chapter  4
26 Pages

Froude: the ‘painful appendix’

Some few months into the new century, a ‘bright, alert, middle-aged, and intelligent Scotswoman’ crossed the threshold of the Carlyle House on Cheyne Row. The ensuing incident was reported by the custodian of the museum to Mr Reginald Blunt, who in turn recounted it to the readers of the Cornhill Magazine in September 1901. Having signed the visitors’ book as ‘Mrs Broadfoot of Thornhill, the woman ‘went all over the house with keen interest and obvious familiarity, remarking the changes which had taken place in its arrangements, and recalling, as she passed from room to room, the old positions of the furniture and belongings’. Tipped off, no doubt, by Jessie Broadfoot’s tell-tale knowledge of the innards of the house (who else would set store by the ‘arrangements’ and the position of furniture?) the custodian drew from her the fact that she had worked there as housemaid in the months just before and after Jane Welsh Carlyle’s death.