LETTERS AND MEMORIALS
JANE WELSH CARLYLE
PREPARED FOR PUBLICATION BY
JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE
IN THREE VOLUMES
LONGMANS GREEN, AND CO.
All rights reserved
Miss Barnes, King's Road, Chelsea.
Auchtertool House, Kirkcaldy: Aug. 24, 1859.
My dear Miss Barnes, - How nice of you to have written me a letter, 'all out of your own head' (as the children say), and how very nice of you to have remarked the forget-me-not, and read a meaning in it! It was certainly with intention I tied up some forget-me-nots along with my farewell roses; but I was far from sure of your recognising the intention, and at the same time not young enough to make it plainer. Sentiment, you see, is not well looked on by the present generation of women; there is a growing taste for fastness, or, still worse, for strong-mindedness! so a discreet woman (like me) will beware always of putting her sentiment (when she has any) in evidence - will rather leave it - as in the forget-me-not
[Page 2] case - to be divined through sympathy; and failing the sympathy, to escape notice.
And you are actually going to get married! you! already! And you expect me to congratulate you! or 'perhaps not.' I admire the judiciousness of that 'perhaps not.' Frankly, my dear, I wish you all happiness in the new life that is opening to you; and you are marrying under good auspices, since your father approves of the marriage. But congratulation on such occasions seems to me a tempting of Providence. The triumphal-procession-air which, in our manners and customs, is given to marriage at the outset - that singing of Te Deum before the battle has begun - has, ever since I could reflect, struck me as somewhat senseless and somewhat impious. If ever one is to pray - if ever one is to feel grave and anxious - if ever one is to shrink from vain show and vain babble - surely it is just on the occasion of two human beings binding themselves to one another, for better and for worse, till death part them; just on that occasion which it is customary to celebrate only with rejoicings, and congratulations, and trousseaux, and white ribbon! Good God!
Will you think me mad if I tell you that when I read your words, 'I am going to be married,' I all but screamed? Positively, it took away my breath, as if I saw you in the act of taking a flying leap into infinite space. You had looked to me such a happy,
[Page 3] happy little girl! your father's only daughter; and he so fond of you, as he evidently was. After you had walked out of our house together that night, and I had gone up to my own room, I sat down there in the dark, and took 'a good cry.' You had reminded me so vividly of my own youth, when I, also an only daughter - an only child - had a father as fond of me, as proud of me. I wondered if you knew your own happiness. Well! knowing it or not, it has not been enough for you, it would seem. Naturally, youth is so insatiable of happiness, and has such sublimely insane faith in its own power to make happy and be happy.
But of your father? Who is to cheer his toilsome life, and make home bright for him? His companion through half a lifetime gone! his dear 'bit of rubbish' gone too, though in a different sense. Oh, little girl! little girl! do you know the blank you will make to him?
Now, upon my honour, I seem to be writing just such a letter as a raven might write if it had been taught. Perhaps the henbane I took in despair last night has something to do with my mood to-day. Anyhow, when one can only ray out darkness, one had best clap an extinguisher on oneself. And so God bless you!
JANE W. CARLYLE.
To George Cooke, Esq.
Auchtertool House, Kirkcaldy: Friday.
I am not at the manse, but within a quarter of an hour's walk of it, in a large comfortable house lent us by a Mr. Liddell; and we should have done well here had not Mr. C. walked and rode and bathed himself into a bilious crisis just before leaving Humbie; so that he began life under the most untoward auspices. For the first fortnight, indeed, it was, so far as myself was concerned, more like being keeper in a madhouse than being 'in the country' for 'quiet and change.' Things are a little subsided now, however, and in spite of the wear and tear on my nerves, I am certainly less languid and weak than during all my stay in the farmhouse. Whether it be that the air of Auchtertool suits me better than that of Aberdour, or that having my kind little cousins within cry is a wholesome diversion, or that it required a continuance of country air to act upon my feebleness, I am not competent to say, nor is it of the slightest earthly consequence what the cause is, so that the effect has been as I tell you.
T. Carlyle, The Gill, Annan.
York, Scawin's Hotel: Thursday, Sept. 22, 1859.
There! I have done it! You prophesied my heart would fail me when it came to the point, and I would 'just rush straight on again to the end.' But my heart didn't fail me, 'or rather' (to speak like Dr. Carlyle) it did fail me horribly! but my memory held true, and kept me up to the mark. With the recollection of the agonies of tiredness I suffered on the journey down, and for many days after, still tingling through my nerves, I took no counsel with my heart, but kept determined to not expose myself to that again, whatever else (bugs inclusive). And, so far, I have reason to congratulate myself; for I was getting 'quite' done up by the time we reached York, and I am now very comfortable in my inn, with prospects for the night not bad! If only there be no 'small beings' (as Mazzini prettily styles them) in the elegant green-curtained bed of number 44, Scawin's.
I am sitting writing in that number, by the side of a bright little fire; which I ordered to be lighted, the first thing, on my arrival. While it was burning up, I went down and had tea in the 'ladies' coffee-room,' where was no fire, but also no ladies! They
[Page 6] brought me very nice tea and muffins, and I 'asked for' cream!! and for an egg!!! 'And it was all very comfortable!' I think I shall order some supper when the time comes; but I haven't been able to decide what yet. There isn't a sound in the house, nor in the back court that my windows look out on. It is hardly to be hoped such quiet can last. Trains will come in during the night, and I shall hear them, anyhow; for this hotel, though not the Railway Station Hotel, is just outside the station gate. It was Eliza Liddell who recommended it to me. I never was in an inn, all by myself before; except one night years ago, in the 'George' at Haddington, which was not exactly an inn to me; and I like the feeling of it unexpectedly well! The freedom at once from 'living's cares, that is cares of bread,' the pride of being one's own mistress and own protector, all that lifts me into a certain exaltation, 'regardless of expense.' And now I am going to ring my bell, and order a pair of candles!
Candles come! a pair of composite - not wax, 'thanks God!' I shall breakfast here in peace, and quietness to-morrow morning; and leave by a train that starts at ten, and reaches London at four; and shall so avoid night air, which would not suit me at present. It has grown very cold, within the last two weeks; and I was as near catching a regular bad cold as ever I was in my life without doing it!
[Page 7] The habit I took of waking at four at Auchtertool continued at Morningside, where there was much disturbance from carts 'going to the lime.' The morning I left was chill and damp; and I rose at six, tired of lying still, and dawdled about my room, packing, till I took what Anne used to call 'the cold shivers.' Mrs. Binnie's warm welcome and warm dinner failed to warm me; which was a pity; for Mrs. Godby had arrived and the short visit would have been extremely pleasant, but for my chill. My tongue and throat became very sore towards night. Next day I felt quite desperate; but Mrs. Godby gave me a stiff tumbler of brandy toddy, in the forenoon, before I started; and her brother sent me, in his carriage, straight to Sunny Bank, so as to avoid the cold waiting at Long Niddry, and the other risks of the train; and on arriving at Sunny Bank, I swallowed two glasses of wine, and then, at bedtime, a stiff tumbler of whisky toddy!!! and so on, for the next two days fairly battling down the cold with 'stimulants.' I think I shall escape now, if I take reasonable care. Pity there should be 'always a something'! But for this apprehension of an over-hanging illness, and these horrid 'cold shivers,' I should have enjoyed my last visit to Sunny Bank so much. They were so much better - the house so much cheerfuller with Eliza there, and so many people came to see me that I liked to see. Even
[Page 8] when I left, this morning, I did not despair of seeing them again!
Surely you will never be so rude to that good-humoured Lady Stanley as to fling her over after all. Besides, Alderley would make so good a resting-place for you on the long journey. I hope to get things into their natural condition before you arrive.
J. W. C.
Love to Mary. I hope she liked her picture. You never saw such a pen as I am writing with!
T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Monday, Sept. 26, 1859.
Two letters to be forwarded, or catch me having put pen to paper this day, I am so tired, Oh my! I never! A good sleep would have put me to rights, but that hasn't come yet. In spite of the stillness, and the good bed, and the all-my-own-way, I do nothing but fall asleep, and start up, and light matches, till four o'clock strikes, and after that I lie awake, wishing it were breakfast-time. What a wise woman I was to come home by myself, and get my fatigues done out before you arrived. I am not going out to-day, nor was I out yesterday, but on Saturday afternoon I trailed myself to Silvester's, and saw the
[Page 9] horse - 'just come in from being exercised,' 'in capital condition,' 'so fat!' Silvester said, clapping its buttock, 'and so spirity that he never -----!' The stable seemed good and very clean. I think them most respectable people. And the distance is less than to -----'s.
If you could conveniently bring a small bag of meal with you from Scotsbrig, it would be welcome; we have none but some Fife meal, which is very inferior to the Annandale. At all events, you could ask Jamie to send us a few stone, say four, and if Mary would give us a little jar of butter, like what she sent with me last year, it 'wud be a great advantage.'
I find everything in the house perfectly safe - no bugs, no moths, grates unrusted, much more care having been taken than when Anne was left in it, with wages, and board wages, at least in the last years of Anne's incumbency. Mrs. Southern is an excellent woman, I do believe, and Charlotte is already the better for being back beside her - away from Thomson's and Muat's.
J. W. C.
T. Carlyle, Esq., at Alderley Park, Congleton.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Thursday, Sept. 29, 1859.
Thanks! Just one line, that you may not be fancying me past writing. But there is no time for a letter. I am shocked to find how late it is. I fell to putting down the clean drugget, in the drawing-room, 'with my own hands,' - that you might not on your first arrival receive the same impression of profound gloom from the dark green carpet, that drove myself towards thoughts of suicide! And, behold, the seams had given way in many places at the washing; and I have had to sit on the floor like a tailor, stitching, stitching, and so the time passed away unremarked, and it now is long past my dinner-time, and no dinner so much as thought of, in spite of Charlotte's repeated questions.
I will put myself in an omnibus, and go up to Michel's in Sloane Street, and dine on a plate of soup. Woman wants but little here below - after a railway journey from Scotland especially.
I am glad you have gone to Alderley. I have slept a degree better the last two nights; but have still much to make up in that way. Don't hurry on,
[Page 11] if you do well at the Stanleys'. Kind regards to the lady.
J. W. C.
'Butcher's cart passed over Nero's throat.' Poor little foolish faithful dog! it killed him after all; was never well again. He died in some four months (Feb. 1, 1860, as the little tablet said, while visible) with a degree of pitying sorrow even from me, which I am still surprised at.
The wreck of poor Nero, who had to be strychnined by the doctor, was, and is still, memorable, sad and miserable to me, the last nocturnal walk he took with me, his dim white little figure in the universe of dreary black, and my then mood about 'Frederick' and other things.
Holmhill is half a mile from the village of Thornhill. Dr. Russell withdrawing from regular business there. - T. C.
Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Wednesday, October 30, 1859.
Dearest Mary, - 'If you but knew how I have been situated!' (my husband's favourite phrase). First, I arrived so tired! oh so dead tired! Notwithstanding that, I actually summoned nerve to put in effect my often cherished idea of sleeping at York (half-way) alone in an inn. Odd that I should never, at this age, have done that thing before, in my life, except once, when, after an absence of eighteen years, I spent a night incognita in the George Inn of Haddington, where I could not feel myself a mere
[Page 12] traveller. It was a proof that my nerves were stronger, if not my limbs, that I really carried out the York speculation, when it came to the point. It would certainly have been again a failure, however, but for a lady in Fife telling me of a comfortable inn to stop at. I was to ask, on getting out of the carriage, 'was any porter from Mrs. Scawin's here?' which I had no sooner done, than the name Scawin was shouted out in the sound of 'Sowens!' to my great shame! I feeling as if everybody knew where I was going, and that it was my first adventure of the sort!! But I was comfortably and quietly lodged; no bugs, no anything to molest me, only that the tumult in my own blood kept me awake all night; so that I arrived here as tired, next evening, as if I had come the whole road at one horrid rush. And I hadn't much time allowed me to rest; for, though Charlotte had got down all the carpets, there were still quantities of details for me to do, before Mr. C. came. And he stayed only a week behind me.
When the house was all in order for him, my cares were destined to take another turn, even more engrossing. Just the night before his arrival, Charlotte went to some shops, taking the dog with her, and brought him home in her arms, all crumpled together like a crushed spider, and his poor little eyes protruding, and fixedly staring in his head! A butcher's cart, driving furiously round a sharp
[Page 13] corner, had passed over poor little Nero's throat! and not killed him on the spot! But he looked killed enough at the first. When I tried to 'stand him on the ground' (as the servants here say), he flopped over on his side, quite stiff and unconscious! You may figure my sensations! and I durst not show all my grief; Charlotte was so distressed, and really could not have helped it! I put him in a warm bath, and afterwards wrapped him warmly, and laid him on a pillow, and left him, without much hope of finding him alive in the morning. But in the morning he still breathed, though incapable of any movement; but he swallowed some warm milk that I put into his mouth. About midday I was saying aloud, 'Poor dog! poor little Nero!' when I saw the bit tail trying to wag itself! and after that, I had good hopes. In another day he could raise his head to lap the milk himself. And so, by little and little, he recovered the use of himself; but it was ten days before he was able to raise a bark, his first attempt was like the scream of an infant! It has been a revelation to me, this, of the strength of the throat of a dog!! Mr. C. says, if the wheel had gone over anywhere else, it would have killed him. A gentleman told me the other night that he once saw a fine large dog run over; the great wheel of one of Pickford's heavy-laden vans went over its throat!! And the dog just rose
[Page 14] up and shook itself!! It next staggered a little to one side, and then a little to the other, as if drunk, then it steadied itself and walked composedly home!
When I was out of trouble with my dog, I had time to feel how very relaxing and depressing the air of Chelsea was for me, as usual, after the bracing climate of Scotland. I was perfectly done, till Mr. C. insisted on setting up the carriage again, and Providence put me on drinking water out of a 'bitter cup;' that is a new invention, very popular here this year! - a cup made of the wood of quassia, which makes the water quite bitter in a minute; of course, a chip of quassia put into water would have the same effect; but nobody ever bid me take that! I thought, for three or four days, that I had discovered the grand panacea of life! I felt so hungry! and so cheerful!! and so active! But one night I was seized with the horridest cramps! which quite took the shine out of quassia for me, though I daresay it was merely that I had quite neglected my bowels. I haven't had courage to re-commence with the 'bitter cup; 'but it will come! Meanwhile I am pretty well over the bilious crisis that has befallen, to 'remind me that I am but a woman!' and a very frail one (I mean in a physical sense)!
How pleasant it will be to think of you at that pretty Holmhill! though one will always have a tender feeling towards the 'old rambling house,'
[Page 15] where we have had such good days together. But the other place will be for the good of your health, as well as more agreeable, when you have once got over the pain of change, which is painful to good hearts, though it may be joyful enough to light ones. It will also be a comfort to my mind to think of that drawing-room getting papered all with one sort of paper!
God bless you. Love to your husband.
J. W. CARLYLE.
To Mrs. Stirling, Hill Street, Edinburgh.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: October 21, 1859.
