and left last week—and I have felt as if a whole troop of cavalry had ridden over me, and there wasn't a bit of my body whole! It is curious how two really well-disposed girls could manage to so completely upset a household! But, upon my honour, habits of self indulgence and, confirmed thoughtlessness are more troublesome to others, I often think, than some vices! Mr C alone escaped “consequences”; for he hardy saw them for a few minuts in the day, and his work, his meals all that was his was strictly gaurded from disturbance! But the strain of constituting oneself a human partition-wall betwixt work and trifling, takes more out of one than any one could believe till he tried! And so my sleep went! At an early stage of the business Ann's temper went—tho' she had a regular cook2 to help her; and it hasnt come back yet, her temper! the beautiful pair of new tortoise shell—spectacles (!) I gave her on Xmas day hardly got thanks! I have a good mind to send you her photograph, that you may see exactly how she looks—out of humour—and pity me accordingly!—

I do not understand quite how it is with Mary Welsh— She adheres to her invalid habits so far as they are pleasant to her—breakfasts in bed—gets up after midday—is dainty beyond any thing I ever saw in her eating—keeps her bedroom constantly like a hot-house—but no amount of amusement, of sight-seeing, of dressing is too much for her! She staid out often till after dark—up to two or three different picture galleries in one day! Every time I went out with them I was fagged off my feet— Clearly she had twice the strength I have—who made a point of coming down to breakfast!—

But this is not particularly applicable to a new years morning! God bless you my Darling—and may the coming year console you over the past—your grief cannot wear out3—ever!—with the warm heart you have—but you may get more strength to bear it, and absorb it. My affectionate regards to your Husband I am sending him some photograph of Mr Carlyle— —and I am sending you a little clasp for your cloak, of the newest pattern. tho’, that wont signify to you as it does to my cousins—Mercy! that Auchtertool Manse shouldn't have stilled their enthusiasm for “Miss Clark” and fine clothes. Miss Clark is the same dressmaker and milliner (their dressmaker & milliner still—while living at Auchtertool!) whose bill of two thousand pounds for one year—against some Lady figured the other day in the newspapers! The sovereign you will kinly dispense as usual—4

And now I kiss you and bless you with all my heart— Next time I hope my letter will be better worth reading and more legible too!—

Your ever affectionate

Jane W Carlyle

I have seen poor Mrs Pringle & her Sister— Dr Pringle is dying fast5— Mrs P looked pale and thin but was very calm and unaffected her sad serenity was more touching than any violence of emotion could have been