July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO TC ; 30 July 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580730-JWC-TC-01; CL 34: 86-88


5 Cheyne Row / Friday [30 July 1858]

Here it is Dear! I found I was going to have no peace if I waited till Saturday on the chance of your sending the key, or remembering where you put it, which was as good as no chance at all! So, after another fruitless search, I sent for Hacking1 to pick the lock. But “Providence did show some little mercy” (as Grace Macdonald2 said when her arm was broken and not the glass of her watch) Hacking brought with him a bag full of keys, one of which opened the top, shallow drawer; and in that lay the key of the top part— The passport was in one of the pigeon holes. Hacking said it was too good a lock to have spoiled with picking and that one might have tried a thousand keys without getting one to fit—so you see there was “some little mercy”— But yesterday was doomed to be a day devoted to the intolerable business of seeking lost keys! Before calling in Hacking, I had collected all the keys in the house to try on these drawers; amongst the rest the key of my portmanteau, and that one (to be needed on saturday) in a manner altogether mysterious, “bank- raipet and geid oot of sicht”!3 and I was driven so desperate with the fag and worry of seeking it, next—that I ordered a new key; to escape recommencing on the morrow!

Won't your Passport require to be viséd?4

I wish to Heaven my little journey were over!—and that the good I shall get of it may turn out greater than the harm I have got in the prospect! Last night again, not a wink of sleep till after five; and from then till seven a succession of little nightmares! “Pleasant, Miss! Isn't it?”5— Lord A seems to have remembered the things we talked about; which was an effort of attention from him! For the rest, I expressed no determination against Scotland, and just as little FOR Sherborne!

If I find that the railway journey does me no harm, and that the “change of air” does me good, and that I shall not have it for long enough at Bay House; I shall try to go to Scotland after all. Lann Hall would suit me well, I think— I should have no fear of being a trouble there, and no misgivings about my welcome; it is a beautiful place, with associations to make it more beautiful; I should have a close carriage to drive out in every day; and Mrs Pringle is very quiet, and kind, and sensible. I should like that better than Cressfield under the present circumstances. At Cressfield I should have “cares of bread,” “under difficulties”6 and I am hardly up to them in their simplest most familiar form. Besides, YOU should go to Germany, and Cressfield “all to myself”7 is not conceivable,—as good as non-extant! Mrs Pringle says in her letter (which I dont send because you would not dream of attempting to decipher its “angles”) “I dont want to plague you with suggestions; but do understand this; Mr Carlyle may have a whole suite of rooms at Lann! and with no Master8 in the house, any other arrangements for his comfort would be painfully easy to make!”

I have written to her that I will send her a positive answer on the 6th—by that time I shall understand “what I wanted and what I want”— The Bay House visit does not promise much, as yet. Miss Baring might, if she had meant to be kind, or been it without meaning, have answered my note, and told me what hour, and offered to send for me— I have forgot all about Alverstoke—whether I stop at Gossport9—or what—Larkin must find out today. When I wrote to Miss B accepting for the 31st, I spoke of “a few days”—as she had not fixed a time I wished to be within the mark— If she had wished a longer visit I think she would have bid me lay my account with it, in leaving home. Nero!—Oh dear no! Nero must “keep up his dignity” like his mistress—mustn't go where he is de trop [too much]— He will do very well at home. Charlotte is good to him and Mr Piper10 will take him out. The dog has really kept wonderfully well in your absence— About Charlotte? She will take care of the house, and go on with the chimney sweeping, and “thorough cleaning” that is begun. Not a carpet left on but in the parlour and my bed room! and these to be up too, so soon as I am gone. Charlotte is more to be trusted with the house than Ann.11 She has quite as much sense and infinitely more principle. I can depend on her that the thing I bid her do, she will do—when my back is turned, the same as before my face. Her Mother12 will come and sleep with her. I have no wish to change Charlotte for an older woman—as she has strength and sense enough for the place I dont see what I should gain by changing her. She is a very good housemaid and is already a better cook than Ann was. Above all she is my servant—does what I order at the first word—and not my mistress! For the satisfaction of your imagination, you will find her much bigger and older looking when you return— A scotch servant, above all out of a large house, would be a risk I would only run in case of necessity. You would hardly find in Scotland a servant of good character who is not of the Free Church or some Church!—and such persons judge us!—and are ill to manage accordingly13 Here morality is not inseparable from religion (so called).

Mrs Pringle offered me some time ago any one of her five women14 (“all good”) that I liked to “come and take”—and I declined for the above and other reasons— Best to “let well be”—if Charlotte go on as she has done hitherto, there will not be the slightest occasion to have myself all flurried to ribbons with another change!— Why—our old Betty15 was just Charlottes age when she came to my Mother—and had not a third part of her experience. She Charlotte is too young for being left alone in care of a House; but she wont be ALONE; her Aunt-Mother an excellent innocent woman is in Upper Cheyne Row to look to her— For the rest I shall leave her work enough to keep the Devil from her elbow—never fear!—

Now this is a long letter for my last day!— I should not have had the time to spare—if I had not done most of my packing in the middle of the night!! for want of better to do

Yours ever /

Jane W Carlyle