You dear nice woman! there you are! a bright cheering apparition to surprise one on a foggy October morning, over one's breakfast - that most trying institution for people who are 'nervous' and 'don't sleep!'
It (the photograph) made our breakfast this morning 'pass off,' like the better sort of breakfasts in Deerbrook, in which people seemed to have come into the world chiefly to eat breakfast in every possible variety of temper!
Blessed be the inventor of photography! I set him above even the inventor of chloroform! It has given more positive pleasure to poor suffering
[Page 16] humanity than anything that has 'cast up' in my time or is like to - this art by which even the 'poor' can possess themselves of tolerable likenesses of their absent dear ones. And mustn't it be acting favourably on the morality of the country? I assure you I have often gone into my own room, in the devil's own humour - ready to swear at 'things in general,' and some things in particular - and, my eyes resting by chance on one of my photographs of long-ago places or people, a crowd of sad, gentle thoughts has rushed into my heart, and driven the devil out, as clean as ever so much holy water and priestly exorcisms could have done! I have a photograph of Haddington church tower, and my father's tombstone in it - of every place I ever lived at as a home - photographs of old lovers! old friends, old servants, old dogs! In a day or two, you, dear, will be framed and hung up among the 'friends.' And that bright, kind, indomitable face of yours will not be the least efficacious face there for exorcising my devil, when I have him! Thank you a thousand times for keeping your word! Of course you would - that is just the beauty of you, that you never deceive nor disappoint.
Oh my dear! my dear! how awfully tired I was with the journey home, and yet I had taken two days to it, sleeping - that is, attempting to sleep - at York. What a pity it is that Scotland is so far off! all the
[Page 17] good one has gained there gets shaken off one in the terrific journey home again, and then the different atmosphere is so trying to one fresh from the pure air of Fife - so exhausting and depressing. If it hadn't been that I had a deal of housemaiding to execute during the week I was here before Mr. C.. returned, I must have given occasion for newspaper paragraphs under the head of 'Melancholy Suicide.' But dusting books, making chair-covers, and 'all that sort of thing,' leads one on insensibly to live - till the crisis gets safely passed.
My dear! I haven't time nor inclination for much letter-writing - nor have you, I should suppose, but do let us exchange letters now and then. A friendship which has lived on air for so many years together is worth the trouble of giving it a little human sustenance.
Give my kind regards to your husband - I like him. - And believe me,
Your ever affectionate
JANE WELSH CARLYLE.
In October, after getting home, there was a determined onslaught made on 'Frederick,' an attempt (still in the way of youth - 16 rather than 60!) to vanquish by sheer force the immense masses of incondite or semi-condite rubbish which had accumulated on 'Frederick,' that is, to let the Printer straightway drive me through it! - a most fond and foolish notion, which indeed I myself partly knew, durst I
[Page 18] have confessed it, to be foolish and even impossible! But this was the case all along; I never once said to myself, 'All those chaotic mountains, wide as the world, high as the stars, dismal as Lethe, Styx, and Phlegethon, did mortal ever see the like of it for size and for quality in the rubbish way? All this thou wilt have to take into thee, to roast and smelt in the furnace of thy own poor soul till thou fairly do smelt the grains of gold out of it!' No, though dimly knowing all this, I durst not openly know it (indeed, how could I otherwise ever have undertaken such a subject?); and I had got far on with the unutterable enterprise, before I did clearly admit that such was verily proving, and would, on to the finis, prove to have been the terrible part of this affair, affair which I must now conquer tale quale, or else perish! This first attempt of October-February, 1859-1860 (after dreadful tugging at the straps), was given up by her serious advices, which I could not but admit to be true as well as painful and humiliating! November 1860 had arrived before there was any further printing: nothing thenceforth but silent pulling at a dead lift, which lasted four or five years more.
My darling must have suffered much in all this; how much! I sometimes thought how cruel it was on her, to whom 'Frederick' was literally nothing except through me, so cruel, alas, alas, and yet inevitable! Never once in her deepest misery did she hint, by word or sign, what she too was suffering under that score; me only did she ever seem to pity in it, the heroic, the thrice noble, and wholly loving soul!
She seemed generally a little stronger this year, and only a little; her strength, though blind I never saw it, and kept hoping, hoping, was never to come back, but the reverse, the reverse more and more! Except a week or two at the Grange (January 1860), which did not hurt either of
[Page 19] us, I think we had intended to make no visits this year, or as good as none. We did, however, and for good reasons, make two - hers, a most unlucky or provoking one, provokingly curtailed and frustrated, as will be seen. This was in August, to Alderley, and she could have gone further but for blind ill luck. Beginning of July she had tried a week or thereby of lodging at Brighton, and invited me, who tried for three days but could get no sleep for noises, and had to hurry home by myself; where also I could not sleep nor stay to any purpose, and was chiefly by brother John, who accompanied, led by sea to Thurso, for a 'long sail' first of all.
To Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Friday, Jan. 28, 1860.
Dearest Mary, - A letter from me would have crossed yours (with the book) on the road, if it hadn't been for a jacket! Things are so oddly hooked together in this world. The connection in this case is simple enough. I needed a little jacket for home wear, and, possessing a superfluous black silk scarf, I resolved, in a moment of economical enthusiasm, to make with my own hands a jacket out of it. For, in spite of the 'thirty thousand distressed needlewomen' one hears so much of, the fact remains that nobody can get a decent article of dress made here, unless at enormous cost. And besides, the dressmakers who can fit one won't condescend to make anything but with their own materials. So I fell to cutting out that jacket last Monday, and only finished it to-day (Friday)! and was so much excited over the unusual
[Page 20] nature of the enterprise (for I detest sewing, and don't sew for weeks together) that I could not leave off, for anything that could be postponed, till the jacket was out of hands. But Lord preserve me, what a bother; better to have bought one ready-made at the dearest rate. I won't take a needle in my hands, except to sew on Mr. C.'s buttons, for the next six months. By the way, would you like the shape of my jacket, which is of the newest? I have it on paper, and could send it to you quite handy.
Oh my dear, I am very much afraid, the reading of that book will be an even more uncongenial job of work for me than the jacket, and won't have as much to show for itself when done. If there be one thing I dislike more than theology it is geology. And here we have both, beaten up in the same mortar, and incapable, by any amount of beating, to coalesce. What could induce any live woman to fall a-writing that sort of book? And a decidedly clever woman - I can see that much from the little I have already read of it here and there. She expresses her meaning very clearly and elegantly too. If it were only on any subject I could get up an interest in, I should read her writing with pleasure. But even when Darwin, in a book that all the scientific world is in ecstasy over, proved the other day that we are all come from shell-fish, it didn't move me to the slightest curiosity whether we are or not. I did not feel that the
[Page 21] slightest light would be thrown on my practical life for me, by having it ever so logically made out that my first ancestor, millions of millions of ages back, had been, or even had not been, an oyster. It remained a plain fact that I was no oyster, nor had any grandfather an oyster within my knowledge; and for the rest, there was nothing to be gained, for this world, or the next, by going into the oyster-question, till all more pressing questions were exhausted! So - if I can't read Darwin, it may be feared I shall break down in Mrs. Duncan. Thanks to you, however, for the book, which will be welcome to several of my acquaintances. There is quite a mania for geology at present, in the female mind. My next-door neighbour would prefer a book like Mrs. Duncan's to Homer's 'Iliad' or Milton's 'Paradise Lost.' 'There is no accounting for tastes.'
I have done my visit to the Grange, and got no hurt by it; and it was quite pleasant while it lasted. The weather was mild, and besides, the house is so completely warmed, with warm-water pipes, that it is like summer there in the coldest weather. The house was choke-full of visitors - four-and-twenty of us, most of the time. And the toilettes! Nothing could exceed their magnificence; for there were four young new-married ladies, among the rest, all vieing with each other who to be finest. The blaze of diamonds
[Page 22] every day at dinner, quite took the shine out of the chandeliers. As for myself, I got through the dressing-part of the business by a sort of continuous miracle, and, after the first day, had no bother with myself of any sort. The new Lady was kindness' self and gave general satisfaction.
To Miss Barnes, King's Road, Chelsea.
5 Cheyne Row: Saturday, Jan. 14, 1860.
My dear Miss Barnes, - I send you a pheasant, which is a trophy as well as a dead bird! For I brought it home with me last night from one of the most stupendous massacres of feathered innocents that ever took place 'here down' (as Mazzini expresses himself) - from seven hundred to a thousand pheasants shot in one day! The firing made me perfectly sick. Think of the bodily and mental state of the surviving birds when the day's sport was ended! Decidedly, men can be very great brutes when they like!
We have been away for ten days at the Grange (Lord Ashburton's place in Hampshire), where I always thrive better than anywhere else; and where, as you see, there are many pheasants.
I went to take leave of you before we went; but saw all the blinds down, and grew sick with fright! I went into Mr. Gigner's shop and inquired was anything the matter; and he told me of your new loss. At least, it was an immense relief to me to hear that your father and yourself were not ill or worse. After that I thought a note about my insignificant movements would only bother your father; so I left him to learn my whereabouts from the 'Morning Post,' certain he would be too much preoccupied for looking after me at all. Do come soon, if I don't go to you. Do you care to have this card? It will do for an autograph if you don't want to use it.
To Mr. Barnes, King's Road, Chelsea.
5 Cheyne Row: Thursday night, Feb. 1 [Nero died].
My dear good Mr. Barnes, - I cannot put into words how much I feel your kindness. It was such a kind thing for you to do! and so kindly done! My gratitude to you will be as long as my life, for shall I not, as long as I live, remember that poor little dog? Oh don't think me absurd, you, for caring so much about a dog? Nobody but myself can have any idea what that little creature has been in my life. My inseparable companion during eleven years, ever doing his little best to keep me from feeling sad and lonely.
[Page 24] Docile, affectionate, loyal up to his last hour. When weak and full of pain, he offered himself to go out with me, seeing my bonnet on; and came panting to welcome me on my return, and the reward I gave him - the only reward I could or ought to give him, to such a pass had things come - was, ten minutes after, to give him up to be poisoned.
I thought it not unlikely you would call to-day; because your coming to-day would be of a piece with the rest of your goodness to me. Nevertheless, I went out for a long drive; I could not bear myself in the house where everything I looked at reminded me of yesterday. And I wouldn't be at home for visitors to criticise my swollen eyes, and smile at grief 'about a dog,' and besides, suppose you came, I wished to not treat you to more tears; of which you had had too much; and to-day I couldn't for my life have seen you without crying dreadfully.
Tell your little jewel of a daughter I have not forgotten her wish, for which I thank her. I wish all her wishes were as easy to fulfil.
JANE WELSH CARLYLE.
To John Forster, Esq., Montagu Square.
5 Cheyne Row: Thursday, Jan. 1860? or March?
All right, dear Mr. Forster - nothing but 'yeses' out of that man's mouth, when your proposal was
[Page 25] stated to him. Willing, pleased yeses. I am afraid something must be going to happen to him. 'Yes,' he would go on Sunday; 'yes,' he would be there a quarter before six; yes, he would walk there, and let you send him home. Exactly as you predicted, he did not come in till half-past six by the clock. It is a pity for poor me; I daren't do anything pleasant ever. Though, like the pigs, I get used to it, and am thankful if I can but keep on foot in-doors.
I am bent on seeing her and Katie, however, before we go to the Grange.
[In T. C.'s hand: - ] Yes, Saturday; - for the brougham to fetch me, no, with thanks. - T. C.
(Written then! - T. C.)
Autumn 1860, I made a visit of four or five weeks to Sir George Sinclair at Thurso. Early in the summer of that year, I was visited by sleeplessness; and first began to have an apprehension that I should never get my sad book on Friedrich finished, that it would finish me instead. I still remember well enough the dark, cold, vague, yet authentic-looking feeling of terror that shot athwart me as I sat smoking 'up the chimney,' huddled in rugs, dressing-gown and cape, with candle on the hob, my one remedy in sleepless cases; the first real assault of fear, pointing, as it were, to undeniable fact; and how it saddened me the whole of next day. The second day, I compared it to
[Page 26] Luther's temptings by the devil; and thought to myself in Luther's dialect, 'Well, well, Herr Teufel, we will just go on as long as we are alive; and keep working, all the same, till thou do get us killed!' This put away the terror, but would by no means bring the sleep back. I recollect lying whole nights awake, still as a stone; getting up at six, and riding to Clapham Common, to Hammersmith region, by way of surrogate for sleep. My head had an unpleasant cloudy feeling; I was certainly far from well, far below my average of illness even. Brother John, who lived in his Brompton lodgings then, recommended strongly a sea-voyage; voyage to Thurso, for example, whither the hospitable Sir George Sinclair had been again, perhaps for the third or fourth time, eagerly inviting me. Nothing else being so feasible, and something being clearly indispensable, we both set off, John volunteering to escort me to Wick; and generously and effectively performing that fraternal service. The very first night, in spite of the tumults of the crowded Aberdeen steamer, and such a huddle of a sleeping-place as is only seen at sea, I slept deep for six or seven hours; and had not again, during this visit, nor for years, any real misery about sleep.
On the part of my generous host and household, nothing was left wanting; I was allowed to work daily some hours, invisible till three P.M. I bathed daily in the Pentland Firth in sight of the 'Old Man,' roamed about, saw 'John o' Groat's House' (evidently an old lime-kiln!) &c. &c., a country ancient, wild, and lonely, more than enough impressive to me. I was very sad, 'soul exceeding solitary;' nothing could help that. Sir George was abundantly conversible, anecdotic, far-read, far-experienced, indeed a quite learned man (would read me lyrics &c., straight from the Greek, any evening, nothing pleased him better), and full of piety, veracity, and good-nature, but it availed little; I was
[Page 27] sad and weary, all things bored me! Here at Chelsea, with my clever Jeannie for hostess, and some clever Mrs. Twisleton for fellow-guest, Sir George was reported to be charming and amusing at their little dinner, while I sat aloft and wrote. But not here could he amuse; not here, though his constant perfect goodness, and the pleasure he always expressed over me, were really welcome, wholesome, and received with gratitude. I had many invitations from him afterwards, saw him here annually once or twice; but never went to Thurso again; never could get going, had I even wished it more.
Few letters went from me in that Thurso solitude, none that I could help. From my darling herself I seemed to receive still fewer than I wrote; the tediously slow posts, I remember, were unintelligible to her, provoking to her! Here is one, beyond what I could count on, come to me last week among four of my own, printed 'on approval,' in some memoirs of Sir George, which the relations have set a certain well-known Mr. James Grant upon writing! To Miss Sinclair's poor request, I said reluctantly yes - could not say no; corrected the five letters (not without difficulty); returned my own four originals; retained (resolutely) the original of this, and a printed copy as well as this. (December 13, 1869.) - T. C.
The letter from Mrs. Carlyle to Sir George Sinclair is not dated, so far as regards the year; but evidently follows close on the foregoing. It is felicitously playful in reference to her own husband. It is as follows : -
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: August 1, 1860.
