A Celebration of Women Writers

"Vol. I (Sect. 3)"
From: Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1883) ed. James Anthony Froude

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 269] 


To John Welsh, Esq., Liverpool.

Chelsea: Tuesday night, Nov. 28, 1843.

Uncle dear! - How are you? I kiss you from ear to ear, and I love you very considerably; 'hoping to find you the same.'

The spirit moves me to write to you just at this unlikeliest moment (for my spirit is a contradictory spirit), when the influenza has left me with scarce faculty enough to spell words of more than one syllable. I caught the horrid thing a week ago, by destiny, through no indiscretion of my own, which is a consolation of a certain sort. For it does form a most ' aggravating' ingredient in one's suffering to be held responsible for it; to be told 'this comes of your going to such a place, or doing such a thing; if you had taken my advice' &c. &c.! But this time I had been going nowhere, doing nothing in the least degree questionable; the utmost lark I had engaged in for months being to descend at Grange's (Babbie knows the place) in the course of my last drive with old Sterling, and there refresh exhausted nature with a hot jelly, and one modest sponge cake. It would have been no harm, I think, had the influenza taken, instead of temperate me, a personage who sat on the next chair to us at the said Grange's, and before whose bottomless appetite all [Page 270]  the surrounding platefuls of cakes disappeared like reek! His companion, who was treating him, finally snatched up a large pound-cake, cut it into junks, and handed him one after another on the point of a knife, till that also had gone ad plura. The dog, for it was with a dog that I had the honour of lunching that day, appeared to consume pound-cake as my Penfillan grandfather professed to eat cheese, 'purely for diversion!'

By the way, it must have been a curious sight for the starved beggars, who hang about the doors of such places, to see a dog make away with as much cake in five minutes as would have kept them in bread for a week, or weeks! Bad enough for them to see human beings, neither bonnier perhaps, nor wiser, nor, except for the clothes on their backs, in any way better than themselves, eating hot jelly, and such like delicacies, while they must go without the necessaries of life. But a dog! really that was stretching the injustice to something very like impiety, it strikes me.

I should like to know the name of 'the gentleman as belonged to that dog.' He seemed, by his equipment and bearing, a person holding some rank in the world, besides the generical rank of fool; and should one find him some other day maintaining in Parliament that 'all goes well,' it would throw some light on the worth of his opinion to know that his dog may have as much pound-cake at Grange's as it likes to eat! [Page 271] 

That however was the last social fact which I witnessed, having been since laid up at home, and part of the time in bed. I do not know why the solitude of a bedroom should be so much more solitary than the solitude of other places, but so I find it. When my husband is at work, I hardly ever see his face from breakfast till dinner; and when it rains, as often even when it does not rain, no living soul comes near me, to speak one cheerful word; yet, so long as I am in, what the French call, my 'room of reception,' it never occurs to me to feel lonely. But, send me to my bedroom for a day, to that great red bed in which I have transacted so many headaches, so many influenzas! and I feel as if I were already half buried! Oh, so lonely! as in some intermediate stage betwixt the living world and the dead!

I sometimes think that, were I to remain there long, I should arrive in the end at prophesying, like my great great ancestors! Solitude has such a power of blending past, present, and future, far and near, all into one confused jumblement, in which I wander about like a disembodied spirit, that has put off the beggarly conditions of time and space: and that I take to be a first development of the spirit of prophecy in one.

The letters of Babbie used to be no small comfort to me when I was ailing; but Babbie, since she went [Page 272]  to Scotland, has had other things to do, it would seem, than writing to me. Babbie's beautiful constancy in writing has, like many other beautiful things of this earth, succumbed to the force of circumstances. Ah, yes! what young lady can withstand the force of circumstances?

Circumstances are the young lady's destiny; it is only when she has lived long enough to have tried conclusions with the real destiny that she learns to know the difference, and learns to submit herself peaceably to the one, and to say to the other, that humbug force of circumstances, 'But I will! je le veux, moi!' Oh, it is the grand happiness of existence when one can break through one's circumstances by a strong will, as Samson burst the cords of the Philistines! Isn't it, uncle? You should know, if any man does! you who are - permit me, I mean it entirely in a complimentary sense - so very, very wilful. But as for my sweet Babbie, her volition is not yet adequate to breaking the pack-threads of the Lilliputians, never to speak of cords of the Philistines.

And meanwhile, what can one do for her, but just what poor Edward Irving counselled certain elders to do, who once waited upon him at Annan to complain of the backslidings of their minister, and ask his (Edward's) advice under the same. Edward, having listened to their catalogue of enormities, knit his brows, meditated some moments, and then [Page 273]  answered succinctly, 'My good friends, you had best pray for him to the Lord!'

My American was immensely pleased with your reception of him. That is the only American whom I have found it possible to be civil to this great long while.

Oh, such a precious specimen of the regular Yankee I have seen since! Coming in from a drive one forenoon, I was informed by Helen, with a certain agitation, that there was a strange gentleman in the library; 'he said he had come a long way, and would wait for the master coming home to dinner; and I have been,' said she, 'in a perfect fidget all this while, for I remembered after he was in that you had left your watch on the table!'

I proceeded to the library to inspect this unauthorised settler with my own eyes; a tall, lean, red-herring-looking man rose from Carlyle's writing-table, which he was sitting writing at, with Carlyle's manuscripts and private letters all lying about; and running his eyes over me, from head to foot, said, 'Oh, you are Mrs. Carlyle, are you?' An inclination of the head, intended to be hauteur itself, was all the answer he got. 'Do you keep your health pretty well, Mrs. Carlyle?' said the wretch, nothing daunted, that being always your regular Yankee's second word. Another inclination of the head, even slighter than the first. 'I have come a great way out of my [Page 274]  road,' said he, 'to congratulate Mr. Carlyle on his increasing reputation, and, as I did not wish to have my walk for nothing, I am waiting till he comes in; but in case he should not come in time for me, I am just writing him a letter, here, at his own table, as you see, Mrs. Carlyle!' Having reseated himself without invitation of mine, I turned on my heel and quitted the room, determined not to sit down in it while the Yankee stayed.

But about half an hour after came Darwin and Mr. Wedgwood; and, as there was no fire in the room below, they had to be shown up to the library, where, on my return, I found the Yankee still seated in Carlyle's chair, very actively doing, as it were, the honours of the house to them. And there he sat upwards of another hour, not one of us addressing a word to him, but he not the less thrusting in his word into all that was said.

Finding that I would absolutely make no answer to his remarks, he poured in upon me a broadside of positive questions.

'Does Mr. Carlyle enjoy good health, Mrs. Carlyle?' 'No!' 'Oh, he doesn't! What does he complain of, Mrs. Carlyle?' 'Of everything!' 'Perhaps he studies too hard; - does he study too hard, Mrs. Carlyle?' 'Who knows?' 'How many hours a day does he study, Mrs. Carlyle?' 'My husband does not work by the clock.' And so on - [Page 275]  his impertinent questions receiving the most churlish answers, but which seemed to patter off the rhinoceros-hide of him as though they had been sugarplums. At length he declared that Mr. Carlyle was really very long of coming; to which I replied, that it would be still longer before he came.

Whereupon, having informed himself as to all the possible and probable omnibuses, he took himself away, leaving my two gentlemen ready to expire of laughter, and me to fall upon Helen at the first convenient moment for not defending better 'the wooden guardian of our privacy.' But really these Yankees form a considerable item in the ennuis of our mortal life. I counted lately fourteen of them in one fortnight, of whom Dr. Russel was the only one that you did not feel tempted to take the poker to.

If Mr. Carlyle's 'increasing reputation' bore no other fruits but congratulatory Yankees and the like, I should vote for its proceeding to diminish with all possible despatch.

Give my love to the children. A hearty kiss to Maggie for her long letter; for which I was also charged by Mrs. Wedgwood to make her grateful acknowledgments. The governess was plainly not at all advanced enough for Mrs. Wedgwood's children; but Maggie's letter was a gratification to us on its own basis.

And now, dear uncle, if I have not wearied you, [Page 276]  I have wearied myself, which is not at present hard to do, for although the worst of my cold is over, I suppose, I am as weak as a sparrow.

I wish I knew how you exactly are, and what that little demoralised Babbie is doing; for, although she has left my last letter unanswered for nearly three weeks, I cannot help still retaining a certain tenderness for her.

God bless you all.

Ever your affectionate


Carlyle is over head and ears in Cromwell - is lost to humanity for the time being.


To Mrs. Aitken, Dumfries.

5 Cheyne Row: Good Friday, March-April, 1844 [?].

My dear Jane, - It is late to thank you for the pretty little mats, later than even an unusual amount of headaches could have excused, had not Mr. C. in the meanwhile conveyed my 'favourable sentiments.' He has probably told you also the fact of my absence for two weeks. I returned from Addiscombe[1] last Saturday, very little set up either in mind or body by my fortnight of dignified idleness. The coldness of the weather prevented my going much into the open air, and within doors the atmosphere at Addiscombe [Page 277]  is much more chilly than at Cheyne Row; but it is morally good for one, now and then, to fling oneself into circumstances in which one must exert oneself, and consume one's own smoke, even under the pressure of physical ailment. The more I see wealthy establishments, however, the less I wish to preside over one of my own. The superior splendour is overbalanced by the inferior comfort, and the only indisputable advantage of a large fortune - the power of helping other people with it - all these rich people, however good and generous their hearts may have been in the beginning, seem somehow enchanted into never availing themselves of.

I found Carlyle in a bad way, complaining of sore throat and universal misery, and in this state nothing I could say hindered him from walking out in the rain, and his throat became so much worse during the night that I was afraid he was going to be as ill as when poor Becker attended him at Comely Bank. He had asked a gentleman to dinner on Sunday, and two more to tea - Dodds, and John Hunter of Edinburgh, and two more came 'on the voluntary principle,' and all these men I had to receive and entertain, on my own basis; and to show me, I suppose, that they were not too much mortified in finding only me, the unfortunate creatures all stayed till eleven at night. Then I put a mustard blister on the man's throat, and put him to bed with apprehensions [Page 278]  enough; but, to my astonishment, he went almost immediately to sleep, and slept quite peaceably all night, and next morning the throat was miraculously mended. We kept him in bed to breakfast, almost by main force however, and John told him to live on slops to complete his cure; but he told John in very decided Annandale that he had a great notion he would follow the direction of Nature in the matter of eating and getting up, and if Nature told him to dine on a chop it would be a clever fellow that should persuade him not to do it.' - [Remainder lost.]


This summer she ventured on a visit to Liverpool, and friends in that neighbourhood. I was immovably imprisoned in Cromwell intricacies. The 'Wedgwood' must have been not Hensleigh (who was familiar here), but an elder brother of his: amiable, polite people all.

'Mauvais état.' - 'Reçu: un Pape en assez mauvais état,' certified the French officer at some post in the Alps, as Pio VII. (?) was passing through his hands on way to Fontainebleau. (Anecdote of Cavaignac's to us.)

'Came to pass,' &c. - A poor Italian painter, protégé of Mazzini's, living in some back street of Chelsea, had by ill luck set his chimney on fire; but, by superhuman efforts, to escape the penalty, got it quenched in time. Still, in time, as he hoped; 'when,' said Mazzini, reporting in Mazzini English, 'there came to pass a sweep' who smelt the soot of him; and extorted from him still a guinea of hush-money - the greedy knave.

'Ill na gude' had become proverbial here, on the [Page 279]  following account. Emeritus, very ancient Annandale cattle dealer, to topsman of an accidental cattle-drove on the highway (as reported by himself to William Graham and me):

'"Beautiful cattle," c'ai (quoth I); "what might cattle o' that kind lie ye a head?" "I can d'ye naither ill na' (nor) guid!" '(by blabbing in your market.)

T. Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.

Liverpool: Monday, June 25, 1844.

Dearest, - It was impossible for me even to aim at sending you any word last night, for in fact I was here in assez mauvais état; in other words, quite beside myself. I had set off on the journey with my imagination in far too lively a state; and accordingly, before I had gone far, 'there came to pass' in me 'something - what shall I say? - strange, upon my honour,' and by the time we had got to Rugby I was in all the agonies of sea sickness, without the sea! It was a great aggravation being cooped up in that small carriage, so ill, with a man I knew so slightly as Mr. Wedgwood. He behaved very well; 'abstained from no attentions,' and at the same time made no fuss, but still I should have preferred being beside an entire stranger. At Birmingham he pressed me to have some coffee; but 'horrible was the idea to me,' both of that, and of the modest repast which I had in my own bag. I took instead a bottle of soda-water, in hopes it would bring the convulsions of my [Page 280]  stomach to a crisis: but it did me 'neither ill nor gude;' and the hope I had been cherishing, of being let lie for half an hour on my back in the ladies' waiting room, also went the way of most of our human hopes, the place being so crowded and the smells from the dining-room so pungent that I was glad to return to the carriage.

Mr. Wedgwood kept insisting to the last moment that I ought to stop at Birmingham, but I knew better than that. Just as the train was starting, the clerk of the station (at least Mr. Wedgwood took him for such) jumped up to the window, touched by compassion for my ghastly appearance, and said to me encouragingly: 'I have told the guard to attend to you, ma'am, and take you out at any station where you may wish to be left!' When Mr. Wedgwood went away I had got over the worst of it, and could laugh at his proposal to ask 'one of some Quakers whom he had seen in a front carriage to take his place in case of my fainting all by myself.' What advantage could there be in providing me with a Quaker, in preference to all others?

The rest of the journey was got over without any more faintings, and I found Helen and Maggie at the station. But, worn out with so much sickness, and having taken nothing from breakfast time but the soda-water, you may fancy I was in no state to resist the horror I had been feeling all the way at the [Page 281]  notion of entering this house again[1]; and when the rest came all about me in the passage, instead of being able to feel glad to see them, something twisted itself about my throat and across my breast as if I were going to be strangled, and I could get no breath without screaming. In fact, I suppose I had been in what they call hysterics, for the first time, and I hope the last, in my life; for it is a very ugly thing, I can tell you - must be just the next thing to being hanged. But it is all over now; and my uncle was so very good to me, he who so hates all that sort of thing, that you would have felt, as I do this morning, quite grateful to him. The girls, of course, were equally good, but their patience was more natural. I have got Alick's room, he having gone out to sleep, and it is all made as nice as possible for me; and, though I did not get much sleep last night, I daresay I shall get on well enough in that department when I am once quieted.

Maggie brought me the prettiest little breakfast to my bedroom: a little plate of strawberries and all sorts of dainties, that looked quite like Templand. It was right to come; though yesterday one would have said, I had really run away from you, and was spending money very distractedly for the purpose of getting myself tormented. Now that I am up I [Page 282]  feel really as well as before I left London, so do not be anyways anxious about me.

Your own

J. C.


To T. Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.

Liverpool: June 27, 1844.

Thanks, dearest, for your note and the newspaper, which was the best part of my breakfast this morning - not that I had 'lost my happityte.'[1] I slept much better last night, in spite of cocks of every variety of power, a dog, and a considerable rumblement of carts. But the evil of these things is not doubled and tripled for me by the reflection that you were being kept awake by them; and what individual evil there was in them could not get the better of my excessive weariness. I feel as if the out-of-door sounds should not lay hold of my imagination for all the time I am likely to be exposed to them; and within doors all is quiet enough, and they let me go to bed whenever I like. [Page 283] 

They are all as kind and considerate as possible - even my uncle, who did not use to make any practical admission that there was such a thing as irritable nerves in the world. I suppose his own illness has taught him sympathy in this matter. I find him looking fully better than I expected, and he does not seem to me worse at walking than when I saw him last; his speech is the worst thing, so thick that I have great difficulty in catching what he says without making him repeat; but this seems as much the result of the loss of his teeth, which he has not supplied, as of anything else. They complain much of his temper; but I have not seen the slightest trace of ill-temper in him since I came, except for a moment yesterday during dinner, when he said some very sharp words to Jeannie, who provoked them in the first instance, and resented them in the second, in a way that quite astonished me, who had never seen her otherwise than imperturbably good-natured. I am afraid my Babbie has been deteriorating in these latter times; she looks most painfully indolent and young ladyish. I have got into no free communication with her yet; alone with me, she is the same gentle, sweet Babbie as ever, but impenetrable. I shall find out what is at the bottom of all this by-and by. Helen is grown more like my aunt Jeannie in all respects: a higher praise one cannot give her. The one that pleases me least of all is Alick: his Toryism [Page 284]  is perfectly insupportable and seems to be awaking reaction even in my uncle. Even the Letter-business[1] Alick defends, because it is the Minister's pleasure. Not so my uncle, for whom your letter had set the thing in its right light; and who honestly confesses, with all devotion to the powers that be, that 'where such things are doing there must come a breakdown.'

I have not written to Mrs. Paulet yet. A letter from Geraldine, which was lying for me here, informed me that she (Mrs. Paulet) had been salivated through mistake; her doctor, in meaning to give her ipecacuanha four times a day, had been giving her mercury to that extent. Whereupon Geraldine observes, 'if she were an ugly woman one would not mind it so much.'

I hope you will not find the silence too delicious; there is a moderation to be observed in all things. I wish you to be neither quite miserable nor quite content in my absence; at all events, as long as you are finding the silence a benefit I shall take precious good care to keep away, as I like to have my human speech duly appreciated.

Give my kind remembrances to Helen,[2] and you may tell her, as a thing she will fully appreciate the [Page 285]  distress of, that on the way here I got myself all covered over with oil-paint, Heaven knows how; and it has taken nearly a quart of turpentine to clean me (my clothes, I mean).

The little Scotchwoman I sent here welcomed me as if I were come on purpose to see her; she gives great satisfaction, and is grown into a perfect beauty.

Do not, I beg of you, work too hard.

How provoking about the fly![1]

Bless you.

J. C.


To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.

Liverpool: July 1, 1844.

Dearest, - I was in considerable perplexity how I should manage on Sunday; for you cannot displease my uncle more than by declining to go to church. As early as Saturday morning he was questioning me as to which church I meant to go. By way of compromise, I murmured something about James Martineau.

