The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 7 May 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220507-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:107-108.


Haddington / Tuesday [7 May 1822]

Dear Sir

I would have returned Delphine1 long ago had you not sent Henry2 along with it— She is a most fascinating Being I have liked no body half so well for a great while— I ought not (at least sage people say I ought not) to admire the book, nevertheless I cannot for my life help liking it better than any novel of six volumes I ever read— I declare the idea of having Madame de Stael for an acquaintance in the world of spirits makes me half wish to die— As to Henry He is a downright blockhead and had you not desired me to read it I would have taken an everlasting farewell of his ‘probablys’ and ‘we may supposes’ in the first half dozen pages— I have toiled with a vexed spirit through the whole volume, and, after all, the materials I have got would make but a starved Tragedy—

I have neither genius taste nor commonsense—I have no courage no industry no perseverance—and how in the name of wonder can I write a tragedy— I am not at all the sort of person you and I took me for— I begin to think that I was actually meant by nature to be a fine Lady— My friends that is my acquaintances have told me this all along but I would not believe them— For the last month however I have shown lamentable symptoms of a tendency that way— I have spent all my time in riding on horseback, dressing three times a day, singing Italian airs, and playing at shuttlecock! Dear Sir what will cure me? I have just enough of reason left to perceive I am in a bad way—if another such month passes over me—I am a lost woman—even my ambition is expiring very fast. I am as proud of striking the shuttlecock two hundred times as if I had written two hundred admirable verses— the certainty I have felt for some time that I will never excell the hundreds of female Novelists who infest the kingdom is the chief cause of this sudden change in my tastes and pursuits—and what can cure the want of talents? Oh dear me! I shall never hold a respectable place among literary ladies—but I know I can be a first rate fine Lady whenever I please—the temptation is strong[;] furnish me with an antidote if you can— I am not capable of designing a tragedy at present— Indeed I do not see how one can make the story of Boadicea sufficiently interesting[.] For Mercy's sake sketch it for me and I will if I can fill it up— I am not to be in town during the assembly3—possibly my Mother may be there for a day but I will not accompany her— I wish you may be able to read this I am in the most dreadful hurry ever poor wretch was in—

Yours Truly

Jane Baillie Welsh