My dear Sir, - Decidedly you are more thoughtful for me than the man who is bound by vow to 'love and cherish me;' not a line have I received from
[Page 28] him to announce his safe arrival in your dominions. The more shameful on his part, that, as it appears by your note, he had such good accounts to give of himself, and was perfectly up to giving them.
Well! now that you have relieved me from all anxiety about the effects of the journey on him, he may write at his own 'reasonably good leisure.' Only I told him I should not write till I had heard of his arrival from himself; and he knows whether or no I am in the habit of keeping my word - to the letter.
A thousand thanks for the primrose roots; which I shall plant, as soon as it fairs! To-day we have again a deluge; adding a deeper shade of horror to certain household operations going on under my inspection (by way of 'improving the occasion' of his absence!). One bedroom has got all the feathers of its bed and pillows airing themselves out on the floor! creating an atmosphere of down in the house, more choking than even 'cotton-fuzz.' In another, upholsterers and painters are plashing away for their life; and a couple of bricklayers are tearing up flags in the kitchen to seek 'the solution' of a non-acting drain! All this on the one hand; and on the other, visits from my doctor, resulting in ever new 'composing draughts,' and strict charges to 'keep my mind perfectly tranquil.' You will admit that one could easily conceive situations more ideal.
Pray do keep him as long as you like! To hear of him 'in high spirits' and 'looking remarkably well' is more composing for me than any amount of 'composing draughts,' or of insistence on the benefits of 'keeping myself perfectly tranquil.' It is so very different a state of things with him from that in which I have seen him for a long time back!
Oh! I must not forget to give you the 'kind remembrances' of a very charming woman, whom any man may be pleased to be remembered by, as kindly as she evidently remembered you! I speak of Lady William Russell. She knew you in Germany, 'a young student,' she told me, when she was Bessy Rawdon. She 'had a great affection for you, and had often thought of you since.' You were 'very romantic in those days; oh, very romantic and sentimental,' she could assure me! Pray send me back a pretty message for her; she will like so much to know that she has not remembered you 'with the reciprocity all on one side.'
I don't even send my regards to Mr. C., but -
JANE W. CARLYLE,
T. Carlyle, Esq., Thurso Castle.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Friday, Aug. 10, 1860.
Oh my dear! If 'all about feelings' be bad in a letter, all about scenery and no feelings is a deal
[Page 30] worse! Such a letter as that I received from you, yesterday, after much half-anxious, half-angry waiting for, will read charmingly in your biography! and may be quoted in 'Murray's Guide Book;' but for 'me, as one solitary individual,' I was not charmed with it at all! Nevertheless, I should have answered it by return of post, had I not been too ill for writing anything yesterday, except, on the strength of phrenzy, a passionate appeal to the 'retired cheesemonger,' about his dog, which, I am happy to say, like everything coming straight from the heart, went straight to the heart of the good little old cheesemonger. You will infer, from my going ahead against 'noises' on my own account, that the 'extraordinary disturbance of the nervous system,' which Mr. Barnes found me suffering under when he came, has not yielded yet to an equally extraordinary amount of 'composing mixture!' My sleep had been getting 'small by degrees, and beautifully less,' till I ended in lying awake the whole nights through! not what you call 'awake,' that is, dozing; but broad wide awake, like a hawk with an empty stomach! Still the mixture was to be persevered in, nay, increased, and I was assured that it was 'doing me a little good,' so little I myself couldn't perceive it, even through the powerful microscope of my faith in Mr. Barnes! and, in spite of his assurance that 'home was the best place for me at present,' I had
[Page 31] wild impulses to 'take the road' (like the 'Doctor,' and with the Doctor's purposelessness!). The night before last, however (Wednesday night), I fell into a deep natural sleep, which lasted two hours, and might have lasted till the masons began, but for cheesemonger's dog, which was out that night (bad luck to it!) on a spree! and startled me awake at three of the morning with furious continuous barking - just as if my head was being laid open with repeated strokes of a hatchet! Of course I 'slept no more;' and yesterday was too ill for anything except, as I have said, writing a wild appeal to the cheesemonger. I will inclose his comforting answer which he handed in himself an hour after. It will be comforting to you also, in reference to your own future nights.
I have nothing to tell that you will take any interest in, except about the horse. He is still under the process of 'breaking,' poor creature! Is 'so nervous and resolute,' so 'dreadful resolute,' that the breaker 'can't tell how long it will take to get the better of him!' I must see Silvester to-day before writing to Frederick Chapman. I saw the poor horse three days ago, just coming in from the breaker's, like a horse just returning from the 'Thirty Years' War!' Poor beast! I could have cried for him -
[Page 32] required to turn over a new leaf in his old age! I know what that is!
'The nephew of Haggi Babda,' dropt in 'quite promiscuously' last Sunday evening, when old Jane was out at church, and I was alone, except for Geraldine, who opened the door to him, and afterwards talked social metaphysics with him! He is the fattest young large man I ever saw, out of a caravan! but in other respects rather charming. He wished me to impress on you how happy he would be to transact any commissions for you at Berlin, 'for which his connection with the embassy might give him facilities &c. &c.' He seemed heartily in earnest about this, and a hearty admirer of your 'Frederick.' He is the best-bred, pleasantest man I have seen 'for seven years,' and the hour and half he stayed would have been delightful, if I hadn't been deadly sick all the while, and my nervous system 'in an extraordinary state of disturbance.'
Tell Sir George I have planted the cowslips, 'with my own hand,' and have not needed to water them, 'the heavenly watering-pan' (which Mariotti spoke of) having spared me the trouble. I gave them the place of highest honour (round poor little Nero's stone). I have had fires all day long for the last week - such a summer! Lady Stanley sent me her portrait. The only bit of real pleasantness, however, that has come my way has been, last Wednesday, a
[Page 33] visit from William Dodds and his wife. They told me such things about the behaviour of the London Donaldsons, when they went down to Miss Jess's funeral!
Your situation sounds as favourable as a conditional world could have afforded you. I trust in Heaven that you will go on improving in it.
You remember, no pens got mended, so you won't wonder at this scrawling.
J. WELSH CARLYLE.
T. Carlyle, Thurso Castle.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Friday, Aug. 17, 1860.
Thanks for the two letters, dear! I 'did intend' to have answered them together, at full length, by to-day's post, but have been hindered sadly, and ignominiously, by - 'what shall I say?' - an attack of British cholera! Don't be alarmed; it is over now! and it is still but two o'clock, and, though I was ill all night as well as all the forenoon, I don't feel disabled for writing. It is an appointment with Lady Sandwich, which I don't like to break, that takes away the remaining two and a half hours, in which I might have written a sufficient letter. She sent the coachman last night, with a note to say she had returned to Grosvenor Square, on account of a
[Page 34] slight attack of bronchitis, and would I tell the coachman when to bring the carriage to fetch me; I appointed a quarter before three to-day, not foreseeing what the night had in reserve for me! Indeed, I had no reason to expect anything of the sort, having been sleeping better, and feeling better in every way for the last week. I rather 'happrehend' it was my own imprudence, in taking a glass of bitter ale at supper that caused this deadly sickness, and - other things. Trust me for doing the best for myself, in the circumstances. I am the last person to let myself be humbugged by a doctor; Mr. Barnes was perfectly right in ordering me, at the time you left, to put all ideas of travelling out of my head, and 'go to bed for two hours every forenoon instead.' And the mixture, which for many days failed in its intended effect, on account (he said) of the excitement I was in, got to do me palpable, unmistakable good at last, and is now discontinued by his own order. At the time you left I was hanging on the verge of nervous fever, and have made a very near miss of it! He does not disapprove of my going away now, provided I keep short of fatigue and excitement, and I am taking steps towards forming a programme. I will tell you in a day or two what direction I have decided on. I should like very well to spend a day or so at the Gill; but a stay of any length there would not suit me at all. Milk is no
[Page 35] object, as it is not strong enough food for my present weak appetite; and solitude is positively hurtful to me. Human kindness is precious everywhere, and nobody appreciates it more than I do; but just the kinder they are, the more I should be tempted to exert myself in talking, and putting my contentment in evidence. In short, there would be a strain upon me, while I was supposed to be enjoying the height of freedom! I mean were my stay prolonged beyond the day or two during which the enthusiasm of meeting after so long absence, and having things to tell one another, holds out. I am so sorry to put you off with such a scrubby letter, but the carriage will be here before I am dressed; and here is my beef-tea - my first breakfast.
Kind love to Sir George.
J. W. C.
Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Friday, Aug. 17, 1860.
Dearest Mary, - I haven't leisure to commence this letter with reproaches; for the reproaches would be very long, and my time for writing is very short. In an hour hence a carriage will come to take me to a sick old lady, I myself being quite as sick and
[Page 36] nearly as old, and there are directions to be given to divers workmen before I start. For Mr. Carlyle is absent at Thurso, and I have taken the opportunity of turning a carpenter, and a painter, and a paper-hanger into his private apartment.
Yes, after repeatedly assuring you that Mr. Carlyle would not go north this summer, but restrict his travels to some sea-side place near hand, I am almost ashamed to tell you that he has gone 'north' after all, and further north than he ever was in all his life before, being on a visit to Sir George Sinclair at Thurso Castle - the northernmost point of Scotland. A trial of Brighton had been made and had ended abruptly and ignominiously in flight back to Chelsea, to get out of the sound of certain cocks. Of all places in the world, Brighton was the last one could have expected to be infested with poultry. But one week of Brighton had only increased Mr. C.'s desire for sea, and indeed he had got into such a sleepless, excited condition through prolonged over-work, that there could be no doubt about the need of what they call 'a complete change' for him. So he looked about for a sea-residence, where he might be safe from cocks and cockneys, and decided for Thurso Castle, which could moreover be reached by sailing, which he prefers infinitely to railwaying, and whence there had come a pressing invitation for us both to spend a couple of months. Accordingly, he streamed off there
[Page 37] a fortnight ago, I remaining behind for several reasons; first, that sailing is as much as my life is worth, and seven hundred miles of railway would have been just about as fatal. Second, if I was going to undertake a long journey, I might take it in directions that would better repay the trouble and expense. And third, the long worry and anxiety I had had with Mr. C.'s nervousness had reduced myself to the brink of a nervous fever, and my doctor was peremptory as to the unfitness of my either going with Mr. C., or rejoining him at Thurso. Indeed I was not to leave home at all in the state I was in, but to take three composing draughts a day! and go to bed for two hours every forenoon. A fortnight of this and perfect quiet in the house has calmed me down amazingly, only I feel as tired as if I were just returned from the 'thirty years' war.' And now Mr. Barnes does not object to my going away, provided I don't go to Mr. C.! and don't over-exert myself. Mr. C., who is already immensely improved by his residence at Thurso Castle, is all for everybody 'going into the country,' and has made up his mind that, like it or not, I must go 'instantly' to - the Gill (Mary Austin's), which, as it suits his milk-loving habits, he thinks would equally suit me. And I myself would like very well to turn my two or three remaining weeks of liberty to some more agreeable use than superintending the house-cleaning here!
[Page 38] But decidedly mooning about, all by myself, at the Gill, lapping milk, which doesn't agree with me, and being stared at by the Gill children as their 'aunt!' is not the happy change for which I would go far, much as I like Mary Austin.
Now, I want to know how you are situated, whether the invitation held out to me, and which I, 'ignorant of the future,' declined for this year, be still open to me; for if I had it in my power to go on to you for a week or so from the Gill, I might give myself the air of a charmingly obedient wife, and agree to go there, without my obedience costing me any personal sacrifice. I could break the long journey by staying a few days at Alderley Park (Lord Stanley's), where I have half engaged to go in any case. But I don't know if you are settled yet, or if you are not gone somewhere for change of air yourself, or if somebody else be not located, for the present, in my room, and unfortunately I am tied to time. I must be back in London - some weeks before Mr. C.; for reasons I will explain later, for they require time to explain them.
In the meanwhile you will, in any case, answer me, as briefly as you like, by return of post? for I shan't answer Mr. C. till I get your letter. And I do beseech you to be perfectly frank, to tell me if you are going anywhere, or if anybody else is coming to
[Page 39] you, or if my room is not ready yet, or, worst of all, if you are poorly, and can't be troubled.
I understand that state so thoroughly well.
JANE W. CARLYLE.
T. Carlyle, Thurso Castle.
Alderley Park, Congleton, Cheshire: Thursday, Aug. 23, 1860.
There! What do you think of this? If you knew all you would admit that I have as much 'courage' as your horse, which 'goes whether he can or not.' But the present is not a moment for entering into details, of how ill I was after my last letter, and of how my illness was complicated with household griefs, and of how it was necessary to leave for here at hardly a day's notice, or give up altogether the idea of going anywhere. All that will keep till I am in better case for writing a long letter, or even till we meet 'on our return from the thirty years' war.' Enough to say, for the present, that I am here on a most kindly pressing invitation from Lady Stanley, to stay 'a week,' and 'be nursed' (you may be sure it was pressing enough when I accepted it), and that my intention is, if I get as much better as I hope, to go on from here to the Gill, and from there, after a day or two's rest, to Holm Hill (Mrs. Russell's), where I can
[Page 40] remain with advantage as long as I find expedient with relation to the time of your return home.
Mrs. Russell had been urging me to visit them for the last three months at intervals. And I am always much made of, and very comfortable there. And to have a doctor for one's host was a consideration of some weight with me, under the circumstances, in choosing that ultimate destination. I couldn't have travelled all the way to Dumfriesshire at one fell rush; but the invitation to Alderley broke the journey beautifully for me. It (the coming to Alderley) had been spoken of, or rather written of, by Lady S. before I last wrote to you, but I was afraid to say a word about it in case you had played me the same trick as in the case of Louisa Baring. No time had been specified then. So that when I received a letter on Monday (written in forgetfulness of the intervening Sunday), urging me to be at Chelford station on Tuesday by four o'clock, where Lady S. would send the carriage for me, it quite took away my breath. I could not possibly get myself and the house packed by Tuesday. Besides, Lady Ashburton had offered to come to tea with me on Tuesday, and been accepted, 'in my choicest mood;' so I answered that I would, D.V., be at Chelford station by four on Wednesday.
A more tired human being than myself, when I got into the train at Euston Square yesterday, you haven't seen 'this seven years.' Geraldine and
[Page 41] Mr. Larkin escorted me there, and paid me the last attentions. I was hardly out of sight of the station when I fell back in my seat and went to sleep, and slept off and on (me, in a railway carriage!) all the way to Crewe, where I was roused into the usual wide-awakeness by seeing the van containing my portmanteau go off as for good. It came back, however, after much running and remonstrating; and I was put down at Chelford 'all right' in a pouring rain, which indeed had poured without a moment's intermission all day. The carriage was waiting with drenched coachman and footman, who I had the discomfort of thinking must wish me at Jericho, at the least, and I was soon in the hall at Alderley, into which Lady S., with the girls at her back, came running to welcome me with kisses and good words, a much more human mode of receiving visitors than I had been used to in great houses. In fact, the whole thing is very human, and very humane as well. Lord S. is still in London, Postmaster-General you will have heard - nobody here but Lady S. and the girls, which suits my nervous system, and also my wardrobe (which I had no time or care to get up) much better than company would have done. Indeed, I had made the aloneness and dulness, which Lady S., had complained of, my conditions in accepting her invitation. Mr. Barnes had been saying all he could about 'the excited state of my brain' (I too have a brain it seems?) to
[Page 42] frighten me into 'taking better care' of myself, and 'avoiding every sort of worry, and fuss, and fatigue,' as if anybody could avoid worry, and fuss, and fatigue in this world. Worry, and fuss, and fatigue under the name of 'pleasure,' of 'amusement,' that however one certainly may avoid. So I should not have gone wilfully into a houseful of visitors.
