The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 4 June 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210604-TC-JBW-01; CL 1:359-361.


Edinr, Robertson's Lodgs, 16. Carnegie-st. / 4th June, 1821—

My dear Friend,

If, on opening this paper, you expect to find any traces of that much vaunted list,1 you are about to be somewhat disappointed. Since quitting East Lothian, I have been so little in a condition to collect my ideas, or think seriously about any thing; and it seems withal so presumptuous an attempt in me to act as your tutor at present,—that really you must excuse me for a while. Besides—unless Fortune treat me even worse than usual—I am destined in process of time to know you far more intimately, and so to become far better qualified for contributing advantageously what little is mine to your improvement. Any way, you cannot be at a loss for employment till winter. Robertson and Hume (to be studied with the aid of maps and chronologies and so forth); Watson's Philip II & Philip III; Russel's Modern Europe; Voltaire's pretty little histories; with occasional excursions in the company of Tasso and De Staël—will amply fill up the summer, and very profitably also.2 Observe you are not to read much: not for the gallant Captain's3 reason; but because it will prejudice your health—which I will not allow you ever to endanger on any account.

Noehden's Grammar4 is not to be found in the whole city: so they have sent to London for it; and I fear you cannot have it in less than three weeks. Be patient, however: should the military Musician5 have ‘taken a giddiness’ and shifted his quarters before that period, I protest I would not give a penny (or rather I would give many, many) to come eastward as far as Haddington myself, and deliver such a lesson on those Saxon roots as you never heard. Positively, I must see you soon—or I shall get into a very absurd state. And then if I should come to visit Jane herself professedly; what would Jane say to it? What would Jane's friends say? Would to Heaven some authorized person would ‘force me to go voluntarily!’6

But I forget. It is not of my own concerns, it is of yours I have to write at present. And therefore it is time to introduce the books to your notice, which have caused all this scribbling. The Germany,7 except the first volume, I cannot get—at least for a day or two. The other will perhaps interest you more, at any rate:— There is no hurry in returning either.— I hope you will like Mad. de Staël. She is misty and inconsistent here and there, it is true; she has none of that sprightliness, that bland and sparkling wit, which so gracefully adorns the higher qualities of a young lady I once met with: but if a brilliant imagination, a magnificent intellect, a noble heart, can yield you any delight; then here is for you! Professors of Divinity and other old women think poor Wilhelmina8 crazy,—which is all very just and natural.

Now when you have read these volumes, I pray you to consider if it would be quite contrary to Law—‘clean again rules’ (as the creature Dougal phrased it)9—to tell me in three words what you think of the Lady de Staël; to say whether, her cousin, the Lady Jane is well and happy; and whether the latter has ever deigned to cast one glance of recollection on those few Elysian hours we spent together lately? Certainly this seems a very simple matter in itself; and taking into view the satisfaction it will confer on a fellow-creature I do not see how you can spend a half-hour better than in performing it. No doubt you may refuse me; you may even forbid me to repeat such questions, however nearly the answer concern me. But it will be very cruel if you do: and even then there will be one unalienable comfort left me—the comfort, that, no man, woman or child can hinder me to cherish ‘within the secret cell of the heart,’ as long and as tenderly as I please, those sentiments of deep and affectionate interest, which I have thought meet to conceive towards you. Here I am a perfect Sultan, absolute as the Great Solyman10 himself.

But alas! three o'clock is at hand; and this wonderful compound of pedagogy and sentimentality and absurdity must conclude. Excuse my impertinences. You see I never dream of remembering, that, we have not yet been quite twenty years acquainted. It seems as if we had known each other from infancy upwards, and I were simply your elder Brother. You would cut me to the quick of the heart, if you took offence at this. But you will not, I know. Addio, Donna mia cara [Farewell, my dear lady]!

Faithfully Your's, /

Thomas Carlyle.

My best regards to your kind and hospitable Mother. I could love her for her own sake, and she is your mother.

The Milton 11 is from Irving.— For God's sake write to me,—if you can: if not—not; but three lines are all I ask.