Providence, however, kindly took the matter into its own hand, and arranged it so that I stayed at home and yet gave no offence. For when the Sunday morning came, I was sufficiently ill of headache to convince all beholders that I really could not get up; and if I could not get up, it followed that I could not [Page 286]  go to church. I rose before dinner, in time to address your newspaper, and to-day I am quite well again - that is to say, as well as one can be, living, as I feel to be doing just now, in a sort of exhausted receiver. The manner of being in this house is really - 'what shall I say? strange upon my honour.' The preparation and deliberation, and unwearying earnestness with which they all dress themselves three times a day, is a continual miracle for me, combined as it is with total want of earnestness about everything else in heaven or earth. I declare I am heartily sorry for these girls, so good naturally, so gentle, and even intelligent; and in this absurd way 'sailing down the stream of time into the ocean of eternity, for Christ's sake. Amen.'[1] As for Babbie, she is sunk into the merest young lady of them all. Her indolence is absolutely transcendental, and I cannot flatter myself that it is the reaction of any secret grief; the only confession which, with all my surprising[2] quality, I have been able to draw from her is that 'one ought really to have a little excitement in one's life, and there is none to be got here.' How grateful I ought to be to you, dear, for having rescued me out of the young-lady sphere! It is a thing that I cannot contemplate with the proper toleration. [Page 287] 

I wonder how you are to-day; and if you made out your visit yesterday? I am sure you are working too hard without the interruptions of your Necessary Evil.[1] Do bid Helen, with my kind regards, get you a good large fowl and boil it in four quarters.

Extracts from Liverpool letters.

July 2 - Indeed, dear, you look to be almost unhappy enough already! I do not want you to suffer physically, only morally, you understand, and to hear of your having to take coffee at night and all that gives me no wicked satisfaction, but makes me quite unhappy. It is curious how much more uncomfortable I feel without you, when it is I who am going away from you, and not, as it used to be, you gone away from me. I am always wondering since I came here how I can, even in my angriest mood, talk about leaving you for good and all; for to be sure, if I were to leave you to-day on that principle, I should need absolutely to go back to-morrow to see how you were taking it.

July 5. My uncle would not be so bad with his Toryism if it were not for Alick egging him on. His feelings as an honest man are always struggling against his prejudices; but the very misgivings he has about the infallibility of his party make him only an angrier partisan, and nothing can be more provoking [Page 288]  than the things he occasionally says. For instance, he told me yesterday that 'Sir James Graham had said he only opened one of Mazzini's letters; if Mazzini said he opened more he was a d-----d lying rascal, and everybody knows whether to believe the word of a gentleman like Sir James or of a beggarly refugee turned out of his own country for misconduct. D----- these people! If they got leave to find a shelter here, what right had they to insult the Queen by insulting her allies?' Fancy me swallowing all that without answer! To be sure, the only alternative was to hold my peace altogether, or produce a collision that must have ended in my calling a coach.

July 11. Seaforth House.[1] - Mrs. Paulet makes an excellent hostess (morally speaking). Her ménage is certainly susceptible of improvement, especially in the article of cooking; but one would prefer living on any sort of victuals not poisoned in such pleasant company to having preparations of these and stupidity therewith.

A Mrs. D., whom you saw once, came the night before last to stay while I stayed. She seems a sensible [Page 289]  gentlewoman enough - a Unitarian without the doctrines.[1] But I could not comprehend at first why she had been brought, till at last Mrs. Paulet gave me to understand that she was there to use up Miss N.[2] 'Not,' she said, 'that my sister is an illiberal person, though she believes in Christ, and all that sort of thing. She is quite easy to live with; but it will be pleasanter for herself as well as for us that she should have somebody to talk with of her own sort - a Catholic or Unitarian, she doesn't mind which.' After this initiation I can hardly look with gravity on these two shaking their heads into one another's faces and bum-bumming away on religious topics, as they flatter themselves.

You ask where I shall be on my birthday. My dear, in what view do you ask? To send me something? Now I positively forbid you to send me anything but a letter with your blessing. It is a positive worry for you, the buying of things. And what is the chief pleasure of a birthday present? Simply that it is evidence of one's birthday having been remembered; and now I know, without any bothering present, that you have been thinking of it, my poor Good,[3] for ever so long before! So write me a longer letter than usual, and leave presents to those whose [Page 290]  affection stands more in need of vulgar demonstration than yours does.

July 15, Seaforth. - Oh, my darling, I want to give you an emphatic kiss rather than to write! But you are at Chelsea and I at Seaforth, so the thing is clearly impossible for the moment. But I will keep it for you till I come, for it is not with words that I can thank you adequately for that kindest of birthday letters and its small enclosure - touching little key! I cried over it and laughed over it, and could not sufficiently admire the graceful idea - an idea which might come under the category of what Cavaignac used to call 'idées de femme,' supposed to be unattainable by the coarser sex! And I have put the little key to my chain and shall wear it there till I return.


John Forster, Esq., 58 Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Chelsea: Wednesday, July 1844.

My dear Mr. Forster, - I understand from my husband that, in the romantic generosity of your own heart, you offered him some books for me, to carry home. 'Ah!' Had you made the proposal to him with a loaded pistol at his breast, he might perhaps have acceded; but merely in the way of social [Page 291]  politeness, and for virtue's own reward, the desperate man that should have stopped him on the streets with the offer of a large paper trunk would have had just the same chance of being listened to. He told you, and had the effrontery to repeat the same excuse to myself, that I seemed to have more books about me than I could read. Women, they say, will always give a varnish of duty to their inclinations. I wonder whether men are any better in always giving to their disinclinations a varnish of justice? What he there told you was true no doubt; but one of those insidious one-sided truths which in the practical application is equivalent to a positive falsehood. I have more books in the house at this moment than I can read; but what did that signify since I have at the same time none that I can read? I have read Milford, partially read Köhle; Mrs. Trollope is impossible, and several others that I have impossible. In fact I am very ill off; and if you will still send me some books by the parcels delivery, they will be a godsend. When I go to the London library, besides its being very difficult for me to get so far, that old white owl bothers me so with his assiduous conversation - which, God knows, one does not go there for - that I quite lose all faculty of choice, and end in bringing away any trash he puts into my hands, generally something which he considers adapted for a lady, and, at the [Page 292]  same time, not likely to be inquired for by his other ladies. So you may fancy. Have patience with the trouble I give you.

Always affectionately yours,



This was my first visit to the Grange - alas, alas, how tragic-looking now! I perfectly remember the bustle there about the belated postman, and my letter home - which I at length wrote in pencil. I stayed about a week. Proof-sheets of Election to the Long Parliament; visit to Winchester, &c. - 'Fleming' is as yet the inconsolable attached of the late Charles Buller; afterwards the gossiping Fribble well known in 'fashionable' society. 'Plattnauer' she had just rescued from a mad-house, and was (with heroic and successful charity) quite taming here into his normal state: our perfectly peaceable guest for about a fortnight! Dismissed, launched again, with outfit, &c., after my return. - T. C.

To Thomas Carlyle, The Grange.

Chelsea: Sept. 10 (?), 1844.

Dearest, - Your note is as lively a little image of discomfort as one could wish to have before coffee. Now, however, you have eaten and slept, and seen the Lady Harriet; and 'all,' I hope, 'will be well,' as Plattnauer says.

For me, I am worried to the last degree: the painter, preparatory to the paperer, instead of rendering [Page 293]  himself here at six in the morning, has kept me expecting him till now - just when I am going up to town to 'see after my affairs.' Yesterday was very weary. Mazzini came, then Darwin, then Mr. Fleming, bringing me Mazzini's bust, which is a horror of horrors (oh, no! you certainly shall not sit to that man). They were all mortally stupid, especially Mr. Fleming, of whom one might have carried the simile of the Duck in Thunder to that still more offensive one of 'Jenkin's hen.' Plattnauer came home in the midst, in a state of violent talkativeness - the whole thing looked like Bedlam. At last they all went away; and we ate our boiled mutton in silence, somewhat sullen.

In the evening I went to take a walk with him, and met little B----- a few steps from the door, who accompanied us in the walk, and came in to tea and sat there gabbing till ten o'clock. Plattnauer was seized with such a detestation of him that he could not stay in the room for ten minutes together. He told me he had been 'strongly tempted to seize a poker and dash his brains out, and so put an end to his eternal clack in that way, since nothing else could stop it.' I suggested to him somewhat sternly that it did not become one visitor in a house to dash out the brains of another - a statement which he at once perceived and admitted the justice of.

And now good-bye, Mr. Good; for I have de [Page 294]  grandes choses à faire; and nothing since yesterday to write about that cannot be put into three words - God bless you.

Your affectionate J. C.


To Thomas Carlyle Esq., The Grange.

Chelsea: Tuesday, Sept 13, 1844.

Dearest, - I have absolutely no composure of soul for writing just now. The fact is, I have undertaken far more this time than human discretion would have dreamt of putting into one week; knowing your horror of sweeps and carpet-beaters and 'all that sort of thing,' I would, in my romantic self-devotion, sweep all the chimneys and lift all the carpets before you came; and had you arrived this day, as you first proposed, you would have found me still in a regular mess, threatening to thicken into 'immortal smash.' But by Thursday I hope to have 'got everything satisfactorily arranged.' as poor Plattnauer is always saying.

And there have been so many other things to take me up, besides the sweeps, &c. Almost every evening somebody has been here. The evening of the Bullers' departure Jenkin's Hen[1] came, pale as a [Page 295]  candle, with a red circle round each eye which was very touching; - he had evidently been crying himself quite sick and sore. Lady Lewis[1] had invited him to dine with her; but, 'he could not go there, he could not eat any dinner, he was afraid to go home to his own silent house - he thought I could understand his feelings, and so had come to pass the evening with me.' What a gift of understanding people's feelings I am supposed to have - moi! Oh, my dear, the cat produced two kittens in your bed this morning, and we have drowned them - and now she also thinks I can understand her feelings, and is coming about my feet mewing in a way that quite wrings my heart. Poor thing! I never saw her take on so badly before.

Well! but on Saturday night Helen had just gone to seek sugar for the tea when a rap came, which I preferred answering myself to allowing Plattnauer to answer it, and - oh, Heavens! - what should I see in the dark opening? A little human phenomenon, in a triple cornered hat! Bishop * * * again! I screamed, a good, genuine, horrified scream! Whereupon he stept in - and, as the devil would have it - on my bad toe! and then I uttered a series of screams which made Plattnauer savage with him for the rest of the evening. He had come up to seek himself a new assistant, the old one being promoted. There is no [Page 296]  end to his calls to London! But he was plainly mortally afraid of Plattnauer, who as good as told him he was 'one of the windbags,' and will not trouble us again I think while he is here.

Yesterday afternoon came Henry Taylor, but only for a few minutes; he had been unexpectedly 'turned adrift on our shores,' and could only wait till a Wandsworth steamer should come up. I was very kind to him, and he looked as if he could have kissed me for being glad to see him - Oh, how odd! I put on my bonnet, and went with him to the boat; and he complimented me on going out without gloves or shawl. I was the first woman he had ever found in this world who could go out of her house without at least a quarter of an hour's preparation! They have taken a house at Mortlake, near Richmond.

But there is no possibility of telling you all the things I have to tell at this writing. They will keep till you come. Only let me not forget to say there is an American letter come for John, which I send on by this day's post.

Your letter, written apparently on Saturday, was not read by me till yesterday afternoon; the postman came so long after twelve when I had been under the imperative necessity to go out. Give my love to Mr. Baring.

Ever your distracted


[Page 297] 


To Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.

Nov. 5, 1844.

My dearest Mrs. Russell, - I suspect that my Man-of-Genius-Husband has forgotten old Mary as completely as if she had never been born, Oliver Cromwell having, as the servants at Craigenputtock used to say, 'taken the whole gang to himsel'.' The wife of Sir Fowell Buxton has been many times heard to wish that the Blacks (her husband's fixed idea) were all at the bottom of the Red Sea; and I am afraid I have often been undutiful enough, of late months, to wish the memory of Cromwell at the bottom of Something where I might hear less about it. It is at the bottom of Rubbish enough, I am sure, to judge from the tremendous ransacking of old folios and illegible manuscripts which Carlyle is still going on with; but still he manages to bring it up, in season and out of season, till I begin to be weary of him (the Protector), great man though he was. But as everything comes to an end with patience, he will probably get himself written at last, and printed, and published and then my husband will return to a consciousness of his daily life, and I shall have peace from the turmoils of the Commonwealth. For, if Carlyle thinks of nothing else but his Book whilst he is writing it, one has always this consolation, that he is the first to forget it when it is written. [Page 298] 

Meanwhile, to return to old Mary, I send an order for three sovereigns from my own 'pin money' (which is ample enough) to keep her poor old soul and body together a little longer. And I shall not tell Carlyle that I have done so, as I know it would vex him that he should have needed to be 'put in mind;' - so that, if he sends another supply shortly, you will understand the mystery of this double sending.

I wonder how you are all at Thornhill. It seems so long since I have heard a word of news from that place, which I think of more than any other in the world; I shall hear from you one of these days, and understand that 'the smallest contributions will be gratefully received.'

I had a letter from Liverpool a week ago, and all was going on well there - my uncle better than he had been some little while before. Jeannie and Maggie are at Auchtertool with Walter, leading a very good-for-nothing life there according to their own account of it - engaged in perpetual tea-drinkings with 'people whom they can take no pleasure in,' and 'making themselves amends in sitting at home with their feet on the fender, talking over the absurdities of the said people.' Whereupon I have written Jeannie a very scolding letter, which, it is to be feared, will share the common fate of all good advice in this world - make her angry at me, without putting a stop either to the tea-drinkings with people 'one [Page 299]  can take no pleasure in,' or the idle practice of sitting with her feet on the fender, and still worse practice of laughing at one's neighbours' absurdities rather than one's own.

We have dreadfully cold weather here, but I have no influenza as yet - am on the whole well enough for all practical purposes.

With kindest regards to your father and husband,

Ever, dear Mrs. Russell,

Affectionately yours,


From Mrs. Carlyle's Note Book.[1]

April 13, 1845. - To-day, oddly enough, while I was engaged in re-reading Carlyle's 'Philosophy of Clothes,' Count d'Orsay walked in. I had not seen him for four or five years. Last time he was as gay in his colours as a humming-bird - blue satin cravat, blue velvet waistcoat, cream-coloured coat, lined with velvet of the same hue, trousers also of a bright colour, I forget what; white French gloves, two glorious breast pins attached by a chain, and length enough of gold watch-guard to have hanged himself in. To-day, in compliment to his five more years, he was all in black and brown - a black satin cravat, a brown velvet waistcoat, a brown coat, some shades [Page 300]  darker than the waistcoat, lined with velvet of its own shade, and almost black trousers, one breast-pin, a large pear-shaped pearl set into a little cup of diamonds, and only one fold of gold chain round his neck, tucked together right on the centre of his spacious breast with one magnificent turquoise. Well! that man understood his trade; if it be but that of dandy, nobody can deny that he is a perfect master of it, that he dresses himself with consummate skill! A bungler would have made no allowance for five more years at his time of life; but he had the fine sense to perceive how much better his dress of to-day sets off his slightly enlarged figure and slightly worn complexion, than the humming-bird colours of five years back would have done. Poor D'Orsay! he was born to have been something better than even the king of dandies. He did not say nearly so many clever things this time as on the last occasion. His wit, I suppose, is of the sort that belongs more to animal spirits than to real genius, and his animal spirits seem to have fallen many degrees. The only thing that fell from him to-day worth remembering was his account of a mask he had seen of Charles Fox, 'all punched and flattened as if he had slept in a book.'

Lord Jeffrey came, unexpected, while the Count was here. What a difference! the prince of critics and the prince of dandies. How washed out the beautiful [Page 301]  dandiacal face looked beside that little clever old man's! The large blue dandiacal eyes, you would have said, had never contemplated anything more interesting than the reflection of the handsome personage they pertained to in a looking-glass; while the dark penetrating ones of the other had been taking note of most things in God's universe, even seeing a good way into millstones.

Jeffrey told us a very characteristic trait of Lord Brougham. He (Brougham) was saying that some individual they were talking of would never get into aristocratic society: first, because his manners were bad, and secondly, said Brougham, because there is such a want of truth (!) in him. In aristocratic society there is such a quick tact for detecting everything unveracious that no man who is not true can ever get on in it! 'Indeed!' said Jeffrey, 'I am delighted to hear you give such a character of the upper classes; I thought they had been more tolerant.' 'Oh,' said Brougham, 'I assure you it is the fact: any man who is deficient in veracity immediately gets tabooed in the aristocratic circles.'

The force of impudence could no further go.

April. - After I had been in London a short time my husband advised me - ironically, of course - to put an advertisement in the window 'House of refuge for stray dogs and cats.' The number of dogs and cats in distressed circumstances who imposed themselves [Page 302]  on my country simplicity was in fact prodigious. Now it strikes me I might put in the window more appropriately, 'General audit office for all the miseries of the universe.' Why does every miserable man and woman of my acquaintance come to me with his and her woes, as if I had no woes of my own, nothing in the world to do but to console others? Ach Gott! my head is getting to be a perfect chaos of other people's disasters and despairs. Here has been that ill-fated C. J. - Next - but to begin at the beginning - returning from the savings bank I observed in the King's Road a child of 'the lower orders,' about two years old, in the act, it seemed, of dissolving all away into tears. A crowd of tatter-demalion boys had gathered about it; but the genteel of both sexes were passing by on the other side. Of course I stopped and inquired, and learnt from the boys that the child was lost. There was no time for consideration if I meant to save the creature from going all into water, so I took its little hand, and bade it give over crying and I would help it to find its mother. It clung to me quite trustfully and dried itself up, and toddled along by my side. The cortège of boys dropped off by degrees, and then I fell to questioning my foundling, but with the blankest result. Of its name it knew not a syllable, nor of the street where it lived. Two words,' Up here,' 'up here,' seemed to constitute its whole vocabulary. In [Page 303]  pursuance of this direction, I led it into Manor Street; but in the midst it stood still with a mazed look, and proved that it had yet another monosyllable by screaming 'No, no.' Here we were joined by a lad of fourteen smoking a short pipe, and carrying a baby a degree smaller than mine. He evidently suspected I was stealing the child, and felt it his duty not to lose sight of me and it. Nay, he took its other hand without asking, 'by your leave,' and I, suspecting his intent, though not very flattering to me, did not protest. By-and-by he hailed a bigger lad, and with cockney silence deposited his own baby in the arms of the other, put his short pipe into his pocket (a move which I was really thankful for) and so remained free to devote himself to my baby with heart and hand. By this time my baby was wearied, and so was I, so I begged the boy, since he would accompany me, to carry it to my house, as there was clearly no chance of our discovering its home. In the boy's arms my baby grew a little more expansive. 'Have you a father?' the boy asked it. Answer, an inarticulate sound. 'Is your father living?' asked the boy more loudly. The child smiled sweetly, and said, so that we could understand: 'I have a pretty brother, and they put him in a pretty coffin.' Ah, me! At the bottom of my own street I met two policemen, whom I asked how I should proceed to get the child restored to its family. 'Send it to the [Page 304]  police station.' That I would not. 'Then send your address to the police station.' That I would. So I gave the boy sixpence and sent him, when he had set down the child at my own door, to the station house with a slip of paper -

'Stray child at Mrs. Carlyle's,

'No. 5 Cheyne Row.'

