hesadevil (hesadevil) wrote,

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George Eliot was here !

Today I sat in the very chair that George Eliot used when she visited Thomas Carlyle's house in Cheyne Row. I was unaware of just what a close connection there was between Eliot and Carlyle until I made the trip into town today. The private guided tour had been arranged by the London Branch of the BFWG and I was so excited about it because Carlye has been a hero of mine since I studied the Industrial Revolution, way back in the 1960s. He was such an influential man of the Victorian age and, although he lived in a relatively cheap district of Chelsea, (it was in his day, you should see what the houses fetch nowadays.) his house was a magnet for writers and thinkers of the day. It was Carlye's wife Jane who twigged that George Eliot was, in fact, her close friend, Mary Evans. Eliot's publisher would send Jane Carlyle the drafts of Eliot's novels for her opinions. Like so many others, Jane could not understand how a man could write with such understanding of women.

The house was bought by a Trust set up specifically to rescue it, as a monument to Carlyle, in 1885. He had refused all offers of honours during his lifetime, turning down a Baronetcy and asking not to be buried in Westminster Abbey. Olivia Hill (founder of what would go on to become The National Turst) got together a group of influential Victorians and they raised the funds to purchase the freehold to the house and set it up as a monument to Carlyle. It passed from that Trust to The National Trust, in 1936. I was so bowled over by the fact that the house contains much of the original furniture owned by the Carlyles. Just this week, the sideboard that was left to Jane by her mother, was re-installed in the very spot it once occupied. It was bought at Auction in New York, by the National Trust and shipped back to England recently.
I am grateful to the curator who allowed me to take pictures inside the house to share with my friends around the world.

I was also thrilled to see that the letters between Carlye and Jane (almost 4000 of them) are there, bound and preserved for posterity. Victorian postal service was efficient; up to 5 deliveries a day. As MWNN said to me, sometimes a letter would be delivered before it had been posted. (Quirky mind he has) There was even a bound set of the notes that passed between Jane and Thomas when Jane finally lost her rag about the fact that her household allowance did not meet the amount she needed to spend on it. Jane was a remarkable woman, she married beneath herself (daughter of a doctor) when she married Thomas,(son of a stonemason). The marriage was very much against her widowed mother's wishes and came after a lengthy courtship. Jane never once regretted it although their relationship was tempetuous.. She had a great capacity to laugh at herself and often did in her letters. Jane's letters are well worth reading and can be found, in digital form, here.

And the reason for the smoking vampire icon? As I was updating this LJ, I was reading the latest spoilers for episode 20. I just had to celebrate.

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