JWC TO ELIZA STODART; August 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340800-JWC-EA-01; CL 7:250-254.
JWC TO ELIZA STODART
[ca. August 1834]
Our well-beloved Friend and Cousin
Mrs Montagu who has made “the fine arts” her peculiar study has a pretty and original way of knitting up a ravelled correspondence1— Instead of outraging the already outraged with a lengthened apology, she commences with a lively attack “is astonished that you have not written to inquire the reason of her silence”—“thinks it strange that you should adopt with her the formal letter for letter system”[—]“Is hurt,” “is angry” is every thing but what you expected namely ashamed of herself—and you find yourself suddenly much to your surprise transformed into the offending party and thankful for the kind forgiveness with which she ends— This beats out and out our old simple fashion of making confessions of indolence &c &c or telling lies about excessive occupation and so forth. But having let you into the secret I need not play it off upon you this time, only I let you see what I might do if I liked—and I give you instead of a useless apology a useful hint which you may find your account in against enraged correspondents—
Well! is it not very strange that I am here? sitting in my own hired house by the side of the Thames as if nothing had happened; with fragments of Haddington, of Comely Bank, of Craigenputtoch interweaved with co[c]kneycalities into a very habitable whole? Is it not strange that I should have an everlasting sound in my ears, of men, women, children, omnibuses, carriages glass coaches, streetcoaches, waggons, carts, dog-carts, steeple bells, doorbells, Gentlemen-raps, twopenny-post-raps, footmen-showers-of raps, of the whole devil to pay, as if plague pestilence, famine, battle, murder sudden death2 and wee Eppie Daidle3 were broken loose to make me diversion.— And where is the stillness, the eternal sameness, of the last six years—? Echo answers at Craigenputtoch! There let them “dwell with Melancholy”4 and old Nanny Macqueen. for this stirring life is more to my mind, and has besides a beneficial effect on my bowels. Seriously I have almost entirely discontinued drugs, and look twenty percent better, every one says, and “what every one says must be true.” This being the case, You may infer that I am tolerably content in my new position; indeed I am more and more persuaded that there is no complete misery in the world that does not emanate from the bowels.
We have got an excellent lodgement; of most antique physiognomy, quite to our humour; all wainscoated carved and queer-looking; roomy substantial, commodious, with closets to satisfy any Bluebeard, a chinacloset in particular that would hold our whole wor[l]dly substance converted into china! Two weeks ago there was a row of ancient trees in front, but some crazy-headed Co[c]kneys have uprooted them—behind we have a garden (so called in the language of flattery) in the [wo]rst order, but boasting of two vines which produced two bunches of grapes, in the season, which “might be eaten”; and a walnut-tree from which I have gathered almost sixpence worth of walnuts. “This large and comfortable tenement” we have, without bugs, for some two or three pounds more rent than we paid for the pepper box at Comelybank. This comes of our noble contempt for fashion—Chelsea being highly unfashionable. The only practical disadvantage in this circumstance is that we are far from most of our acquaintance; a disadvantage which I endeavour to obviate by learning to walk; my success is already considerable I have several times walked ten miles without being laid up. Besides we are not wholly isolated. Leigh Hunt lives a few doors off. The Celebrated Mrs Somerville5 is at Chelsea Hospital within five minutes walk, and Mrs Austin is coming to introduce me to her tomorrow—and within a mile I have a circle of acquaintances—one of these who lives in prodigious shine with wife and family, you may happen to recollect something about— A grave handsome, man who has been here repeatedly, and treats me with infinite respect, and takes immensely to my Husband—a sort of person with whom one talks about “the condit[i]on of art” in this cou[n]try—and such like topics of general interest and studies to support the reputation of a rather intellectual and excessively reasonable woman— Can you divine who I mean? impossible—George Rennie!6 How has it happened? quite simply. I am one of the most amiable women living; tho like your Uncle “My virtues are unknown”— I am incaplable [sic] of cherishing resentment even against a faithless lover, I heard he was there, I wondered what he was like; I sent him my address. He came instantaneously with his Sister Margaret7— “Bess did I feel awkward?[”] to be sure I did, and looked awkward for I was within an ace of fainting and he looked like one of his own marbles8— But neither of us I believe entertained a particle of tenderness for the other nevertheless—it was mere queaziness from the intense sensation of the flight of time which such a meeting occasioned one—fifteen years! only think! He is much improved by age, in appearance, manner, and also I think in character—but he lives in the wretchedest atmosphere of “gigmanity”—his wife is a perfect fool—the whole kin of them are fools— And poor George must either go in with their folly to a certain extent, or break his heart, or blow up his whole household sky-high— Moreover he is still self-willed and vain enough to show me as often as I see him that I made an escape— I go often to Margaret's, who lives in style also, but seems to feel rather out of her element here. Lady Kinloch9 is close by the Rennies— she was amazed to see me, and is very kind— I am glad she is not “dead”
For the rest our society with a few additions and [subtractions is] mu[ch] the same that we had when here formerl[y]—only I find it much pleasanter now being in better ease for enjoying it— John Mill, Leigh Hunt and Mrs Austin remain my favourites. I know some Elliots10 acquaintances of David Aitken11 who are very agreeable people.— By the by did Mr Aitken tell you what a frantic[al]ly affectionate reception I gave him at Craigenputtoch— he looked rather fearful for the consequences to his cloth— I shall never learn to give up these outbreakings of the old woman in me from time to time— the other morning when Mr Terrot12 came in (who is to carry this) I sprang into his arms and I believe almost stifled him with the ardour of my embrace— He returned it however with more sympathy than was to have been anticipated. I have wondered at my audacity ever since. for the thought of such an attempt in a cool moment would have made me quake[.] For God['s] sake write and tell me what everybody in Edinr is doing—especially my own relations whom methinks I ought to know something about— I so seldom hear out [of] Scotland— My Mother is most scrupelous [sic] about putting me to the expence of postage— I shall be down perhaps next year— and then it will be hard if I do not see you— But will you never come here? I declare to Heaven there is nobody except my Mother I should welcome with such delight— After all you are the only right female friend I ever had in the world—the only one I can to all lengths and without the least misgiving talk nonsense to—and that I consider a pretty good test of friendship— Here I must be always so sensible it is really quite frightful— Carlyle wrote to your Uncle and sent a book— did he get either letter or parcel? He now sends his constant regards— God bless you my dear Eliza— I am always in spite of neglect in the article of writing
your truly attached Friend—
Jane W Carlyle—
You will remark again “Jane once wrote a beautiful hand”— Well it cannot be helped—the pen is bad—and I am in haste
Kisses without number to your Uncle— Love to your Mother— Does old Dr Hamilton13 yet live[;] if so do call on him or write him a note and say that I am here, and love him, and am almost quite well
Is Benjamin Bell14 (as we hear) divorced and mad?