Jane Welsh Carlyle (1801-1866)
From 1800-1829 Literary Anecdotes

JENNY kissed me when we met,
jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in:
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad.
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.

Leigh Hunt was prospering and writing freely now, but during an influenza epidemic he was ill for some weeks. There were many deaths, and Mrs. Carlyle was anxious about him. This being told him when he suddenly recovered, he went himself to be the bearer of his good news. When Mrs. Carlyle beheld him unexpectedly enter, she jumped up and kissed him; and that was what inspired his verse in the Monthly Chronicle. . . . `I never heard of Mrs. Carlyle kissing any other man,' said one of her later favourites; `not even me,' he concluded with a sigh.

D. A. Wilson, Carlyle on Cromwell and Others (1925), p. 30.

MRS. Carlyle did not, like her husband, write books, but in her own way she was, to use a favourite expression of his, as `articulate' as her husband. She was too bright and clever a talker not to enjoy practising her gift. . . . It was better, at least, if they were at home, when they talked successively rather than simultaneously, but her husband did not always allow her that alternative. She once repeated to me, with quiet glee, a remark dropped by Samuel Rogers at one of his breakfast-parties at which Carlyle and she were among the guests. When Carlyle's thunder had been followed by his wife's sparkle, their sardonic host said in a half-soliloquy which was intended to be audible: `As soon as that man's tongue stops, that woman's begins!'

Francis Espinasse, Literary Recollections and Sketches (1893), pp. 205-206.

Mr. Carlyle said `the voice of honour seemed to call on him to go himself.' But either it did not call loud enough, or he would not listen to that charmer. I went in a cab, to save all my breath for appealing. Set down at 30 Hornton Street, I found a dirty private-like house, only with Tax Office painted on the door. A dirty woman-servant opened the door, and told me the Commissioners would not be there for half an hour, but I might walk up. There were already some half-score of men assembled in the waiting-room, among whom I saw the man who cleans our clocks, and a young apothecary of Cheyne Walk. All the others, to look at them, could not have been suspected for an instant, I should have said, of making a hundred a year...

'First-come lady,' called the clerk, opening a small side-door, and I stepped forward into a grand peut-êetre. There was an instant of darkness while the one door was shut behind and the other opened in front; and there I stood in a dim room where three men sat round a large table spread with papers. One held a pen ready over an open ledger; another was taking snuff, and had taken still worse in his time, to judge by his shaky, clayed appearance. The third, who was plainly the cock of that dung-heap, was sitting for Rhadamanthus—a Rhadamanthus without the justice.

`Name,' said the horned-owl-looking individual holding the pen.

Seeing he still looked dubious, I spelt it for him.

`Ha!' cried Rhadamanthus, a big bloodless-faced, insolent-looking fellow, `What is this? why is Mr. Carlyle not come himself? Didn't he get a letter ordering him to appear? Mr. Carlyle wrote some nonsense about being exempted from coming, and I desired an answer to be sent that he must come, must do as other people.'
`Then, sir,' I said, `your desire has been neglected, it would seem, my husband having received no such letter; and I was told by one of your fellow Commissioners that Mr. Carlyle's personal appearance was not indispensable.'
`Huffgh! Huffgh! what does Mr. Carlyle mean by saying he has no income from his writings, when he himself fixed it in the beginning at a hundred and fifty?'
`It means, sir, that, in ceasing to write, one ceases to be paid for writing, and Mr. Carlyle has published nothing for several years.'
`Huffgh! Huffgh! I understand nothing about that.'
`I do,' whispered the snuff-taking Commissioner at my ear. `I can quite understand a literary man does not always make money. I would take it off, for my share, but (sinking his voice still lower) I am only one voice here, and not the most important.'
`There,' said I, handing to Rhadamanthus Chapman and Hall's account; 'that will prove Mr. Carlyle's statement.'
`What am I to make of that? Huffgh! We should have Mr. Carlyle here to swear to this before we believe it.'
`If a gentleman's word of honour written at the bottom of that paper is not enough, you can put me on my oath: I am ready to swear to it.'
`You! you, indeed! No, no, we can do nothing with your oath.'
`But, sir, I understand my husband's affairs fully, better than he does himself.'
`That I can well believe; but we can make nothing of this'—flinging my document contemptuously on the table. The horned owl picked it up, glanced over it while Rhadamanthus was tossing papers about and grumbling about `people that wouldn't conform to rules'; then handed it back to him, saying deprecatingly, `But, sir, this is a very plain statement.'
'Then what has Mr. Carlyle to live upon? You don't mean to tell me he lives on that?'—pointing to the document.
`Heaven forbid, sir! but I am not here to explain what Mr. Carlyle has to live on, only to declare his income from literature during the last three years.'
'True! true!' mumbled the not-most-important voice at my elbow.
`Mr. Carlyle, I believe, has landed income?'
`Of which,' said I haughtily, for my spirit was up, `I have fortunately no account to render in this kingdom and to this board.'
`Take off fifty pounds, say a hundred—take off a hundred pounds,' said Rhadamanthus to the horned owl. `If we write Mr. Carlyle down a hundred and fifty he has no reason to complain, I think. There, you may go, Mr. Carlyle has no reason to complain.'

Second-come woman was already introduced, and I was motioned to the door; but I could not depart without saying that

`at all events there was no use in complaining, since they had the power to enforce their decision.'

On stepping out, my first thought was, what a mercy Carlyle didn't come himself! For the rest, though it might have gone better, I was thankful it had not gone worse.

Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, ed. J. A. Froude (1883), ii. 263-267.

BROWNING said `I never minded what Carlyle said of things outside his own little circle (drawing a circle in the air with his forefinger) — what was it to me what he thought of Poetry or Music? One day I was talking of Keats, and Carlyle's opinion of him, to Mrs. Carlyle; she asked me to lend her something of Keats's, and I brought her Isabella and The Eve of St. Agnes (I was too knowing to try her with Endymion). She wrote me a letter—"Almost any young gentleman with a sweet tooth might be expected to write such things. Isabella might have been written by a seamstress who had eaten something too rich for supper and slept upon her back."—Do you think,' Browning said, `I cared about this more than for the barking of a little dog?'

Allingham, Diary, p. 310.

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