I shall write to Mary to-day. I had the kindest little letter from her.
Love to Sir George. I have had no letter from you since - I cannot remember when.
J. W. C.
F. Chapman will have written about the horse he undertook to break. Silvester says the horse is not broken, has a nasty trick that would break any brougham - turns sharp round, and stands stock still, in spite of all you can do, holding his head to one side as if he were listening. Poor dear Fritz. The breaker, who I suppose desires to be rid of it, says to Chapman it is broken, and Frederick means to try it himself.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
Alderley Park, Congleton: Saturday, Aug. 25 1860.
My dearest Mary, - I could sit down and take a good hearty cry. I am not to get to you after all. This morning is come a letter from Mr. C., forwarded
[Page 43] from Chelsea, giving me the astounding news that there is every likelihood of his coming home by next Wednesday's steamer. Always the way, whenever I go anywhere to please myself - plump he appears at Chelsea, and, just now, his appearance there in my absence would be (as Lord Ashburton would say) 'the devil!'
I cannot enter into an account of my household affairs just now - being long, and most ridiculous. I was keeping it as an amusing story for you when we met. I will write the story from Chelsea at my first leisure (when will that be?). But just now I am too vexed for making a good story, besides being too busy, having so many letters demanding to be written about this provoking change of plan. When I leave here, it must be straight for Chelsea, and I must go on Tuesday morning. What a pity! I was just beginning to recover my sleep in the fresh air and the absence of worries - have had actually two nights of good sleep; and they are so kind to me, and they to whom I was going would have been so kind to me! But when one has married a man of genius, one must take the consequences. Only there was no need for him to have spoken of staying at Thurso till the beginning of October, and misled me so.
Your loving friend,
J. W. C.
T. Carlyle, Thurso Castle.
Alderley Park: Sunday, Aug. 26, 1860.
Oh, dear me! this length of days needed for a letter written to or from Thurso, to get an answer in the course of post, is very trying to impatient spirits! Not on account of the slowness only, but on account of the 'change come o'er the spirit of one's dream' in the interval between the post's going out and coming in. Not once, since you went to that accursedly out-of-the-way place, has a letter from you found me in the same mood and circumstances to which it was addressed, as being the mood and circumstances in which my own letter had left me, and of course it has been the same with my letters to you. For example, your announcement that you might be home immediately, crossing my announcement that I was on the road to Scotland. Now I write to say I am turning back, and shall be at Chelsea, D.V., on Tuesday afternoon, to prepare for you, in case you do come soon, which I shall regret for your sake; a few more weeks of sound sleep would be so good for you. What will be the contents of the letter that crosses this? Something quite irrelevant I have no doubt. Perhaps assurances that you can do perfectly well at Chelsea without me, and that I am to stay in Scotland as long as I like, when I shall be reading the letter at Cheyne Row, and as sure as ever
[Page 45] woman was of anything that you could not have done at Chelsea without me for twelve hours.
The week before my departure, which should have been devoted to setting my house in order, was devoted to British cholera, which, coming on the back of low nervous fever, reduced me to a state of exhaustion, which even 'zeal for my house,' couldn't rouse to the requisite activity. Many things had been begun, but few of them finished - for instance, your bed had been all taken to pieces to look for bugs, and it had been ascertained that not one bug survived there, and the bed had been put together, but the curtains were away being cleaned.
Fancy your coming home to a curtainless bed, and 'Old Jane' would have made no shift! for 'Old Jane,' my dear, I may as well tell you soon as syne, is a complete failure and humbug! Although you provokingly enough attributed the silence I systematically observe on the shortcomings of servants to want of 'care about it,' I still think that until I am arrived at parting with a servant, and have to show reason why, the more I hold my peace about them, and make the best of them, the more for your comfort and for my own credit. 'Old Jane' then disappointed me from the first day. Before you left I had satisfied myself that she was a perfectly incompetent cook and servant,
[Page 46] and soon after you left I satisfied myself that she - told lies! and had no more sense of honour in her work than Charlotte. There was no need to worry you with the topic of her, which was to myself perfectly loathsome, until I had to account for replacing her. I mention her now to reconcile you to the idea of my having gone back home to wait for you. You couldn't have done without me, you see. I have engaged a woman of thirty-four, who is really promising (the woman Miss Evans wanted to have), and a remarkably nice-looking girl of sixteen to be under her. She would not have taken a place of 'all work,' and indeed it is very difficult to find even a respectable servant who will take it - naturally, when they can find plenty of less confused places. She, the elder woman, comes home on September 14, and I wished the girl to wait till then. I think the house will really be comfortable and orderly by-and-by - at more cost; but that, you said repeatedly, you didn't mind. At all rates, I have taken immense trouble (two journeys to Richmond included), to find respectable and competent servants. If I have failed, it will just be another instance of my ill-luck, rather than my want of zeal.
Maud has been sitting in my room waiting till I am done. Excuse haste and abrupt ending. I can't write on this principle, and I shan't get a chance again before post-time.
J. W. C.
Surely this is one of the saddest of letters - the misery of it merely slowness of posts, and on both sides hardly bearable heaviness of load. Oh, my own much-suffering little woman ! - T. C.
T. Carlyle, Thurso Castle.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Sunday, Sept. 2, 1860.
This is all - 'what shall I say? strange, upon my honour!' On Friday morning comes a note from Sir George (that had gone round by Alderley) to the effect that his 'dear friend's pen being more devoted to the service of unborn generations than to mine' (truly! and if the 'unborn generations' will do the answering, I shan't object!), and another expedition to John o' Groats being on foot, he writes, to tell me the dear friend has been prevailed upon, &c. &c. Well! 'I am most particularly glad to hear it,' like Archivarius Lyndhorst. The more of Thurso Castle, the better for his sleep, and his head; and, as concerns myself, the more time for putting things straight here, the better for my sleep, and my head! (if so insignificant an individual
[Page 48] can be said to have a head!) But certainly on the following morning (Saturday), there would be a few lines from the dear friend's self, snatched from his service to 'unborn generations,' to tell me, 'with his own hand,' of his change of plan! No! On Saturday morning the postman didn't so much as call! and when I ran out at the house door to see if he could really mean it, he merely shook his head from the steps of No. 8. Late at night, however, I hear of a letter from you, received that morning by Neuberg. There had been time found or made to write to him. And he 'thought it his duty to,' not forward your letter to me, but interlard his own note with single words or whole lines of yours 'in ticks' - 'means to move gradually southward again, wishes you could be persuaded to start again, if able at all, and to rectify her huge error!' &c. Who was to 'persuade' me to start again? Neuberg himself, perhaps? Not you it would seem, who send not a single line to, as it were, welcome me home, though come home entirely for your sake! No matter! there is the less to be grateful for!
Meanwhile I am glad to know, even indirectly, that you are positively coming south by land, and 'gradually.' The two notes written after hearing I was at Alderley, and bound for Dumfriesshire, which were received together (on account of the misdirection), within an hour of the time the carriage
[Page 49] was ordered to take me to the station, threw no certain light for me on your plans. When you first fixed to go to Thurso, your grand inducement had seemed to be that you 'could sail there, and back, and avoid all that horror of railways.' You had never once in my hearing spoken of taking Dumfriesshire on your road; on the contrary, when I spoke to you of Loch Luichart, you said: 'Oh, that was a great way off! and you shouldn't be going back by land at all!' Then the letter, forwarded to Alderley from Chelsea, written in the belief I was still at home, made no allusion whatever to any intention of taking Dumfriesshire on your road home. You could not remain there longer, without work, and, to get on with your work, you must be 'beside your reservoir of books at Chelsea.' Read that letter yourself - Mary Austin has got it (I sent it to her as my valid excuse for breaking my engagement to come, and as a valid excuse she accepted it) - and say if I was committing any 'huge error,' or error at all, in supposing it in the highest degree probable that you would sail straight from Thurso to London? And granting that high probability, there was but one course for me, under the circumstances (the curtains; the keys, which you could never have known one from another! the imbecile 'Old Jane;' the new servant to come, &c. &c.) - but one course: to go south again instead of north, on the day when my
[Page 50] Alderley visit was to terminate: unless, after my resolution was taken, and everybody warned not to expect me in Dumfriesshire, and the new woman who had been put off warned that she must now immediately render herself at Cheyne Row - unless, after all that, I was to unsettle everything over again at the very last hour, when there was no longer time to warn anybody. On the receipt of the two little letters, which came together, taking them as an exposition of your voluntary plans, not of plans which you had been forced to adopt voluntarily by the knowledge of mine - by the dread of going home to a comfortless house, and, simultaneously with that, a kind desire not to interfere with any arrangements of mine by which my health might be benefited. No! I could not be quite certain that, were I at Chelsea instead of half-way to Scotland, you might not still wish to avoid the 'horror of railways,' and to get back to your 'reservoir of books.' At all events, you should have your free choice, and now you have had it, and I learn, through Mr. Neuberg, that it is to be 'in no hurry.' I am very glad of that, as I shall be in better trim for you here than had you come straight.
As to my 'starting again' (on any long expedition at least), you couldn't believe Mr. Neuberg or anyone else could persuade me to do it! I am not 'able
[Page 51] at all,' which does not mean, however, that I am ill. My three days at Alderley, before the letter came, did me all the good which I was likely to get from change of scene; - after the letter came, my sleep was no better than at Chelsea. When I am worried about anything, no air nor surroundings can put me to sleep. At present your curtains are come home and put up. The bricklayers have mended the broken tiles on your dressing closet. That dreadful old woman is to be got handsomely rid of next Wednesday; and I feel rather quiet, and am getting to sleep better, and mean to lead a pleasant life in my solitude - taking these 'little excursions so long talked of.'
Lady Stanley was to write to you, the day I left, to tell you I was despatched safely south. My own letter, to say I was going home on Tuesday, would reach you last Monday I suppose. You will write when the 'unborn generations' can spare you for half an hour.
The only news I have to tell is, that the poor 'little darling' has lost the use of an arm and hand by paralysis. He came himself to tell me, with his arm in a sling, and repeatedly broke down into tears, and made me cry too. 'Oh!' he said, 'how I do miss my poor dear!' - I thought he was going to say wife - she died two years since; but, no, it was
[Page 52] 'arm!' 'Oh, how I miss my poor dear arm!' He didn't need money, wouldn't even be paid what was owing him. It was the helplessness that was breaking his heart.
All good be with you.
JANE WELSH CARLYLE.
Don't expect another letter for a long time, even should I know the address; writing is very bad for me, and I hate it at present.
T. Carlyle, Thurso Castle.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Monday, Sept. 3, 1860.
Two letters from you this morning - one redirected from Alderley. But I must let the long letter I wrote yesterday go, as it is all the same! It is too much writing to throw away, after having given myself a headache over it. Besides, after having read your two letters of this morning, I feel none the less called upon to defend myself against the charge of 'huge error,' 'rashness,' 'precipitancy,' 'folly,' and so on! I maintain that, however unfortunate my course may have been, I could not, under the circumstances, have rightly taken any other! So the letter of yesterday had best go! Nor do I deign to accept the very beggarly apology you
[Page 53] make for my 'infatuated conduct,' that I had myself lost heart for the Dumfriesshire visits, and was glad of any excuse to be off from them; that tortuous style of thing is not at all in my line. Had I lost heart I would have said so. On the contrary, feeling myself at Alderley, half-way - all the hateful preparatory lockings up and packings well over - nothing to do but go north at Crewe instead of south, and Mary Austin and Mrs. Russell promising me the very warmest welcome, far from losing heart, I had for the first time gained heart for the further enterprise; the 'interest' had 'not fallen but risen,' I assure you, and I turned south with real mortification! There! you have provoked that out of me, which, if 'well let alone,' I should never have said.
As for your indignation at my not writing, I don't quarrel with that - only beg to remind you that 'the reciprocity is not all on one side!' I also have been feeling myself extremely neglected - for what shall I say? 'unborn generations?' Let us hope so, and not for just nothing at all!
J. W. C.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill, Thornhill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Sept. 7, 1860.
Dearest Mary, - I am so sorry that letter should have arrived to mislead you, for, alas! I have had no
[Page 54] thought of starting again, since I found, on my return home, that Mr. C. had made a perfectly wrong impression on me as to his plans! When he talked of 'sailing' by such a steamer, how could I imagine he only meant sailing to Aberdeen, and afterwards making visits in Scotland? He had always declared the attraction of Thurso, for him, to be the possibility of getting there and back by sea, without any horror of 'railwaying.' And he had never once spoken of returning through Dumfriesshire! My error was quite natural, almost inevitable. But that doesn't make it the less mortifying for myself and others.
If I had ordinary powers of locomotion I should, on perceiving the real state of the case, have streamed off again - this time straight to the Gill. But indeed, my dear, I have no such thing as ordinary strength. When I told my doctor that Mr. C. urged me to do this, he fairly swore, though a very mild man by nature! It was not merely the ground to be gone over, but the fuss and flurry of so much travelling for me, that he entirely protested against. 'Quiet, quiet, quiet' was what I needed above everything else - no change could do me good that involved fatigue or fret of mind. I know he is right in that, and that no purer air nor change of scene could do me good if bought with a new unsettling of myself, and the hurry of mind inseparable from the travelling, especially railway travelling, for a
[Page 55] person whose nervous system is in such a preternatural state of excitability as mine is. I should never have had courage to think of going to you at all but for the week's rest in the middle of the journey, offered in the visit to Alderley. It has been a real disappointment to me, having had to turn back, and a great provocation to find my turning back unnecessary. But, now that I am here, I must make the best of it.
I will write you a long letter soon, and tell you several things about my household affairs which will throw more light for you on the supposed necessity for my abrupt return.
God bless you, dear.
Your ever affectionate
JANE W. CARLYLE.
'I did it, sir.' - Blusterous pedagogue, a Welsh Archdeacon Williams, head of the Edinburgh New Academy (who used to call at Comely Bank, reporting to us his dreadful illness he once had, illness miserable and fatal 'unless you can dine for three weeks without wine' - 'and I did it, sir!' - T.C.
T. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Sunday night, Sept. 10, 1860.
Oh, my dear! was there ever such a game at cross-purposes as this correspondence of ours? It reminds me of nothing so much as the passages between 'the wee wifie, who lived in a shoe,' and her bairns, so many 'that she didn't know what to do!'
'She went to the market to buy them some bread;
When she came back they were all lying dead!
