The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 4 July 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230704-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:392-394.


Kinnaird House, 4th July, 1823—

My dear Jane,

On opening this letter I fear you will think I am growing one of the most troublesome fellows in the world. You can hardly yet have read the long narcotic epistle which I sent you with the German books; and ere two days have elapsed I am writing again! It is not without reluctance that I plague you so soon; but a sad embarrassment constrains me.

One of my finest hopes for the last six weeks was that of passing a day or two beside you, as I travelled into Annandale: this bright anticipation I am now in great danger of failing to get realized. These Bullers are persons about as steady in their resolves as the tarnished weathercock that creaks above their coach-house: in place of August, when I was to get away, it now turns out that July is the time. Another flight of visitors threatens to alight here very shortly; and all parties seem to concur in the wish (I the most zealously of any) that they and I may not meet. Kinnaird House is small, they need my rooms: I am sick of the inanities of hunting Captains, Jesus'-College Jockies, and silly women; a fresh arrival I would gladly avoid. So after much sage counsel it has been decided that I leave this place on the evening of Friday the 11th—that is precisely this night week. Next day and till Sunday I shall most likely be in Dundee, visiting an afflicted Schoolmaster—afflicted by Methodist squires and dowagers—but intrinsically one of the most honest souls now alive. Poor Johnston1 was the guide and companion of my boyhood; he may well claim all the very slender counsel or encouragement which I can now give him. On Monday I arrive in Edinr, and may then go to the east or the west as I think fit.

Now what is to be done, my dear? Must I turn home without seeing you, and begin a month, intended for enjoyment, in a humour soured by such a disappointment, instead of sweetened by all the inspirations I looked forward to? The odds I confess are against me, but I will not give up without an effort. If you are in Haddington, all may yet be well. In that case you will get my letter on Monday morning first; you will immediately take counsel with your Mother and yourself whether it may be fit to grant the p[r]ayer of my petition; and then, like a fine creature as you are, let me know the result without delay. If your letter be in Edinr any time before ten o'clock on Thursday-evening, I calculate that it will find me here at least three hours before my departure. Should the response prove propitious, I shall linger no moment in that miserable City; most probably I shall be with you on the very day of my arrival there.

This will be a glorious thing, as you may well believe: but alas! it is too uncertain to be reckoned on. Perhaps you are still at Templand; in which case, all the project is a castle in the air. Perhaps, tho' arrived at home, there are a hundred weighty reasons, which forbid you to see me. Against these, do not think that I should murmur: you know sufficiently that I am now become quite an obedient subject, determined only not to quarrel with your will, in matters where it ought to be supreme. Most of the remaining hopes that still make life endurable, at times delightful, to me are connected with you; to see you therefore must be one of my chief wishes: but in all things which mutually concern us, you have long ago received an arbitrary jurisdiction, and well has the business prospered in your hands. Continue the same skilful management: in all matters great and small I have resolved to obey you cheerfully. Let me see or not see you, your orders shall be executed: the only decision, that I totally and with all my soul protest against, is one which nothing but a wicked demon could inspire you with, the decision that we are to part. To this I will never consent. Never! you may do what you please to make me; may force me to hold my peace about it, but not to acquiesce in it: I will say that it was a wrong decision with my dying breath. But in all other points, I am “as clay in the hands of the potter”;2 direct me according to your own sovereign will and pleasure, and see whether I will not comply!

If no letter come from you next week, I shall infer that you are still in Nithsdale; and shall again beg that I may be allowed to see you as I return to the North. You will write to me every week in Annandale? I shall be there after the Monday-night; and asking every day for letters from you. Yet do not strain yourself: if disappointed I shall only [be]lieve that you are too much occupied for writing to me, never that you are too careless of me. No, my own kind Jane! that is a thing I will not believe. The glorious fact that you are my friend is dear to me as his creed is to a bigot; I will hold fast my conviction of it till I can hold it no longer. Yet you will write me long letters often often? Will you not? Yes you will.

Some great revolution must take place in my poor history ere long. There are things tossing up and down this wretched soul of mine that must finally drive me mad, or kill me, or come out of me in some shape. God only knows how it shall be! There are times when I feel it sinful not to let go your hand forever: it is with me as if I were enveloped in the rushing of a mighty whirlwind that is dashing me onward to regions of unknown wildness and danger; and it seems very cruel to entice you from the sunny places you inhabit to take any share in a fate so dark and perilous. O My best beloved Jane! it would be a pang more bitter than any that ever struck thro' my heart, if I had to think that your happiness had been marred by me. As it was, I could have lived a kind of petrified existence, hoping nothing, loving nothing, fearing nothing; and died, when my time came, like a toil-worn slave, casting by his drudgery, and lying down to sleep where tasks and stripes shall never more awake him. As it is, an elysian world is near me to tempt my footsteps, and my presence may desolate and blast it forever. God help us both! I know not what to say or think of it.

Are you laughing at me? Perhaps it is best: for the picture has a bright as well as dark side, and it is useless to gaze too much upon the latter. Suppose this genius that is in us—for there is a kind of genius in us both—tho' of what extent I cannot guess, but there it is I could swear on the evangile—suppose it were developed fully and set before the world!— Fame, and wealth enough, and peace, and everlasting love to crown the whole!— O my Jane, what a life were ours! There is no Emperor that ever swayed the world whom I would change with. But we are both foolish persons, both far too ambitious—can we ever be happy? One thing alone is certain: I will love you to the last breath of my life, come of it what may. So God be with you my best Jane! There is nothing that I fear but for you. Adieu!3

Th: Carlyle.