The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 20 February 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220220-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:51-52.


Haddington 3d March [20? February 1822]

Well Sir—I have to thank you for your last, which certainly is the most tasteful Epistle I ever, in my life, received. I verily believe there is not a word of it, that could offend the the nicest taste, or most musical ear— All is harmony, from beginning to end—and the Metaphor and Antithesis in which it abounds render the style surprisingly rich & striking— Surely with such a model of composition I should be satisfied! and yet (to the everlasting dishonour of my taste be it confessed) when I considered your letter attentively, instead of being in raptures with it, I was in a downright passion at myself for having been cheated, by the pleasure of the Ear into listening with momentary complacency to sentiments I had already heard over and over and over again.

Is it possible Mr Carlyle?— Can a Man of your genius and learning find nothing with which to entertain a young woman of an inquisitive spirit besides these weary, weary professions of regard, and apologies for making them?

Admire me—by all means admire me, since it be your pleasure so to do—but—for mercy's sake—let it, henceforth be in silence.— And tell me no more of the “helpless agitations” [agitations underscored twice]1 into which my displeasure throws you—if you would not have me to repeat the experiment, for my amusement—for, really, Mr Carlyle, in a state of ‘helpless agitation,’ at a girl's frown, is, to me, a far more ludicrous spectacle than the Elephant dancing waltzes to the beat of a little drum. But I must not take notice of your absurd expressions— Oh! No—that is very unkind— ‘It is cruel and unjust to be angry at what you say or do, for you Mean well.’— What an unfortunate Being I am!— From my childhood I have been in the habit of looking for peoples meaning in their words and actions only—and now, at the age of twenty, I discover that, (would I avoid judging cruelly and unjustly) these are the very things to which I must not on any account attend—

The sentiments you entertain towards my unhappy self seem to be now most thoroughly anatomized—the subject had, therefore, best be dismissed for ever, before your letters degenerate into absolute nonsense—. You are not my Friend—you are not my Lover— In the name of wonder, Sir what are you?—Oh!—I had forgot—‘A wreck!’—[‘]a perfect Wreck!!’— For Heaven's sake Mr Carlyle be, if you can, a Man—if not try at least to seem one.—

You need not send me any other book at present— If you have not lost both your wits and good nature in the wreck you have sustained pray translate these passages of Carlos for me— Tell me what you think of the lines on Nap.2— I like them—but as one favorite of mine wrote them, and another is the subject of them, I am rather a partial judge. You must not write to me for a long time— I have nothing more to say to you to day, for I have already written a letter of ten pages to Eliza Stodart and I am tired to death

Your Friend [Friend underscored twice]

Jane Baillie Welsh

You will find nothing but a letter and a book—if you will trust nothing to my free will I will yield nothing to your importunities—