The boy went off with an evident change in his feeling towards me, through the fact, I suppose, of my having spoken to the policeman, and partly perhaps on account of my respectable-looking house, and the sixpence. Helen was at work in the bedrooms, so I was obliged to keep my child in the room with me, that it might not fill the house with wail, to the astonishment and wrath of my husband at his writing, as it would have been sure to do if left all alone in the kitchen.

And now ecco la combinazióne. On the table was a note, which had been left, Helen said, by a young lady, who looked so distressed at finding me out that she, Helen, had invited her to come in and wait for me, but she preferred waiting at some shop in the neighbourhood. I opened the note with a presentiment that somebody's 'finer sensibilities of the heart' were about to get me into new trouble, and so it was. This lady, whom I had seen but once in my life, 'felt it due to herself to make some disclosures to me; in [Page 305]  addition to certain awkward disclosures already made to me on her subject, 'and to throw herself on my mercy for advice under a new misfortune.' And the child! I could not refuse to see anyone who had come so great a way, and with such prodigious faith, to 'throw herself on my mercy,' but how to keep the child quiet during her 'disclosures'? I saw only one chance, to give it as much butter and bread and hard biscuit as would suffice to keep it munching for an hour or two: and this was forthwith brought, and with that consideration for les details, which Cavaignac used to call my ruling passion, a table-cloth was spread on my new carpet, in the midst of which the child was placed, that whatever mess it might create should be without permanent consequences. My preparations were hardly completed when the lady arrived - how changed since our former interview! I had never before found myself in the presence of a woman in my own sphere of life in such a situation. I have a strong prejudice against women 'in such a situation' in the abstract. It indicates such stupidity. But this poor woman in the concrete, covered with crimson and tears, went to my heart like a knife. Stranger as she was to me, I could 'do no otherwise' but receive her into my open arms, not figuratively but literally; and then this reception, 'so different from what she had dared to hope,' produced a sort of hysteric on [Page 306]  her part, and she laid her poor face on my lap, and covered my hands with kisses. Oh, mercy! What a false position for one woman to be in towards another! It was a desperate interview. The only comfort was that the child gave us no trouble, but munched away unconscious of the tragic scene, never stirring from its enchanted table-cloth. A greater contrast could not be than betwixt these my two protégées for the time being - that two-year-old duddy child, drowning its recent sorrows in bread-and-butter, ignorant that there were such things as love, &c. in the world; and that elegantly dressed young lady living and having her being in sentiment, forgetful apparently that the world contained anything else. At last she went away, consoled a little by my kindness perhaps; but as for my 'advice,' though I gave her the best, she will not of course follow a syllable of it.

When Carlyle came to dinner, he looked rather aghast at my child. 'Only think,' said I, to enlist his sympathies on its behalf, 'what a state of distraction the poor mother must be in all this while!'

'The poor mother,' repeated he scornfully; 'how do you know that the poor mother did not put it down there in the King's Road for some such simpleton as you to pick it up, and saddle yourself with it for life?'

This was giving me a new idea. I began to look [Page 307]  at the child with a mixed feeling of terror and interest: to look at it critically as a possible possession, while little ideas of an educational sort flitted through my brain. This state of uncertainty was cut short, however, by a young woman knocking at the door, and, with many protestations of gratitude, applying for the creature, about five hours after I had found it. The young woman was not the mother, but a grown-up sister. The poor mother was 'at home in fits.' They feared the child had staggered down into the Thames. It evinced no 'fine feelings' at sight of its sister; in fact, it looked with extreme indifference on her and indicated an inclination to remain where it was. But so soon as she took it into her arms, it began to tell her 'its travel's history' with renewed tears, and went off into a new explosion.

April 27. - Last night we had a novelty in the way of society, a sort of Irish rigg. Mr. L----- came in before tea with a tail consisting of three stranger Irishmen - real hot and hot live Irishmen, such as I have never before sat at meat with or met 'in flow of soul,' newly imported, with the brogue 'rather exquisite,' and repale 'more exquisite still.' They came to adore Carlyle, and also remonstrate with him, almost with tears in their eyes, on his opinion, as stated in his 'Chartism,' that 'a finer [Page 308]  people than the Irish never lived; only they have two faults: they do lie and they do steal.' The poor fellows got into a quite epic strain over this most calumnious exaggeration. (Pity but my husband would pay some regard to the sensibilities of 'others,' and exaggerate less!)

The youngest one - Mr. Pigot - a handsome youth of the romantic cast, pale-faced, with dark eyes and hair, and an 'Emancipation of the Species' melancholy spread over him - told my husband, after having looked at and listened to him in comparative silence for the first hour, with 'How to observe' written in every lineament, that now he (Mr. Pigot) felt assured he (my husband) was not in his heart so unjust towards Ireland as his writings led one to suppose, and so he would confess, for the purpose of retracting it, the strong feeling of repulsion with which he had come to him that night. 'Why, in the name of goodness, then, did you come?' I could not help asking, thereby producing a rather awkward result. Several awkward results were produced in this 'nicht wi' Paddy.' They were speaking of the Scotch intolerance towards Catholics, and Carlyle as usual took up the cudgels for intolerance. 'Why,' said he, 'how could they do otherwise? If one sees one's fellow-creature following a damnable error, by continuing in which the devil is sure to get him at last, and roast him in eternal fire and brimstone, are you [Page 309]  to let him go towards such consummation? or are you not rather to use all means to save him?'

'A nice prospect for you to be roasted in fire and brimstone,' I said to Mr. L-----, the red-hottest of Catholics. 'For all of us,' said poor L----- laughing good-naturedly; 'we are all Catholics.' Nevertheless the evening was got over without bloodshed; at least, malice prepense bloodshed, for a little blood was shed involuntarily. While they were all three at the loudest in their defence of Ireland against the foul aspersions Carlyle had cast on it, and 'scornfully' cast on it, one of their noses burst out bleeding. It was the nose of the gentleman whose name we never heard. He let it bleed into his pocket handkerchief privately till nature was relieved, and was more cautious of exciting himself afterwards. The third, Mr. D-----, quite took my husband's fancy, and mine also to a certain extent. He is a writer of national Songs, and came here to 'eat his terms.' With the coarsest of human faces, decidedly as like a horse's as a man's, he is one of the people that I should get to think beautiful, there is so much of the power both of intellect and passion in his physiognomy. As for young Mr. Pigot, I will here, in the spirit of Prophecy, inherited from my great great ancestor, John Welsh, the Covenanter, make a small prediction. If there be in his time an insurrection in Ireland, as these gentlemen confidently anticipate, Mr. Pigot will rise [Page 310]  to be a Robespierre of some sort; will cause many heads to be removed from the shoulders they belong to; and will 'eventually' have his own head removed from his own shoulders. Nature has written on that handsome but fatal-looking countenance of his, quite legibly to my prophetic eye, 'Go and get thyself beheaded, but not before having lent a hand towards the great work of "immortal smash."'

All these Irishmen went off without their hats, and had to return into the room to seek them. Two of them found theirs after a moderate search. The third, the one whose nose bled, had hid his under the sofa, where I discovered it by help of my aforementioned second-sight. I have now seen what Sir James Graham would call 'fine foamy patriotism,' dans so plus simple expression.


In the summer of 1845 Mrs. Carlyle went alone to Lancashire to stay with her uncle at Liverpool, and with Mrs. Paulet at Seaforth. From thence were written the ensuing letters. - J. A. F.

To T. Carlyle, Chelsea.

First day in Flätz,[1]
Liverpool, July 23, 1845.

Dearest, - It is all as well as could be expected. I arrived without accident, not even much tired, [Page 311]  an hour and half before I was looked for - in fact between five and six. Consequently there was nobody to meet me, and I had some difficulty in getting myself a car, and at the same time keeping watch over my trunk and dressing-box; the former indeed was getting itself coolly borne away by a porter amongst some other people's luggage, when I laid my hand on it, and indicated: Thus far shalt thou go but no farther. My uncle I met tumbling downstairs, with what speed he might, prepared for being kissed to death; then came Maggie; and lastly Babbie, flushed and embarrassed, and unsatisfactory-looking; for, alas! she had been all day preserving strawberries, and had not expected me so soon, and was not dressed: to be an unwise virgin, taken with one's lamp untrimmed, means here to be caught in déshabillé. A----- I have not seen yet - tant mieux, for I don't like him 'the least in the world.' Johnnie has sunk away into 'an unintelligible whinner.'[1]

On the whole, there is little 'food for the young soul, Mr. Carlyle!' But she (as Mazzini insists on calling the soul, and I think with reason; making the soul into an it being - what shall I say? - a desecration, upon my honour) - 'she' can do without visible food, like my leech, for all the while 'she' is to abide in the place. And 'one has always one's natural affections left.' And then to 'give pleasure to [Page 312]  others!' The compensation that lies in that under all circumstances! Ah!

I am established in Mary's little room (off my uncle's) which they have made as tidy as possible for me. There is a tradition of 'a little wee wifie that lived in a shoe;' but I am still more curiously lodged, for this room is for all the world like a boot, the bed occupying the heel of it, a little bed like a coffin.

In so new a predicament, of course, I could not sleep; the best I made of it was a doze from time to time of a few minutes' duration, from which I started up with a sensation of horror, like what must have been felt by the victim of the Iron Shroud. For the rest, there was a cat opera, in which the prima donna had an organ that 'bet the worl;'[1] then there are some half-dozen of stout-lunged cocks, and a dog that lyrically recognises every passing event. Perhaps, like the pigs, I shall get used to it; if not I must just go all the sooner to Seaforth, where there is at least a certain quiet.

My coachful of men turned out admirably, as silent as could be wished, yet not deficient in the courtesies of life. The old gentleman with moustachios and a red face was Colonel Cleveland, of the Artillery, 'much distinguished in the wars.' There was another old gentleman still more miraculous than [Page 313]  Rio;[1] for he had one eye boiled, the other parboiled, no leg, and his mind boiled to jelly, and yet he got to Liverpool just as well as the rest of us. The little man opposite me, who was absorbed in Eugène Sue's female Bluebeard, was a German, and, pleased to see me reading his language, he gave me his pea-jacket to wrap my legs in, for we were all perished with cold. The English dandy with the heaven-blue waistcoat slept the whole way, exactly in the attitude of 'James' waiting for the Sylphide to come and kiss him; but he might sleep long enough, I fancy, before any 'bit of fascination' would take the trouble.

And now you must 'excuse us the day.' After such a night, I can neither 'make wits,'[2] nor, what were more to the purpose, senses, for your gratification. I shall go and walk, and look at the Great Britain packet; if one does not enlighten one's mind in the shipping department here, I see not how else one shall enlighten it.

Babbie has just knocked to beg I would give her love to you, and most sincere thanks for the Book,[3] the preface of which I read aloud to my uncle at breakfast; and he pronounced it 'very satirical ' - a true speak! [Page 314] 

God bless you, dear. I do not wish you to feel lonely, nor will you; and yet I should not precisely like if you missed me none at all.

Your distracted



To T. Carlyle, Chelsea.

Liverpool: Friday, July 25, 1845.

Dearest, - You have interpreted the library note too ironically; it is a polite bonâ-fide offer of the book to read. I applied for it some six months ago without result; the copy I had was lent to me by Darwin.

Tout va bien ici; le sommeil manque. The cat-operas are a fixed thing; they too, it would seem, have their Thursday night. Last night it was Der Freyschütz, or something as devilish, and the performance did not cease till two in the morning; when the cocks took possession of the stage, 'bits of fascination,'[1] and carried on the glory till breakfast-time. Add to which occasional explosions of bad feeling from the dog, and an incessant braying of carts from early dawn, going to and from the quarry; and through all, the sensation of being pent up in the foot of a boot. [Page 315]  You may fancy the difficulty experienced by a finely organised human being, like me, in getting even a Scotch 'poor's'[1] minimum of sleep under such circumstances! Nevertheless, and although the wind here is constantly in the east, and although the eternal smell of roast meat in this house is oppressive to soul and sense, 'it is but fair to state'[2] that I feel less tendency to 'dee and du nought ava'[3] than when I left London. Elizabeth Pepoli would impute the improvement to 'the greater variety of food' - oh, Heavens! - and above all to the excellent porter. I who, though my Sylphide's wings have long fallen off, can still manage by stilts and other means to keep myself above such depths of prose as that comes to, find 'the solution' elsewhere: namely in 'the great comfort' which it is somehow to be made sensible from time to time that if oneself is miserable, others are 'perhaps more to be pitied that they are not miserable.' Here sufficient for the day is the marketing, and eating, and dressing thereof! And a new satin dress can diffuse perfect beatitude through an immortal soul! The circulating library satisfies all their intellectual [Page 316]  wants, and flirtation all the wants of their hearts; it is very convenient to be thus easily satisfied. One looks plump, digests without effort, and sleeps in spite of all the cats and cocks in the world. But somehow 'I as one solitary individual'[1] would rather remain in Hell - the Hell I make for myself with my restless digging - than accept this drowsy placidity. Yes, I begin to feel again that I am not la dernière des femmes, which has been oftener than anything else my reading of myself in these the latter times; a natural enough reaction against the exorbitant self-conceit which put me at fourteen on setting up for a woman of genius. Now I should be only too pleased to feel myself a 'woman without the genius;' a woman, not a 'chimera,' 'a miserable fatuity.' But this is fully worse than a description of scenery - description of one's own inside! Bah! who likes one well enough to find that other than a bore?

Well, I did the Great Britain. It is three hundred and twenty feet long and fifty feet broad, and all of iron, and has six sails, and one pays a shilling to see it, and it was not 'a good joy.' All these prodigious efforts for facilitating locomotion seem to me a highly questionable investmnent of human faculty; people need rather to be taught to sit still. Yesterday I went with the girls and Mr. Liddle (the man who is so like a doll) to a flower-show in the Botanical [Page 317]  Gardens. The flowers were well enough, but few of them - the company shockingly bad; really these Liverpool ladies look, two-thirds of them, improper; the democratic tendency of the age in dress has not penetrated hither, I assure you; not a woman that Helen might not stand in admiration before, and exclaim 'How expensive!'[1]

To-day we are going 'across the water' with my uncle; I make a point of accepting every lark proposed to me, however uninviting. I am here for what Helen calls 'a fine change,' and the more movement the better. If I do not get good of the movement, I shall at least get good of the sitting still after it. My uncle is very kind to me. Alick is rather improved, speaks not at all on politics in my hearing. Johnnie I have found a use for. I play one game at chess with him every night. 'He beats us a' for a deep thought.'[2]

Kind regards to Helen, and compliments to the leech.

Do not work too hard.

Ever your affectionate


'Noti bena.[3] I've got no bacca.'

[Page 318] 


To T. Carlyle, Chelsea.

July 27, 1845. - They are all gone to church and I am here alone, enjoying virtue's (Roman virtue's) own reward. My uncle at the last minute came to me in the room where I had fortified myself (morally), and asked with a certain enthusiasm, 'Are you not going to church?' 'No, I have no thought of it.' 'And why not?' (crescendo.) 'Because your minister is a ranting jackass, that cracks the drum of one's ears.' 'Who told you that?' (stamping like my grandfather.) 'I do not choose to compromise anyone by naming my authority.' 'And what has that to do with going to a place of worship?' 'Nothing whatever; but it has a great deal to do with staying away from a place that is not of worship.' He looked at me over his spectacles for an instant as if doubtful whether to eat me raw or laugh; and 'eventually, thanks God,'[1] he chose the latter part. The girls, who came in fear and trembling to pick up my fragments, were astonished to find that I had carried the day. We get on famously, my uncle and I, and by dint of defiance, tempered with kisses, I can manage him better than anyone else does.

July 30. - My uncle has enjoyed my visit very much. I wrote to him beforehand on the subject of [Page 319]  his 'detestable politics,' and we have had no flares up this time. The only one I have witnessed was last night at cards. He and A----- were playing at écarté on a little table in a corner, very silently and amicably to all appearance; the rest of us were sewing or reading. Suddenly the little table flew into the air on the point of my uncle's foot, and a shower of cards fell all over the floor! 'D----- these eternal cards!' said he fiercely, as we all stared up at him in astonishment. 'Hang them! Curse them to hell!' They all looked frightened; for me, the suddenness of the thing threw me into a fit of laughter, in which my uncle himself was the first to join. This morning at breakfast something was said about cards to be taken to Scotland. 'But,' said I, 'I thought they had been all sent last night to hell.' 'Pooh!' said my uncle quite gravely, 'that was only one pack.'

I am not wise in writing on with 'my brains' (as Rio would say) tormenting me in this way. But what to do? One's Good, if not feeling so lonely as might be wished, is in fact lonely enough, and one's self without one's own red bed to retire into. Cannot I stay in my 'boot' and be quiet? No, I get beside myself pent up there; latterly I have been bolting out of it through the men's room, whether they were clothed or no, like a bottle of ginger beer bursting the cork! 'Uncle, I beg your pardon but I must get out!' [Page 320]  'Weel, weel,' hiding himself behind the curtain, 'there is no help for it.'

God bless you, dear. I am in the Devil's own humour to-day if you care to know it - but ever yours, not without affection.

July 31. - Yesterday in the evening came Dr. James C-----, and a young N-----, all in black, this last being just returned from the funeral of his only sister, a promising girl of sixteen, the poor mother's chief comfort of late years. I recollected the time when Mrs. N-----, then Agnes L-----, consulted me whether she ought to marry J. N-----. Where were all these young N-----'s then - the lad who sate there looking so sadly, the girl who had just been laid under the earth? Had Agnes L----- lived true to the memory of her first love, would these existences have been for ever suppressed by her act? If her act could have suppressed them, what pretension have they to call themselves immortal, eternal? What comfort is there in thinking of the young girl just laid in her grave? 'My dear, you really ought not to go on with that sort of thing - all that questioning leads to nothing. We know nothing about it and cannot know, and what better should we be if we did?' 'All very true, Mr. Carlyle, but' - at least one cannot accept such solution on the authority of others, even of the wisest - one must have worked it out for oneself. And the working of it out is a sore [Page 321]  business, very sore; especially with 'a body apt to fall into holes.'

