July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO TC ; 9 July 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580709-JWC-TC-01; CL 34: 21-26


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea / Friday [9 July 1858]

Oh my Dear! I am very sorry! But indeed I wrote on Wednesday; and I hope you have by this time got my letter. There is evidently some carelessness somewhere; for the Westminster and the Herald1 were sent off by the same post. Again—this morning—you will have been disappointed; for yesterday I failed to write, being in the valley of the shadow of Castor,2 and too spiritless for anything. The cold had got into my chest “eventually”;3 I was coughing myself sick and sore; so I went and wildly took an ounce of castor, at noon!

Mrs Hawkes came to ask for me—the only person let in— “Oh I don't know what to make of myself today,” I said to her— “Yes—said she “I dont like the looks of you at all; I have seldom seen a more seedy party!

I dont think it was Mrs Forster who had made me worse (but if my letter have not reached; you wont know about Mrs Forster!4— anyhow I can't recapitulate—) The cares of Luncheon” were left wholly to Mrs Newnham; and I lay on the sofa and listened more than talked. Mrs F gabbs like a little millclapper when she has any ideas; the Dickenses5 and Bulwers6 have given her plenty at present! Nothing had made me worse, so far as I know—worse “by visitation of God”7 that was all! What would make me better was the question; so I tried a doze of Castor oil, and I think with advantage. I slept last night some five hours; and tho my cough is still tearing, my aches and pains are greatly abated. It is not weather at present to get rid of a cold in. Today for example is sharp and blowy like October.

Meanwhile I must not worry myself with projects! I believe to travel to Scotland just now, or to take any long journey whatever would be as much as my life is worth. When I am out of this, we can “conseder”!8 The objection to going to Scotland is the having to come back. One scatters all one's little gains of health on the long rapid journey. Even if I felt equal to the journey I should hardly like going to the Russells “at once.” Mrs Russell is “counting on me,” but that is because Mrs Aitken met her in Dumfries and told her I was coming—without knowing anything about it. Mrs Russell then wrote to me expressing her gladness at the news—but I could see thro her words that the depression of spirits and nervous trepidation still continuing since Mr Dobies death,9 made the prospect of a visit from me as alarming as pleasing. Then, I confess I myself am alarmed at the idea of Thornhill in my present perfectly cowardly frame of mind, the dreadfull need I feel of my Mother would make it almost insupportable, all that!— As for Dr Russell; I would rather consult him than any Dr here; but what good could any Dr do but tell me to take care of myself—? My constitution is completely worn out—my nerves, my spirits worn out! Can all the Drs on earth renew nerves and spirits?— You are indeed sanguine if you imagine any “air” any Dr; any anything can ever make me into a healthy or even approximately healthy woman again— You will have to just put up with me, as I am; even as I put up with myself as I am—for the rest of my appointed time.

I dont mean, that if this explosion of Cold were over I should be wholly disinclined to stir but I should like to do it on very easy terms.

Miss Baring10 has invited me to Bay House—with leave to wear high dresses and caps. If she had said for how long and the term of the visit made it worth the trouble of packing up &c I would have fixed positively to go, so soon as I was up to travelling. As it is, the matter remains hanging in the air. Like so much else with me!— Perhaps I may get up a little fit of strength and courage by the end of the month—and when Dr Carlyle and his “poor Boys”11 evacuate Scotsbrig for that sacred fortnight, actually join you there, and go afterwards to Mrs Pringle12—and to Mrs Russell in passing—who can say what he may not do?

It does not strike me as probable that I shall be strong enough for going all that way. still I have many a time out-gone the probable—

I have a great many curious things to tell you but my shoulders do ache so when I sit up!— Have you heard of Bulwer putting his wife into confinement—?13

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Title Page of Extraordinary Narrative of an Outrageous Violation of Liberty and Law

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland


All the Aristocracy are coming to—Cremorne (!) tonight—public excluded—14

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Punch, 17 July 1858


Dont fret about my being alone here—Charlotte is a good biddable clever little creature. Even my food is much better than Ann made it. Nero is wonderfully well, tho' getting no exercise beyond what he takes in the garden. The Canary continues to tumble off its perch and I to lift it up! What a blessing to have somebody to always lift one up when one falls off the perch! Good by Dear! Dont let the Dromedary shake you too much!

Yours ever /

Jane W Carlyle