January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO GEORGIANA MARION CRAIK ; 8 February 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590208-JWC-GMC-01; CL 35: 23-26


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [8 February 1859]

My dear Georgina

The only thing I have to say for myself is, that it is better to be thanking you for your book thus late,1 but after having read it; than to have adopted Talleyrand's2 or Sir Walter Scott's dodge (I have heard it imputed to both) of returning thanks on the instant; while merely “hoping to read the book with the same pleasure with which I had received it.”

From what your Father3 told me, when he was here, about this second book, and from my own conviction about you; that you are not one of what I call the tea-pot-authoresses, who having infused all the tea they had, or ever would have, pour one off a tolerable cup at the first pouring, and go on ever after adding new water to the same leaves, till it ends in sheer dishwashings!— Confident that you would turn out to have a full tea-canister as well as a boiling kettle; I did not see any imprudence in deferring my acknowledgement of the book, till there was full time to have read it, and until I had read it. But I might have read thro', and should have been delighted to have read thro’ a dozen such volumes in the time that has elapsed since I said to George Cook;4 “do you ever hear from Mrs Hooper5 if Georgina Craik's Book is out yet. I don't know its name—I shall be so vexed if it is published and she hasn't sent it to me!”—and as if in answer to the words—not ten minutes after—Lost and Won was brought up stairs!! But tho’ I had been so impatient to have it; I did not get it read for more than a week. I looked into it here and there, and felt sure that if I began at the beginning I should not stop till I reached the end—and there were just then several things absolutely oughting to be done—amongst the rest, I recollect, there was a letter to be written to my clever, good young cousin, he who is in the Kew Observatory;6 but now at Falmouth for change of climate, being far gone in Consumption7—and there was another letter to be written to my dear old Ladies at Haddington,8 to whom I was going when I accompanied you in that never to be forgotten dog-box!9 And the one of these two oldest friends I have on Earth, has been for weeks past dying slowly, slowly, a painful death of restlessness and sleeplessness, tho’ eighty nine years old! Not a symptom of age and decay in her mind and heart but all vividly alive THERE, to feel the more acutely the loss of sight and hearing and the weary struggle with death.10 and the other sister eighty five; a confirmed Invalid since before I was born! hanging on the failing breath of the one who has been her strength thro life—about to be left solitary11—for the large family of nephews and nieces (of which Dr Donaldson the Classical Man12 is one) aren't a bit of comfort to the Aunts, whom their heartlessness and worldliness distress at every turn— That sort of letters are hard to write, dear, I trust you havn't had much opportunity to know how hard! Just the more one's heart is full of sympathy the more one hasn't a word to say!— Not to be tempted aside to a real pleasure instead, I sent Lost & Won to Countess Pepoli, who was confined to her room with a cold, begging to have it back in three days—and—she kept it ten!— Now however I have read it and well read it—and I like it better than any novel that I have read for years—with one exception (to be perfectly truthful) Scenes from Clerical Life. and that is by a man.13 The last two novels I had read were Framley Hall and an old debt by Snow Wedgwood,14 whom like yourself I have known from a Child but, not like yourself, been fond of from a Child—a morbid, self conscious, self centered young Lady who has there put into print for us all the spewings of her (moral) stomach, and given them the name of “Self-Sacrifice”!— The Critics have praised her as a wonderfully clever and metaphysical young Lady— I find her only a wonderfully indelicate young Lady—“coming out for to”—spew before Company! You may call it the criticism of a Dressmaker; but I should say this last book of yours is intensely womanly and “Ladylike”—and in the time we live in I take that to be very high praise! It is so seldom one meets with an Authoress now, who is either a woman or a Lady; and as they certainly are not men (for all the dodge of putting mens names on their Title pages!)—one wants to know what the devil they are at all! and—until they can satisfy one, as to “who made them,” to give them a wide berth!

But “womanly and Ladylike” is not all the praise I have to give your Book—it is poetical too—That gleaming haired Undine15 of a girl is like “a time of music” (as Mr Carlyle would say)16— Decidedly your tea does not fall off—“quite the contrary[”]17— The first was rather too much drawn— In this only the delicate flavour is traceable, “with cream and sugar softened well” (as Dr Johnson himself liked it)18

My Dear—excuse my freedom of criticism, in consideration of no superior sense I pretend to, but of my decided superiority in years!

My kindest regards to your Father— A kiss to that dear good quiet little Mary19— Again thanking you heartily for the pleasure you have given me

Yours affectionately /

Jane Carlyle