January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 8 February 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590208-JWC-MR-01; CL 35: 26-28


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [ca. 8 February 1859]

Dearest Mary

If I dont take care I shall be falling into the self-same evil course I warned you against in my last. “Let him that standeth on the house-top take heed &c &c.”1 I don't think my brain is so active when I sleep (as I still continue to do with that whisky!) as it used to be when I spent greater part of my nights in reading in my bed, to stave off insane thoughts! The fact is, anyhow, that my stupidity in these weeks approaches the sublime! and yet I dont get fat upon it; so I doubt if it be good, genuine, healthy stupidity, and not rather some physical torpor! Perhaps the explanation is2 comprised in the few frank words which Dr Jeffson3 addressed to the would-be-young Dandy who consulted him; “You are old—yes damned old! that's all!”—

Did you ever see such a winter? I suppose it is good for weak lungs, but the Drs here say, there never was more sickness—only, the Drs say that, every winter, whether it be mild or severe! My poor Cousin at Falmouth fancies the climate there equal to that of Maidera, I question if it be Falmouth that makes the difference.4 Of course he is no better. His Mother5 writes such flourishing letters about the comforts he has, and the attentions he receives at Falmouth,6 that it is difficult to not let oneself be distracted from the fact of the case,—that her only son is dying!— Bence Jones7 forwarded to me a letter from the Falmouth Doctor,8—to destroy every hope, had I still entertained any. I have never seen so unintelligible a woman as Mrs George Welsh.

I have another sorrow in the constant expectation of hearing from Haddington that the eldest9 of my two dear old ladies is dead— She has continued to live, and keep all her intellects and feelings as alive as ever, nobody knows how, for weeks back—for she has lost the faculty of taking nourishment by which alone she was kept in life the Dr10 said. The other11 can't survive her long; and then Haddington will be turned all into a church-yard for me! What a strange reflection it must be for Miss Douglas,12 (if she ever reflects,) that she has outlived ALL she began life beside! even a distant approximation to that state of being left behind all ones contemporaries, makes one so wae and dreary, at times! But also it makes the early friends we still possess doubly dear—every year they become more precious— Think of that—you—when you are tempted to fall into faithless speculations about any Mrs Pringle13 I may take up with!

I heard, curiously enough, of Mrs Dunbar14 the other day. She was visiting a Mrs Borthwick15 (I dont know the Lady), a friend of the Artist who did that picture of our Interior.16 Mrs Borthwick was showing her some Italian views and among them was a photograph of the picture which the artist had given this Mrs Borthwick— Mrs Dunbar went into raptures over its distinctness and suddenly, not knowing what Interior it was, exclaimed “good gracious! there is Mrs Carlyle sitting in it!” Tait was enchanted when Mrs Borthwick repeated to him this tribute to his talent!—

How are your maids going on? and the Bread? Have you put “sand in the oven” as Mrs Blacklock17 advised?!

My little Charlotte continues to behave like the good girl of a Fairy Tale!—The only drawback to my satisfaction with her is, that it seems too great to last—in a world of imperfection!

Do you still wake up your patient Husband18 two or three times a night to talk to you? You should have seen Mr Carlyles stare of astonishment and horror, when I told him you had that practice!

Who is Miss Murray?19 A Miss Murray whom that Eternal Tait met with Mr Comb,20 said she had been staying with you just after I had been there.

My kindest regards to the Doctor. Did I tell you I had put Ripp21 in a little frame and hung him in my dressing room?— When Mr C first noticed it he said “May I ask, my Dear, who is the interesting quadruped you have been at the pains to frame there?”

Your affectionate /

Jane W Carlyle