January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 24 May 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590524-JWC-JC-01; CL 35: 97-98


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea [ca. 24 May 1859]

My dear Jamie

When I hear of poor Isabella being so dreadfully weak, I feel as if nothing but my own weakness were preventing me from flying off to Scotsbrig, to try and strengthen her up with the same means which has brought ME thus far in the way of recovery, from a state of weakness as extreme.

When I sent for a Doctor,—(not so much in expectation that he could do me any good; as that he might make Mr C and Charlotte understand how ill I was, so as to insure myself deliverance from noise &c) I was utterly spent—feeling as I lay on my bed, as tho’ I were sinking-sinking in clouds of black smoke; bathed day and night in cold perspiration; and my heart fluttering at the slightest disturbance like a nest of young birds! I hated every sort of food offered me, and hardly touched it. For I did not believe that food taken against one's appetite could do one any good.

The first thing Mr Barnes did was to tell me plainly that if I did not insist on making myself eat, I should die. and not a little eating would do— I was to eat every two hours—and only the most nourishing things. But what he showed his skill in, was in suggesting a hundred palatable things and describing them temptingly—so that at every visit he left me with a notion of at least one thing of which I thought; “well I might find that possible to swallow!” He gave me of course, at the same time, strengthening medicine—as no doubt Isabellas Doctors1 are giving her— For about six weeks now, I have taken twice a day a mixture in which there is a great deal of steel in camphor julep2—with other things—I have also had every day at least two glasses of wine.

Now if I were there what I would do would be to sit beside Isabella, and talk to her about eating till she could not help thinking about it, and describe to her the things I first took to. Some of them more handy to her than to me. for instance the fresh eggs and the cream— I have been sending all the way to the Strand3 for little pots of ‘Devonshire cream’ at the rate of fifteen pence a pot! and a pot serves me only two days! She could get so easily the “half pint of good fresh cream”(!) which Mr Barnes ordered for me as an accompaniment (merely) to my tea in the morning! or I might take a tumbler of new milk with a table spoonful of rum in it the first thing in the morning.

But what has done me most good of all is the thing Carlyle told you of (he says) made of Eggs and wine. Dr Carlyle writes that Isabella would not take that on account of the sugar— Well then, make it without sugar—it would not be so palatable to most people but the strengthening part of it, the wine and egg would be there. Now do let dear little Jenny4 make this for her Mother and persuade her to try it.

Separate two yolks of quite new eggs from the whites and drop them into a small saucepan—then put to them a full glassful of wine and keep whipping up the egg yolks and wine over a slow fire, till it is all in a froth. Pour it in a teacup—and take it up with it a bit of nicely toasted bread. Another way of doing egg that perhaps would suit best with the condition of no sugar is to whip up a yolk in a tea cup, then mix a glass of wine with it and fill up the cup with boiling water, pouring slowly and stirring as Dr Carlyle does with his tea. I have had quantities of calve's foot Jelly sent me—but I don't find much strengthening in it and I only take it during the night, when I lie awake—as a sort of melancholy distraction! Mr Barnes has no faith in jelly—Thinks essence of beef much better—

One thing that I have been much the better for Isabella could get famously from Annan and that is Salmon! People fancy it unwholesome—but it was after my first dinner of Salmon that I felt the first assurance I should live! and that I had my first natural sleep. I have had it often since and it has always agreed with me. Such beautiful salmon trout you have at Annan! How I should like to try her with a bit!

I am still very weak and you would not think to look at me I had much to brag of—but if you had seen what I was!— Oh my dear Jamie I pray God you may soon be out of this anxiety give her my kindest love I would have written to herself but that I fear she could not be troubled with all this

Yours / affectionately

Jane W Carlyle