I have been meaning to write to you without waiting for New Year’s Day; but in all my life I never have been so driven off letter-writing as since the repairs began in this house. There were four months of that confusion, which ended quite romantically, in my having to sleep with loaded pistols at my bedside! the smell of paint making it as much as my life was worth to sleep with closed windows, and the thieves having become aware of the state of the premises. Once they got in and stole some six pounds’ worth of things, before they were frightened away by a candlestick falling and making what my Irish maid called ‘a devil of a row’. It was rather to be called ‘an angel of a row’, as it saved further depredation. Another time they climbed up to the drawing-room windows, and found them fastened, for a wonder! Another night I was alarmed by a sound as of a pane of glass cut, and leapt out of bed, and struck a light, and listened, and heard the same sound repeated, and then a great bang, like breaking in some panel. I took one of my loaded pistols, and went downstairs, and then another bang which I perceived was at the front door. ‘What do you want?’ I asked; ‘who are you?’ ‘It’s the policeman, if you please; do you know that your parlour windows are both open?’ It was true! I had forgotten to close them, and the policeman had first tried the bell, which made the shivering sound, the wire being detached from the bell, and when he found he could not ring it he had beaten on the door with his stick, the knocker being off while it was getting painted. I could not help laughing at what the man’s feelings would have been had he known of the cocked pistol within a few inches of him.
Jane Welsh Carlyle, Letters. 1852
see also James Greenwood in Odd People in Odd Places - click here