She went to the wright's to get them a coffin;
When she came back they were all sitting laughing!'
Not one letter you have written to me since you went away has hit the right state of things! Do the best that ever you could, your 'sheep's head' and your 'coffin' have been equally out of time! Such being, I suppose, the natural result of going where an answer to one's letters cannot be received in less than six days, in a world where nothing keeps still.
Your last letter, received on Saturday morning, expressing your relief from anxieties about me, found me a more legitimate object of anxiety than I had been at all since your departure! - at least found me thinking myself so! For, thank God, this attack, if very violent while it lasted, has passed off unexpectedly soon. I suppose if I had followed Mr. Barnes's directions about lying down in the middle of the day, instead of yielding to popular clamour about 'change of air,' the thing would have been avoided altogether. On Friday morning down came Geraldine, having had a letter from you, and insisted that we should make one of those 'excursions' I had talked of. I had my 'sickness' (as I call it) worse than usual that morning, and begged to be off from any adventure; but 'a breath of Norwood air would do me so
[Page 57] much good!' 'It would take off the sickness to sit on the hillside,' &c., &c. I didn't feel that it would, but foolishly yielded to 'reason' rather than instinct. The movement made me sicker, and sicker; still I had fortitude to order dinner (a nice little roasted chicken, and a bottle of soda-water) at the best hotel, and to force myself to eat some of it too, at an open bow-window, with such a 'beautiful view.' But, oh, how I wished myself in my bed at home, with no view to speak of! for I had grown all burning-hot and ice-cold, not a square inch of me at the same temperature, and 'my head like a mall!'
I got home, better or worse, and went to bed, and lay, or rather tossed about, all night in a high fever, with a racking headache, severe sickness, and, most questionable of all, a bad sore throat. I only waited for Mr. Barnes being up to send for him, though he had given me up as a patient. Without having had a wink of sleep, however, or anything to do me good, my fever abated of itself as the morning advanced; and, after having had some tea in bed, between seven and eight, 'all very comfortable,' from the new woman, I felt so much better that I should have 'held my hand from sending for a doctor if it hadn't been for the sore throat, which continued very bad, and frightened me from its unusual nature. Mr. Barnes was out, and didn't come in to get the message till three o'clock, by
[Page 58] which time I had transferred myself to the drawing-room sofa.
Meanwhile, long before this, being still in bed, but washed and combed, and the room tidied up in expectation of Mr. Barnes, there was sent up to me the card of Madame -----! two hours after I had read your wish that I should call for her! And I heard her voice in the passage! I sent down polite regrets in the first instance; then, thinking you would be vexed at my not admitting her, I called Charlotte ('Charlotte' the second) back, and said, to tell the lady, if she wouldn't dislike coming to me in my bedroom, that I should be glad to see her 'for a minute.' If I had known that she was to flop down on the bed, and cover my face with kisses (!) the first thing, I should have thought twice of admitting her, with the sore throat I had! However, the thing was done! So I didn't say a word of sore throat to put infection in her head, and indeed I hoped it mightn't be of an infectious nature. As for the 'minute,' she prolonged it to an hour; talking with an emphasis, and an exaggeration, and a velocity, and cordiality, which left me little to do but listen, and not scream! I will tell you all I remember of her talk when we meet. She will be again in London towards the end of October. She went off with the same, or rather redoubled, embracings and kissings; I, purposely, holding in my
[Page 59] breath; and when the door had closed, didn't I fall back on my pillows with a sense of relief!
Mr. Barnes looked into my throat, and said it was bad; but if I had 'courage to swallow the very ugliest, most extraordinary looking medicine I had ever seen in this world, he thought he could cure it in a day or two;' and there came a bottle containing apparently bright blue oil-paint!! It did need courage, and faith, to take the first dose of that! But 'I did it, sir!' and positively, as if by magic, my throat mended in half an hour! I had a good night; the throat was a little sore only in the morning. The second dose had the same magically sudden effect, and now, after three half-glassfuls of that magical blue oil-paint, my throat is perfectly mended, and I am as well as before I knocked myself up.
Monday. - For the rest, all that has been said and written about my turning back and about my not starting again is kindly meant, but being said or written in total or in partial ignorance of the subject, quite overshoots or undershoots the mark; is, in fact, perfect nonsense, setting itself up for superior sense! 'Why not have left you to "fen" for yourself, if you had come home in my absence?' your sister Jane asks; 'if she had been me, she would have done that.' And I would have done it if I had been she perhaps.
J. W. C.
T. Carlyle, The Gill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Monday, Sept. 17, 1860.
You will open this, prepared to hear that I went to Forster's, and have been very ill in consequence. If there be a choice betwixt a wise thing and a foolish one, a woman is always expected to do the foolish. Well, I didn't! Very ill I have been, but not from going out to dinner. By one o'clock that day I was quite ill enough to care no more for Fuz's wrath than for a whiff of tobacco! I had taken the influenza, and no doubt about it! So I despatched a message to Montagu Square, and another to Mr. Barnes; went to bed, and have not slept till within the last hour! So provoking! I had been so much better, and hoped to be quite flourishing on your return. Howsomdever an influenza properly treated, and an influenza allowed to treat itself, like all my former ones, is a very different affair I find. It has not been allowed to settle down on my chest at all, this one; and, after only three days of sharp suffering, here I am in the drawing-room, looking forward with some interest to the sweet bread I am to dine on, and writing you a letter better or worse.
The new woman is a good nurse, very quiet and kindly, and with sense to do things without being
[Page 61] told. I have not had my clothes folded neatly up, and the room tidied, and my wants anticipated in this way since I had no longer any mother to nurse me. In ordinary circumstances I should have felt it horrid to be lying entirely at the mercy of an utter stranger; but, being as she is, I have wished none else to come near me. Even you I rather hope may not come this week. It would worry me so, not to be able to run about when you come, and I must be cautious for some days yet - 'Mrs. Prudence,' as Mr. Barnes calls me in mockery. The girl is to come to-morrow, but I don't feel to trouble my head about her. Charlotte (2nd) can be trusted to direct her in the way she should go till I am well enough to meddle. Besides, I have every reason to believe her a nice girl. The old Charlotte, poor foolish thing! is still hanging on at her 'mother's,' just as untidy in her person, with nothing to do, as she used to be in her press of work. She has been much about me, and I don't know what I should have done without her, to cook for me, and show me some human kindness, when I was ill under 'Old Jane.' But I am glad at the same time that I had fortitude to resist her tears, and her request to be taken back as cook. I told her some day I might take her back; but she had much to learn and to unlearn first. Still it is gratifying to feel that one's kindness to the girl has not been all lost on her, for she really loves both of us passionately - only that
[Page 62] passionate loves, not applied to practical uses, are good for so little in this matter-of-fact world.
Kindest love to dear Mary. Tell her I will make out that visit some day, on my own basis; it is only postponed. 'Thanks God,' you can't get any clothes.
J. W. C.
I seem to have got home again, September 22. Halted at Alderley a couple of days; of Annandale, the Gill, or Dumfries I remember nothing whatever, except the last morning at the Gill (which is still vivid enough), and my wandering about in manifold sorrowful reflections, loth to quit that kindly, safe tugurium; and also privately my making resolution (seeing the fitness of it), not to revisit Scotland till the unutterable Frederick were done - resolution sad and silent, which I believe was kept. - T. C.
Mrs. Austin, The Gill, Annan.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Thursday, Oct. 19, 1860.
My dear Mary, - The box arrived last night, 'all right.' Many thanks, Mary dear. The things from Dumfries are also all right; but I will write to tell Jane about them to-morrow. Mr. C. doesn't seem to have benefited from his long sojourn by the sea-side so much as I had hoped, and at first thought. He still goes on waking up several times in the night - when he bolts up, and smokes, and sometimes takes a cold bath! And all that is very dismal for him, to whom waking
[Page 63] betwixt lying down and getting up is a novelty. For me, my own wakings up some twenty or thirty times every night of my life, for years and years back, are nothing compared with hearing him jump out of bed overhead, once or sometimes twice during a night. Before he went to Thurso, that sound overhead used to set my heart a-thumping to such a degree that I couldn't get another wink of sleep - and I was on the brink of a nervous fever when he left. Now that my nerves have had a rest, and that I am more 'used to it,' I get to sleep again when I hear all quiet, but God knows how long I may be up to that! And when he has broken sleep, and I no sleep at all, it is sad work here, I assure you.
You will have heard of my setting up a second servant, and think perhaps that I must be more comfortable now, with two people to work and run for us; but I would much rather have made less working and less running do, and kept to my accustomed one servant. I have never felt the house my own since my maid-of-all-work was converted into a 'cook' and 'housemaid,' and don't feel as if I should ever get used to the improvement. It is just as if one had taken lodgers into one's lower story. Often in the dead of night I am seized with a wild desire to clear the house of these new-comers, and take back my one little Charlotte, who is still hanging on at her
[Page 64] mother's, in a wild hope that one or other of them, or both, may break down, and she be reinstated in her place. Poor little Charlotte! if I had seen how miserable she was to be at leaving us, I couldn't have found in my heart to put her away, though she was so heedless, and 'thro' other,' with a grain of method she could have done all the two do, as well or better than they do it, she was so clever and willing.
The new tall Charlotte (the cook) said to me one day 'little Charlotte' had been here: 'What a fool that girl is, ma'am! I said to her to-day, "You seem to like being here!" and, says she, "Of course I do; I look upon this as my home." "But," says I, "you are a nice-looking, healthy girl, you will easily get another place if you try." "Oh," says she, "I know that. I may get plenty of places; but I shall never get another home!" What a poor spirit the girl has! If anybody had been dissatisfied with me, it's little that I should care about leaving them.' 'I can well believe that,' said I, with a strong disposition to knock her down. But I have no pretext for putting the woman away - although I don't like her. She is a good servant as servants go, and I can't put her away merely for being vulgar-minded, and totally destitute of sentiment; and, after all, the faults for which I parted with little Charlotte after twelve months of considering won't have been cured, but rather have
[Page 65] been aggravated by three months' muddling at her mother's. Heigh-ho! I feel just in the case of the 'Edinburgh meat-jack:' 'Once I was happ-happ-happ-y! but now I am mee-e-serable!' If one's skin were a trifle thicker, all these worries would seem light. But one's skin being just no skin 'to speak of,' no wonder one falls into the meat-jack humour. God bless you and all your belongings.
Kind regards to your husband.
Ever affectionately yours,
JANE W. CARLYLE.
To Miss Margaret Welsh, Auchtertool Manse.
Chelsea: December 8, 1860.
Dearest Maggie, - Having made no sign of myself for the last month, you may be fancying I have succumbed to the general doom; seeing that it has been 'the gloomy month of November, in which the people of England hang and drown themselves!' But I am neither hanged nor drowned yet (in virtue perhaps of being born in Scotland); only, all my energies having needed to stave off suicide, I had none left for letter writing. It is now December, and the suicidal mania should have passed off; but I can't see much difference between this December and the gloomiest November on record! the fog, and the mud, and the liquid soot (called rain in the language of flattery), have not abated; and the
[Page 66] blood in one's veins feels so thick and dirty! But, shame of my silence must serve instead of inspiration, impossible under the circumstances; and you, dear, good little soul as you are, will not be critical!
In the first place you will be glad to hear I am 'about' anyhow. Except for one week that I had to lie on the sofa on my back, with neuralgia (differing in nothing, so far as I can see, from the oldfashioned 'rheumatiz'), I have not been laid up since you heard of me; and I have had a great fret taken off me, in the removal of that vulgar, conceited woman, and the restoration of little Charlotte. Upon my word, I haven't been as near what they call 'happy' for many a day as in the first flush of little Charlotte! She looked so bursting with ecstasy as she ran up and down the house, taking possession, as it were, of her old work, and as she showed in the visitors (not her business, but she would open the door to them all the first time, to show herself, and receive their congratulations), that it was impossible not to share in her delighted excitement! Most of the people shook hands with her! and all of them said they were 'glad to see her back'! I had trusted that she would in time humanise the other girl, and that the two would be good friends, when the other girl got over the prejudices the woman who had left had inspired her with! But it needed no time at all. Sarah was humanised, and the two sworn friends in
[Page 67] the first half-hour! In the first half-hour Sarah had confided to Charlotte that, if I hadn't given the tall Charlotte warning, she (Sarah) would have given me warning, she disliked 'tall Charlotte' so much!
It is now three weeks since the new order of things; mistress and maid have subsided out of the emotional state into the normal one, but are still very glad over one another; and if the work of the house does not get done with as much order and method as under the tall Charlotte, it is done with more thoroughness, and infinitely more heartiness and pleasantness; and the 'bread-puddings' are first rate. Sarah's tidiness and method are just what were wanted to correct little Charlotte's born tendency to muddle; while little Charlotte's willingness and affectionateness warm up Sarah's drier, more selfish nature. It is a curious establishment, with something of the sound and character of a nursery. Charlotte not nineteen till next March, and Sarah seventeen last week. And they keep up an incessant chirping and chattering and laughing; and as both have remarkably sweet voices, it is pleasant to hear. The two-ness is no nuisance to me now. As neither can awake of themselves, I don't know what I should have done about that, hadn't Charlotte's friends come to the rescue. An old man who lodges with Charlotte's 'mother' (aunt), raps on the kitchen window till he wakes them, every morning at six, on
[Page 68] his way to his work; and Charlotte's 'father' (uncle) raps again on the window before seven, to make sure the first summons had been attended to! to say nothing of an alarum, which runs down at six, at their very bed-head, and never is heard by either of these fortunate girls! So I daresay we shall get on as well as possible in a world where perfection is not to be looked for. I shall be glad to hear that your domesticities are in as flourishing a state!
I hope we shall go to the Grange by-and-by, and make a longer visit than last year. It is such a good break in the long, dreary, Chelsea winter, and stirs up one's stagnant spirits, and rules up one's manners! But Mr. Carlyle won't stay anywhere if he can't get work done; and though Lady Ashburton says he shall have every facility afforded him for working, I don't know how that will be when it comes to be tried. I never saw any work done in that house! Meanwhile, I have sent an azure blue moire, that Lady Sandwich gave me last Christmas Day, to be made, in case.
My dear, beautiful Kate Sterling (Mrs. Ross) was buried last week at Bournemouth, where she had been taken for the winter. I had long been hopeless of her recovery, but did not think the end so near, and that I should never see her sweet face again. Julia came to see me yesterday on her return, looking miserably ill. Poor Mr. Ross wrote me a sad, kind
[Page 69] letter. I am very sorry for him; and none of the family treat him as if he had anything to do with their loss. He was not a man one would ever have wished Kate to marry, but he has been the most devoted husband, and tenderest nurse to her; and she said to her sister Lotta, the day before her death, that she had repented doing many things in her life, but she had never for one moment repented her marriage! Surely that should have made them all less hard for him! But, no!
Kindest love to Walter and Star.
J. W. CARLYLE.
Mrs. Russell, Thornhill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Dec. 31, 1860.
