July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 30 October 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18581030-JWC-MR-01; CL 34: 231-233


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [30 October 1858]

Oh my Dear! I feel so fractious this evening!—Should like to break something or box somebodys ears! Perhaps it is the east wind—perhaps my dinner of only soup—perhaps original sin! whatever it is; I must positively try to come out of it! and the best way I can think of to smooth my “raven down”1 is writing some lines to you.

Your last letter was charming Dear! Just the sort of letter one wants from a place familiar and dear to one! all about every thing and everybody. Since I knew Mrs Pringle I have come to understand and enter into the late Lady Ashburtons terror and horror of what she called “all about feelings.2—Speaking of her; a piece of news came to us the other day that I have not recovered the shock of yet! Lady Sandwich came to call, and handing me an open letter said. “Read that. I thought you would like best to hear it from me.” The letter was in Lord Ashburton's handwriting—and the first words that caught my eye were “I have proposed to Miss Stewart McKenzie and she has accepted me”!— No doubt of that if she had the chance! Louisa McKenzie has been on the look out for a great match these ten years.3 She was notoriously “setting her cap” at Lord A six weeks after his wife's death. He is very trusting and has been very lonely—like a child that had lost its mother—in a wood! Carlyle said from the first “I dont think Lord Ashburton will ever marry again; but I wont answer for his not letting himself be married!” In whatever way the thing have come about there it is! a fact! and the marriage will take place as soon as the Trouseau and Settlements can be got ready. I shall never like the new Lady Ashburton—that I am sure of!4 She is full of affectation, and pretension if not pretence! Lady Sandwich looks at this speedy replacing of her daughter from a quite practical point of view, and is “prepared to adopt Miss Mc as a daughter” “If she (the new wife) make Ashburton happier that is all she (Lady S) must think of!”— Louisa McKenzie who never saw Lady S has written asking for “her love” and blessing and so forth! And it is all going on in a paradisiacal fashion for the present!

Tomorrow we dine at Lady S's, with Lord A, just arrived from the place in the north5 where he has perpetrated this piece of rashness. It makes me sick to see how soon the most admired and adored woman gets her place filled up!6 He (Lord A) says, poor man, in the letter he wrote to tell Mr C of the marriage, that “lonely as he felt, he would not have married again if he had not found another of the same high nature”! That aggravated me more than anything!—

Well! you cant be expected to care to read so much about a marriage of which you know neither party—

My cousin John (George's Son) was here again the other day, and I never felt so hopeless about him— His countenance, his voice, manner, everything about him is changed. And yet Bence Jones tells him it will be time enough if he get to a warm climate before the spring winds set in— He will never go, I believe, if he wait till Spring!

I am going to Richmond the first possible day to talk to his mother— She is the strangest woman—always trying to hide her son's danger as if it were a crime. The fatalest symptom I see in him is the sanguineness about his recovery, and the irritability on the subject of his health which have taken place of the depression he manifested in Summer; while his state gives no reason for the change of mood—on the contrary his cough, and expectoration, are greatly increased and so, he owns, are his night-perspirations. He is paler and thinner—and from being the shiest, most silent of men he now talks incessantly and excitedly—and in this state he goes about, doing his usual work—and he left here the other day after dusk!

I am very grieved about him. He is the only cousin I have that I have had any pride or pleasure in.

Upon my word I had better give up for this writing. Nothing to tell but grievances!

Well! here is one little fact that will amuse you! Just imagine, the bit of boiled ham which you would hardly let me have, has lasted, for my supper, up to last week!! and I never stinted myself only—I kept it “all to myself,” like the greedy Boy of the story Book— I began to think it was going to be a nineteenth century miracle! But it did end at last and now I am fallen back upon porridge and milk! which is not so nice I dont know about Dr Copeland7— I found him an old man— I am curious to know what will come of the Irish Tutor8— Love to the Dr

Yours ever affly