October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 9 November 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18331109-JWC-EA-01; CL 7:31-34.


Craigenputtoch [9 November 1833]

My dearest Eliza

I was aware of your absence and the captivity in which my letter was likely to remain: but I considered it was in excellent quarters, and gave myself no concern either on its account or my own. In any case it would not have occurred to me to accuse you of carelessness: however negligent you may be about writing; I should be a wretch not to entertain a deep sense of your willingness and alacrity, whenever there is any thing to be done and not to give you credit for such, on the ground of past experience, in spite of any incidental appearances that might argue the contrary.

The frame I find quite suitable to its contained—good and plain, just as I could have wish[e]d it; the tea proves an excellent article at the Money; for the barley sugar I have to return the childrens joyful thanks—you were kind to think of them, but you are always mindful. Nota Bene—the next time there is a sixpence over you may give it to the poor.

It filled me with astonishment that Taylor1 should have recollected my name and address: having transacted with him only once in my life, and to so very limited an extent. What a pity that such a singular business talent should be employed in frame-making, and so little—apparently—to its possessors profit even then. I take your congratulations on the benefit received from my Moffat expedition in good part; tho nothing in the world could be more misplaced. The expedition was ennuyante [boring] while it lasted and injurious in its effects: I am hardly yet so well as before I went thither. However I am much better now than I was last year at this time, and have a sort of moderate hope that I shall by degrees get quite well; or rather as well as ever I was—for to say the truth my whole life has been a sort of puddling [muddle] as to health, Too much of schooling hadst thou poor Ophelia!2 and perhaps too much of dis[s]ipation also—if we credit our friend of Kirknewton3—who pronounced my “morals corrupted and my constitution ruined” so far back as the year 1817, by means of one Leith Assembly! To a certainty my “charming naivete” was then—lost for ever and a day; which was the greater pity, since so little charmingness of any other sort remained behind. So I say myself in sincerity of heart, tho' I should not exactly like that another said it —— And here I must positively digress from my digression just to observe that I wonder I do not send to you a letter once a week instead of once in the sixmonths; it is so pleasant to talk with you about old times whether by the fireside, or on paper—with the profoundest disregard of all sense or ceremony.— But so it is— “Man” as Carlyle was saying last night “is a Mass of contradictions”— What a quantity of wisdom new and old falls from his lips in the course of one solar day! had I but Mr Taylor[']s memory to keep hold of it! On the crumbs that fall from his table I might positively set up a respectable little breadshop of my own; if I were not too indolent to gather them up into a whole— Just figure me dealing out cats-meat after this sort; and realizing a name (over my door) (most Authors have no more) and a snug little pin-money to boot! This indeed would be not “lighting the Candle at both ends”4 as we see some improvident couples do, but a notable invention for burning the candle twice over. But I am all to[o] rapidly approaching the end of my paper; so must “cease this funning5 (of the wershest [most insipid]) and tell you seriously what I am about, not doubting but both your Uncle and yourself, so long and intimately acquainted with my many amiable qualities, are dying with curiosity on this head at all seasons of the year. Know then (to give the Devil his due) (meaning by the Devil not you but myself) that I have really been a tolerably good child for some weeks back, My time (of which valuable commodity the people here have perhaps more at their own disposal than any other individuals on the habitable globe) has been spent more satisfactorily and profitably than usual. A great God-send has befallen my Husband this Autumn; in which, as in all his other God-sends and Devil-sends I heartily participate. John Hunter6 (who never saw him)—has been induced to confide to him the keys of the Barjarg Library (an extensive and valuable collection) with leave to borrow therefrom at discretion. You cannot figure what an inestimable benefit it is, in our situation nearly impracticable on this side: or what exhalations of gratitude rise from my Husbands soul towards the Minister of the Trone [sic]. I verily believe if he were in Edinr, he would even go and hear him preach, to show his sense of the kindness. Two gig-boxfulls of excellent books have already been brought over and consumed by one party like reek—while I have selected therefrom—“Memoires of Marie Antoinette” (by M[m]e Campan) “Œuvres de M[me] Roland” (the very best woman I ever scraped acquaintance with—) “Memoires de M[m]e de Staal”—a clever spirited little creature quite superior to the sentimental de Stael-Holstein, that I used to make such work about in my “wee existence.” And finally a Life of Cook[e] the Actor—as a warning against drunkenness[.]7 I have also put thro' hands at the same time a Modicum of useful needlework, with the greatest possible dispatch— A little ginghum [sic] f[r]ock for my Brother's daughter that is my name child—the old cloak, rehabilitation thereof (this article of apparel is establishing its claims to the french [sic] epithet eternel[)] (Carlyle bought handkerchiefs in the Palais Royal with that recommendation)— A NIGHT-CAP not of the “the” sort, but a night-cap in ordinary. and lastly, not finished yet, a pellerion—quite a chef-d'œuvre of its kind— It is cut out of some old lavender popeline which you must have seen officiating as a gown, not on one but several Members of our family, something like twenty years ago—the gowns of that period being inadequate to make more than a sleeve in the present, I realized out of it in the beginning of summer a singularly elegant bonnet; and the residue is now combining itself into a pelerine, which lined with wad[d]ing, and part of the old (villa[i]nously bad) crimson persian of the old cloak, will in the gracefullest manner protect my shoulders thro the app[r]oaching inelemencies of the Season— O my dear Cousin what a fine thing is a fine natural taste especially for the Wife of an Author, at a time when the booksellers trade is so low! But Alas I am at the end of my sheet while yet far from the end of my good works! May the Powers of Friendship bless what we have just heard—and with our united affection and good wishes to your Uncle and the like for yourself “I remain your obedient humble servant”

Jane W Carlyle

What a shame! I have not mentioned my Mother and perhaps you have not heard from herself I have—twice— She professes to be better than usual as to health but I fear she cannot long be happy in Liverpool— They wish to make their guests entirely so but thro' mis[cal]culations fail lamentably of the result— Thanks and remembrance to Sam8— Any thing of Mrs John?9 I often bethink me in sorrow of what you said that I once wrote a pretty hand but it was quite fallen off and indeed nearly illegible—practice I believe is the best means of mending it— Write soon then that I may write soon again