Dearest Mary, - If there were no other use in a letter from me just now, it will serve the purpose of removing any apprehensions you may have as to the frost having put an end to my life! 'Did you ever?' 'No, I never,' - felt such cold! But then, there being no question for me of ever crossing the threshold; and my time thrown altogether on my hands (my visitors being mostly away, keeping their Christmas in country houses, or, like myself, shut up with colds at home, or too busy with 'the festivities of the season' to get as far as Chelsea, and my two maids leaving me nothing
[Page 70] earthly to do in the business of the house), I have time, enough and to spare, for adopting all possible measures to keep myself warm. To see the fires I keep up in the drawing-room and my bedroom! An untopographical observer might suppose we lived within a mile of a coal pit, instead of paying twenty-eight shillings a cart-load for coals! Then I wear all my flannel petticoats at once, and am having two new ones made out of a pair of Scotch blankets! And Lady Sandwich has sent me a seal-fur pelisse (a luxury I had long sighed for, but, costing twenty guineas, it had seemed hopeless!), and a Greek merchant has sent me the softest grey Indian shawl. And if all that can't warm me, I lie down under my coverlet of racoon skins! (My dear! if you are perishing, act upon my idea of the Scotch blankets; no flannel comes near them in point of warmth.) My doctor told me, in addition to all this outward covering, to drink 'at least three glasses of wine a day'! But I generally shirk the third. And the cough, and faceache, which I had the first week of the frost, is gone this week, at any rate.
Have you seen that Tale of Horror, which ran through the newspapers, about the Marquis of Downshire? Everybody here believed for some days that the Marquis of Downshire had really found the skipper of his yacht kneeling at the side of Lady Alice (his only daughter, a lovely girl of seventeen), and really
[Page 71] pitched him into the sea, and so there was an end of him! I was dreadfully sorry, for one. Lord D. is such a dear, good, kind-hearted savage of a man; and it seemed such a fatality that he should be always killing somebody!! He had killed a school companion, without meaning it; and afterwards (they say) a coalheaver, who was boxing with him! The fact is, he is awfully strong, and his strokes tell, as he doesn't expect. But if you knew what a simple, good man he is, you wouldn't wonder that I felt sorrier for him than the skipper, who, after all, had no business to be 'kneeling' there surely! And the little darling daughter, that her young life should be clouded at the outset with such a scandal! I made all sorts of miserable reflections about them all. And the story, all the while, a complete fabrication - equal to the proverbial story of the 'six black crows'! The story was told to Azeglio (the Sardinian Ambassador), who, to give himself importance, said, 'Oh, yes! it had been officially communicated to him from Naples.' And the man he said it to, being Secretary of Legation, made an official despatch of the story to Lord Cowley at Paris!! Then it flew like wild-fire, and people couldn't help believing it; and, of course, all sorts of details were added - that Lady Alice was 'struggling and screaming, that Lord D. wouldn't let a boat be lowered to pick the man up,' &c. &c. One knows how a story gathers like a snowball. They went the
[Page 72] length of stating that Lord D. was being brought home to be tried by the Peers, 'the offence having been committed on the high seas!!!' The talk now is all of prosecution of certain newspapers, and certain people. But I shouldn't wonder if it all end in Lord Downshire's giving somebody a good thrashing.
Please to give my good wishes 'of the season' to all my friends at Thornhill and about, and to attend to the old women on New Year's Day. I send a cheque this time. The Japanese trays are for the new drawing-room, if you think them worth a place in it. I took them as far as Alderley on the road in autumn. They are a popular drawing-room ornament here at present. Kindest regards to the Doctor.
Your ever affectionate
To Miss Barnes, King's Road, Chelsea.
5 Cheyne Row: Sunday, April 26, 1861.
Carina, - I was going to you to-day, having been hindered yesterday; but a thought strikes me. You are a Puseyite, or, as my old Scotch servant writes it, a 'Puisht,' and I am a Presbyterian; would it be proper for you to receive me, or for me to pay a visit on Sunday? I don't quite know as to you; but for me it is a thing forbidden certainly. So I write to say that if you could have gone to the gorillas to-morrow,
[Page 73] the gorillas would have been 'not at home.' On consulting my order of admission. I find it is for all days except just the two I successively fixed upon, Saturdays and Mondays. My order is available through all the month of May, so it will still be time when you return, provided you do not indefinitely extend your programme, as you are in the habit of doing. I shall fix with the others for Tuesday, 28th, early - say to start between eleven and twelve. Will that do?
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Thursday, July 3, 1861.
Decidedly, dearest Mary, I am in a run of bad luck, and entertaining for a moment any idea of pleasure seems to be the signal with me for some misfortune to plunge down.
The longer I thought of it, the more it seemed to me fair and feasible that, since Mr. C. was minded to go nowhere this summer, I should go for two or three weeks by myself where I had been so unreasonably disappointed of going last August. Mr. C. himself said I might, 'if I thought it would be useful to me;' and there could be no question about its being 'useful to me' to have a breath of Scotch air and a glimpse of dear Scotch faces. So, when I had
[Page 74] read your cordial letter, I felt my purpose strong to carry itself out, and only delayed answering till I had seen the baking difficulty overcome, and could say, positively, that I would come as soon as you pleased after your visitor had departed. Two visitors at one time is too much happiness, I think, for any not over strong mistress of a house, who gives herself so much trouble as you do to make everything comfortable and pleasant about one.
And, in the meantime, here is what has befallen. My nice trustworthy cook, who inspired me with the confidence to leave Mr. C., being certain, I thought, to keep him all right, and the house all right, and the young girl all right, in my absence; this treasure of a cook, my dear, who was to be the comfort of my remaining years, and nurse me in my last illness (to such wild flights had my imagination gone), turns out to have come into my service with a frightful neglected disorder - what the doctors call 'strangulated hernia,' making her life (my doctor says) 'not safe for a day'! He could do nothing with it, he said; she must go to St. George's Hospital, and what was possible to do for her would be done there. But I have no hope that the woman will ever be fit for service again. And what she could mean in going into a new service with such a complaint I am at a loss to conceive. And I am also dreadfully at a loss what I am to do with her.
[Page 75] She is such a good creature, and hasn't a relation in the world to depend upon. If the doctors take her as an in-patient, of course it would settle the question of her leaving here; but if they don't - ! Oh, my gracious, how unlucky it is! In any case, I see no chance for me now of getting to you.
Unless, indeed, she could be cured sufficiently to go on at service. I shall know more about it when she comes back from the hospital, or when I have spoken with one of the surgeons there whom I know. But unless the case is much less grave than Mr. Barnes seemed to consider it, we shall be all at sea again. And the best arrangement I can think of, for the moment, would be to put my new housemaid into the kitchen, for which she is better suited than for her present place, only that she would have the cooking all to learn! - and to take another nice girl I know of for housemaid. But fancy the weeks and months it will take to get even that most feasible scheme to work right, and all the while I must be standing between Mr. C. and new bother, and looking after these girls that they may be kept in good ways! I declare I could take a good cry, or do a little good swearing! I will stop now till the poor woman comes back from the hospital; and then tell you the news she brings.
No Matilda come yet, and I must take the letters
[Page 76] myself now to the post-office, having nobody to send.
I will write soon.
Your much bedevilled, but always loving,
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Tuesday, July 16, 1861.
Dearest Mary, - Mr. Dunbar's book was from you, was it not? I used to be able to swear to your handwriting; but latterly one or two people have taken to writing exactly like you, and I need the post-mark to verify the handwriting, and the post-mark was illegible on that book-parcel. Whether from you or not, I am glad of the little book, which I am sure I shall read with pleasure; I like that mild, gentlemanly man so much.
But I am still as far as when I last wrote from sitting down quietly to read a pleasant book. Everything is at sixes and sevens still! My treasure of a servant, who was to 'soothe my declining years,' and enable me to go to Scotland this year, is still lying in St. George's Hospital, certain to lie there 'for some months,' and not certain, to be fit for service, even of the mildest form, when the months are over! Mr. -----, the Head Surgeon, found immediately
[Page 77] that she had got ulceration of the spine, and the rupture proceeded from that. He says she 'may get over it; but it will be a tedious affair.' I don't think that, even if she were cured nominally, I should like to have her for kitchqn servant again; I should live in perpetual terror of her hurting herself at every turn. Meanwhile I have been puddling on with my old 'going-out-to-cook-woman,' coming daily to cook the dinner, and teach the Welsh housemaid, whom I have decided to make kitchen-woman, getting another girl for housemaid. A safe housemaid is so much easier to get here than a cook, who doesn't drink, nor steal, nor take the house to herself! This Welsh girl has, I think, more the shaping of a good cook than of a housemaid, not being good at needlework, and utterly incapable of reading the titles on Mr. C.'s books, so that she can't bring him a book when he wants it. The girl I am getting is more accomplished, whatever else!
The present state of affairs is wretched; for Mr. C., being a man, cannot understand to exact the least bit less attendance, when we are reduced to one servant again, than he had accustomed himself to exact from the two. So I have all the valeting, and needle-womaning, and running up and down to the
[Page 78] study for books, &c. &c. &c. to do myself, besides having to superintend the Welsh girl, and to go to St. George's (two miles off) almost every day in my life, to keep up the heart of poor Matilda, who, lying there, with two issues in her back, and nobody but myself coming after her, and her outlooks of the darkest, naturally needs any cheering that I can take her.
Mercifully the plentiful rain keeps things cooler and fresher here than is usual in summer; and I am nothing like so sick and nervous as I was last year at this time. So I am more able to bear what is laid on me - to bear amongst the rest the heavy disappointment of having to give up my visit to you, and stay here at my post, which is a rather bothering one.
God bless you. It does me good anyhow to think that, if I could have gone, the kind Doctor and you would have been so kind to me.
Your ever affectionate
J. W. CARLYLE.
T. Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.
Mrs. Stokes's, 21 Wellington Crescent, East Cliff, Ramsgate:
Sunday, August 4, 1861.
That is the address, if there be anything to be addressed! Fortune favours the brave! Had one talked, and thought, and corresponded, and investigated
[Page 79] about lodgings for a month before starting, I doubt if we could have made a better business of it than we have done. Certainly in point of situation there is no better in Ramsgate or in the world: looking out over a pretty stripe of lawn and gravel walk on to the great boundless Ocean! You could throw a stone from the sitting-room window into the sea when the tide is up! Then there is not the vestige of a bug in our white dimity beds! For the rest, I cannot say it is noiseless! Geraldine says her room looking on the sea is perfectly so; but I consider her no judge, as she sleeps like a top. However, the rooms looking on the sea cannot but be freer from noise than those to the back, looking on roofs, houses, stables, streets, &c.; but the bedrooms to the back are much larger, and better aired. With no sensibilities except my own to listen to them with, I can get used (I think) to the not extravagant amount of crowing and barking, and storming with the wind, and even to occasional cat-explosions on the opposite roofs! If I can't, I can exchange beds with Geraldine; and there I can only have the noise of the sea (considerable!), the possibilities of occasional carriages passing (I have none to-day, but it is Sunday), and 'rittle-tippling' of Venetian blinds! With a great diminution of room, however, and alarming increase of glare. The people of the house are civil and honest-looking and slow. Oh,
[Page 80] my! But we are not come here, Geraldine and I, to be in a hurry! For us the place will answer extremely well for a week, that we had to engage it for, and the sea air and the 'change' will overbalance all the little disagreeables, as well as the cha-arge, which is considerable.
If my advice were of any moment, I would strongly advise you to come one day during the week, and see the place under our auspices, and stay one night. I could sleep on the sofa in the drawing-room; and you would not mind any trifling noises with the knowledge that it was only for one night. The mere journey and a sight of the sea and a bathe would do you good.
I am going to seek out the Bains after church. I feel much less tired to-day than I have done for weeks, months back; and though I was awake half the night, first feeling for bugs, which didn't come! and then taking note of all the different sounds far and near, which did come!
Margaret will do everything very well for you, if you will only tell her distinctly what you want; I mean not elaborately, but in few plain words.
JANE W. C.
T. Carlyle, Esq., 5 Cheyne Row.
Wellington Crescent, Ramsgate:
Tuesday, August 6,1861.
Very charming doesn't that look, with the sea in front as far as eye can reach? And that seen (the East Cliff), you needn't wish to ever see more of Ramsgate. It is made up of narrow, steep, confused streets like the worst parts of Brighton. The shops look nasty, the people nasty, the smells are nasty! (spoiled shrimps complicated with cesspool!) Only the East Cliff is clean, and genteel, and airy; and would be perfect as sea-quarters if it weren't for the noise! which is so extraordinary as to be almost laughable.
Along that still-looking road or street between the houses and gardens are passing and repassing, from early morning to late night, cries of prawns, shrimps, lollipops - things one never wanted, and will never want, of the most miscellaneous sort; and if that were all! But a brass band plays all through our breakfast, and repeats the performance often during the day, and the brass band is succeeded by a band of Ethiopians, and that again by a band of female fiddlers! and interspersed with these are individual barrel-organs, individual Scotch bagpipes, individual French horns! Oh, it is 'most expensive!' And the night noises were not to be
[Page 82] estimated by the first night! These are so many and frequent as to form a sort of mass of voice; perhaps easier to get some sleep through than an individual nuisance of cock or dog. There are hundreds of cocks! and they get waked up at, say, one in the morning by some outburst of drunken song or of cat-wailing! and never go to sleep again (these cocks) but for minutes! and there are three steeple clocks that strike in succession, and there are doors and gates that slam, and dogs that bark occasionally, and a saw mill, and a mews, &c. - in short, everything you could wish not to hear! And I hear it all and am getting to sleep in hearing it! the bed is so soft and clean, and the room so airy; and then I think under every shock, so triumphantly, 'Crow away,' 'roar away,' 'bark away,' 'slam away; you can't disturb Mr. C. at Cheyne Row, that can't you!' and the thought is so soothing, I go off asleep - till next thing! I might try Geraldine's room ; but she has now got an adjoining baby! Yesterday we drove to Broadstairs - a quieter place, but we saw no lodgings that were likely to be quiet, except one villa at six guineas a week, already occupied.
I sleep about, in intervals of the bands, on sofas during the day; and am less sick than when I left home, and we get good enough food very well cooked, and I don't repent coming, on the whole; though I hate being in lodgings in strange places.
I found the Bains; and saw Mrs. George before she left.
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 1861.
I had just cleared my toilet table, and carried my writing-things from the sitting-room to my bedroom window, where there was no worse noise for the moment than carpet beating and the grinding of passing carts, whereas the sitting-room had become perfectly maddening with bagpipes under the windows, and piano-practice under the floor (a piano hired in by 'the first floor' yesterday)! All which received an irritating finishing touch from the rapid, continuous scrape, scraping of Geraldine's pen (nothing more irritating, as you know, than to see 'others' perfectly indifferent to what is driving oneself wild). Had just dipped the pen in the ink when - a 'yellow scoundrel,' the loudest, harshest of yellow scoundrels, struck up under my bedroom window! And here the master power of Babbage has not reached! Indeed, noise seems to be the grand joy of life at Ramsgate. If I had come to Ramsgate with the least idea of writing letters, or doing anything whatever with my head, I might go back at once. But I came to swallow down as much sea air as possible, and that end is attained without fatigue; for lying on the sofa with our three windows wide open on the sea, we are as well aired as if we
[Page 84] were sailing on it; and the bedroom is full of sea air all night too. It is certainly doing me good, though I can't ever get slept many minutes together for the noises. I get up hungry for breakfast, and am hungry again for dinner - and a fowl does not serve Geraldine and me two days!! I do hope you are getting decently fed. It won't be for want of assiduous will on Margaret's part if things are not as you like them.
