January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO LADY STANLEY ; 18 September 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590918-JWC-LST-01; CL 35: 206-208


Sunny Bank / Haddington [18th Sepr 1859]

Oh my Lady! I look with dismay at the date of your note; 11th Sepr! and this the 18th!— But indeed it is no fault of mine that I am so long of answering; your note, after a dreary call at Cheyne Row, was sent on a foolish little excursion thro’ Fife which I had just left, and finally reached me in Edinburgh, only the day before yesterday, in the ‘supreme moment’ of waiting for a cab to take me to the Railway. I was going to visit some Scotch Cousins near Tranent,1 for twenty four hours—and they led me such a life, kissing at me and asking me questions, that I could get no single moment, “all to myself” to write. Yesterday, instead of consigning me to The Train, as was my wish; they would send me on to Haddington, my next stage on the road home, in an open carriage. Of course I arrived with “a chill,” and had to be instantly made partially-drunk with brandy-punch, and put to bed! So this is positively the first available minute I have had for acknowledging your kind invitation.

And by this time you will have heard from Mr C, I believe, to the effect that we have parted company (not an hour too soon I should say, for the sanity of both!) and that he would go home by Alderley, without incumberance (the wretch!) and, to do him justice, without any interested views on the three new-calved cows, of whose interesting situation he was still unconscious.2

I was very sorry to give up my share in the prospect of Alderley. But there were pressing reasons why I should not accompany him to Dumfrieshire and why I should be home at Chelsea before him; reasons “which it may be interesting not to state.”3

I should feel obliged to you if you will insinuate to Mr C's mind when you see him, that taking health by the throat, as it were, never comes to a good end! that dividing one's time in the country betwixt galloping like the wild Huntsman, and walking in seven league boots, makes the country no healthier than the Town for one! that is, when One happens to be turned sixty and not sixteen! Any thing like the follies that wise man committed at Humbie (the “horrid hole” as you well called it, in the spirit of prophecy.) Any thing like his excesses in bathing, and riding and walking, and what he called “soft food,” I never assisted at, even in a bad dream!

As for me; I passed my time much like a picketted sheep! pottering about within a circle of one mile, on the most despicable of donkies! which finally flopped over on its side one day, as if its legs had been shot off; plashing me on the highway, and itself accross me; thereby bruising three of my toes, and disgusting me with that “species of quadruped for the rest of my life!

But in spite of the mortal ennui of such an existence, complicated with what Mazzini calls “cares of bread4 (housekeeping) “under difficulties”5—every thing to be brought such a distance, and nobody to bring it!—and the worries incident on genius, dieting itself on “soft food,” and bathing and walking and galloping itself into bilious fever!—in spite of all that I am stronger a little, in body, and much less nervous than when I took leave of you in London

It is reported that Miss Stewart Mackenzie (I never can call her Lady Ashburton) is in a touching situation!6 What bliss for my Lord!7 and what horror for the “pauvres enfans [poor children]”!8

Do you know? is it true It was from Lady Sandwich I heard it, but she only gave it as a report brought her by Dr Rouss.9

I am staying with two Ladies both near ninety. They are sitting one at each elbow, asking me questions while I write (my bedroom fire wasn't lighted)—So I had best make an end.

with many thanks for your kindness

Yours faithfully /

Jane W Carlyle