January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


JWC TO HELEN WELSH; 1 April 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360401-JWC-HW-01; CL 8:329-331.


[1 April 1836]

My dear Cousinkin

I am charmed to notice in you the rapid growth of a virtue, which for the most part only develops itself in mature age, after many and hard experiencies [sic]; but which is nevertheless highly necessary at all ages, in this world of sin and misery: I mean the virtue of toleration. Rarely is one edified by the spectacle of so young a Lady, meekly acknowledging her own transgressions and short-comings, when with perfect justice she might have adopted rather the tone of accusation. Continue my sweet little Cousin to cultivate this engaging disposition, this beautiful sensibility to your own imperfections and beautiful insensibility to the imperfections of your neighbour and you will become (if indeed you are not such already) an ornament to your sex, and a credit to “the name of Welsh” (which my Mother talks about so proudly; I could never tell precisely why.) In truth you will have added a new lustre of virtue to that name, which I never hoped to see it brightened with: for as my Penfillan Grandfather's1 physiological observations, on his stock, had led him to the conclusion that it was capable of producing rascals and vagabonds enough, but not one solitary instance of a blockhead; so mine had hitherto tended to certify me, that “the name of Welsh” had something in it wholly and everlastingly antipathetical to patience and toleration, and was no more capable of coalescing with it than fire with water.

The box came safe, as did also the herrings and the brandy—shame to me that I should be now for the first time acknowledging them all in the lump! But I trust that my Mother reported my thanks, as she was charged to do, and that however much you may all have blamed my laziness, you have not suspected me of the atrocious sin of ingratitude, “alike hateful to gods and men.”2— At least it used to be so, but now that it is so common in the world people are getting into the way of regarding it, I suppose, as they do other fashionable vices “with one eye shut and the other not open” (as an Irish author said to me the other day in describing his manner of reading a certain journal).3 Rogers the Poet, who professes to be a man of extensive beneficence, and to have befriended necessitous persons without number in the course of his long life, declares that he never met with gratitude but in three instances. I have a mind to ask him to do something for me, just that he may have the pleasure of swelling his beggarly list of grateful people to four. For “the name of Welsh” I flatter myself cherishes the old Athenian notions about gratitude.

We are labouring under a visitation of rain here which seems to portend the destruction of the world by deluge. One feels soaked to the very heart—no warmth or pith remaining in one— As one fire is understood to drive out another, I thought one water might drive out another also, and so the other morning I took a showerbath—and have shivered ever since. “Too much of water hadst thou poor Ophelia”!4 O Ellen! What a fearful recollection I have at this instant of your showerbathing at Moffat!5 It was indeed the sublime of showerbathing! The human mind stands astonished before it as before the infinite! In fact you have ever since figured in my imagination as a sort of Undine!6 Barring the weather, every thing goes on here in the usual way: People eat eight-oclock dinners together; talk politics, philosophy, folly together; attend what they call their business at “the House,” or where else it may happen to be; and fill up the intervals with vapours and something that goes by the name of “checked perspiration”; but I can give you no idea of what that precisely means; it seems to comprehend every malady that flesh is heir to. and for my part, as the Co[c]kney said to Allan Cunningham of the lottery, “I am deadly sure there is A DO [trick] at the bottom on it.”!

We expect John Carlyle in some ten days: for this time his Lady will surely, for decensy's [sic] sake, stick to her purpose, Lady of quality tho' she be! I am afraid he is not a Man for grappling in a cunning manner with “checked perspiration,” and accordingly that there is small hope of his getting into profitable employment here as a Dr. We do not know yet whether he will even try. But time will settle that and much else that waits to be settled. In the meanwhile there were no sense in worrying over schemes for a future which we may not live to see. “Sufficient for the day is the evil there of”!7—at present more than sufficient— Two of our dearest friends are dangerously ill; John Mill whom you have often heard me speak of—and John Sterling whose novel “Arthur Coni[n]gsby” I think I lent you at Templand. My Husband is anything but well, nor likely to be better till he have finished his French Revolution, of which there is still a volume to write: he works beyond his strength. I myself have been abominably all winter, tho not writing, so far as I know, for the press. And more evil still, is lying even now while I write at the bottom of my pocket, in shape of a letter from Annan requiring me to send off without delay the servant whom Carlyle so bothered himself to fetch me;8 her Mother being at the point of death, “and WILL not,” says the letter-writer “leave the charge of the house to any other than her dear Ann”! What is to be the consequence if Ann do not obey that hurried summons the letter writer does not state—one is left to conjecture that the poor woman will either take the house along with her or stay where she is till she can get it settled to her mind—in which last case it is better for all parties that my Maid should stay where she is— I am excessively perplexed— Happy Cousinkin that hast as yet no household imbroglios to fetter thy glad movement thro' life!

My husband sends affectionate regards to be distributed along with mine at your discretion. You may also add a few kisses on my account.

Yours affectionately /

Jane Carlyle

Tell Jeanie9 I lost her card-case on the streets the very third time I used it—and it was brought to me at the end of two days!! tho' there was no other address in my cards but Mrs Carlyle / Craigenputtoch!!!