January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO MARY RUSSELL ; 26 October 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18591026-JWC-MR-01; CL 35: 243-245


5 Cheyne Row Chelsea Wednesday [26 October 1859]

Dearest Mary

If you but knew how I have been situated! (my Husbands favorite phrase) First I arrived so tired! Oh so dead tired! Notwithstanding that I actually summoned nerve to put in effect my often cherished idea of sleeping at York (half way) alone—in an Inn! Odd! that I should never at this age have done that thing before, in my life! except once when after an absence of eighteen years I spent a night Incognita in the George Inn of Haddington! where I could not feel myself a mere traveller. It was a proof that my nerves were stronger—if not my limbs—that I really “carried out” the York speculation, when it came to the point. It would certainly have been again a failure however, but for a Lady in Fife1 telling me of a comfortable Inn to stop at. I was to ask on getting out of the carriage “was any porter from Mrs Scawins here?” Which I had no sooner done, than the name Scawen was shouted out in the sound of “Sowens”! to my great shame!— I feeling as if everybody knew where I was going; and that it was my first adventure of the sort!! But I was comfortably and quietly lodged—no bugs—no anything to molest me—only that the tumult in my own blood me kept awake all night— So that I arrived here as tired next evening, as if I had come the whole road at one horrid rush—

And I hadn't much time allowed me to rest: for tho’ Charlotte had got down all the carpets, there were still quantities of details for me to do; before Mr C came. And he staid only a week behind me—

When the house was all in order for him; my cares were destined to take another turn—even more engrossing. Just the night before his arrival, Charlotte went to some shops, taking the dog with her, and brought him home in her arms, all crumpled together like a crushed spider, and his poor little eyes protruding, and fixedly staring in his head! A Butcher's cart, driving furiously round a sharp corner, had passed over poor little Nero's Throat! and not killed him on the spot!2 But he looked killed enough at the first. When I tried tostand him on the ground” (as the servants here say) he flopped over on his side quite stiff and apparently unconscious!

You may figure my sensations! And I durst not show all my grief; Charlotte was so distressed and really could not have helped it!— I put him in a warm bath—and afterwards wrapt him warmly and laid him on a pillow—and left him; without much hope of finding him alive in the morning.

But in the morning he still breathed, tho’ incapable of any movement: but he swallowed some warm milk that I put into his mouth— About midday I was saying aloud “poor dog—poor little Nero!,” when I saw the bit tail trying to wag itself!— And after that, I had good hopes— In another day he could raise his head to lap the milk himself— And so by little and little, he recovered the use of himself—but it was ten days before he was able to raise a bark—his first attempt was like the scream of an infant!

It has been a revealation to me this of the strength of the throat of a dog!!—Mr C says if the wheel had gone over anywhere else it would have killed him! A gentleman told me the other night that he once saw a fine large dog run over—the great wheel of one of Pickford's3 heavy-laden vans went over its throat!! And the dog—just rose up and shook itself!! It next staggered a little to one side and then a little to the other, as if drunk—then it steadied itself, and walked composedly home!

When I was out of trouble with my dog, I had time to feel how very relaxing and depressing the air of Chelsea was for me—as usual—after the bracing climate of Scotland. I was perfectly done, till Mr C insisted on my setting up the carriage again, and providence put me on drinking water out of a “bitter cup”—that is a new invention, very popular here this year! A cup made of the wood of Quassia which makes the water quite bitter in a minute—of course a chip of quassie put into water would have the same effect, but nobody ever bid me take that! I thought for three or four days that I had discovered the grand panacea of Life! I felt so hungry! and so cheerful!! and so active! But one night I was seized with the horridest cramps!—which quite took the shine out of quassia for me—tho’ I dare say it was merely that I had quite neglected my bowels I haven't had courage to recommence with the “bitter cup”—but it will come! Meanwhile I am pretty well over the bilious crisis that has befallen; to “remind me that I am but a woman”!4 and a very frail one—(I mean in a physical sense!)

How pleasant it will be to think of you at that pretty Holmhill!5 tho’ one will always have a tender feeling toward the “old rambling house” where we have had such good days together— But the other place will be for the good of your health as well as more agreeable—when you have once got over the pain of change which is painful to good hearts, altho it may be joyful enough to light ones—. It will also be a comfort to my mind to think of the drawing room getting papered all with one sort of paper!— God bless you love to your Husband

J W Carlyle

I have not heard a syllable from Mrs Pringle since I wrote declining her invitation6 and not congratulating her on her marriage7— I suppose I did it rudely—and she is offended “a la bonne heure [that's fine]”!