August 5, Seaforth. - Geraldine (Jewsbury) came yesterday afternoon, looking even better than when in London, and not triste, as R----- expected, by any means. She has brought a good stock of cigaritos with her, which is rather a pity, as I had just begun to forget there was such a weed as tobacco in the civilised world. She is very amusing and good-humoured, does all the 'wits' of the party: and Mrs. Paulet and I look to the Pure Reason and Practical Endeavour. I fancy you would find our talk amusing if you could assist at it in a cloak of darkness, for one of the penalties of being 'the wisest man and profoundest thinker of the age' is the royal one of never hearing the plain, 'unornamented' truth spoken; everyone striving to be wise and profound invitâ naturâ in the presence of such a one, and making himself as much as possible into his likeness. And this is the reason that Arthur Helps and so many others talk very nicely to me, and bore you to distraction. With me they are not afraid to stand on the little 'broad basis' of their own individuality, such as it is. With you they are always balancing themselves like Taglioni, on the point of their moral or intellectual great toe.

If I were going 'at my age and with my cough' to take up a mission, it would be the reverse of [Page 322]  F. W-----'s. Instead of boiling up individuals into the species I would draw a chalk circle round every individuality, and preach to it to keep within that, and preserve and cultivate its identity at the expense of ever so much lost gilt of other people's 'isms.'

August 10. - 'Monsieur le Président! I begin to be weary of the treatment I experience here.'[1] Always my 'bits of letters' and 'bits of letters,' as if I were some nice little child writing in half text on ruled paper to its God-papa! Since Jeffrey was pleased to compliment me on my 'bits of convictions,' I have not had my 'rights of woman' so trifled with. He paid the penalty of his assurance in losing from that time my valuable correspondence; with you I cannot so easily cease to correspond 'for reasons which it may be interesting not to state.' But a woman of my invention can always find legitimate means of revenging herself on those who do not treat her with the respect due to genius, who put her off with a pat on the head or a chuck under the chin when she addresses them in all the full-grown gravity of five feet five inches and three-quarters without her shoes! So let us hear no more of my 'bits of letters' unless you are prepared to front a nameless retribution. ...

J. M----- seems to be still fighting it out with his conscience, abating no jot of heart or hope. If he were beside you I am persuaded he would soon [Page 323]  become the sincerest disciple that you ever had; he seems so very near kicking his foot through the whole Unitarian concern already. He was arguing with Geraldine about the 'softening tendencies of our age,' 'the sympathy for knaves and criminals,' 'the impossibility of great minds being disjoined from great morality,' 'the stupidity of expecting to be happy through doing good.'

Nothing could be more orthodox! But what would have 'engrushed' him with you more than anything was in talking of Cromwell's doings in Ireland. 'After all,' he said, 'people make a great deal more outcry over massacres than there is any occasion for; one does not understand that exorbitant respect for human life, in overlooking or violating everything that makes it of any value.

August 14. - A delicate attention! This morning the bell for getting up did not ring. I lay awake till near nine expecting it, and then I thought I might as well dress. When I came down everybody had finished breakfast. 'But the bell did not ring,' said I, quite shocked. 'Oh, no, madam,' said Mr. Paulet; 'they told me you were so witty at dinner yesterday that you had better be let slumber this morning as long as possible, in case of your feeling a little exhausted!' And so actually the bell had not been rung in consideration of my incessant wit.

I had a long and really excellent letter from [Page 324]  Helen yesterday, containing a little box of salve for my bunions. She had 'tried it on herself first' and found it quite satisfactory. Tell her that her letter was quite a treat for me, so copious and sensible, and not without wits even! She tells me that 'the child' (the leech) 'gets always more lively,' and she is becoming 'rather fond of it.' She suggests also, very sensibly, that I should bid you give her timely notice when you leave, 'as she would like to have all your things nice for you, and you might never think of telling her till the very day!'

I have your letter. Sometimes the postman prefers taking them to Dale Street, and I have to wait all day in uncertainty, and then I am 'vaixed.' No address seems able to secure us against this contretemps. I wish I were there, dear Good, to baiser you 'à la front.' I could not reconcile myself to following my pleasures, or at least my eases, here while you are so hard worked and solitary, if it were not that my health is really improving, and I look forward to being less of an Egyptian skeleton lady for you through the winter by this egoism I am indulging in at present.

Mrs. Buller got no letter from me; what with eating, and sleeping, and walking, and driving, and having my feet rubbed, and settling the general question, I have really no time for writing except to one's Good. [Page 325] 

Every night, too, after Mr. Paulet comes home, I play one or more games at chess; which is using him up famously. He is wonderfully patient of us all, and 'not without glimmerings of intelligence'! My paper and everybody's is done; so you must put up with scraps.

Your own



To T. Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.

Liverpool: Saturday, Aug. 16, 1845.

Dearest, - I never know whether a letter is welcomer when it arrives after having been impatiently waited for, or like yesterday's, 'quite promiscuously,' when I was standing 'on the broad basis' of, 'Blessed are they who do not hope, for they shall not be disappointed!' I assure you I am the only person obliged by your writing; it makes a very palpable difference in my amiability throughout the day whether I have a letter to begin it with.

Last night we went, according to programme, to Mrs. A-----'s, and 'it is but fair to state' that the drive there and back in the moonlight was the best of it. The party did me no ill, however; it was not a Unitarian crush like the last, but adapted to the size of the room: select, moreover, and with the crowning grace of an open window. There was an old gentleman who did the impossible to inspire me [Page 326]  with a certain respect; Y----- they called him, and his glory consists in owning the Prince's Park, and throwing it open to 'poors.'[1] Oh, what a dreadful little old man! He plied me with questions, amid suggestions about you, till I was within a trifle of putting 'my finger in the pipy o' 'im.'[2] 'How did Mr. Carlyle treat Oliver Cromwell's crimes?' 'His what?' said I. 'The atrocities he exercised on the Irish.' 'Oh, you mean massacring a garrison or two? All that is treated very briefly.' 'But Mr. Carlyle must feel a just horror of that.' 'Horror? Oh, none at all, I assure you! He regards it as the only means under the circumstances to save bloodshed.' The little old gentleman bounced back in his chair, and spread out his two hands, like a duck about to swim, while there burst from his lips a groan that made everyone look at us. What had I said to their Mr. Y-----? By-and-by my old gentleman returned to the charge. 'Mr. Carlyle must be feeling much delighted about the Academical Schools?' 'Oh, no! he has been so absorbed in his own work lately that he has not been at leisure to be delighted about anything.' 'But, madam! a man may attend to his own work, and attend at the same time to questions of great public interest.' 'Do you think [Page 327]  so? I don't.' Another bounce on the chair. Then, with a sort of awe, as of a 'demon more wicked than your wife:'[1] 'Do you not think, madam, that more good might be done by taking up the history of the actual time than of past ages? Such a time as this, so full of improvements in arts and sciences, the whole face of Europe getting itself changed! Suppose Mr. Carlyle should bring out a yearly volume about all this?' This was Y-----'s last flight of eloquence with me, for catching the eyes of a lady (your Miss L----- of 'The Gladiator') fixed on me with the most ludicrous expression of sympathy, I fairly burst out laughing till the tears ran down; and when I had recovered myself, the old gentleman had turned for compensation to J. M-----. J. had reasons for being civil to him which I had not, Mr. Y----- being his landlord; but he seemed to be answering him in his sleep, while his waking thoughts were intent on an empty chair betwixt Geraldine and me, and eventually he made it his own. As if to deprecate my confounding him with these Y-----'s, he immediately began to speak in the most disrespectful manner of Mechanics' Institutes 'and all that sort of thing;' and then we got on these eternal Vestiges of Creation,[2] which he termed, rather happily, 'animated mud.' Geraldine and Mrs. Paulet [Page 328]  were wanting to engage him in a doctrinal discussion, which they are extremely fond of: 'Look at Jane,' suddenly exclaimed Geraldine, 'she is quizzing us in her own mind. You must know' (to M-----) 'we cannot get Jane to care a bit about doctrines.' 'I should think not,' said M-----, with great vivacity; 'Mrs. Carlyle is the most concrete woman that I have seen for a long while.' 'Oh,' said Geraldine, 'she puts all her wisdom into practice, and so never gets into scrapes.' 'Yes,' said M----- in a tone 'significant of much,' 'to keep out of doctrines is the only way to keep out of scrapes!' Was not that a creditable speech in a Unitarian?

Miss L----- is a frank, rather agreeable, woman, forty or thereabouts, who looks as if she had gone through a good deal of hardship; not 'a domineering genius' by any means,[1] but with sense enough for all practical purposes, such as admiring you to the skies, and Cromwell too. The rest of the people were 'chiefly musical, Mr. Carlyle.' Mrs. A----- is very much fallen off in her singing since last year; I suppose, from squalling so much to her pupils. She is to dine here to-day, and ever so many people besides, to meet these R-----'s. Doubtless we shall be 'borne through with an honourable throughbearing;'[2] but quietness is best. [Page 329] 

And now I must go and walk, while the sun shines. Our weather here is very showery and cold. I heard a dialogue the other morning betwixt Mr. Paulet and his factotum, which amused me much. The factotum was mowing the lawn. Mr. Paulet threw up the breakfast-room window, and called to him: 'Knolles! how looks my wheat?' 'Very distressed indeed, sir!' 'Are we much fallen down?' 'No, sir, but we are black, very black.' 'All this rain, I should have thought, would have made us fall down?' 'Where the crops are heavy they are a good deal laid, sir, but it would take a vast of rain to lay us!' 'Oh, then, Knolles, it is because we are not powerful enough that we are not fallen down? ' 'Sir?' 'It is because we are not rich enough?' 'Beg pardon, sir, but I don't quite understand?' Mr. Paulet shut the window and returned to his breakfast. God keep you, dear.

Your own

J. C.


To T. Carlyle, Chelsea.

Aug. 21, 1845.

On our return to the railway, I had got out of the carriage, and was walking backwards and forwards when two gentlemen passed, one of whom I felt to know quite well, and after a little consideration [Page 330]  I decided it was Mr. Storey, of Roseneath. Back I ran and laid my hand on his arm. 'See,' I said, 'how much better my memory is than yours!' 'I know your face quite well,' said he, 'but for my life I cannot tell who you are.' 'Why, I am Jeannie Welsh, to be sure.' If you had only seen the man! His transports were 'rather exquisite.' I do not remember to have seen anybody so outrageously glad to see me in all my life before. It was only after he had played all manner of antics that I recollected he had once been in love with me. He was still with me when Mrs. Paulet and Geraldine made their appearance, and they both perceived in the first instance that the gentleman I introduced to them had once been my lover; two women alike 'gleg.' In consideration of which good taste on his part, Mrs. Paulet on the spot invited him to go home with us to dinner; but that he could not do, was just about starting for London, where he had meant to seek me out. It did me great good to see him, especially as he looked so glad, not for his own sake particularly, but as an authentic piece of old times.

We had not been at home three minutes when J. M----- arrived to early dinner by appointment. I told him to-day quite frankly that he had better cut Unitarianism and come over to us. He asked me who I meant by 'us,' and I said Carlyle. He sighed, and shook his head, and said something [Page 331]  about a man being bound to remain in the sphere appointed to him till he was fairly drawn out of it by his conscience.


Carlyle was himself coming North; his wife to return to London. She had written him an angry letter about his changes of plan, which had disturbed her own arrangements. - J. A. F.

To T. Carlyle, Chelsea.

Aug. 29.

Dearest, - To-day I am restored to my normal state of amiability through the unassisted efforts of nature. I am sorry now I did not repress my little movement of impatience yesterday; a lover would have found it charming, perhaps more flattering than whole pages of 'wits' and dolcezze; but husbands are so obtuse. They do not understand one's movements of impatience; want always 'to be treated with the respect due to genius;' exact common sense of their poor wives rather than 'the finer sensibilities of the heart;' and so the marriage state[1] - 'by working late and early, has come to what ye see' - if not precisely to immortal smash as yet, at least to within a hair's-breadth of it. But the [Page 332]  matrimonial question may lie over till I write my book on the Rights of Women and make an Egyptian happy.


To Charles Gavan Duffy, Esq., Dublin.

5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Sept. 14, 1845.

My dear Sir, - Thank you emphatically for the beautiful little volume you have sent me, 'all to myself' (as the children say). Besides the prospective pleasure of reading it, it is no small immediate pleasure to me as a token of your remembrance; for when one has 'sworn an everlasting friendship' at first sight, one desires, very naturally, that it should not have been on your Irish principle, 'with the reciprocity all on one side.'

The book only reached me, or rather I only reached it, last night, on my return home after an absence of two months, in search of - what shall I say? - a religion? Sure enough, if I were a good Catholic, or good Protestant, or good anything, I should not be visited with those nervous illnesses, which send me from time to time out into space to get myself rehabilitated, after a sort, by 'change of air.'

When are you purposing, through the strength of Heaven, to break into open rebellion? I have sometimes thought that in a civil war I should possibly find my 'mission' - moi! But in these merely [Page 333]  talking times, a poor woman knows not how to turn herself; especially if, like myself, she 'have a devil' always calling to her, 'March! march!' and bursting into infernal laughter when requested to be so good as specify whither.

If you have not set a time for taking up arms, when at least are you coming again to 'eat terms' (whatever that may mean)? I feel what my husband would call 'a real, genuine, healthy desire' to pour out more tea for you.

My said husband has finished his 'Cromwell' two weeks ago, then joined me at a place near Liverpool, where he remained a week in a highly reactionary state; and then he went North, and I South, to meet again when he has had enough of peat-bog and his platonically beloved 'silence' - perhaps in three weeks or a month hence. Meanwhile I intend a great household earthquake, through the help of chimney-sweeps, carpet-beaters, and other like products of the fall of our first parents. And so you have our history up to the present moment.

Success to all your wishes, except for the destruction of us Saxons, and believe me

Always very cordially yours,


[Page 334] 


About the end of August I did come to Seaforth; wearisome journey; bulky dull man, Sir W. B-----, as I found, and some Irish admirers talking dull antiquarian pedantries and platitudes all day; I as third party silent, till at length, near sunset, bursting out upon them and their Nennius, to their terror and astonishment and almost to my own. Beautiful reception by Mrs. Paulet and her waiting for me at the station. Alas! alas! how unspeakable now! - T. C.

From Liverpool Carlyle went on by sea to Annan, leaving Mrs. Carlyle to go home to Chelsea. - J. A. F.

To T. Carlyle, Esq., Scotsbrig.

Chelsea: Monday, Sept. 15, 1845.

I was sure you would have a wretched voyage; the very smell of that boat made me sick for all the rest of the evening. We 'did intend' to have waved a handkerchief to you in passing, from the roof of the house; but the fog was too thick 'for anything.'

Great efforts were made to keep me longer, but it is my principle always to go away before having exhausted the desire to keep me; besides that, I pique myself on being a woman of my word, and so me voici in Cheyne Row once more.

The journey back was a considerable of a bore; the train I came by starting at eleven, and, supposed by Mr. Paulet to answer to that which leaves here at ten, did not land me at Euston Station till half after [Page 335]  nine! And all that while, except a glass of porter and a sandwich, 'the chief characteristic of which was its tenuity,'[1] I had no support to nature, for I saw no sense in dining at Birmingham when I expected to be in London at six. John[2] had sent a note the day before, proposing, as he proposed the senna for Mary's children, that I should appoint him to meet me, 'or perhaps I had better not.' Not having got the letter before setting out, I had, of course, no option; 'which was probably just as well.' Arriving here a quarter after ten, I found poor little Helen half distracted at my lateness; 'if it had been the master, she would never have minded, but me, that was always to a moment!' And so she had been taking on at a great rate; and finally, just a few minutes before I arrived, got John despatched to look for me (!) at the station, in case, as he fancied, I had preferred coming by the express train; and, through these good intentions, 'highly unfortunate,'[3] I was kept up till half after one; John not coming back till half after twelve, and I too polite to go to bed without awaiting his coming. Moreover, the carriage I came in had pitched like a ship in a storm; so that I was shaken into an absolute fever; 'the flames of fever had seized on me;' and what with all this fatigue, and the excitement of feeling myself at home, I could [Page 336]  not sleep 'the least in the world,' and have not recovered myself to this hour. All is quiet about me as quiet can be, even to John's boots; but what signifies that, if one have, like Anne Cook's soldier, 'palpitation.'

I have found everything here as well or better than could have been expected: the leech alive and 'so happy!' Helen radiant with virtue's own reward; the economical department in a very backward state, but not confused, for it is clear as day that not a single bill has been paid since I left. Helen seems to have had four pounds ten for the incidental expenses, which I shall inclose her account of, to amuse Jamie; and there is a national debt to the butcher, baker, and milkman, amounting to about five pounds. So that the housekeeping, during my absence, has been carried on at some six or seven shillings a week less than if I had been at home, which is all as it should be, for I defy three people to live as we do on less than thirty shillings a week. I do think the little creature is very careful; as for honest, that I have been sure about long ago.


To T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.

Chelsea: Thursday, Sept. 18, 1845.

My Dear, - I have got quite over the fatigues of my journey, which had been most provokingly [Page 337]  aggravated for me by a circumstance 'which it may be interesting not to state;' the last two nights I have slept quite as well as I was doing at Seaforth. The retirement of Cheyne Row is as deep at present as anyone not absolutely a Timon of Athens could desire. 'There is, in the first place' (as Mr. Paulet would say), the physical impossibility (hardly anybody being left in town), and then the weather has been so tempestuous that nobody in his senses (except Mazzini, who never reflects whether it be raining or no) would come out to make visits. He (Mazzini) came the day before yesterday, immediately on receiving notification of my advent, and his doe-skin boots were oozing out water in a manner frightful to behold. He looked much as I left him, and appeared to have made no progress of a practical sort. He told me nothing worth recording, except that he had received the other day a declaration of love. And this he told with the same calma and historical precision with which you might have said you had received an invitation to take the chair at a Mechanics' Institute dinner. Of course I asked 'the particulars.' 'Why not?' and I got them fully, at the same time with brevity, and without a smile. Since the assassination affair,[1] he had received many invitations to the house of a Jew [Page 338]  merchant of Italian extraction, where there are several daughters - 'what shall I say? - horribly ugly: that is, repugnant for me entirely.' One of them is 'nevertheless very strong in music,' and seeing that he admired her playing, she had 'in her head confounded the playing with the player.' The last of the only two times he had availed himself of their attentions, as they sat at supper with Browning and some others, 'the youngest of the horrible family' proposed to him, in sotto voce, that they two should drink 'a goblet of wine' together, each to the person that each loved most in the world. 'I find your toast unegoist,' said he, 'and I accept it with pleasure.' 'But,' said she, 'when we have drunk, we will then tell each other to whom?' 'Excuse me,' said he, 'we will, if you please, drink without conditions.' Whereupon they drank; 'and then this girl - what shall I say? bold, upon my honour - proposed to tell me to whom she had drunk, and trust to my telling her after. "As you like." "Well, then, it was to you!" "Really?" said I, surprised, I must confess. "Yes," said she, pointing aloft; "true as God exists." "Well," said I, "I find it strange." "Now, then," said she, "to whom did you drink?" "Ah!" said I, "that is another question;" and on this, that girl became ghastly pale, so that her sister called out, "Nina! what is the matter with you?" and now, thanks God, she has sailed to [Page 339]  Aberdeen.' Did you ever hear anything so distracted? enough to make one ask if R----- has not some grounds for his extraordinary ideas of English women.

