The Carlyles at Home Paperback – 22 Mar 2002
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"The Carlyles at Home" is about Thomas and Jane Carlyle's life together at 5 (now 24) Cheyne Row, Chelsea, and was written in the 1960s by a former actress who was then living there as co-custodian of the house with her husband. Thea Holme's book evokes the everyday life of the Carlyles from the day they moved in, in 1834, until Jane's death in 1866. 'The Carlyles' dour joy in the daily battle of study and kitchen is the making of Thea Holme's detailed account of housekeeping at Cheyne Row, 'wrote VS Pritchett in the "New Statesman" in 1965.'No stove, cooking by candlelight, a state of civil war about doors and windows: he can't bear them closed, she freezes in the draughts. They are the best letter-writers, born chatterers and reporters who can knock off a scene or a person in a talking phrase. Jane Carlyle gives us Mrs Leigh Hunt continually in and out, borrowing spoons, porridge, even a brass fender, and usually drunkish. Jane screams at Browning for putting a kettle down on her best carpet; tells how an Irish builder falls through the ceiling of her bedroom during alterations; battles with the 32 maids she had in 34 years at GBP 8 a year.She has that innate Scottish gift for the pawky recital of domestic clatter.'Jane may have subsumed her life into that of the Sage of Chelsea but, such is the interest nowadays in domestic history and women writers, most twenty-first century readers will be more interested in her life than in her husband's. Each of the eleven chapters, with titles such as 'The Soundproof Study', 'Money' and 'The Garden' describes a different aspect of life in Cheyne Row, whether it is a a neighbour's loud piano-playing or a maid giving birth in the china closet while 'Mr Carlyle was taking tea in the dining-room with Miss Jewsbury talking to him!!! Just a thin small door between!' The open door to this closet is clearly visible in the Robert Tait painting of the two ground-floor rooms beautifully reproduced as the front and back endpapers of the Persephone edition. And because 24 Cheyne Row was bought by The Carlyle's House Memorial Trust, and is today run by the National Trust visitors can see the room exactly as it was when it was painted 150 years ago.
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it is a fascinating piece of social history combined with the everyday life of a great writer and in parts is hilarious.
fabulous book at a great price, i bought used copy and it arrived immediately in pristine condition complete with book-mark.
the book-mark is a copy of the endpapers from a painting of the carlyles favourite room. it is so evocative and cosy you can't wait to delve into the book and you won't be disappointed. enjoy.
Using letters and journals of the couple, we read in their own words of their doings: the endless servant problem, where Jane's hard-to-please nature coupled with the failings of her staff - drunkenness, incompetence, an illegitimate child - caused ongoing issues. Then the troubles with noisy neighbours and their chickens and endless piano playing, which so stressed the intolerant Thomas, and led to him making major renovations on the house in an unsuccessful effort to create a sound-proof study (Jane observed that "the silent room is the noisiest in the house.")
Money problems, pets, bedbugs, illnesses, clothing ... and against it all, Thomas struggling to keep writing, and a growing social life as they move up in the world.
A fascinating social document.
Many times Thomas has to abandon his home in order to get some peace and quiet and when the builders move in one almost feels for the couple when no less than NINE times do the various builders end up through the ceiling!
This book is a must! Modern day readers will find much to compare and Jane's turn of phrase will make you LOL!!!!
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