Friday, September 4, 2015

Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle

Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle
Prepared for publication by Thomas Carlyle
Edited by James Anthony Froude
(Two Volumes)

New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons

I am near to finishing the first volume, and am enjoying the work immensely. Written in the shadow, so to speak, of her husband Thomas Carlyle’s brooding genius, the letters herein show us a strong, intelligent, writer whose words reveal humor, sympathy, and a keen, insightful memory. Most of the letters are introduced by Carlyle, his notes having been penned after his “Jeannie’s” death, and many end with a profound exclamation or sigh for the times and travails gone by. Jane suffered a great deal of ill health through the years (noted also in the letters between Carlyle and Emerson), and was often laid up in bed with debilitating headaches. As one reads, a clear picture emerges of the life they led, the literary visitors they entertained, their various travels (mostly apart), and their gradual escape from poverty to, if not wealth, at least a better measure of comfort. Everything is here: the daily life; visits with the ailing Thackeray; the taking down and cleaning and de-bugging of the drapes; the dealing with mice; the troubles with domestic help brought on by the consumption of too much gin (the help’s, not Jane’s). The two books combined contain around 900 pages. I look forward with relish to the second volume.


Jonathan Chant said...

Sounds delightful. I'd like to know more about the gin soaked domestic servant.

William Michaelian said...

Which one? It seems to be a recurring theme. Already, several that have been mentioned have been dismissed and later met with tragic ends. But I could be exaggerating; I’m never quite sure on that score.