The said R----- presented himself here, last night, in an interregnum of rain, and found me in my dressing-gown (after the wetting), expecting no such Himmelssendung. I looked as beautifully unconscious as I could of all the amazing things I had been told of him at Seaforth. He talked much of a 'dreadful illness;' but looked as plump as a pincushion, and had plenty of what Mr. Paulet calls 'colours in his face.' He seemed less distracted than usual, and professed to have discovered, for the first time, 'the infinite blessedness of work,' and also to be 'making money at a great rate - paying off his debt by five or six pounds a week.' I remarked that he must surely have had a prodigious amount of debt to begin with.

Kind regards to your mother and the rest.

J. C.


To T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.

Tuesday, Sept. 23, 1845.

'Nothink'[1] for you to-day in the shape of inclosure, unless I inclose a letter from Mrs. Paulet to myself, which you will find as 'entertaining' to the [Page 340]  full as any of mine. And nothink to be told either, except all about the play;[1] and upon my honour, I do not feel as if I had penny-a-liner genius enough, this cold morning, to make much entertainment out of that. Enough to clasp one's hands, and exclaim, like Helen before the Virgin and Child, 'Oh, how expensive!' But 'how did the creatures get through it?' Too well; and not well enough! The public theatre, scenes painted by Stansfield, costumes 'rather exquisite,' together with the certain amount of proficiency in the amateurs, overlaid all idea of private theatricals; and, considering it as public theatricals, the acting was 'most insipid,' not one performer among them that could be called good, and none that could be called absolutely bad. Douglas Jerrold seemed to me the best, the oddity of his appearance greatly helping him; he played Stephen the Cull. Forster as Kitely and Dickens as Captain Bobadil were much on a par; but Forster preserved his identity, even through his loftiest flights of Macreadyism; while poor little Dickens, all painted in black and red, and affecting the voice of a man of six feet, would have been unrecognisable for the mother that bore him! On the whole, to get up the smallest interest in the thing, one needed to be always reminding oneself: 'all these actors were [Page 341]  once men!'[1] and will be men again to-morrow morning. The greatest wonder for me was how they had contrived to get together some six or seven hundred ladies and gentlemen (judging from the clothes) at this season of the year; and all utterly unknown to me, except some half-dozen.

So long as I kept my seat in the dress circle I recognised only Mrs. Macready (in one of the four private boxes), and in my nearer neighbourhood Sir Alexander and Lady Gordon. But in the interval betwixt the play and the farce I took a notion to make my way to Mrs. Macready. John, of course, declared the thing 'clearly impossible, no use trying it;' but a servant of the theatre, overhearing our debate, politely offered to escort me where I wished; and then John, having no longer any difficulties to surmount, followed, to have his share in what advantages might accrue from the change. Passing through a long dim passage, I came on a tall man leant to the wall, with his head touching the ceiling like a caryatid, to all appearance asleep, or resolutely trying it under most unfavourable circumstances. 'Alfred Tennyson!' I exclaimed in joyful surprise. 'Well!' said he, taking the hand I held out to him, and forgetting to let it go again. 'I did not know you were in town,' said I. 'I should like to [Page 342]  know who you are,' said he; 'I know that I know you, but I cannot tell your name.' And I had actually to name myself to him. Then he woke up in good earnest, and said he had been meaning to come to Chelsea. 'But Carlyle is in Scotland,' I told him with due humility. 'So I heard from Spedding already, but I asked Spedding, would he go with me to see Mrs. Carlyle? and he said he would.' I told him if he really meant to come, he had better not wait for backing, under the present circumstances; and then pursued my way to the Macreadys' box; where I was received by William (whom I had not divined) with a 'Gracious heavens!' and spontaneous dramatic start, which made me all but answer, 'Gracious heavens!' and start dramatically in my turn. And then I was kissed all round by his women; and poor Nell Gwyn, Mrs. M----- G-----, seemed almost pushed by the general enthusiasm on the distracted idea of kissing me also! They would not let me return to my stupid place, but put in a third chair for me in front of their box; 'and the latter end of that woman was better than the beginning.' Macready was in perfect ecstasies over the 'Life of Schiller,' spoke of it with tears in his eyes. As 'a sign of the times,' I may mention that in the box opposite sat the Duke of Devonshire, with Payne Collier! Next to us were D'Orsay and 'Milady!'

Between eleven and twelve it was all over - and [Page 343]  the practical result? Eight-and-sixpence for a fly, and a headache for twenty-four hours! I went to bed as wearied as a little woman could be, and dreamt that I was plunging through a quagmire seeking some herbs which were to save the life of Mrs. Maurice and that Maurice was waiting at home for them in an agony of impatience, while I could not get out of the mud-water!

Craik arrived next evening (Sunday), to make his compliments. Helen had gone to visit numbers.[1] John was smoking in the kitchen. I was lying on the sofa, headachey, leaving Craik to put himself to the chief expenditure of wind, when a cab drove up. Mr. Strachey? No. Alfred Tennyson alone! Actually, by a superhuman effort of volition he had put himself into a cab, nay, brought himself away from a dinner party, and was there to smoke and talk with me! - by myself - me! But no such blessedness was in store for him. Craik prosed, and John babbled for his entertainment; and I, whom he had come to see, got scarcely any speech with him. The exertion, however, of having to provide him with tea, through my own unassisted ingenuity (Helen being gone for the evening) drove away my headache; also perhaps a little feminine vanity at having inspired such a man with the energy to take a cab on his own responsibility, and to throw himself on providence [Page 344]  for getting away again! He stayed till eleven, Craik sitting him out, as he sat out Lady H-----, and would sit out the Virgin Mary should he find her here.

What with these unfortunate mattresses (a work of necessity) and other processes almost equally indispensable, I have my hands full, and feel 'worried,' which is worse. I fancy my earthquake begins to 'come it rather strong' for John's comfort and ease, but I cannot help that; if I do not get on with my work, such as it is, what am I here for?


J. C.


To T. Carlyle, Esq,. Scotsbrig.

Chelsea: Thursday evening, Sept. 25 (?), 1845.

Here is an inclosure that will 'do thee neither ill n'r gude!' It lay along with two brochures, one blue, one pea-green - the thinnest brochures in every sense that ever issued from 'the womb of uncreated night!' 'the insipid offspring' of that 'crack-brained enthusiastic' who calls herself Henri Paris; one entitled Grossmütterlein, in verse, the other - oh, Heavens! - La femme libre, et l'émancipation de la femme: Rhapsodic à propos des Saint-Simoniens, in prose - dead prose.

I have looked into it over my tea, and find that [Page 345]  the only emancipation for femme lies in her having 'le saint courage de rester vierge!' Glad tidings of great joy for - Robertson! 'Guerroyez donc, si vous pouvez, contre les hommes!' exclaims the great female mind in an enthusiasm of platitude. 'Mais pour qu'ils daignent accepter votre défi, prouvez-leur, avant tout, que vous avez appris ... à vous passer d'eux!'

I rose yesterday morning with an immense desire for 'change of air.' I had made the house into the liveliest representation of 'Hell and Tommy'[1] (I 'Tommy'), and it struck me that I should do well to escape from it for some hours; so John and I left together. In the King's Road he picked up a cab to take back for his luggage, and I went on to Clarence Terrace, where I dined, and by six I was at home again to tea. Mrs. Macready had returned to Eastbourne, having only come up for the day to attend the play. That I was prepared for, as she had invited me to go along with her, but I was not prepared to find poor Macready ill in bed, with two doctors attending him. He had caught a horrible cold that night, from seeing Mrs. M----- G----- to her carriage through the rain 'in thin shoes;' had been obliged to break an engagement at Cambridge. Poor Letitia[2] was very concerned about him, but would still not [Page 346]  let me go without some dinner. To-day she writes to me that he is better. There seemed a good deal of jealousy in Macreadydom on the subject of the amateur actors. A 'tremendous puff of the thing' had appeared in the Times - 'more kind really than ever the Times showed itself towards William!'[1] John, when he came at night to pay 'his compliments of digestion,' suggested, with his usual originality, 'it was probably that (the puff) which had made Macready so ill just now!' Forster, it seems, bears away the palm; but they have all had their share of praise, 'and are in such a state of excitement, poor things, as never was seen!' 'It will not stop here,' Miss Macready thinks.

To-day I have not been out at all. I rose at seven, to receive - a sweep! And have been helping Helen to scrub in the library till now - seven in the evening. John[2] came rushing in soon after nine this morning: he had left a breast-pin in the glass-drawer, and 'supposed it would not be lost yet!' Then having found it, he brought it to me in the library, where I was mounted on the steps, covered with dust, to ask, whether I thought 'the diamonds real;' and [Page 347]  what I thought 'such a thing would cost.' It was the pin he got years ago in Italy. I told him I would not take upon me to value it, but I could learn its value for him. 'From whom?' 'From Collier the jeweller.' 'Where does he live?' (with immense eagerness.) 'At the top of Sloane Street.' 'But wouldn't he tell me - if I asked him? me, myself?' 'I dare say he would,' said I soothingly, for he seemed to be going rapidly out of his wits, with all-absorbing desire to know the value of that pin! If I had not seen him the night before playing with his purse and some sovereigns, I might have thought he was on the point of carrying it to a pawnshop to get himself a morsel of victuals! But when, giving up the diamonds as glass, he passed to the individual value of the turquoise in the middle, flesh and blood could stand it no longer, and I returned to my dusting in silence; whereupon he looked at his watch, and found he 'was obliged to go off to the British Museum.' What in all the world will become of him? He seems to be more than ever without 'fixed point,' without will, without so much as a good wish! unless it be to enjoy a tolerable share of material comfort, without 'Amt,' and as much as possible without 'Geld.' However, now that he has 'concluded with his landlady,' it is no business of mine how he flounders on, 'bating no jot of heart and hope,' as he says. My own life is rather of the [Page 348]  floundering sort, only I have the grace to have 'abated heart and hope' in it to such an extent as to think sometimes that, 'if I were dead, and a stone at my head,' perhaps it would be be---ter![1]

Not a soul has been here since Alfred Tennyson - except the 'dark-fated' Krasinski,[2] who did not get in. I know his rap, and signified to Helen to say 'I was sick - or dead' - what she liked! So she told him, 'the mistress was bad with her head to-night,' which, if not precisely the naked truth, was a Gambardella 'aspiration' towards it. But besides Miss Macready yesterday I saw Helps, who seems to me 'dwindling away into an unintelligible whinner.' I met him in the King's Road, just as John called his cab, and he walked back part of the way with me, decidedly too solemn for his size!

I get no letters in these days except from you. Geraldine has even fallen dumb; still out of sorts I fancy, or absorbed in her 'one-eyed Egyptian;' perhaps scheming a new 'work!' I care very little which. Kind regards wherever they are due.

J. C.

[Page 349] 


To T. Carlyle, Scotsbriq.

Wednesday, Oct. 1845 [some evening, about post-time].

Well! now I am subsided again; set in for a quiet evening, at leisure to write, and with plenty to write about. I know not how it is; I seem to myself to be leading a most solitary, and virtuous, and eventless life here, at this dead season of the year; and yet when I sit down to write, I have so many things to tell always that I am puzzled where to begin. Decidedly, I was meant to have been a subaltern of the Daily Press - not 'a penny-lady,'[1] but a penny-a-liner; for it is not only a faculty with me, but a necessity of my nature to make a great deal out of nothing.

To begin with something I have been treasuring up for a week (for I would not holloa till we were out of the wood): I have put down the dog![2] 'The dog! wasn't he put down at Christmas, with a hare?' It seemed so; and 'we wished we might get it!' But on my return I found him in the old place, at the back of the wall, barking 'like - like - anything!' 'Helen!' I said, with the calmness of a great despair, 'is not that the same dog?' 'Deed is it!' said she, 'and the whole [Page 350]  two months you have been away, its tongue has never lain! it has driven even me almost distracted!' I said no more, but I had my own thoughts on the subject. Poison? a pistol bullet? the Metropolitan Police? Some way or other that dog - or I - must terminate! Meanwhile I went on cleaning with what heart I could. 'My Dear! Will you hasten to the catastrophe?' I am hastening, slowly - festina lente. Bless your heart! 'there's nothing pushing' - 'the rowins[1] are a' in the loft' for this night! Well! it was the evening after John's departure. I had been too busy all day to listen; the candles were lit, and I had set myself with my feet on the fender to enjoy the happiness of being let alone, and to - bid myself 'consider.' 'Bow-wow-wow,' roared the dog, 'and dashed the cup of fame from my brow!' 'Bow-wow-wow' again, and again, till the whole universe seemed turned into one great dog-kennel! I hid my face in my hands and groaned inwardly. 'Oh, destiny accursed! what use of scrubbing and sorting? All this availeth me nothing, so long as the dog sitteth at the washerman's gate!' I could have burst into tears, but I did not! 'I was a republican - before the Revolution; and I never wanted energy!' I ran for ink and paper, and wrote: -

'Dear Gambardella, - You once offered to shoot [Page 351]  some cocks for me; that service I was enabled to dispense with; but now I accept your devotion. Come, if you value my sanity, and ---.' But here 'a sudden thought struck me.' He could not take aim at the dog without scaling the high wall, and in so doing he would certainly be seized by the police; so I threw away that first sibylline leaf, and wrote another - to the washerman! Once more I offered him 'any price for that horrible dog - to hang it,' offered 'to settle a yearly income on it if it would hold its accursed tongue.' I implored, threatened, imprecated, and ended by proposing that, in case he could not take an immediate final resolution, he should in the interim 'make[1] the dog dead-drunk with a bottle of whiskey, which I sent for the purpose!' Helen was sent off with the note and the whiskey; and I sat, all concentrated, awaiting her return, as if the fate of nations had depended on my diplomacy; and so it did, to a certain extent! Would not the inspirations of 'the first man in Europe' be modified,[2] for the next six months at least, by the fact, who should come off victorious, I or the dog? Ah! it is curious to think how first men in Europe, and first women too, are acted upon by the inferior animals!

Helen came, but even before that had 'the raven down of night' smoothed itself in heavenly silence! [Page 352]  God grant this were not mere accident; oh, no! verily it was not accident. The washerman's two daughters had seized upon and read the note; and what was death to me had been such rare amusement to them that they 'fell into fits of laughter' in the first place; and, in the second place, ran down and untied the dog, and solemnly pledged themselves that it should 'never trouble me more!' At Christmas they had sent it into the country for three months 'to learn to be quiet,' and then chained it in the old place; now they would take some final measure. Next morning came a note from the washerman himself, written on glazed paper, with a crow-quill, apologising, promising; he could not put it away entirely; as it was 'a great protection' to him, and 'belonged to a relation' (who shall say where sentiment may not exist!), but he 'had untied it, and would take care it gave me no further trouble,' and he 'returned his grateful thanks for what 'as been sent.' It is a week ago; and one may now rest satisfied that the tying up caused the whole nuisance. The dog is to be seen going about there all day in the yard, like any other Christian dog, 'carrying out' your principle of silence, not merely 'platonically,' but practically. Since that night, as Helen remarks, 'it has not said one word!' So, 'thanks God,' you still have quietude to return to![1] [Page 353] 

I took tea with Sterling on Monday night; walked there, and he sent the carriage home with me. It is very difficult to know how to do with him. He does not seem to me essentially mad; but rather mad with the apprehension of madness; a state of mind I can perfectly understand - moi. He forgets sometimes Anthony's name, for example, or mine; or how many children he has; and then he gets into a rage, that he cannot recollect; and then he stamps about, and rings the bell, and brings everybody in the house to 'help him to remember;' and when all will not do, he exclaims: 'I am going mad, by God!' and then he is mad, as mad as a March hare. I can do next to nothing for him, beyond cheering him up a little, for the moment. Yesterday, again, I went a little drive with him; of course, not without Saunders as well as the coachman. He told me that when he heard I had written about him, he 'cried for three days.' Anthony's desertion seems the central point, around which all his hypochondriacal ideas congregate. Anthony has never written him the scrape of a pen, since he left him insensible at Manchester; nor even written about him, so far as himself or his manservant knows.

Whom else have I seen? Nobody else, I think, except Mazzini, whom I was beginning to fancy the Jewess must have made an enlèvement of; and enlevé he had been, sure enough, but not by the Jewess - by himself, and only the length of Oxford; or rather he [Page 354]  meant to go only the length of Oxford; but, with his usual practicality, let himself be carried sixty miles further, to a place he called Swinton.[1] Then, that the journey back might have also its share of misadventure, he was not in time to avail himself of the place he had taken 'in the second class;' but had to jump up, 'quite promiscuously,' beside 'the conductor,' where he had 'all the winds of heaven blowing on him, and through him;' the result a 'dreadful cold.' Dreadful, it must have been when it confined him to the house. Meanwhile he had had - two other declarations of love!! They begin to be as absurd as the midges in Mr. Fleming's 'right eye.' 'What! more of them?' 'Ah yes! unhappily! they begin to - what shall I say? - rain on me like sauterelles!' One was from a young lady in Genoa, who sent him a bracelet of her hair (the only feature he has seen of her); and begged 'to be united to him - in plotting!' 'That one was good, upon my honour.' 'And the other?' 'Ah! from a woman here, married, thanks God; though to a man fifty years more old - French, and sings - the other played, decidedly my love of music has consequences!' 'And how did she set about it?' 'Franchement; through a mutual friend; and then she sent me an invitation to supper; and I returned for answer that I was going to Oxford; where I still am, and will remain a long, long time!' Emancipation de la [Page 355]  femme! one would say, it marches almost faster than intellect. And now, if there be not clatter enough for one night, I have a great many half-moons and stars to cut in paper before I go to bed. For what purpose? That is my secret. 'And you wish that you could tell!'

Good-night. Schlaf wohl.

J. C.

I told Scott, in a note, to despatch Mrs. Rich's letter immediately.


To T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.

Chelsea: Tuesday, Oct. 7, 1845.

