January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


JWC TO JOHN STERLING; 4 June 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350604-JWC-JOST-01; CL 8:138-141.


5 Cheyne Row—Thursday [4 June 1835]mdash;

My dear Sir

You did kindly to send the little separate note:1 the least bit “all to myself,” (as the children say) was sure to give me a livelier pleasure, than any number of sheets in which I had but a secondary interest. For in spite of the honestest efforts to annihilate my I-ity, or merge it in what the world doubtless considers my better half; I still find myself a self-subsisting and alas! selfseeking Me. Little Felix, in the Wanderjahre, when, in the midst of an animated scene between Whilelm [sic] and Theresa, he pulls Theresa's gown, and calls out, “Mama Theresa I too am here!2 only speaks out with the charming trustfulness of a child, what I am perpetually feeling, tho too sophisticated to pull peoples skirts, or exclaim in so many words; Mr Sterling “I too am here.”

But I must tell you, I find a grave fault in that note about the last fault I should have dreamt of finding in any utterance of yours: it is not believing but faithless! In the first place the parenthesis “(if ever)” seems to me a wilful questioning of the goodness of Providence. Then you say; if in some weeks I can bring myself to think of you with patience perhaps &c—now both the “if” and “perhaps” displease me. Only the most inveterate Sceptic could, with your fineness of observation, have known me for two weeks, without certifying himself that my patience is infinite, inexhaustible! that in fact I, as well as yourself combine “the wisdom of Solomon with the patience of Job.”3

Far from being offended by your des[s]ertation on the Sartor4 I think it the best that has been said or sung of him. even where your criticism does not quite fall in with my humble views, I still love the spirit of the critic. For instance, I am loth to believe that I have married a Pagan,—but I approve entirely of the warmth with which you warn your Friend against the delusion of burning pastils before a statue of Jupiter and such like extravagancies.5 I suppose it is excessively heterodox and in a catholic country I should be burnt for it, but to you I may safely confess that I care almost nothing about what a man believes, in comparison with how he believes. If his belief be correct, it is so much the better for himself; but its intensity, its efficacy is the ground on which I love and trust him. Thus you see I am capable of appreciating your fervour in behalf of the thirtynine articles, without being afflicted because my Husband is accused of contumacy against them.6

But what do you mean by speaking of “a few weeks”! When you went, you said, with an appearance at least of good faith, that you would be back in London—in three weeks: And one week and half of another is already gone.

I hope you will keep your time for several reasons; chiefly for this one, that our continuance in London has of late days become more uncertain, the America speculation having suddenly received a more practical form; and if we depart for Scotland without seeing you any more, and afterwards our good or evil star actually shoots over the Atlantic; surely to some of us at least it will [be] a matter of regret rather than of self congratulation that our acquaintance should have begun.

I have seen your Mother twice, she is very good to me. I have moreover been reviving one of my young-lady-accomplishments for her sake, painting flowers on a portfolio, to keep those verses in which she was so troubled about losing[.]

Your Father has been here since I began writing, to ask us to dinner on Saturday— We played a drawn game at chess, and Carlyle and he debated more loudly than logically on the subject of Napoleon's morality. He is just gone to inquire about the house in Cheyne Walk,7 in which good work I was meaning to have forestalled him and communicated the result in my letter. If a Fairy would gran[t] me three wishes this evening; my first would be that we might remain where we are, my second that you might be settled in Cheyne Walk, and the third like a thrifty Scotch woman I would beg leave to lay by in reserve for future need.

And now I must go and array myself with all possible splendour for a rout at Mrs Bullers, where O'Conell [sic] is to be and all the earth that is to say all the radical earth. Wish me good speed— May I offer my good wishes and prospective regards to your wife?8

Affectionately yours /

Jane W Carlyle


Letter to John Sterling; probably Her first; our acquaintance then was but of few weeks standing. This Letter & all the following to the same Address were carefully laid togr under sealed cover, ‘14 Augt 1845’9 in Sterling's still steady hand and mournfully came back to us in the course of a few weeks longer[.]

This is Her first Letter to Sterling,—dateable as June. I remember this “Buller Soiree,” with its “O'Connell & all the Radical Earth,” there; good enough for looking at slightly as in a menagerie. O'Cll I had already seen the figure of, heard the voice of, somewhere; speak to him I never did,—nor, in the end, wd have done.