the odd couple: birds of a leather

Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh Carlyle….

…Jane whose character included a certain touch of masochism, held a certain profound relish for the domestic drama. She had thought of writing a novel, she admitted, about the “mysteries” of Number 6, her London home, and used to amuse her friend Charles Dickens with the curious stories she told him about the house and its inhabitants. Dickens believed they they would make an excellent book. He had always admired her gifts- “none of the writing women came near her at all,” he said, and as a man who enjoyed the companionship of the opposite sex, he found her more than usually attractive. Not only, noted his biographer, John Forster, did Mrs. Carlyle entertain him, she inspired a deeper sentiment: “there was something beyond, beyond”- an element of physical and emotional sympathy.

Walter Greaves (1846‑1930)
Hammersmith Bridge on Boat-race Day
Date c.1862
MediumOil paint on canvas —Read More:

Indeed, long after she had lost her looks and had become elderly and gaunt and haggard, Jane was still charming and many of the distinguished men who presented themselves at Number 5 Cheyne Row arrived to visit Jane alone. Both the Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini and the French exile  Godefroy Cavaignac- one of the leaders of the left wing under Charles X and Louis Philippe- had undoubtedly conceived a romantic affection for their hostess, and their love was, to someextent, returned. She also had the adoration of the aging Leigh Hunt, who, with his untidy children, and his feckless and difficult wife, lived in Upper Cheyne Row around the corner.

Walter Greaves (1846‑1930)
Walter Greaves and Alice Greaves on the Embankment
Date c.1880-90
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Marianne Hunt, whom Byron had once so cordially detested, had apparently taken to the bottle, and the Hunt’s led an improvident and harassed existence. Hunt, -”a pretty man,” Carlyle remembered, “… with the airiest kindly style of sparkling talk”- often took refuge at number 5 from the squalid confusion of his own home. “He would lean on his elbow against the mantelpiece… and look around him… before taking leave for the night:’ as if I were a Lar,’ said he once,’or permanent Household God here!’…Another time, rising from this Lar attitude, he repeated, voice very fine, as if in sport of parody, yet with something of a very sad perceptible:’While I to sulphurous and penal fire’-as the last thing before vanishing.” Among Hunt’s best known poems is the graceful triolet “Jenny Kissed me,” which he addressed to Jane when she had surprised him by jumping from her chair to throw her arms around him as he entered.

You could say they were tugging at the boundaries of the liberties afforded by liberal democracy, the post Jeremy Bentham and post John Stuart Mill conceptions of liberty that would fully flower several generations later in the Bloomsbury Group….

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