'Ah!' my dear! Yes indeed! If I could 'quench the devil' also, you might turn your face homewards with a feeling of comparative security. But Sybilline leaves, whisky, game even, all the means of seduction which I have at my poor command, cannot gain him. Still, as in the time of old Dr. Ritchie, 'he goeth about, seeking whom he may devour,' and does not, as Helen was remarking this morning the dog did, ever since it had been set at large, 'behave just like any other rational being.' One must be content to 'stave him off,' then, better or worse. Against the devil my 'notes' themselves are powerless.[1] But here, on the table before me at this [Page 356]  moment, one would say, lay means enough to keep him at bay for a while: first, two series of discourses on, first, 'Christian Humiliation'; second, 'The City of God,' by C. H. Terrot, D.D., Bishop of Edinburgh; and secondly, a pair of pistols with percussion-locks.

Are not the Fates kind in sending me two such windfalls in one evening? When I have made myself sufficiently desperate by study of the one, I can blow my brains out with the other. Come what may, one has always one's 'City of God' left and - one's pistols.

Meanwhile, I am going to dine with ----- -----. She met Darwin here yesterday, and asked him to fetch me; and though I made great eyes at him, he answered, 'With all the pleasure in life!' And so, for want of moral courage to say No on my own basis, I am in for a stupid evening and Italian cookery; but I shall take some sewing with me, and stipulate to be brought away early. I have been all day giving the last finish to the china closet; and am shocked, this moment, by the town clock striking four, before my letter is well begun; I will send it, nevertheless, lest you should 'take a notion' to be anxious.

I am also under the disagreeable necessity of warning you that you must bring some money. 'The thirty pounds I left done already?' No, not done absolutely, but near it; and yet my living has [Page 357]  been as moderate as well could be, and my little improvements have all been made off the money that was to have been squandered in Wales. I wish you had had the paying out at the end of the quarter instead of the beginning; it is so provoking, when I wanted so much to have been praised for my economy, to have to say instead, you must bring more money. But just take the trouble to see how it has gone, without any mention of victuals at all: -

  £ s d  
Your debt to clear off 4 18 6  
Water-rate 0 6 6  
Church-rate 0 11 3  
Rent 8 15 0  
Aldin's quarter's account 5 8 0  
Taxes 3 2 2 1/2
To Helen of wages 1 0 0  
  24 1 5 1/2[1]

After so prosaic a page as that, what more were it possible to write, even if I had the time? Ach Gott!

Ever yours,



To T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.

Sunday, Oct. 12, 1845.

Considering that a letter of twelve pages will reach you in the course of nature to-morrow morning, another for Tuesday morning seems to [Page 358]  be about as superfluous as Mr. Kenny's second twin.[1] Nevertheless, to be punctual to orders, this little sheet comes 'hopping to find you in the same.'

I have been from twelve to-day till now (six in the evening) with old Sterling. He came to ask me to drive, and dine with him after, which humble prayer I could comply with in both its branches - the day being Sunday, and nothing particular doing at home. In passing along Brompton Road, he suddenly pulled the check-string and said to me in a solemn voice, 'Now, will you please to accompany me to the regions of the dead?' 'Certainly not,' said I, and called to the coachman, 'Drive on!' He is rapidly improving in his physical part; but the head is confused as much as ever. He began crying about his wife to-day; and, after declaring that 'she had reason to be satisfied with his grief for her loss,' finished off with 'and now I say it really and religiously, I have just one hope left, and that is - to be left a widower as soon as possible.'

On my return, I found on the table the cards of Mrs. N----- and Mrs. A-----. 'How these two women do hate one another!'[2] But they are now, [Page 359]  it would seem, not ashamed to drive out together. I was rather sorry to have missed Mrs. N-----. Who should drop in on me yesterday at dinner, but little Bölte, looking fat and almost contented? She was passing through with one of her pupils, whom she had been living with six weeks at Sevenoaks, to be near a doctor 'for diseases of the skin.' She had fallen in there with a fine lady who possessed Mr. Carlyle's works, and said she liked them in many respects, and always took his part in public; that there was one thing about him 'deeply to be deplored.' Bölte asked, 'What?' 'Why, you know, on certain subjects Mr. Carlyle thinks for himself, and that is so very wrong.'


John Forster, Esq., 58 Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Bay House: Sunday, Dec. 7, 1845.

My dear Mr. Forster, - A woman is constantly getting warned against following 'the impulses of her heart!' Why, I never could imagine! for all the grand blunders I am conscious of having committed in life have resulted from neglecting or gainsaying the impulses of my heart, to follow the insights of my understanding, or, still worse, of other understandings. And so I am now arrived at this with it, that I have flung my understanding to the dogs; and think, do, say, and feel just exactly as nature [Page 360]  prompts me. Well, having just finished the reading of your article on 'Cromwell,' nature prompts me to take pen and paper, and tell you that I think it devilishly well done, and quite as meritorious as the book itself; only that there is not so much bulk of it! Now, do not fancy it is my wife-nature that is so excited. I am a bad wife in so far as regards care about what is said of my husband's books in newspapers or elsewhere. I am always so thankful to have them done, and out of the house, that the praise or blame they meet with afterwards is of the utmost insignificance to me. It is not, then, because your article covers him with generous praise that I am so delighted with it; but because it is full of sense, and highmindedness of its own; and most eloquently written. As Mrs. Norton would say, 'I love you for writing it;' only nobody will impute to me a fraudulent use of that word!

My pen - all pens here - refuse to write intelligibly. We are to come home in a fortnight hence, and I hope to see you then.

Ever yours affectionately,

J. C.

Love to the Macreadys.

[Page 361] 


To Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.

5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Dec. 30, 1845.

Dearest Mrs. Russell, - We are just returned from our Hampshire visit;[1] and I can answer for one of us being so worn out with 'strenuous idleness,' as I do not remember ever to have been before! Six weeks have I been doing absolutely nothing but playing at battledore and shuttlecock, chess, talking nonsense, and getting rid of a certain fraction of this mortal life as cleverly and uselessly as possible; nothing could exceed the sumptuosity and elegance of the whole thing, nor its uselessness! Oh dear me! I wonder why so many people wish for high position and great wealth, when it is such an 'open secret' what all that amounts to in these days, merely to emancipating people from all the practical difficulties, which might teach them the facts of things, and sympathy with their fellow creatures. This Lady Harriet Baring, whom we have just been staying with, is the very cleverest woman, out of sight, that I ever saw in my life (and I have seen all our 'distinguished authoresses'); moreover, she is full of energy and sincerity, and has, I am sure, an excellent [Page 362]  heart; yet so perverted has she been by the training and life-long humouring incident to her high position that I question if in her whole life she has done as much for her fellow-creatures as my mother in one year, or whether she will ever break through the cobwebs she is entangled in, so as to be anything other than the most amusing and most graceful woman of her time. The sight of such a woman should make one very content with one's own trials even when they feel to be rather hard!

To jump to the opposite ends of creation, how is old Mary? Let her have her usual tokens of remembrance from me, poor old soul! - and Margaret. Say kind words to them both from me; which, I know, is always a pleasant commission to one so kindly disposed as you are.

I have never yet thanked you for your welcome letter; but not the less have I thanked you in my heart. I was just expecting my husband's return when it came; and was busy making all sorts of preparations for him; then, after he came, I was kept in a sort of worry till we got away to Bay House, and in the last six weeks I have never felt to have one minute's leisure, though doing nothing all the while. Now that I am home, I hope to settle down into a more peaceful and reasonable life.

God bless you, dear Mrs. Russell, and your father and husband. [Page 363] 

Accept the little New Year's gift I send you as a token of grateful affection, that will never be less.




Spring of 1846, she and a small pretty party were at Addiscombe Farm for several weeks. I, busy with the 'Cromwell' second edition, was obliged to keep working steadily at home; but duly, on the Saturday till Monday, went out. There could be no prettier parties, prettier place or welcome, had these been all the requisites, but in truth they were not. Idleness, it must be owned, did sadly prevail - sadly, and even tragically, as I sometimes thought, on considering our hostess and chief lady there, and her noble talents, natural tendencies and aspirations, 'buried under gold thrones,' as Richter says. - T. C.

Mrs. Aitken, Dumfries.

5 Cheyne Row: Wednesday, April 1846.

My dear Jane, - The spirit moves me to fire off at you a small charitable purchase which I have just made. In the way of suggestion, it may perhaps yield me virtue's own reward!

I am just returned, two days ago, from an aristocratic visit of a month's duration, with the mind of me all churned into froth, out of which, alas, no butter is to be expected! Yes, 'gey idle o' wark' have I been for the last month, 'clatching about the country on cuddy-asses'[1] (figuratively speaking). [Page 364]  Seeing 'how they ack' in the upper places does not give me any discontent with the place I am born to, quite the contrary. I, for one solitary individual (as Carlyle says), could not be other than perfectly miserable in idleness, world without end; and for a grand lady, it seems somehow impossible, whatever may be her talents and 'good intentions,' to be other than idle to death. Even children do not find them in occupation and duties. A beautiful Lady Anne who was at Addiscombe along with me for the last ten days, had been confined just a month before; and her new baby was left with an older one in the care of a doctor and nurses; the mother seeming to be as little aware as all the rest (myself excepted) that any mortal could find anything to object to in such free and easy holding of one's children. But, as your ancestor said long ago, 'they're troubled that hae the world, and troubled that want it.' On the whole, however, the more rational sort of trouble, that which brings least remorse along with it, seems to me to be the 'wanting it.' C. is gone to ride; a little 'ill-haired,' this morning.

Ever your affectionate sister,



After Alverstoke, February 1846, I had rallied to a second edition of Cromwell (first had been published in October preceding), enterprise in which, many new letters [Page 365]  having come in, there lay a great deal of drudgery, requiring one's most exquisite talent as of shoe-cobbling, really, that kind of talent carried to a high pitch, with which I continued busy all summer and farther. She, in the meanwhile, had been persuaded into Lancashire again; not till late in August could I join her at Seaforth for a little while. Whence into Annandale for another silent six weeks, grown all to grey haze now, except that I did get rid of my horse 'Bobus' there on fair terms, and had no want of mournful reflections (sad as death at times or sadder) on my own and the world's confusion and perversities, and the tragedies there bred for oneself and others. God's mercy, God's pardon, we all of us might pray for, if we could. - T. C.

To Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.

Seaforth House, Liverpool: July 2, 1846.

Dearest Mrs. Russell, - Your note found me again at Seaforth, where I have been for the last week. The great heat of London in the beginning of June had made me quite ill again, and as my husband would not make up his mind yet where to go, or when, I made up my own mind one fine morning, and started off hither, which has become a sort of house of refuge for me of late years. My husband talked of following me in a week or two, and then taking me with him to Scotland; but whether I shall be able to bring my mind to that, when the time comes, Heaven knows. The idea of Scotland under the actual circumstances is so extremely desolate for me that I should need to get a little more strength [Page 366]  here, both physical and moral, before it were possible for me to entertain it practically. I fancy it were easier for me to go to Haddington than to Dumfriesshire; I have not been there since it was all changed, and myself become a sort of stranger in it. A family of good women,[1] who were dearly attached to my mother, are very desirous that I should pay them a visit; and I have not yet said positively that I will not. We shall see.

Meanwhile, Tuesday is my birthday, when I must not be forgotten by those who have been used to remember it. I send a little parcel for Margaret,[2] to your kind care; and will thank you to give Mary[3] five shillings for me, or rather lay it out for her on a pair of shoes, or tea, or what you think fittest. I will send a Post-Office order, in repayment, the first day I go to Liverpool.

I spent part of the day there yesterday, and saw my uncle, who was absent on my first visit. He looks pretty well, and is very patient under the feebleness of age. My cousins, Helen and Mary, were here on Wednesday, and promise to come and see me often, without taking it ill of me that I prefer staying here in this quiet, roomy, country house, to [Page 367]  being cooped up in Maryland Street, which is worse for one's health than Cheyne Row. Margaret[1] goes to Scotland to Walter, on Wednesday.

My kind regards to your husband and father. I could not help smiling when I thought of your father receiving his newspaper[2] all in mourning for - the Pope!

Affectionately yours ever,



To T. Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.

Seaforth: Tuesday, July 14, 1846.

Oh! my dear husband, fortune has played me such a cruel trick this day! and I do not even feel any resentment against fortune, for the suffocating misery of the last two hours. I know always, when I seem to you most exacting, that whatever happens to me is nothing like so bad as I deserve. But you shall hear how it was.

Not a line from you on my birthday, the postmistress averred! I did not burst out crying, did not faint - did not do anything absurd, so far as I know; but I walked back again, without speaking a word; and with such a tumult of wretchedness in my heart as you, who know me, can conceive. And [Page 368]  then I shut myself in my own room to fancy everything that was most tormenting. Were you, finally, so out of patience with me that you had resolved to write to me no more at all? Had you gone to Addiscombe, and found no leisure there to remember my existence? Were you taken ill, so ill that you could not write?

That last idea made me mad to get off to the railway, and back to London. Oh, mercy! what a two hours I had of it![1]

And just when I was at my wits' end, I heard Julia crying out through the house: 'Mrs. Carlyle, Mrs. Carlyle! Are you there? Here is a letter for you.'

And so there was after all! The postmistress had overlooked it, and had given it to Robert, when he went afterwards, not knowing that we had been. I wonder what love-letter was ever received with such thankfulness! Oh, my dear! I am not fit for living in the world with this organisation. I am as much broken to pieces by that little accident as if I had come through an attack of cholera or typhus fever. I cannot even steady my hand to write decently. But I felt an irresistible need of thanking you, by return of post. Yes, I have kissed the dear little card-case; and now I will lie down awhile, and try to get some sleep. At least, to quiet myself, I will [Page 369]  try to believe - oh, why cannot I believe it, once for all - that, with all my faults and follies, I am 'dearer to you than any earthly creature.' I will be better for Geraldine here; she is become very quiet and nice; and as affectionate for me as ever.

Your own

J. C.


To T. Carlyle.

Liverpool, July 1846.

July 15. - Jeannie writes to me from Auchtertool that the old minister is suddenly dead, so Walter[1] is now in possession of the appointments of his office. There is something rather shocking in one person's death being necessarily a piece of good fortune for another; but it is all one to the old man himself now, whether they make sad faces at his departure or gay ones. And who knows? 'Perhaps somebody loved that pig,'[2] and will give him a genuine tear or two. 'Poor mortals after all!' what a mighty problem we make about our bits of lives; and death as surely on the way to cut us out of 'all that' at least, whatever may come after. Yes, nobody out of Bedlam, even educated in Edinburgh, can contrive to doubt of death. One may go a far way in scepticism; may [Page 370]  get to disbelieve in God and the devil, in virtue and in vice, in love, in one's own soul; never to speak of time and space, progress of the species, rights of women, greatest happiness of the greatest number, 'isms,' world without end; everything, in short, that the human mind ever believed in, or 'believed that it believed in;' only not in death. The most outrageous sceptic - even I, after two nights without sleep - cannot go ahead against that fact - a rather cheering one on the whole - that, let one's earthly difficulties be what they may, death will make them all smooth sooner or later, and either one shall have a trial at existing again under new conditions, or sleep soundly through all eternity. That last used to be a horrible thought for me, but it is not so any longer. I am weary, weary to such a point of moral exhaustion, that any anchorage were welcome, even the stillest, coldest, where the wicked should cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest, understanding both by the wicked and the weary myself.

Several letters lost, and four dismal weeks of my darling's history in the world left unrecorded. Ill spirits, ill health. Oh what a world for her too noble being, and for some others not so noble! I had left perhaps a week before the date of this letter, sorrowfully enough, but not guessing at all how ill she was. She had gone to Geraldine's quiet place in Manchester, rather as in duty bound than with much hope of solacement or even of greater quietude there; both of which, however, she found, so beautiful was Geraldine's [Page 371]  affectionate skill with her, delicacy, wise silent sympathy and unwearied assiduity (coming by surprise too), for which she never forgot Geraldine. - T. C.

Manchester: Aug. 23, 1846.

Geraldine has kept to her purpose of not leaving me a single vacant minute; and her treatment, I believe, has been the most judicious that was possible. It has brought back something like colour into my face, and something like calm into my heart, but how long I shall be able to keep either the one or the other when left to my own management, God knows, or perhaps another than God knows, best.

Nor is it to Geraldine alone that I feel grateful; no words can express the kindness of her brother. To-night I shall be with all my family that remains, but that thought cannot keep the tears out of my eyes in quitting these strangers who have treated me like the dearest of sisters.

Short while after this I at length roused myself from torpor at Scotsbrig, and made, still very slowly, for home. Slowly, and with wide circuit, by Dumfries, Craigenputtock (oh my emotions there with tenant McQueen in the room which had been our bedroom). After two hours at Craigenputtock with MacQueen, who had now become a mighty cattle-dealer, famed at Norwich, much more over all these moor countries for his grandeur of procedure (and who in a year or two died tragically, poor man!), I returned to Dumfries, took coach next morning for Ayr, impressive interesting drive all the way, wandered lonesome, manifoldly [Page 372]  imagining, all afternoon, over Ayr and environs (Arran from the sea sand, in the hazy east wind nightfall, grand and grim. Twa Brigs, &c.). Ayr was holding some grand market; streets and inn had been chokefull during the sunny hours; in twilight and by lamplight become permeable enough, had not one's heart been so heavy. I stept into a small stationer's shop, and at his counter wrote a poor letter to my mother. Except two words there, and a twice-two at my inn, no speech further in Ayr. After dark, rail to Ardrossan (bright moon on the sandy straggling scene there), step on board the steamer for Belfast, intending a little glimpse of Ireland before Liverpool, Duffy and other young Repealers waiting me there, all on the ship. At Belfast next morning, breakfast, stay few hours, (cold stony town) take coach for Drogheda where Duffy and Mitchell will await, a post-office letter will say in what particular house. Coach roof in the sunny day pleasant enough; country rough and ill-husbandried, but all new; Portnadown Bridge (of the great massacre of 1641); Duke of Manchester's house; a merry enough young Dublin gentleman sitting next me occasionally talking merry sense. Potatoes all evidently rotten; every here and there air poisoned with their fateful smell. At Drogheda, dismount. Postmaster has no letter for me; angry old fool reiterates 'None, I tell you!' and Duffy, who was there waiting and had a letter waiting, stayed in vain, and did not return till afternoon next day; would have had the Drogheda official punished (or at least complained of), but I wouldn't. An angry old fool, misanthropic, not dishonest, pleaded I. Rolled into Dublin (to Imperial Hotel) by railway. After sunset, wandered far and wide about the broad pavements, listening to the wild melodies and cries of Dublin (on a Saturday night), went tired to bed, and, in spite of riotous sounds audible, slept well enough. [Page 373] 

In Dublin or neighbourhood I continued till Thursday or Friday; saw various persons, places, and things, which had a kind of interest to me. One day saw Conciliation Hall, and the last glimpse of O'Connell, chief quack of the then world - first time I had ever heard the lying scoundrel speak - a most melancholy scene to me altogether. Conciliation Hall something like a decent Methodist chapel; but its audience very sparse, very bad, and blackguard-looking; brazen faces like tapsters, tavern keepers, miscellaneous hucksters and quarrelsome male or female nondescripts, the prevailing type; not one that you would have called a gentleman, much less a man of culture; and discontent visible among them. The speech - on potato rot (most serious of topics) - had not one word of sincerity, not to speak of wisdom in it. Every sentence seemed to you a lie, and even to know that it was a detected lie. I was standing in the area in a small group of non-members and transitory people quite near this Demosthenes of blarney, when a low voice close at my ear whispered in high accent: 'Did you ever hear such damned nonsense in all your life?' It was my Belfast Drogheda coach companion, and I thoroughly agreed with him. Beggarly O'Connell made out of Ireland straightway, and never returned - crept under the Pope's petticoat 'to die' (and be 'saved' from what he had merited) - the eminently despicable and eminently poisonous professor of blarney that he was.

