The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 4 February 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230204-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:283-284.


3. Moray-street, 4th Feby, 1823—

My dear Friend,

I daresay, if you have nothing better to occupy your thoughts, you have already marked me down for a very ungrateful or very lazy person, because I have not sooner answered your kind and most acceptable letter. This, like many of your conclusions and mine, is far too hasty and quite erroneous. By and by, you will find that I have written you no fewer than three epistles since that date; two of which by the cruel hand of fate have been sent to the flames instead of to Haddington, and the third is still lying among Corinna and a heap of other books waiting till the Coach begins running, to come and pay its respects to you. Certainly, since the retreat from Moscow, there has been no weather like this: it would do credit to the northernmost point of Nova Zembla.1 It is really quite piteous to see the once hale and portly Burghers of this City, all shrunk together, and cowering about under cloaks and dreadnoughts and plaids of every description, their eyes streaming with tears, their lips cracked, their noses as blue as indigo;—now encrusted with snow or soaked in rain, now wading ancle-deep in melting ice, now tottering on slippery pavements, and ever and anon rushing down to the bosom of their frosty Mother with a squelch which astonishes the whole neighbourhood. The very dandies have forgot their struts and simperings as they walk: you may see their heels make a sudden sweep from beneath them, and point for a moment to the zenith, in an attitude, which Vestris2 never practiced. All this is quite heart-breaking—at least to a benevolent character: but it is one of those sorrows which complaining cannot mend; so I leave it to time and patience, “the sovran'st things on Earth”3 for such ailments.

With regard to this much-valued “invitation”, I have already told you half a dozen times, and myself about five hundred, that I will come, if the life be in me. The object of my scrawling at present is to ask you whether Friday week will do—that is the second Friday from this date? If so, I propose to drink tea with you that evening, to spend Saturday and Sunday in talking about all manner of things with you, and then return on Monday-morning. You will write to me as soon as you have a moment's leisure to let me know whether this will answer; and if it do, you may expect me without farther notice[.] Present my kindest compliments to your mother, and say all that is necessary on such an occasion. I cannot tell you how glad I am that things have turned out this way: I am going in future to obey your behests in all these things with the most implicit submission; you alone are fit to guide the commonwealth, my interference does nothing but drive it to confusion. Will you write to me this week—for I am anxious to know your determination. It is a whole twelvemonth since I have seen your face; but in ten days I shall, in spite of fate.

Excuse my haste and ineptitude, and this “diabolical pen.” Write to me the first moment you have. I hope you will get the books one of these days. In the mean time be happy and contented in the interruption of your studies; we will set that and all other matters to rights when we meet: you have studied most heroically for the last three months; if we had our plans arranged, you will go on triumphantly. On Friday, then, I shall see you? God bless you, My dear Jane!

I am ever, / Your most affectionate Friend, /

Thomas Carlyle—

Tell your Mother that Corinna is coming, and that she may keep it, if once in her hands, as long as she likes.