JWC TO TC ; 22 July 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580722-JWC-TC-01; CL 34: 64-68
JWC TO TC
5 Cheyne Row Chelsea Thursday [22 July 1858]
I wonder what you made of the letter I wrote you yesterday? Could you so much as read it? If it were legible; it was “more by good luck than good guiding” for I could not steady my hand a moment—nor yet my wits! I was in such a crisis of nervousness, when I wrote that note, that I could almost have wished I had the faculty most women have of falling into hysterics(!) and so working it off! “The history of Panizzi, Sir, was this.”1
I went on Tuesday, according to programme with Mr Larkin, to see his Mother2 and his garden and spend the best of the day in the open air. It was quite a successful little lark, while it lasted. The little house is in the midst of green fields. The mistress of it just such a dear, simple, kindly woman as you can suppose Mr Larkin's Mother to be! All the family seem superior people—one felt well amongst them in the first minute! The dinner was perfectly charming—a roast leg of mutton, very tender and well cooked, and three different kinds of vegetables out of their own garden! nothing else but a rice pudding. No pretension—no fuss—but radiant good humour, and hearty hospitality. Indeed it was not likely but I should be pleased, for they welcomed me as if I had been the Virgin Mary!
A gentleman (a Builder I took him to be) came after dinner with two ladies (his wife and her sister)3 who are devoted readers of yours. And having “a horse and chay” of his own, he insisted on driving me to the Hoxton Omnibus,4 to simplify my journey home—Mr Larkin never leaving me till he saw me in the Omnibus, and hardly to be hindered from coming to Chelsea with me! All “passed off” then, better than the happiest breakfast in Deerbrook!5 till I lay down in bed, when the same fate befell me as after my journey to Richmond. No sleep—fever—coughing tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth &c &c. Still, if I had had fair play, I should have mended after breakfast! but after breakfast I was put into a rage the first thing, and needing to keep myself cool at the same time, while I carried on a discussion that lasted two hours!!
It was very kind of you to say “dont trouble yourself about Bramah, I will pay him.” But it is not in my nature to submit to imposition.6 Paying the money, tho five pounds seven and sixpence was “a great deal for a wee fallow like me” did not trouble me at all in comparison with letting myself be cheated. so while you were saying “never mind,” I was “taking steps.”7 The letter which I wrote on receiving the account, got suppressed on its way to the post office—as too angry for practical purposes. Instead; I sent for Hacking,8 showed him the work done, and got him to estimate the cost. He said he should have considered himself well paid with thirty shillings; but Bramah being further off, and more expensive, he thought I might offer them 2£ 15 / not more!
I then sent Larkin to Bramah's with three proposals, of which they might take their choice.
I would pay them 2£ 15 / or I would let the matter be settled by arbitration, or they might prosecute me for the whole amount in the County Court!
After much discussion with the fat winking old man, who always smells of beer, this much was wrung from him by Larkin that he would “send——the Foreman (!) to look at the job!”—that man whom, I had told him, before the account was sent in, I never wished to see the face of again! So yesterday morning the foreman came, prepared to threep that the one man never was drunk!—never left the work!! and that the other was quite competent!! and that the job required all the time that was charged on it!!!
To reduce such brazen impudence as this to go away content with 3£ 10 / was no slight triumph of female eloquence but “I did it Sir”!9—however the two hours talking, the wrath I had to swallow down, not to put myself at a disadvantage—the force of Will and of logic to be called up left me not worth picking up after the man was gone! For hours I seemed to have got St Vitus's dance in all my veins, and to fix my attention was impossible. Even my weekly letter to Sunny Bank10 that had not missed a single Wednesday since I came from there last year, could not get itself written yesterday! I was so sorry after!
3£ 10/ was fifteen shillings more than I had decided to pay, but Hacking whom I sent for in the course of the dispute, failed me in his “apprehension of Law,” and proposed before the Man that I should give that much.
I learnt from the Foreman that the house of Bramah and Co is reduced to two women and a boy; Mrs Miss & Master Bramah! The man who smells of beer is sole “Manager” and the Foreman is “Superintendent” of Bestige11 nothing was known!
I have been and shall be in many humours about Bay House before I get there but I have bound myself positively to go. I know that I ought to give myself any chance there is of getting rid of this wearing cough. and that a Dr would order me “change of air”—
If I find myself the better for being in the country, and that I cant properly stay there as long as I should be benifited by it; I should then be more disposed, and perhaps a little fitter to take a longer journey.
The worst bother is, that I too must plunge a little into “the cares of cloth” preparatory to an aristocratic visit. My wardrobe has been the very last of my cares latterly! One new gown I have ordered, and I will send the one, given me by Lady Sandwich last Xmas, to be made— But the trash of caps is what plagues me always! How happy men are who wear, at all ages, their own hair, or somebody else's or their own bare skulls!
I have such a life with that sparrow!12 gape-gaping for crowdy whenever I come within three yards of it! And it dont make the least progress in learning to feed itself! And it dont die! as was confidently predicted.
Mrs Forster is to send the Carriage for me today, instead of yesterday as had been arranged, that I may see poor Macready, who came to call for me while I was at Larkin's. It will be a melancholy meeting you know I was godmother and name mother to the girl he has just lost.13
I am not much in order for any outraking today—but better than I was yesterday thank God. The coloured map of your ‘Township’ is a more curious document that I at first supposed. I did not at first notice the names of the streets Look at your map and I can tell you them14
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Jane Welsh Carlyle to Thomas Carlyle, [22 July 1858]
Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland