August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO MARY CARLYLE AUSTIN ; 30 April 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580400-JWC-MCA-01; CL 33: 212-214


5 Cheyne Row / Saturday [April/May? 1858]

Dearest Mary

It hasn't been thro negligence, I assure you, that I have allowed so many days to pass without fulfilling your small wish. thro' the very opposite of negligence it has been!—thro a desire on my part to do the thing better than well—a very pernicious tendency in female human nature, as I have had frequent opportunities to observe in my own experience as well as other peoples—for in wishing to do a thing better than well, one often enough fails to do it at all!

I should have liked, you see, to send you the picture, framed; but if there is amongst “created objects” anything more apt to get broken in the carriage than EGGS, it is precisely glazed picture-frames!!— I have tried sending one over and over again and always “the wreck was total”—for not only does the glass get broken but the broken glass scratches and spoils the picture— There is one way in which I have conveyed the thing safely, and that is amongst my clothes, in my own trunk. But unfortunately I am not at liberty to start for the Gill just at present—with my trunk! and the only other resource I could think of was to have the photograph put in one of those leather cases that shut, if there were any such of sufficient size. That I could only inform myself about at a shop on the other side of London, and the only two fine days since I got your letter, up to yesterday I was obliged by what Mr C calls “a pressure of Things,” to drive in another direction— So it was only yesterday that I satisfied myself there was no case, of the size needed, procurable; and now I do what I should have done at the first—send the photograph without a frame, and the frame will come in my trunk, when, please God, I go to Scotland this summer or autumn! There is a sencond1 copy of the photograph of the horse2—which Mr C says Jamie at Scotsbrig is to have “if he care for it”—of course I should think he would care for it!—So take your choice and give him one of them the first safe opportunity.

I send you a most extraordinary likeness of Mr C—which will give you if not much satisfaction at least, a hearty laugh. He has a trick of always turning his eyes out of his head when he is being “taken” the consequences of which are truly awful! There are also two photographs of his STUDY—in which you will recognise the old table, fire-screen3 &c &c—

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Firescreen and fireplace in the attic study, by Robert Tait, 29 July 1857

Courtesy of Edinburgh University Library


I am writing like a house on fire—having an appointment to go and see a sick friend4 for which I shall hardly be in time—But I couldnt bear to let two more days pass—(tomorrow is Sunday) I should like to hear that the packet reachs you without injury. in testimony thereof just send back the newspaper I will send along with this note—with two strokes—It will save you the trouble of writing till you have a longer and better letter from me to answer—

In break-neck-haste Your ever affectionate

Jane W Carlyle