In 1973, G.B. Tennyson described her as
One of the rare Victorian wives who are of literary interest in their own right...to be remembered as one of the great letter writers (in some respects her husband’s superior) of the nineteenth century is glory beyond the dreams of avarice.Jane had been introduced to Carlyle by her tutor Edward Irving, with whom she came to have a mutual romantic (although not sexually intimate) attraction.
The couple married in 1826 and for the first six years lived on a farm in Scotland; the marriage was often unhappy. Thomas was always busy writing and Jane remained dutiful in doing the housework. Their voluminous correspondence has been published, and the letters show that the couple's affection for each other was marred by frequent quarrels. Samuel Butler once wrote: "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four". Carlyle's biographer James Anthony Froude posthumously published his opinion that the marriage remained unconsummated.
Historian Paul Johnson notes in Creators that she not only irked her husband but made prickly comments about others, such as fellow female writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), of whom she said: "She looks Propriety personified. Oh, so slow!"
Jane was also jealous of a friendship her husband had with a woman named Lady Ashburton. The friendship was non-sexual yet Thomas and Lady Ashburton still spent a lot of time together. Jane expressed her jealousy and anger in a letter dated in 1856.
Jane had a long lasting relationship (1840-1866) with fellow writer Geraldine Jewsbury. The two women first met when Thomas invited Geraldine out to Cheyne Row, where Thomas and Jane resided. Geraldine had written Thomas prior to the invitation admiring his work and also expressing her religious doubt. Geraldine was going through a depressive time, but she also reached out to Thomas in the hopes of entering the literary realm in England. When Geraldine and Jane met, their friendship turned out to be more of a romantic relationship. It is evident both women had feelings for each other, but there is no evidence of them being lesbian lovers. Jane always remained dutiful to her husband and neither had acted upon any romantic feelings. This caused a lot of jealousy between the two women as Jane always remained married to Thomas and Geraldine had lovers of her own. However, they both had passionate feelings towards one another and that passion in expressed in their many letters to one another.
They often had disagreements about common social issues of the era such as the place of men in women's lives and the purpose of women in general. Geraldine wasn't opposed to marriage, but she thought man and woman should be equal and marriage whereas she didn't witness that with Jane and Tom. Jane often tried to set up Geraldine with suitable bachelors in London. However, none of them stuck (Geraldine ended up never marrying).
When they were on good terms, Jane helped Geraldine with many of her literary works. Jane helped edit two of Geraldine's most popular novels, Zoe: the History of Two Lives and The Half Sisters. Jane was often burdened with the work, however, and also showed some jealousy over Geraldine's literary success. She had trouble accepting how social Geraldine was and how many more friends she had as well.
In 1857 Geraldine became romantically involved with Walter Mantell. The two women became very distant from one another and when they did write letters to each other, they were fighting.
Towards the end of her life Jane was very ill. Geraldine would spend time taking care of her friend and liked feeling needed by her. When Jane was feeling better, however, she would turn to Tom instead. Geraldine was often jealous of that fact.
These two women had a very interesting relationship from a romantic, literary, and friendly perspective. Virginia Woolf based her article Times Literary Supplement on Geraldine's letters to Jane Carlyle. Their passionate relationship was recognized among their literary peers despite the ups and downs of their friendship.
The Scottish philosopher David George Ritchie, a friend of the Carlyle family, published a volume of her letters in 1889 under the title The Early Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle. Thomas published his highly self-critical "Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle" out of guilt after he read her diary posthumously.
Otherwise, Jane didn't act upon her literary talent. She was once thought to have written Jane Eyre, but she never went so far as to even co-author a novel with Geraldine.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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