We called for the Bains last night and invited them to tea to-night, which they thankfully accepted. They seem entirely occupied in studying their mutual health. Indeed, what else would any mortal stay here for! Mrs. Bain is quite the female of that male, - clear and clever, and cold and dry as tinder! They have 'the only quiet house in Ramsgate.' Mrs. Bain is troubled with nothing but the bleating of sheep to the back; after to-day, however, there will be crying babies in the house, and it is nothing like so airy a situation as ours. What a mercy you did not try Ramsgate!
My compliments to the maids, and say I hope to find them models of virtue and activity when I come on Saturday. Geraldine is clear for staying another week; but I had better have gone to Scotland than that.
J. W. C.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 1861.
Darling! I want to hear about you; and that is lucky for you, if you be at all wanting to hear about me! For I'll be hanged if mere unassisted sense of duty, and that sort of thing, could nerve me to sit down and write a letter in these days, when it takes pretty well all the sense and strength I have left to keep myself soul and body together, doing the thing forced into my hands to do, and answering when I am spoken to. A nice woman I am! But I know you have been in such depths yourself occasionally, and will have sympathy with me, instead of being contemptuous or angry, as your strong-minded, able-bodied women would be; and accordingly strong-minded, able-bodied women are my aversion, and I run out of the road of one as I would from a mad cow. The fact is, had there been nobody in the world to consider except myself, I ought to have 'carried out' that project I had set my heart on of streaming off by myself to Holm Hill, and taking a life-bath, as it were, in my quasi-natural air, in the scene of old affections, not all past and gone, but some still there as alive and warm, thank God, as ever! and only the dearer for being mixed up with those that are dead and gone.
Ah, my dear, your kindness goes to my heart, and
[Page 86] makes me like to cry, because I cannot do as you bid me. My servants are pretty well got into the routine of the house now, and if Mr. C. were like other men, he might be left to their care for two or three weeks, without fear of consequences. But he is much more like a spoiled baby than like other men. I tried him alone for a few days, when I was afraid of falling seriously ill, unless I had change of air. Three weeks ago I went with Geraldine Jewsbury to Ramsgate, one of the most accessible sea-side places, where I was within call, as it were, if anything went wrong at home. But the letter that came from him every morning was like the letter of a Babe in the Wood, who would be found buried with dead leaves by the robins if I didn't look to it. So, even if Ramsgate hadn't been the horridest, noisiest place, where I knew nobody, and had nothing to do except swallow sea air (the best of sea air indeed), I couldn't have got stayed there long enough to make it worth the bother of going. I had thought, in going there, that if he got on well enough by himself for the few days, I might take two or three weeks later, and realise my heart's wish after all. But I found him so out of sorts on my return that I gave it up, with inward protest and appeal to posterity.
Again a glimmer of hope arose. Lady Sandwich had taken a villa on the edge of Windsor Forest for a month, and invited us to go with her there. Mr. C. is very fond of that old lady, partly for her own sake,
[Page 87] and partly for the late Lady Ashburton's (her daughter). He can take his horse with him there, and his books, and if he miss his sleep one night he can come straight home the next. So, on the whole, after much pressing, he consented to go. And the idea came to me, if he were all right there, might not I slip away meanwhile to you. Before however it had been communicated, he said to me one day: 'What a poor, shivering, nervous wretch I am grown! I declare if you were not to be there to take care of me, and keep all disturbance off me, nothing would induce me to go to that place of Lady Sandwich's, though I dare say it is very necessary for me to go somewhere.' Humph! very flattering, but very inconvenient. And one can't console oneself at my age for a present disappointment with looking forward to next year; one is no longer so sure of one's next year.
One thing I can do, and you can do - we can write oftener. It is a deal nicer to speak face to face from heart to heart. But we might make our correspondence a better thing than it is, if we prevented the need of beginning our letters so often with an apology for silence.
Thanks for all your news. Every little detail about Thornhill people and things is interesting to me. And, oh, many, many thanks for your kind messages to us all! God bless you, dear, and love to the Doctor.
JANE W. CARLYLE.
The good old dowager Lady Sandwich had this autumn engaged us to go out with her to a pretty little lodge she had hired for a while in Windsor Forest, to rusticate there. It struck us afterwards, she had felt that this was likely to be her last autumn in this world, and that we, now among the dearest left to her, ought to be there. She was a brave, airy, affectionate, and bright kind of creature; and under her Irish gaieties and fantasticalities concealed an honest generosity of heart, and a clear discernment, and a very firm determination in regard to all practical or essential matters. We willingly engaged, went punctually, and stayed, I think, some twelve or more days, which, except for my own continual state of worn-out nerves, &c., were altogether graceful, touching, and even pleasant. I rode out, and rode back (my Jeannie by railway both times). Windsor Forest sounded something Arcadian when I started, but, alas! I found all that a completely changed matter since the days of Pope and his sylvan eclogues; and the real name of it now to be Windsor Cockneydom unchained. The ride out was nowhere pleasant, in parts disgusting; the ride back I undertook merely because obliged. During my stay I rode daily a great deal; but except within the park, where was a gloomy kind of solitude, very gloomy always to me, I had nowhere any satisfaction in the exercise, nor did Fritz seem to have. Alas! both he and I were getting very sick of riding; and one of us was laden for a long while past and to come far beyond his strength and years. It seems by this letter I was at times a very bad boy; and, alas! my repentant memory answers too clearly Yes. The lumbago, indeed, I have entirely forgotten, but I remember nights sleepless, and long walks, the mornings after which were courageous rather than victorious! I remember the old lady's stately and courteous appearance at dinner, affecting to me, and strange, almost painful. This
[Page 89] little scene even to the very name had vanished from me, and Harewood Lodge, when I read it here, reads a whole series of things to me; things sad - now sad as death itself, but good too, perhaps, almost great.
Miss Barnes, King's Road, Chelsea.
Harewood Lodge, Berks: Sept. 22, 1861.
Carina! Oh, Carina! 'Did you ever?' 'No, you never!' It has been an enchantment - a bad spell! the 'quelque chose plus fort que moi' of French criminals! I don't think a day has passed since I got your letter - certainly not a day has passed since I came here - that I haven't thought of you; and meant to write to you: only I never did it! And why? Were I to assign the only reason which occurs to me for the moment, it would seem incredible to your well-regulated mind. You could never conceive how a woman 'born of respectable parents, and having enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education' (like Judge somebody's malefactor, who, 'instead of which, had gone about the country stealing turkeys!'), should be withheld from doing a thing by just the feeling that she ought to! Although if she had ought to not to she would have done it at the first opportunity! No! You have no belief in such a make of a woman, you! You are too good for believing in her! And one can't do better than believe all women born to a sense of duty 'as the sparks fly upwards' as long as one can.
For the rest, I should have enjoyed this beautiful place excessively if Eve hadn't eaten that unfortunate apple, a great many years ago; in result of which there has, ever since, been always a something to prevent one's feeling oneself in Paradise! The 'something' of the present occasion came in the form of lumbago! not into my own back, but into Mr. C.'s; which made the difference so far as the whole comfort of my life was concerned! For it was the very first day of being here that Mr. C. saw fit to spread his pocket-handkerchief on the grass, just after a heavy shower, and sit down on it! for an hour and more in spite of all my remonstrances!! The lumbago following in the course of nature, there hasn't been a day that I felt sure of staying over the next, and of not being snatched away like Proserpine; as I was from the Grange last winter! For what avail the 'beauties of nature,' the 'ease with dignity' of a great house, even the Hero Worship accorded one, against the lumbago? Nothing, it would seem! less than nothing! Lumbago, my dear, it is good that you should know in time, admits of but one consolation - of but one happiness! viz: 'perfect liberty to be as ugly and stupid and disagreeable as ever one likes!' And that consolation, that happiness, that liberty reserves itself for the domestic hearth! As you will find when you are married, I daresay. And so, all the ten days we have been here, it has been a straining
[Page 91] on Mr. C.'s part to tear his way through the social amenities back to Chelsea; while I have spent all the time I might have been enjoying myself in expecting to be snatched away!
To-morrow we go finally and positively, though the lumbago is almost disappeared, and we were to have stayed at least a fortnight. Where are you, then? If you are returned to 'the paternal roof,' no need almost of this letter. But I daresay you are gadding about on the face of the earth; 'too happy in not knowing your happiness' of having a paternal roof to stay under! If your father would take me home for his daughter, and pet me as he does you, would I go dancing off to all points of the compass as you do? No, indeed. God bless you, anyhow! If you are returned, this letter will be worth while, as enabling me to look you in the face more or less.
JANE WELSH CARLYLE.
January 1, 1862. 'First foot,' perhaps explained already, is a Scotch superstition about good or ill luck for the whole year being omened by your liking or otherwise of the first person that accosts you on New Year's morning. She well knew this to be an idle babble; but nevertheless it had got hold of her fancy in a sort, and was of some real importance to her, as other such old superstitions were.
[Page 92] Thus I have seen her, if anybody made or received a present of a knife, insist on a penny being given for it, that so it might become 'purchase,' and not cut the friendship in two. I used to laugh at these practices, but found them beautiful withal; how much more amiable than strong-mindedness (which has needed only deduction of fine qualities) in regard to such things! - T. C.
J. G. Cooke, Esq.
5 Cheyne Row: January 1, 1862.
My dear Friend, - What an adorable little proceeding on your part! I declare I can't remember when I have been as pleased. Not only a 'good first foot,' but salvation from any possibility of a 'bad first foot,' with which my highly imaginative Scotch mind (imaginative on the reverse side of things in my present state of physical weakness) had been worrying itself as New Year's Day drew near. I could hardly believe my ears when little Margaret glided to my bedside and said, 'Mr. Cooke, ma'am, with this letter and beautiful egg-cup (!) for you; but he wouldn't come up, as you were in bed!' That, too, was most considerate of Mr. Cooke! The 'egg-cup' ravished my senses with its beauty and perfect adaptation to my main passion. I think you must have had it made on purpose for me, it feels already so much a part of myself. And how early you must have risen to be here at that hour!
[Page 93] Dressed, perhaps, by candle-light! Good God! all that for me! Well, I am grateful, and won't forget this. A talismanic remembrance to stand between my faith in your kindness for me and any 'babbles' (my grandfather's word) that may ever attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to shake it. And so God bless you! and believe me
JANE WELSH CARLYLE.
Miss Barnes, King's Road, Chelsea.
5 Cheyne Row: January 24, 1862.
Oh, you agonising little girl! How could you come down upon me in that slap-dash way, demand of poor, weak, shivery me a positive 'yes' or 'no,' as if with a loaded pistol at my head? How can I tell what I shall be up to on the 18th? After such a three months of illness, and relapses, how can I even guess? If I am alive, and able to stand on my hind legs, and to look like a joyful occasion, I shall be only too happy to attend that solemnity. But in my actual state it would be a tempting of Providence to suppress the if in my acceptance of your 'amiable invitation.'
As for Mr. C. - my dear, I must confide to you a small domestic passage. I told him what your father
[Page 94] had said weeks ago, and he expressed himself as terrified - as was to be expected - at the idea of his being included in anything joyful! and I thought he had forgotten all about it, three or four days after, when he came into my room with evidently something on his mind, and said, 'My dear, there is a small favour I want from you. I want you to not let me be asked to Miss Barnes's marriage, for it would be a real vexation to me to refuse that bonnie wee lassie what she asked, and to her marriage I could not go; it would be the ruin of me for three weeks!' And that is no exaggeration, I can say, who know his ways better than anyone else. He added that, 'the rational thing to be done' was, that you should 'bring your husband, when you had married him, to spend an evening with him (Mr. C.) in his own house, among quiet things' (me and the cat?).
JANE W. CARLYLE.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Feb. 23, 1862.
Oh, my dear, what a horrid thing! It still makes my flesh creep all over whenever I think of it! and I think of it a great deal oftener than there is occasion for, since, thank God, he is now on foot
[Page 95] again! But I have seen that safe! I can appreciate to the full the crash of its lid, smack down on human fingers! Mercy! what a piece of capital good stuff the Doctor must have been made of originally, that his fingers should have stuck together through such an accident, instead of being all pounded into mush! That is not what surprises me most, however, in the business. What surprises me most is, that the Doctor being a doctor, and a good, skilful one, should have gone about after, braving such a hurt, as though he had never in his life heard of lockjaw, or gangrene, or fever! I don't wonder that you were terrified. I wonder rather that you are not, now when your nursing is no more needed, in a brain fever yourself. The longer I live, the more I am certified that men, in all that relates to their own health, have not common sense! whether it be their pride, or their impatience, or their obstinacy, or their ingrained spirit of contradiction, that stupefies and misleads them, the result is always a certain amount of idiocy, or distraction in their dealings with their own bodies! I am not generalising from my own husband. I know that he is a quite extravagant example of that want of common sense in bodily matters which I complain of. Few men (even) are so lost to themselves as to dry their soaked trowsers on their legs! (as he does) or swallow five grains of mercury in the middle of the
[Page 96] day, and then walk or ride three hours under a plunge of rain! (as he does) &c. &c. But men generally, all of them I have ever had to do with - even your sensible husband included, you see - drive the poor women, who care for them, to despair, either by their wild impatience of bodily suffering, and the exaggerated moan they make over it, or else by their reckless defiance of it, and neglect of every dictate of prudence! There! You may tell the Doctor what I say! It won't do him the slightest good against next time; but it is well he should know what one thinks of him - that one does not approve of such costly heroism at all!
I have nothing new to tell you which is lucky; as the things that have happened this long time back have been of a disastrous sort.
I go out now occasionally for a drive - walking tires me too much. I have even been twice out at dinner last week, and was at a wedding besides! The two dinners were of the quietest: at the one (Miss Baring's), nobody but Lord Ashburton, who had come up from the Grange for a consultation; at the other (Lady Sandwich's), nobody but the Marchioness of Lothian, who, having lived thirty years in Scotland, is as good as a Scotchwoman. But the wedding was an immense affair! It was my doctor's little daughter, who was being married,
[Page 97] after a three years' engagement; and as soon as she was engaged, she had made me promise to attend her wedding. I had rather wished to see a marriage performed in a church with all the forms, the eight bridesmaids, &c. &c. But I had renounced all idea of going to the church, for fear of being laid up with a fresh cold; and meant to attend only the breakfast party after, in which I took less interest. But imagine how good the people here are to me. Our rector, in whose church (St. Luke's) the marriage was to take place, being told by his wife I wished to go, but durstn't for fear of the coldness of the church, ordered the fires to be kept up from Sunday over into Tuesday morning! besides a rousing fire in the vestry, where I sat at my ease till the moment the ceremony began! I was much pressed afterwards to acknowledge how superior the English way of marrying was to the Scotch, and asked how I had liked it. I said my feelings were very mixed. 'Mixed?' the rector asked, 'mixed of what?' 'Well,' I said, 'it looked to me something betwixt a religious ceremony and a - pantomime!' So it is. There were forty-four people at the breakfast!
