JWC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 21 November 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18341121-JWC-MAC-01; CL 7:336-341.
JWC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE
[21 November 1834]
My dear Mother
Now that Franks are come back into the world, one need not wait for an inspired moment to write, if one's letter is worth nothing, it costs nothing—nor will any letter that tells you of our wellfare [sic] and assures you of our continual affection be worth nothing in your eyes, however destitute of news or any else that might make it entertaining.
The weather is grown horridly cold, and I am chiefly intent at present on getting my winter wardrobe into order— I have made up the old black gown which was died [dyed] peuce [puce] for me in Dumfries (with my own hands—it looks twenty per cent better than when it was new & I shall get no other this winter[)]: I am now turning my pelisse. I went yesterday to a milliner to buy a bonnet— An old very ugly Lady upwards of seventy I am sure was bargaining about a cloak at the same place—it was a fine affair of satin and velvet—but she declared repeatedly that “it had no AIR” and for her part she could not put on such a thing— My bonnet I flatter myself has an air—a little brown feather nods over the front of it, and the crown points like a sugar loaf. The diametre of the fashionable Ladies at present is about threeyards; their bustles (false bottoms) are the size of an ordinary sheep's fleece— The very servant girls wear bustles— Eliza Miles told me a maid of theirs went out one Sunday with three kitchen dusters pinned on as a substitute— The poor Miles, are in great affliction— Mr Miles about the time we came to London got into a excellent situation, and they were just beginning to feel independent and look forward to a comfortable future—when one morning about a week ago Mr Miles in walking thro his warerooms was noticed to stagger and one of the men ran and caught him as he was falling. he was carried to a publichouse close by; his own house beeing [sic] miles off—and his wife and daughter sent for— he never spoke to them—could never be removed—but there in the midst of confusion and riot they sat watching by him for two days when he expired. I went up to see them so soon as I heard of their misfortune the wife was confined to bed with inflamation in her head— Poor Eliza was up and resigned looking—but the picture of misery. “A gentleman from Mr Irving[']s church” was with her, saying what he could.
Mrs Montagu has quite given us up but we still find it possible to carry on existence. I offended her by taking in Bessy Barnet in the teeth of her vehement admonitions—and now I suppose she is again offended that I should receive a discharged servant of her daughter in law's— I am sorry she should be so whimsical for as she was my first friend in London I continue to feel a sort of tenderness for her in spite of many faults which cleave to her. But her society can quite readily be dispensed with nevertheless1—we have new acqua[i]ntances always turning up—and a pretty handsome stock of old ones. A brother and sister the most intimate friends I ever had in Eastlothian live quite near (for London)—and I have other Eas[t]lothian acquaintances[.]
Mrs Hunt I shall soon be quite terminated with I foresee. She torments my life out with borrowing— She actually bor[r]owed one of the brass fenders the other day and I had difficulty in getting it out of her hands—irons, glasses tea-cups silver spoons are in constant requisition—and when one sends for them the whole number can never be found— Is it not a shame to manage so with eight guineas a week to keep house on!
It makes me very indignant to see all the waste that goes on around me when I am needing so much care and calculation to make ends meet— When we dine out we see as much money expended on a des[s]ert of fruit (for no use but to give people a cholic) as would keep us in necessaries for two or three weeks— My present Maid2 has a Grand Uncle in town with upwards of a hundred thousand pounds—who drives his carriage and all that[.] At a great dinner he had he gave five pounds for a couple of pineapples when scarce—and here is his niece working all the year thro' for eight—and he has not given her a brass farthing since she came to London—
My Mother gave a good account of your looks— I hope you will go and see her again for a longer time[.] She was so gratified by your visit.
I have just had a letter from her most satisfactory—telling me all she knows about any of you— She gives a most wonderful account of some transcendentally beautiful shawl which Jane has made her a present of— I am sure never present gave more contentment[.]
Carlyle is going to a radical meeting to night—but there is no fear of his getting into mis[c]hief— Curiosity is his only motive— And I must away to the Butchers to get his dinner— I wish you may be able to read what I have written— I write with a steel pen which is a very unpliable concern and has almost cut into my finger— God bless you all—a kiss to Mary's new baby when you see it
Mournfully beautiful is this Letter to me; a clear little household light shining, pure and brillt, in the dark obstruct-places of the Past!—
The ‘two East Lothn friends’ are George Rennie then Sculptor here, and his pretty Sister Mrs Manderston, wife of an Ex-Indian Ship-Captn. …3
‘Buller's Radical Meeting,’4 had one an old Newspr, wd give us an exact date: it was the Meeting, privately got up by C. Buller, but ostensibly managed by others, whh assembled itself largely and with emphasis in the London Tavern, to say what it thot on the first reappearance of Peel & Co after the Reform Bill, “first Peel Ministry,” whh lasted only a short time. I duly attended the Meeting (never another in my life); and remembered it well. Had some interest, not much. The 2,000 human figures, wedged in the huge room into one dark mass, were singular to look down upon, singular to hear their united voice, coming clearly as from one heart, their fiery “Yes,” their sternly bellowing “No”—(Camille Desmoulins in the Palais-Rl Garden, not long aftds!)5—I cd notice too what new laws there were on speaking to such a mass: no matter how intensely consentan[eou]s yr 2,000 were, & how much you agreed with every one of them; yu must likewise begin where they began, follow pretty exactly their sequence of thots, or they lost sight of yr intentns; and, for noise of contradictn to you and to one another, yu cd not be heard at all. That was new to me, that second thing; and little or nothing else was. In the speeches I had no interest except a phenomenal; indeed had to disagree throughout, more or less with every part of them. Roebuck6 knew the art best; kept the 2,000 in constt reverberatn, more and more rapturous, by his adroitly correct, series of commonplaces; John Crawfurd,7 much more orig[inal, lost the series, and had to sit down again unheard— ign]ominiously unheard.— Ohe jam satis est.8 I walked [bri]skly home, much musing; found Her waiting, eager enough [for] any news I had.—
About a month before this date, Edward Irving rode to the door one evg, came in and staid with us some 20 minutes; the one call we ever had of him here,—his farewell call before setting out to ride towards Glasgow, as the Doctors, helpless otherwise, had ordered. He was very friendly, calm and affectionate; spoke chivalrously courteous to Her (as I remember), “Ah yes,” looking round the room; “you are like an Eve, make every place you live in beautiful!”9 He was not sad in manner; but was at heart, as you cd notice, serious, even solemn. Darkness at hand, & the weather damp, he cd not loiter. I saw him mount at the door; watched till he turned the first corner (close by the Rector's garden-door),—and had vanished from us for altogr. He died at Glasgow before the end of Decr coming.