The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 25 May 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220525-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:113-115.


Haddington 29th [25? May 1822]

My dear Sir

Your last letter passed me on my way to Edinr on Saturday, and only reached me on my return on Wednesday evening. You are ready to get into a mighty passion are you not? but stay a moment till you hear my defence.

I did not know I was going to town till a few hours before I set out; so that I had no time to instruct you of my intentions[.] While there my forenoons were entirely occupied in shopping, making calls, running after Dr Chalmers, walking to Slateford, 1 and seeing the Panorama of Naples,2 (which, by the way, if you have not seen you ought to see). My afternoons in dining out, or with a party at home— Had I been alone I could have arranged my time otherwise, and more to my own satisfaction; but my motions being dependent on my Mother it was utterly impossible for me to afford you one half hour, although I really wished it. I hope I need not say more. I have found you a reasonable being of late—as such then I shall treat you—

You were not better pleased with my last letter than I am with yours. Write always thus, speak always thus, and you will not find me the weak, inconsistent Being you take me for— The affectionate interest you take in my welfare can be disagreeable to me only when it seems likely to prove hurtful to yourself— But no more of this hateful subject. I trust we understand each other at last. and I may now enjoy your friendship without the dread of finding it one day converted into enmity—

My mind is still in an evil way— I came home full of wise resolutions— The dust, and bustle, and follies of Edinr made my heart turn again to study and retirement. I thought to rise at five on Thursday morning. but fatigue made my head bad. I slept till nine— I opened ‘Mary Stewart’3 after breakfast but Dr Fiffe4 interrupted me, and teazed me to play at shuttlecock till I consented— When we had finished: I observed the Piano open and Lord Byron's ‘fare thee well’ (my favorite song)5 staring me in the face: I sat down and played and sung badly till dinner time. The evening I spent as I spend too many, at an odious tea party. and by the time that I had heard little Charles Terrot6 say his prayers and got him put to bed my day was gone! And so have gone the following ones. Since my return I have read Atala,7 twelve lines of Mary Stewart; written two pages of two Novels, and four lines of an ode to Whilhelmina and moreover I have darned two rents in my gown behold the fruit of my resolution—the sum total of my labours. But I am resolved to make a vigorous effort tomorrow for it fills me with shame to lead a life like this (my horse is lame which is greatly in my favour)—

I like your project exceedingly— Do let us set about it forthwith— I admire your lines upon Napoleon very much and feel grateful to you for the kindness you there show him; for I am sure it is for my sake you have dealt with him so mercifully— Were I selfish I would almost regret you sent me these[—]they have made me so dissatisfied with my own. I do not like Atala— What tempted you to send me such nonsense?

Mr Irving told me you thought of entering the lists with Plutarch.8 Have you that project still in view. I liked it much. It is a pity you should allow year after year to glide away without making any vigorous effort to become known— You may suppose my wish to see my friends famous is one of the effects of my ruling foible—but surely there is nothing weak in longing to see those I love happy and filling the station in life Nature designed them for— I send you a little silly translation: of the verses you gave me long ago9— Don't laugh excessively at it. But write me a better that I may profit by discovering its defects[—] Give me a subject the next time you write.—

Forgive this very stupid letter. I am labouring under a severe headach[e] but I could not think of letting another day pass without writing lest you might fancy any thing the matter with me

Your sincere friend

Jane B Welsh

Shandy sends you his love.