Your ever affectionate
J. W. CARLYLE.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Thursday, June 5, 1862.
Dearest Mary, - I cannot count the letters I have written to you in my head within the last six weeks, they have been so many; I have written them mostly before getting out of bed in the morning, or while lying awake at night. But in the day-time, with pen and ink at hand, I have been always, always, always too sick or too bothered to put them on paper, have indeed been writing to nobody, if that be any excuse for not writing to you. The beginning of warm weather is as trying for me, in a different way, as winter was, and so many sad things have happened.
Just when the freshness of one sorrow was wearing off there has come another. First Elizabeth Pepoli, then Lady Sandwich, then Mrs. Twisleton: the three people in all London whose friendship I had most dependence on. Nobody will believe the loss Lady Sandwich is to us. They say 'a woman of eighty! that is not to be regretted.' But her intimate friends know that this woman of eighty was the most charming companion and the loyallest, warmest friend; was the only person in London or in the
[Page 99] world that Mr. C. went regularly to see. Twice a week he used to call for her; and now his horse makes for her house whenever he gets into the region of Grosvenor Square, and does not see or understand the escutcheon that turns me sick as I drive past. Dear little Mrs. Twisleton, so young, and beautiful, and clever, so admired in society and adored at home, is a loss that everyone can appreciate! And the strong affection she testified for me, through her long terrible illness, has made her death a keener grief than I thought it would be.
I should have been thankful to be away from here - anywhere - at the bottom of a coal-pit, to think over this in quiet, safe from the breaking in of all the idlers 'come up' to that great vulgar show of an 'Exhibition,' and safe from the endless weary chatter about it. Nothing could keep me here for an hour but Mr. C.'s determination to stay; - since at the top of the house he is safe enough from tiresome interruptions, simply refusing to see anybody, which, alas! makes it all the more needful for me to be civil. Here he will stay and work on; (what an idea you have all got in your heads, that, having published a third volume he must be at ease in Zion, when two more volumes are to come, and one wholly unwritten; and to leave him in the present state of things is what I cannot make up my mind to. If I go on in this way, however, I shall die, and just
[Page 100] before it comes to that extremity I shall probably muster the necessary resolution.
Mr. C.'s comfort under the confusion of the Exhibition is that 'It is to be hoped it will end in total bankruptcy.' They say the guarantees will be called on to pay twenty-five per cent.
Kindest love to the doctor; a hearty kiss to yourself.
JANE W. CARLYLE.
We were with the Ashburtons, she first, for a week or more, then both of us for perhaps a week longer. Ay de mi! (October 29, 1869.)
To Thomas Carlyle, Chelsea.
West Cliff Hotel: Wednesday, July 2, 1862.
Thanks, dear! especially for telling me about Mrs. Forster. I had been so vexed at myself for not begging you to go again and send me word.
Lady A. came and sat awhile in my room last night, and, speaking of Miss Bromley's departure, I took occasion to say that, 'As she and I came on the same day, I felt as if I ought to have also gone on the same day.' The answer to which was a very cordial 'Nonsense, my dear friend!' I was expected to stay as long as they did, 'or' (when I shook my head at that) 'as long at all events as I could possibly
[Page 101] make it convenient.' There was no doubt whatever about her present wish being to that effect. And then came up the old question as a new one, 'Did I think he would come? It would be such a pleasure to Bingham, now that he could move about.' I said, you might perhaps be persuaded to come for a very short visit, but, &c. &c. That was it! A short visit was evidently what she wanted, and she does want that; but she did not see her way through a long one, in the circumstances, I could see, and I don't wonder. She would write herself to-day, and urge you to come on Saturday and stay till Monday - 'You might surely do that!'
Now that is just what you must do. Even two days of sea will benefit you; and it can be had at little sacrifice of anything. You don't need to trouble about clothes; what you could bring in your carpet-bag would be enough; there is no elaborate dressing for dinner here; and the tide is convenient, and there is a horse! And Lady A. says she can give you 'a perfectly quiet room:' - indeed, mine is quiet as the grave from outside noises; not a cock nor a dog in all Folkestone I think! And the cookery, which is objected to as all too English, would suit you: - constant loins of roast mutton, and constant boiled chickens! Now pray take no counsel with flesh and blood, but come straight off on Saturday morning, according to the invitation that will reach
[Page 102] you (I expect) along with this. And in all likelihood we will go home together on Monday.
If you don't come, I will stay away as long as ever they will keep me, just to spite you
Look up in your topographical book for Saltwood Castle. Lady A. asked, when we were there to-day, if I thought you would be able to tell us about it; and I said, 'Of course you would:' Saltwood Castle, near Folkestone.
There is here too a review of 'Frederick' in the 'Cornhill,' which would amuse you! Adoring your genius, but absolutely horror-struck at your 'scorn,' which is 'become normal.' How you dare to utter such blasphemy against Messrs. Leibnitz and Maupertuis!! I could not help bursting out laughing at the man's sacred horror, as if he had been speaking of Milton's Devil!
J. W. C.
Horrible paper! I have no other.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: July 20, 1862.
Dearest Mary, - When you wrote last you were going somewhere - to see your cousin, I think. Is that visit paid? and what other visits have you to pay? And how are you? I fear but poorly from your
[Page 103] late letters; but are you well enough to feel any pleasure in - in - in seeing me if I should come?
Look here! I am not sure about it! But Mr. C. said something this morning that I am determined to view as permission for me to go away by myself - where I please and when I please for a very little while. We had got into words about an invitation to the Marquis of Lothian's, in Norfolk. I had written a refusal by his (Mr. C.'s) desire, and Lady Lothian had written to me a second letter, holding out as inducements for altering his mind that there was a wonderfully fine library at Blickling Park, and that Lord Lothian's health prevented company; and Mr. C., tempted a little by the library and the no company, had suggested I might write that if the weather got unbearable! and if he got to a place in his work where he could gather up some papers and take them with him! and if - if - if ever so many things, he might perhaps - that is, we might perhaps - come 'by and by'!!! I had said 'by no means.' I have written a refusal by your desire; I shall gladly now write an acceptance by your desire; but neither yes nor no, or yes and no both in one, I can't and won't write; you must do that sort of thing yourself!' And then he told me, 'Since I was so impatient about it,' I had better go by myself. To which I answered that it wouldn't be there that I would go by myself, nor to the Trevelyans, nor the Davenport Bromleys;
[Page 104] but to Scotland to Mrs. Russell. 'Then go to Mrs. Russell - pack yourself up and be off as soon as you like.'
Now it wasn't a very gracious permission, still it was a permission - at least I choose to regard it as such; and if I had been quite sure how you were situated - whether you were at home, without other visitor, well enough to be bothered with me, &c. &c. I should have said on the spot, 'Thanks! I will go then on such a day!'
I know to my sorrow that, if I should be long absent, things would go to sixes and sevens, and I should find mischievous habits acquired in the kitchen department, which it would take months to reform - if ever. But my week at Folkestone with the Ashburtons passed off with impunity; - and their (the servants') moralities might surely hold out for a fortnight or so; which would give plenty of time to see you, and look about on the dear old places, and go round by Edinburgh for a kiss of old Betty.
You see how it is, however, for I have told you exactly what passed; - and you see it is not a very settled question. Without further speech with Mr. C. I can't just say, 'I am coming if you will have me!' But if you say you will have me, can have me soon, without inconvenience; then I will myself open the further speech and ascertain if he means to
[Page 105] stand to his word, and look favourably on my going for a week or two.
I say forgive me coming to you, year after year, with these indecisions. Next to being undecided oneself the greatest misery is to be mixed up with undecided people. I myself know always mighty well what I want; and buts and ifs and possiblys are not words in my natural vocabulary, for all so often as I am obliged to use them. If I plague you with my uncertainties, believe me I plague myself quite as much or more.
Mrs. Russell, Holm Hill.
5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea: Saturday, Aug. 2, 1862.
Dearest Mary, - Your letter of this morning had the same effect that a glass of port wine, administered in my babyhood, was recorded to have had on a less dignified organ: 'Port wine' (I was said to have said to my mother, with the suddenness of Balaam's ass) 'mak's inside a' cozy!' So indeed did your cordial letter mak' heart a' cozy. On the strength of the coziness, I said right out to Mr. C., sitting opposite: 'How long had you to wait at Carlisle for the train that put you down at the Gill at seven in the morning?' No opening could have
[Page 106] been better. He was taken quite by surprise; and, before he had time to consider my going as a question, he found himself engaged in considerations of the best way to go. After that he could not well go back upon his implied assent. The only 'demurrer' he could put in, with a good grace, was to ask: 'What did I mean to do with my foot?' I meant it to get well, I said, in a few days; of course I shouldn't think of going from home on one leg. This related to a bruised, or sprained, or someway bedevilled foot, that I came by the very day I had written to you, as if, I almost felt, with a shudder at the time, it was the monition of Providence that I should go on no such journey. I was returning from Islington where I had been to ask after the lamed foot (!) of the little lady who was my honorary nurse last winter. The Islington omnibus put me down within some eighth part of a mile of my own house. I had one rather dark street to pass through first - taking the shortest way - and it was near eleven o'clock at night. I didn't care for being alone so late; but I didn't want to be seen by any of the low people of that street alone. So I stepped off the pavement to avoid passing close to a small group standing talking at a door; when I had cleared these only people to be seen in the whole street, I was
[Page 107] stepping back on to the pavement, when, the curbstone being higher than I noticed in the shadow, I struck the side of my right foot violently against it and was tripped over, and fell smack down, full length on the pavement.
Considering how easily I might have broken my ribs, it is wonderful that the fall did me no harm. I scrambled up directly; but the foot I had struck on the curbstone before falling was dreadfully sore, and it was made worse, you may believe, by having to use it, after a sort, to get myself home. How I got home at all, even in holding on to walls and railings, I can't think. But once at home on a chair, I couldn't touch the ground with it on any account. Mr. C. had to carry me to bed, at the imminent risk of knocking my head off against the lintels. So I wouldn't be carried by him any more, my head being of more consequence to me than my foot. It was dreadfully swelled for a couple of days; but to-day, though I still cannot get a shoe on, or walk, it is so much better, that I am sure it will be all right presently. In a few days I hope to be able to write that I am road-worthy, and I will only wait for that. It is a most provoking little accident, for delays are so dangerous. I should have wished after my experiences of late summers to go to you at once, before any 'pigs' have time to 'run through.'
And now I needn't be saying more but that God grant nothing may prevent our meeting this time.
Love to the doctor.
To Thomas Carlyle, Esq., Chelsea.
Holm Hill, Thornhill: August 13, 1862.
Oh, my dear, I wish they hadn't started that carpet-lifting and chimney-sweeping process so immediately, but left you time to recover my loss (if any) in the usual 'peace and quietness'! That chimney in my bedroom had to be swept, however, before winter came; and no time so good as when I was on my travels. You don't complain: but your few lines this morning make the impression on me of having been written under 'a dark brown shadd!' I told Maria if she observed you to be mismanaging yourself, and going off your sleep and all that sort of thing, to tell me, and I should be back like a returned sky-rocket.
For myself, I am all right. I was in bed before eleven o'clock struck, with a stiff little tumbler of whisky toddy in my head, and I went to sleep at once, and slept on, with only some half-dozen awakenings, till the maid brought in my hot-water at eight o'clock! My foot, as well as my 'interior,' is benefited by the good night. It was too lame for anything yesterday. But there was no temptation
[Page 109] to use it much yesterday; it rained without intermission. To-day is very cloudy, but not wet as yet; and we are going for a drive in the close carriage. Dr. Russell has both an open and a close carriage, the lucky man! Indeed he has as pretty and well-equipped a place here as any reasonable creature could desire. But Mrs. Russell has never ceased to regret the tumble-down old house in Thornhill, 'where there was always something going on!' 'Looking out on the trees and the river here makes her so melancholy,' she says, that she feels sometimes as if she should lose her senses! The wished-for, as usual, come too late! Ease with dignity, when the habits of a lifetime have made her incapable of enjoying it!
Would you tell Maria to put a bit of paper round the little long-shaped paste-board box, in my little drawer next the drawing-room, containing the two ornamental hair-pins, and send them to me by post; - they are quite light; I want them to give away. Also if you were to put a couple of good quill-pens of your own making in beside the hair-pins, 'it would be a great advantage.' I had written to say a word expressly about the tobacco. Oh, please, do go to bed at a reasonable hour, and don't overwork yourself, and consider you are no longer a child!
J. W. C.
1 Never did, alas!
1 The arsenic place! My poor 'Fritz' had been suddenly taken to Salter's, Eaton Square, and for a year or more had been quite coming round then.
2 Good East Lothian woman's speech to me, on the return from Dunbar and the plagues of Irishry, &c., &c. (?seventeen years ago): 'If the wund would fa', it wud be,' &c.
3 Names merely - unknown.
1 'Signed it, with my own hand' (Edward Irving, forty years ago).
1 The Deerbrook breakfasts refer to Miss Martineau's poor novel.
1 Finished January 13.
1 Lord Ashburton married secondly, November 17, 1858, Louisa Caroline, youngest daughter of the Right Hon. James Stewart Mackenzie.
1 To run in harness; but he wouldn't - couldn't - though the best-natured of horses, poor Fritz!
1 I have quite forgotten.
2 Alas! can that need to be said? - insane that I was!
1 Yes, I recollect these two. I had often latterly been urging 'two servants,' but she never till now would comply. The elder of these 'two' did not suit either. A conceited fool; got the name 'Perfection,' and (to the great joy of the younger, who continued worthily) had to go in a few months.
1 'Her own Scotch name for double commas.
1 Her name for a neat and good old gardener that used to work for us.
1 Alluding to close of last letter, omitted.
1 Poor loving soul!
1 Durcheinander (German) as an adjective.
1 I don't recollect.
1 Irish in reality; a little, black, busy creature, who did very well for some time; but, &c. &c. (some mysterious love-affair, I think) - and went to New Zealand out of sight.
1 Written on Ramsgate note-paper, with a print of the harbour, &c.
1 Welsh; her uncle's wife.
1 Some accident which had befallen Dr. Russell.
1 A very beautiful and clever little Boston lady, wife of Hon. Edward Twisleton, and much about us for the six or seven years she lived here. I well remember her affecting funeral (old Fiennes Castle, in Oxfordshire), and my ride thither with Browning, &c.
1 Alas! how little did I ever know of these secret wishes and necessities - now or ever!
2 Mrs. Dilberoglue (?).
1 I remember, and may well.