I saw Carleton - Irish novelist (big vulgar kind of fellow, not without talent and plenty of humour); certain young lawyers who have since come to promotion, but were not of moment; certain young writers do. do. Dined at John Mitchell's with a select party one evening, and ate there the last truly good potato I have met with in the world. Mitchell's wife, especially his mother (Presbyterian parson's widow of the best Scotch type), his frugally elegant small [Page 374]  house and table, pleased me much, as did the man himself, a fine elastic-spirited young fellow with superior natural talent, whom I grieved to see rushing on destruction, palpable by 'attack of windmills,' but on whom all my dissuasions were thrown away. Both Duffy and him I have always regarded as specimens of the best kind of Irish youth, seduced (like thousands of others in their early day) into courses that were at once mad and ridiculous, and which nearly ruined the life of both, by the Big Beggar-man, who had 15,000l. a year (and proh pudor! the favour of English ministers instead of the pillory from them) for professing blarney, with such and still worse results. One of my most impressive days was the Sunday (morrow of my arrival) out at Dundrum waiting for Duffy, who did arrive about night. Beautiful prospect; sea with shore and islets; beautiful leafy lanes; mile on mile in total silence, total solitude. I only met two persons all day: one promenading gently on horseback; the other on foot, from which latter I practically learnt that the 'Hill of Howth' was unknown by that name here, and known only as the 'Hill of Hoath.' My last day there was also pretty; wide sweeping drive with Duffy and Mitchell. Dargle, stream and banks, Powerscourt, gate and oaks, &c., altogether fine; finally to Bray and its fine hotel to dinner, till steamer time came, and they hospitably put me on board. Adieu! adieu! ye well-wishing souls.

Next morning between five and six I was safe seated on my luggage before the door of Maryland Street (Liverpool), smoking a cigar in placid silence till the silent home should awaken, which it somehow did unexpectedly before my cigar was done. - T. C.


This and the next four letters give clear account of a sordid form of servile chaos in this house, and how it was administered [Page 375]  by one who had the best skill I ever saw in such matters. Helen Mitchell, an innocent-hearted, very ingenious, but practically altogether foolish creature, had, by matchless skill in guiding of her and thorough knowledge of her Scotch character and ways, been trained to great perfection of service, been even cured from a wild habit of occasional drinking, and tamed into living with us, and loyally and faithfully serving us for many years. She was one of the strangest creatures I ever saw; had an intellectual insight almost as of genius, and a folly and simplicity as of infancy: her sayings and observations, her occasional criticisms on men and things translated into the dialect of upstairs, were by far the most authentic table wit I have anywhere heard! This is literally true, though I cannot make it conceivable; the 'beautifully prismatic' medium that conveyed it to me, which was unique in my experience, being gone.

The history of Helen's departure, and of her unspeakable successor's arrival are clearly given in these following letters, and to me at present in spite of their mean elements, have the essential aspect of a queenly tragedy, authentic of its kind! - T. C.

To Mrs. Stirling, Hill Street, Edinburgh.

5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Saturday, Sept. 1846.

My dear Susan, - Do you remember saying to me when you were last here, 'should you ever have to part with Helen, and be in want of another Scotch servant, tell me, and perhaps I shall be able to help you to one; for there are still good servants to be got in Dundee'? It is years since you said this; years since we have exchanged words with one [Page 376]  another; but I now claim your assistance, with as full assurance as if you had offered it yesterday: for I judge of your friendship by my own; and as time and absence have made no change in my feelings towards you, I fancy that neither has any change been made in yours towards me; and that you are still as ready to take some trouble for me as ever you were. If likings depended on locality in this world, poor mortals would have a sad time of it; seeing how those who like one another are drifted asunder, and kept apart; as much, often, as if they were dead for one another; but where a true regard has once existed, I cannot believe that any 'force of circumstances' ever destroys it. And so, as I have said, I calculate on your being still the same warmhearted friend I ever found you, when our stars brought us together - even though we do not write letters to state the fact.

Alas! of late years my letter-writing propensities have been sorely kept down by the continual consciousness of being grown into a sort of bore; ever ailing, ever depressed in spirits - the consequence, I suppose, of this sort of nervous ailment. What have I to tell anyone that cares for me, which it were any satisfaction to hear? The only thing I would write to you, which were not better unwritten, would be just over and over again, 'My dear Susan, I often think of you, and have the same affection for you that ever [Page 377]  I had;' - and that, I flatter myself, you will always take for granted.

But, for the practical business that now puts me on writing to you: you are to know that my poor little Helen has not relapsed into drink again, nor otherwise forsaken the paths of virtue; on the contrary, she has been growing, like wine and a few other things, always the better by keeping. So that at no period of our relation could I have felt more regret at losing her. The only consolation is, that she will find her advantage in the change: at least one tries to hope so. A marriage, you think! No, something even more unthought of has turned up for the little woman. She is going to be made a sort of a lady of! at least, so the matter presents itself to her lively imagination! A brother in Dublin has been rising into great prosperity as a manufacturer of coach-fringe; thanks to the immense consumption of that article on the railways! He is now, by his own showing, a regular gentleman - so far as money goes! - and has 'two hundred girls in his pay.' He looks to me a foolish, flustering sort of incredible creature but Helen feels no doubt as to the solidity of his basis. Hitherto he has taken no charge of Helen beyond coming to see her for a quarter of an hour when his business called him to London.

[Page 378] 


Helen had usefully and affectionately stayed with us eight years or more. Latterly, a silly snob of a younger brother, setting up, or getting forward, in some small business at Dublin, came once or twice, after total neglect before, opened a 'career of ambition' to the poor creature, and persuaded her over to Dublin to keep house for him. It was well foreseen what this was likely to end in; but there could be no gainsaying. Poor Helen went (and took the consequence, as will be seen); bright breakfast-table report of her strange sayings and ways (gentle, genial lambency of grave humour and intelligence - wittiest of wit that I ever heard was poor in comparison!) ceased altogether then; and to us, also, the consequences for the time were variously sad.

To Mrs. Aitken, Dumfries.

Chelsea: End of Dec. 1846.

My dear Jane, - I am not up to much writing yet; my three weeks' confinement to bed, and the violent medicine that was given me to put down my cough, have reduced me to the consistency of a jelly. But I will not write a long letter, but tell you now in a short one how glad I was of the little token of your kind remembrance, which reached me the other night just when I was trying to sit up for the first time. Your letter made me cry; which is always a good sign of a letter, don't you think? But, my dear, what do you mean by 'forgiving' you? What unkind thing did you ever do to me? I have [Page 379]  not the faintest recollection of your ever doing unkindly by me in your life! At Craigenputtock we used to have little squabbles about the servants and 'all that sort of thing'; but in these it strikes me I was always quite as much an aggressor as a sufferer, and on the whole, considering the amount of human imperfection going, and the complexities we had to work in at Craigenputtock, I think we got through that business 'as well as could be expected'; and certainly you did not get through it worst. Believe me, my dear sister, I have none but kind feelings towards you and kind recollections of you. Although we are widely parted now, and although much has changed incredibly since those days at the Hill which you remind me of, the regard I conceived for you then has gone on the same, though so seldom giving any sign of itself.

We are still in a fearful puddle here. Helen's loss has been a serious affair. The temporary servant we have drives Carlyle and my cousin to despair, and I am pretty near despair from seeing them so put about while myself cannot go to the rescue, as I could so well have done but for this dreadful cold. I have no decided prospect yet of anything better. I put an advertisement in the 'Times' newspaper, but the only applicant as yet resulting from it was not to be thought of. I will inclose you Dr. Christie's brief account of her. There was a Highland woman [Page 380]  offered the other day, whom I mean to inquire further into, though she rather shocked me by having forgotten what part of the Highlands she came from! I will write when I am stronger and tell you what comes of us. It is a great worry my cousin being here when everything is so wretchedly uncomfortable, although I suppose there was absolute need of her while I was confined to bed.

Ever your affectionate J. C.

Kind regards to James.


This is the catastrophe or utter down-break of Pessima, whom I still remember as a handsome, cultivated-looking Edinburgh girl, speaking Scotch like an Edinburgh gentlewoman, and exhibiting a character and style of procedure detestable beyond any previous specimen I had ever known of. She had been carefully trained by pious Edinburgh ladies; was filled with the consciousness of free grace; and, I believe, would have got more real education, as I told her, if she had been left to puddle through the gutters with her neglected fellow brats, by whom she would have been trampled out of the world had she behaved no better than now. Indisputably the worst specimen of Scotch character I have ever seen produced. My brief request to her was to disappear straightway, and in no region of God's universe, if she could avoid it, ever to let me behold her again. The poor devil, I believe, died in a year or two, and did not come upon the streets as predicted of her.

Betty, the old Haddington servant, who had been concerned in the sending or sanctioning of this wretched [Page 381]  creature, was deeply grieved and disappointed. The charm for Betty had been the perfect Free Kirk orthodoxy and free grace professions of this Pessima, who, I think, reported at home that she had been obliged to leave us, having actually noticed once or oftener that we 'received' on Sabbath.

The cousin mentioned here is good Helen Welsh, of Liverpool, Maggie's eldest sister, whose amiable behaviour and silent helpfulness in this sordid crisis I still well remember. The improvised old woman, I remember, got the name of slowcoach between us, and continued for perhaps three weeks or more. She was a very white-aproned, cleanly old creature, and I once noticed her sitting at some meal in her kitchen, with a neatness of table-cloth and other apparatus, and a serene dignity of composure in her poor old self, that were fairly pathetic to me. For the rest, never did I see so sordid a domestic crisis appointed for such a mistress, in this world! But it had its kind of compensation too; and is now more noble and queenlike to me than all the money in the bank could have made it.

The little creature called Anne did prove a good cockney parallel of Scotch Helen Mitchell, and served us well (with only one follower, our butcher's lad, who came silently, and sat two hours once a week): follower and she were then wedded, went to Jersey, where we heard of their doing well in the butcher's business; but, alas, before long, of poor Anne's falling ill and dying.

Before Anne's quitting us, dottle Helen had finished her ladyhood at Dublin, quarrelled with her fool of a brother there, and retired to Kirkcaldy, signifying the warmest wish to return hither. She did return, poor wretch, but was at once discerned (not by me) to be internally in a state of chaos; and within three months, for open and incurable drunkenness, had to be dismissed. Endless pains were taken about her; new place provided (decent old widow in [Page 382]  straitened circumstances, content to accept so much merit in a servant, and tried to cure the drunkenness). But nothing whatever could avail; the wretched Helen went down and down in this London element, and at last was sent home to her kindred in Kirkcaldy to die. 'Poor bit dottle,' what a history and tragedy in small! - T. C.

To Mrs. Stirling, Hill Street, Edinburgh.

5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Dec. 29, 1846.

My dearest Susan, - I wonder if you are out of anxiety about your sister? I am almost afraid to begin telling you of my own troubles, without being first satisfied of that. But it seems unkind, after all your exertions, to provide me with a servant, not to tell you of the catastrophe of the one sent me by Betty! It is only now, for the first time, that I am in a condition to give you the disgusting history; for I was taken ill in the second week of her; have been three weeks confined to bed, and a week more to my bedroom fireside; and am just emerged into the library, between which and my bedroom I look forward with 'a certain resignation' to passing all the rest of the winter.

You would see by my last letter that I was dubious as to the result of that Edinburgh damsel. I tried to hope the best and cultivate patience and cheerfulness; but your notion that she had been too much petted for this situation gained on me every day. She showed no disposition to learn her work; [Page 383]  in fact, she became every day more sulky and slovenly; and, on the first washing-day, she burst out on me with a sort of hysterical insolence; declared she 'had never been told by anybody she was to wash;' that 'no one woman living could do my work,' and when I told her the answer to that was, that it had been done by 'one woman' for eleven years, without the slightest complaint, she said, almost screamed, 'Oh yes, there are women that like to make slaves of themselves, and her you had was of that sort, but I will never slave myself for anybody's pleasure.' I asked her if she would be so good as state calmly what she meant to do. To 'go, to be sure.' 'Did she propose repaying me her expenses, then?' 'No, she had no money.' I thought the only way to treat such a creature, who seemed to have no sense of obligation, or anything else but her 'own sweet will,' was to let her depart in peace, and remain a loser of only two guineas, and not of my temper as well. So I told her, well, she might go at the end of her month, only to make no noise, if possible, for the remaining three weeks. But even this was too much to ask. In the second week of her, I was laid up in bed with one of my serious colds, caught by doing the most of her work myself, and exposing myself after quite an unusual fashion; once there, I lay, with a doctor attending me daily and dosing me with tartar-emetic and opium, till I [Page 384]  had hardly any sense left, and was too weak to cough while Carlyle and my cousin had to shift for themselves and me too, with an occasional helping hand from our postman's wife; Isabella, meanwhile, crying about her 'hands getting all spoilt with dirty work'; and doing nothing she could help; till on Saturday night, just a fortnight after she had come, she sent me word in my bed, that if I did not let her go next day (Sunday!) she 'would take fits, and be laid up in my house a whole year, as happened to her once before in a place where the work was too hard.' Carlyle told her to go in the devil's name; and a little more of his mind he told her; which was a satisfaction for me to have said in his emphatic way, since I was unable to rebuke her myself! But you may fancy the mischief all this did to a poor woman taking tartar-emetic and opium every two hours! When my doctor came next day, he said it 'was well he had not been here at the time, as he would have certainly dashed her brains out!' By that time, however, she was gone; actually rushed off after breakfast on Sunday! - so much for 'free grace,' of which she professed to be full!) - smartly dressed, and very happy, they told me - off to the 'seven cousins,' with whom I had, more good-naturedly than wisely, permitted her, at her own request, to pass all the previous Sunday; leaving me very ill in bed, and no servant in the house! The day after, she brought an [Page 385]  omnibus and a female friend to the door, in the finest spirits, to take away her box; and from that day to this I have heard no more of her! But if such a character as she exhibited here does not lead her to the streets some day, I shall be greatly surprised. Of course her respectable appearance, backed out by the seven cousins, will have got her another place ere now; where, if men-servants be kept, she may exert herself. My doctor said he could tell by her looks, the first day she opened the door to him, that she had then, or had quite lately had, the green sickness, and that I was well rid of her.

And now I might write a few sheets more, of the old half-dead cook, whom a lady who was going to part with her at any rate, on account of her 'shocking bad temper,' obligingly made over to us as 'a temporary,' at an hour's notice. Such as she is, she has been an improvement on Isabella, for she does her best. But oh, what a puddle it has been! and rushing down of an orderly house to chaos! Another fortnight of it would have sent my not too patient husband raving mad! Since I got out of bed I have been seeing all sorts of horrid-looking females 'inquiring after the place;' and two days ago finally settled with one not horrid-looking, but a cheery little 'button' of a creature, with a sort of cockney resemblance to Helen; she has been nearly three years in a similar situation close by, which she has only left in [Page 386]  consequence of the mistress having died, and the master going into lodgings. He gave her an excellent character to my cousin; especially for quiet habits. 'She had only one lover who came to see her, and one female friend (happy little woman!), both highly respectable, and not too troublesome.' She is to come on the last night of the year.

This will reach you on the first day of the new year; and I put many good wishes and a kiss into it.

Do write to me how your sister is.

Ever your affectionate



To Miss Helen Welsh, Liverpool.

Chelsea: Jan. 20, 1847.

Dearest Helen, - One hears much fine talk in this hypocritical age about seeking and even finding one's own happiness in 'the happiness of others;' but I frankly confess to you that I, as one solitary individual, have never been able to confound the two things, even in imagination, so as not to be capable of clearly distinguishing the difference; and if every one would endeavour, as I do, to speak without cant, I believe there would be a pretty general admission on the part of sinful humanity that to eat a comfortable beef-steak when one is hungry yields a satisfaction of a much more positive character than seeing one's neighbour eat it! For the fact is, happiness is but [Page 387]  a low thing, and there is a confusion of ideas in running after it on stilts. When Sir Philip Sidney took the water from his own parched lips to give it to the dying soldier, I could take my Bible oath that it was not happiness he felt; and that he would never have done that much admired action if his only compensation had been the pleasure resulting to him from seeing the dying soldier drink the water; he did it because he could not help himself; because the sense of duty, of self-denial, was stronger in him at the moment than low human appetite; because the soul in him said, do it; not because utilitarian philosophy suggested that he would find his advantage in doing it, nor because Socinian dilettanteism required of him a beautiful action!

Well, but if these moral reflections are not a preamble to something more relevant, I find such a commencement of a letter 'what shall I say? strange, upon my honour!' Do you so? my sweet little cousin - be thankful, then! we live in a world of commonplace; a strange letter, a strange woman, so far from being taken sharply to task, should be accepted graciously, as a sort of refreshing novelty.

But if I cannot show you that my moral reflections lead to something, I can show you that something led to them. I had been looking over the last budget of autographs that I had got together for you. Such distinguished names! 'To be sure,' I said to [Page 388]  myself, 'these will make her fortune in autographs.' And then I felt a certain self-complacency, a certain presentiment of your satisfaction in seeing your collection swelling into something really worth while; and having the pen in my hand to write to you, I was on the point of putting on the paper some such fadaise as this: 'It was a capital thought in me, dearest Helen, the making of this collection for you. My own pleasure in sending you the autographs being greater, I am sure, than any you can feel in receiving them.' But the sentence having reached a full stop, in my head, my better judgment said, 'Bah! Beware of the Socinian jargon, ma chère, there is always "a do at the bottom of it!"' and so my pen dashed off, of itself as it were, into a reactionary tirade against 'the welfare-of-others' principle.

I have been long plaguing Carlyle to give me, for you, one of the letters of Varnhagen von Ense; for besides being the autograph of a distinguished author and diplomatist and husband of Rahel, you will find it curious for its perfect beauty. I never saw such writing; and in whatever haste, in sickness or in health, it is always the same.

Carlyle was very grumpy about parting with one of his letters; but, having taken a great deal of trouble for him the other day in seeking out some notes he wanted from his trunk of old papers, he presented me with this one as a reward; and also, I [Page 389]  suppose, as an encouragement to future exertions of like utility.

Besides Varnhagen von Ense, you have here Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, Rogers, Sir R. Peel, a whole note from Harriet Martineau (before our friendship), Charles Buller, Count d'Orsay, Milman, a very characteristic note from Mazzini, Lord Stanley, Mrs. Austin, Lockhart, Thackeray (alias Titmarsh), Allan Cunningham.

Tell Jeannie that when I informed Mazzini yesterday that Geraldine was to be here on Monday, he first stared, then said 'Well! after then I come for ten minutes only!' and then, looking into the fire, gave a long, clear whistle! Jeannie can figure the sort of mood in which alone Mazzini could dream of whistling!

But alas! I must go and clean the lamp, a much less agreeable occupation than writing to you, my dear. But such consequences of the fall of Adam will always exist. Nothing will go on any time without human labour.

Ever your affectionate cousin



To Miss Helen Welsh, Liverpool.

Chelsea: July 15, 1847.

My dearest Helen, - I would have written yesterday, if I could have done anything on earth but cry. [Page 390]  I suppose 'the fact is,' as Carlyle says, 'that I am very unwell.' In a general way I can keep from crying at all rates. But this heat is most disorganising and demoralising. And so I fell a-crying in the morning over my gifts, and could not stop myself again.

Carlyle had prepared a cameo-brooch for me, and I cannot tell how it is, but his gifts always distress me more than a scold from him would do. Then the postman handed in your letter and little box, and that brought all sorts of reminiscences of home and of Templand along with it; a beautiful little thing as ever I beheld! but too beautiful and too youthful for the individual intended to wear it. A hat-box from poor Bölte completed the overthrow of my sensibility: it contained an immense bouquet of the loveliest flowers, in the middle of which was stuck - her picture! in water-colours, and gilt-framed, and a note. I shall send you the note, that you may see Bölte in her best phase. People wonder always why I let myself be bored with that woman, but, with all her want of tact in the everyday intercourse of life, she manifests a sentiment on occasions so delicate and deep, that I should be a brute not to be touched by it.

Whose is the hair in the little basket? it looks all one shade.

Thank you, dearest, and the others concerned in that little realised ideal of cousinly remembrance. I have attached it to my bracelet, but it seems almost a [Page 391]  pity to wear it there. I was thinking whether I ought not to have my nose pierced and suspend it from that.

Perhaps I shall see you this summer after all. I really am suffering dreadfully from the heat; quite as ill, in a different way, as I was in winter from the cold.

I cannot sleep or eat, can hardly sit upright, and am in a continual high fever, obliged to keep wet cloths on my head all day long. In these astonishing circumstances Carlyle declares I absolutely must go away, and best to Haddington. He will take me there and leave me; so if I go to Haddington I shall surely go to Auchtertool; but I am not there yet. I am to write to Miss Donaldson to-day, to inquire if her house be empty; if the London family are there I shall consider that objection final.

I hope, if I go, I may get off before Geraldine returns, for I am not up to any visitor just now, not even to an angel awares.

Kind love to all. I have that letter to Miss Donaldson to write and am already worn out.

Ever your affectionate



October-November, 1846. - We went for a week to the Grange - old Rogers, &c. My poor Jane's health very feeble. Beginning of December, bothered by various things, [Page 392]  change of servants, foolish Helen off to Dublin to a foolish brother there, and to ruin, as it proved. My dear little woman fell quite ill - Dr. Christie attending - and for three weeks was helpless, oftenest in bed, amid these household irritations, now painful to remember. Helen Welsh luckily was here on visit from Liverpool; before New Year's Day the hurly-burly, bad servants, Free Kirk Edinburgh ones, slow coach &c., swept away, and a new good one got; and my darling, once more victorious, seemed to be herself again.

End of January, part of February 1847, at Bay House, Alverstoke; there again, however, she had a miserably bad sore throat, sad to read of in her letters. I idle, lying painfully fallow all this time, brother John busy with his Dante.

August 1847 we go for Matlock, stay about a fortnight. W. E. Forster over from Rawdon (Bradford neighbourhood), loyal cheery ex-Quaker then, Radical politician now, ran over to join us, and, pressingly hospitable, took us home with him. Charming drive to Sheffield from the Peak country. Stay at Rawdon for another fortnight; there part; I for Scotsbrig, my Jeannie for a trial day or two at Barnsley (brother of Mrs. Paulet's there), and so home to Chelsea. - T. C.

To T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.

Cheyne Row Saturday, Sept. 11, 1847.

Here I am, then, safe and sound! rather tired, and as yellow as saffron with yesterday's journey; but that is all. I left Barnsley at one, and got home at eleven, rather low when I stopped at my own door all alone; but Anne received me with a little outburst of affection, as cheering as it was unexpected. What you will consider more to the purpose, she had everything in the nicest possible order; seemed [Page 393]  really to have exerted herself to the uttermost in divining and executing my wishes. A better-cleaned house I never set my foot in: and even her own little person had bloomed out into new clothes for the occasion. All the carpets have been not only up, and most effectually cleaned, and nailed down again, as nobody but myself ever succeeded in nailing them before, but she has been at the unbargained-for pains to darn them, wherever they needed it. Nay, she has actually learned to stand on steps, and dusted every book on the shelves! Mrs. Piper has been at work like a very Brownie. Postie[1] and she came at four o'clock one morning, and washed up all the blankets and counterpanes. And then the little post-woman herself fell upon the chair and table covers, and, having washed them quite beautifully, nailed them all on again; so that the whole house looks as bright as a new pin. Postie had also helped to beat the carpets, considering that Eaves[2] was rather slimming them; but he charged Anne to keep this, and indeed all his doings, a secret from me. To fall to work messing and painting inside, now that everything is so well cleaned, and so late in the year, would, I think, be 'very absurd.'[3] When the [Page 394]  parlour is new-papered and painted, it should be done properly, and proper painting takes a prodigious time; but I will see somebody to-morrow, to speak at least concerning the outside.

I have not seen John yet, but he will come, I suppose, after his proofs are corrected. Nobody else knows of my return, and I shall keep it 'a secret to please him,'[1] till I feel a need of company, which I fancy will not be for some weeks to come. Meanwhile I have plenty to employ me, in siding[2] drawers and locked places, which I left in the disgracefullest confusion; and in re-habilitating the clothes-department, which has been wonderfully reduced and dilapidated by these weeks of travel, to say nothing of plenty of letters lying on my conscience. Did you find at Scotsbrig a letter from Anthony Sterling announcing his father's death? Anne says he (Anthony) called here last Saturday to ask the address; and she gave him the Rawdon one. The poor old man had been quite insensible for a week before his death; and the week before that, he had insisted on having himself brought in the carriage to this door, though even then he was speechless. Anne said it was the saddest thing she ever saw; he waved to her to come to him, and made signs as if he were leaving a message for me, pointed repeatedly to his lips, and then to the house, and then shook [Page 395]  his head with tears running down. How often I have made a jest of that old man's affection for me, and now it looks one of the most valuable affections I ever possessed, for he clung to it till his last moment of consciousness. His nurse, who came with him, told Anne she knew I was not at home, but it was perfectly impossible to hinder his coming. Anthony, Anne says, seemed 'dreadfully cut up;' he 'could hardly speak to her, for the tears in his throat.'

Your letter was lying for me last night when I came in, and gave me somehow the feeling of a letter written out of Hades. I hope I shall get another soon. I hardly supposed your Manchester worshippers, and least of all Geraldine, would let you off on the Tuesday. As to me, I could not well have got home on the Wednesday, even if much set on it, which I was not. On Tuesday, Nodes[1] and his wife took me through two immense factories, and a long drive besides in a phaeton. On the way home I was seized with one of my very worst fainting headaches, and had to be carried from the carriage to bed, where I lay in what they took for a last agony, till midnight. Nothing could be kinder than Mrs. Newton was, but kindness could do nothing till the time came. Next day I got up to breakfast, but too brashed to dream of going off to London; so I [Page 396]  agreed to stay till Friday. They would fain have had it Monday, but I could not be so silly as to change my day twice. My visit was a highly successful one, except for that headache, which might have happened anywhere. The children are beautiful, loveable children, brought up as children used to be in my time, and no trouble to anybody. Mrs. Newton herself grows more attractive for me the more I see of her; her quiet good sense and loving heartedness, and perfect naturalness, are very refreshing to one's world-used soul. Even poor Nodes is a much more interesting man at the head of his mill and his family than when hanging loose on society in London - but it is twenty minutes after four.

Ever yours,


John Forster, Esq., 58 Lincoln's Inn Fields.

5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Tuesday, Sept. 14, 1847.

Dear Mr. Forster, - Here I am, then! returned to Chelsea; a sadder and a wiser woman for my five weeks of pursuit of the picturesque under difficulties. My husband and I parted company at Leeds a week ago. He is now in Annandale 'spending his time' (he writes to me) 'chiefly in sleeping and in drinking new milk under various forms!' Rather bilious work, one would say! but every man to his humour! For me, I am spending my time chiefly in loving the [Page 397]  devil out of a - Yorkshire kitten! which I have adopted for its inexpressible charm of tigerishness. But a huge brown-paper parcel of MS. lies like an incubus on my free spirit! What is to be done? When and how are we to get through it?

Since I arrived on Friday night, I have spoken with no mortal but my maid, and twice for ten minutes with my brother-in-law. I believe, besides you, there is still a man, or perhaps two, of my acquaintance left. But I feel so mesmerised by the silence and the dimness, that I have no power to announce my return.

Write to me. I am prepared for anything.

Ever yours affectionately





[Page 276]

1 Visit to the Barings.

[Page 281]

1 Bringing back remembrance of her mother.

[Page 282]

1 A patient in the York Asylum (country attorney, I was told), a small, shrivelled, elderly man, sat dining among others, being perfectly harmless, at the governor's table there. He ate pretty fairly; but every minute or two inconsolably flung down his knife and fork, stretched out his palms, and twisting his poor countenance into utter woe, gave a low pathetic howl: 'I've la-ast mi happetayte!' The wretchedst scarecrow of humanity I almost ever saw, who bad found his 'immeasurable of misery' in that particular 'loss'! Date would be autumn 1819; my first visit to England - not farther south than York as yet.

[Page 284]

1 Sir James Graham's opening of the Mazzini correspondence, for behoof of Pope and Kaiser, on which I had written something to the Times.

2 The servant.

[Page 285]

1 Had driven home from the station, I suppose, without me? - for want of a word or hint in time.

[Page 286]

1 Mythical grace, before meals, of an embarrassed and bashful man: 'Oh, Lord, we're a' sailing,' &c.

2 Chinese personage, in the Two Fair Cousins, who sees almost into millstones.

[Page 287]

1 Herself - the dear one!

[Page 288]

1 Seaforth House is three miles or so down river from Liverpool, Bootleward; a bare kind of big mansion (once Gladstone senior's), in these years rented by the Paulets, extensive merchant people. Paulet was a good, cleverish Genoese; Mrs. Paulet, an early friend of Geraldine Jewsbury, a strange, indolently ingenious, artistic, &c., creature, very reverent of us at this time. - T. C.

[Page 289]

1 A Lais without the beauty. - C. Lamb.

2 Mrs. Paulet's sister.

3 Good is masculine for Goody - my frequent name for her. - T. C.

[Page 294]

1 Fleming. To 'die tbe death of Jenkin's hen' expressed, in Annandale, the maximum of pusillanimity.

[Page 295]

1 The late C. Buller's aunt.

[Page 299]

1 Only fragments of these note books survive. Most of them were destroyed by Mrs. Carlyle herself.

[Page 310]

1 Attila Schmelze's Journey to Flätz, by Jean Paul.

[Page 311]

1 Some fool's speech to me, I forget whose.

[Page 312]

1 Annandale for 'beat the world.'

[Page 313]

1 Rio, a wandering, rather loud and headlong, but innocent-hearted, French friend, Neo-Catholic, &c. I believe is still living at Paris; a stranger here for twenty-five years now.

2 Bölte's phrase for the sad operation of being with effort 'witty.'

3 'Book,' I suppose, will be Life of Schiller, 2nd edition.

[Page 314]

1 Two London mechanics paused at a print-shop window where I was. 'Ha!' said one to the other in a jaunty knowing tone, 'Tag-li-oni! Bit of fascination there.' Poor Taglioni was, indeed, elastic as india-rubber, but as meaningless too, poor soul. - T. C.

[Page 315]

1 Mazzini's, meaning paupers.

2 Jeffrey, in Edinburgh Review continually.

3 Sandy Blackadder, factor at Hoddam (long ago), a heavy, baggy, big, long-winded man, was overheard one day, in a funeral company which had not yet risen, discoursing largely in monotonous undertones to some neighbour about the doings, intentions, and manifold insignificant proceedings of some anonymous fellow-man; but at length wound up with 'and then he deed and did nought ava.'

[Page 316]

1 My father's phrase.

[Page 317]

1 Helen's phrase in the National Gallery.

2 Admiring remark of an Annandale mother about her particularly stupid huge lout of a son.

3 Dragoon's letter to his beloved in some police report which we had read years ago. 'Happy with you to the end of eternity,' and then this noti bena.

[Page 318]

1 Mazzini.

[Page 322]

1 French Revolution - speaker in Jacobin Club, evening of August 10.

[Page 326]

1 Note, p. 315.

2 Crying baby unappeasable. 'Put your finger in ta pipie o't' (little windpipe), said some Highland body.

[Page 327]

1 Peter Nimmo's sermon on Ananias and Sapphira: 'Tempted by some demon more wicked than his wife.'

2 Dull book (quasi-atheistic), much talked of then.

[Page 328]

1 Jeffrey? 'Pooh! clever enough, but not a domineering genius!' (Poor Gray, of the High School, Edinburgh, thirty years before.)

2 Burgher minister's thanksgiving on a Sacramental occasion.

[Page 331]

By working late and early
We're come to what ye see,
Although we made our bridal bed
On clean pease strae.

[Page 335]

1 Mill's account of some celebrated creature's 'literature.'

2 John Carlyle, then staying in Cheyne Row.

3 Phrase of John's.

[Page 337]

1 Trial (at Paris) of some calumnious fellow, who had accused him of being privy to, &c. &c.

[Page 339]

1 Dumfries postmaster of old: 'Nothink for Craigenputtock to-day, me'm!

[Page 340]

1 Private theatricals got up by Dickens and Forster for some benevolent purpose. - J. A. F.

[Page 341]

1 Speech of a very young Wedgwood at a Woolwich review: 'Ah, papa, all these soldiers were once men?

[Page 343]

1 'No. 5,' or the like, denoting maid-servant there.

[Page 345]

1 Buller's definition to me of a Martin picture (engraving rather) on Macready's staircase one gala night. Picture mad - mad as Bedlam, all, and with one 'small figure' ('Tommy') notably prominent.

2 His sister, a very amiable gentlewoman.

[Page 346]

1 'William' was the good Mrs. M.'s constant designation for her husband.

2 John's careless, helter-skelter ways had been notable since his boyhood, and which, taking his ease among us, were frequently an object of satire to her as to the rest of us. The good, affectionate, honest, and manly character and fine talents that lay deeper she also knew, as we all of us did, though with less of vocal recognition.

[Page 348]

1 Forlorn old pauper, entering a schoolroom (to dame and little children):
'I'm a poor helpless cratur;
If I was dead, and a stone at my head,
I think it would be bey-tur [better]!'

2 Amiable, mild gentleman, Polish exile; utterly poor; died in Edinburgh ten years afterwards.

[Page 349]

1 In Scotland the 'Penny Ladies' (extraneously so-called) were busy, 'benevolent' persons; subscribers of a penny a week for educating, &c. &c., not with much success.

2 Oh, my heroine! Endless were her feats in regard to all this, and her gentle talent too! I could not have lived here but for that, had there been nothing more.

[Page 350]

1 Saying of my indolent sister-in-law, brother Alick's wife, on one occasion. 'Rowins' are wool completely carded, ready for the wheel when it comes down from 'the loft.'

[Page 351]

1 Mark, mark!

2 Quiz, mainly this, and glad mockery of some who deserved it.

[Page 352]

1 Well do I remember that dog, behind the wall, on the other side of the street. Never heard more.

[Page 354]

1 Swindon.

[Page 355]

1 'Against stupidity the gods themselves are powerless' (Schiller).

[Page 357]

1 With the receipts all inclosed. Oh, my 'poverty'! richer to me than the Indies!

[Page 358]

1 Kenny, the playwright, married to the widow of Holcroft (the nervous Irish gentleman, to black French giantess, afraid of nothing) had an important bequest depending 'on the birth of a child.' Twins duly came, whereupon anxious Kenny dropped off to Basil Montague to inquire: 'But will that do? Two instead of one?

2 So had some spiteful fellow once whispered her, in some rout, on seeing them together.

[Page 361]

1 After a long visit to Mr. and Lady Harriet Baring, at Bay House, Alverstoke.

[Page 363]

1 Ejaculation of my mother's after reading a long Roman letter from brother John.

[Page 366]

1 The Misses Donaldson.

2 Margaret Hiddlestone, the excellent widow servant.

3 Mary Mills, who used to depend on charitable Templand, weeding the garden, &c. To me who know the matter, what a piercing beauty in those rigorously punctual small gifts; sad as death, and grand, too, as death!

[Page 367]

1 'Maggie' hodie.

2 The (Irish-Catholic) Tablet, which came gratis to me (from Lucas, founder and editor, a great 'admirer,' &c.), and was sent regularly till his death.

[Page 368]

1 Oh, my darling little woman!

[Page 369]

1 Mrs. Carlyle's uncle.

2 Sentimental cockney (mythical) that, trotting past, saw a clean-washed pig with a ribbon round its neck, and exclaimed, 'Somebody,' &c. - T. C.

[Page 393]

1 Our excellent, punctual, and obliging postman, for above twenty years.

2 The ostler, turned out (seven or eight years after) to be a very great scamp.

3 Brother John's phrase.

[Page 394]

1 'Ou qua manger un hareng? C'est un secret pour lui plaire?'

2 Lancashire for 'sorting.'

[Page 395]

1 Nodes Newton, Mrs. Paulet's brother at Barnsley.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom