TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 13 November 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18231113-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:471-475.
TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH
Kinnaird House, 13th November, 1823—
My dearest Jane,
Your letter, which I received this moment, has distressed me very much. It is needless to say that I felt impatient and unhappy at your silence: day or night more or less immediately, your image is ever present with me; and uncertainty is in such cases always the parent of uneasiness. It struck me once or twice that you might be unwell; but I thought it foolish to entertain such black imaginations, most probably the mere result of my own unquiet and too forecasting mind. Alas! alas! there was no imagination here; you have been sick, and it is too plain that you are still sick. To think that you should be oppressed with bodily disease, that the pure sanctuary of your being should be darkened and deformed by the continual intrusion of material pain—I declare it is enough to make me utterly desperate. Oh! I know it, for six1 long miserable years I have known it: it is the most frightful sentence which Heaven in its wrath can pass upon a mortal. And good God! if you should die, and leave me destitute and lonely in this world, which your presence almost alone still paints for me with some colours of beauty and hope! O Jane! if my happiness is dear to you, as I know it is, you will be doubly careful of your precious health. Do, I conjure you for my sake, make this your first and most essential study. Should it not be so? If any thing befal you, what are we both?
But why should I dwell on this dark side of the picture. Your mother will nurse you, and force you to take care of yourself; you will be quite well; I trust in God you will. As for the cap, I do not mind it: you had on a cap the first time I saw you, and nothing could become you better. You were the loveliest creature! I shall never forget that summer's evening while I exist.
In your letters for a long time I have noticed something like a tone of subdued distress, a kind of melancholy, which while it makes me love you more tenderly, convinces me too clearly that you are not happy. My beloved Jane, you must strive against these things; you must not take the business of life so heavily upon you. I am not for preaching patience: it is a virtue of which neither you nor I were born to make successful profession. We are restless, sleepless creatures, whose enjoyment lies in the very struggle for enjoyment. It is for your discontent, in circumstances where so many of your sex would think themselves supremely happy, that I love and honour you. Let it be the incitement to strenuous enterprize: but do not give way to despondency, or fret yourself with regrets. I have told you often that your longings and efforts would not be in vain: every day I see new reason to repeat the prophecy. Your very diffidence is to me fresh evidence of the generous power that lies in the faculties of your heart and head. “Genius,” says Schiller, “is ever a secret to itself.”2 So it is, if my experience of men have taught me any thing. Coleridge says he never knew a youth of real talents that did not labour under bashfulness and disbelief in his own ability.3 I could prove all this to you, if I had room; but it is not necessary. A noble spirit you have in you, the noblest I have ever seen; with your unwearied eagerness, this must in time display itself in its full proportions; and is not that the great aim and object of your life? I tell you all must and shall be well. Yes, you will marry; but do something far more glorious than “make puddings”; you shall make immortal food for the souls of generous men in lands and ages that you have never seen and never can see. My mother says “they that meaned at a gowden gown got aye the sleeve”;4 an honest proverb, and full of truth. Never despond, my heroic Jane! Your path is full of difficulties, but have you not an immortal goal before you? Above all, my darling, never cease to tell me all your sorrows real and imaginary. It is absolutely impossible that you should ever “vex” or “tire” me with the recital of these things. Nor can the disclosure of them ever lower you in my esteem, knowing as I do by dire experience how all these matters are. Betide you what may, succesful or not successful in the high purposes that give a new splendour to your character, my esteem, my reverence and love remains with you unaltered—a love that is extending itself into the deepest sources of my nature, and becoming more and more commingled with whatever of happiness or dignity I look for in this world. This it seems to me is something for both of us: we cannot be alone, however it may be. What Fortune may determine concerning us I know not: but I know that our souls were fashioned for one another by the hand of Nature, I know that we love one another, and that nothing but our own resolutions can destroy that most delightful of sentiments.
I really wish much you would make up your mind to tell me every thing that you wish and intend and dislike and fear. It appears to me, that if we once saw the whole case plainly before us, much might be done to remedy the evils you have to complain of. For I am not blind to the grievances with which your present situation is beset. You are among people whom you cannot sympathize with, who do not understand you, whose officious interference but makes worse what it means to remedy. Your intellectual progress is obstructed, and you have no aim in common with those about you, the success of which might be a compensation. I wish to Heaven, you were my Sister—since it must be so. I would take you down to the Land's End with me;5 I would be your teacher, your guardian, you should be my presiding spirit, the cheerer of all my woes, the directress of all my concerns and actions. Oh! we would love one another till death, and care no jot about all the vulgar people in the solar system! But it is needless to talk of this; you are not my Sister, where you are thither I cannot come. Nevertheless, we love one another, and place no bounds to our mutual confidence. Let us unite our judgements, and see what can be done to redress these evils that obstruct and harrass us. I myself am soon going to be next to frantic, unless I can arrange my destiny more according to my mind. We will! we shall get over these things: this disquietude that is in both of us assures me of it. “Love and friendship shall encircle our kindred souls,” we shall both of us be happy and great in our day!
I am coming down about this time three weeks, when we shall discuss all these affairs, growing more important to us every day. Pity that some angel would not descend and tell us what to do! Never mind this Lybussa: you are taking far too much pains with it; consider it the refreshment not the occupation of your mind, and you will prosper better in it. Do not dream of writing it twice over; printers can read any thing; I will get it copied for you, if need be. It is but the tottering of a mind that will yet soar. Will you have Doering's Schiller6 and write a Life of him for Brewster? Think of this[.]
My own miserable Life gets on drearily; the second Part is not much more than half done! I am next to dead, every night at six, when I begin it; and two pages I reckon a feat extraordinary. Poor Devil! I wonder what is to become of me. Goethe has been dormant for five weeks. It is to be printed in February: I have stipulated so with these Bullers—for leave to be in Edinr till May. On the whole I will struggle forward, tho' at the rate of an inch per week, while there is a spark of life left within me; I will die if it must be so, still struggling forward.
I feel a considerable temptation to cut these Bullers. The place does nothing earthly for me but bring in two hundred pounds a year, and without at all employing, it occupies at least three fourths of my time. Woe is me that I cannot live on air! One thing I am resolved upon: it is to live no more under their roof, if February were here. Mrs Buller has the secret of spending seven or eight thousand a year with a minimum of comfort, more completely than any lady I ever saw. Extravagance and poorest parsimony, splendour and meanness— Your house at Haddington has not only ten times the real substantial means of enjoyment in it, but is even more genteel, than ours with all our efforts, and I should suppose about ten or twelve times the expence. If I were in Buller's place, I would swallow ratsbane. To roast out thirty years of his best beneath the burning sky of India, and come home to this! He is the most honest patient good soul I ever saw— But this is no concern of mine; farther than that having convinced myself that health can never be restored to me under Mrs B's menage, I have signified to them my purpose of withdrawing. This they struggled to oppose, invited me earnestly to suggest amendments, spoke in the most friendly terms, and told me that if I went to Cornwall, I should but have the eldest and best of my pupils to attend to, and might live in a house of my own. Adhuc sub lite est [It is yet undecided]. They expect me to go, I observe; but it still remains to be considered, whether for the sake of such a sum and five hours daily to be spent for it, I should move so far, and make so many changes. We will talk of this when I come down. Would you forget me if I went to Cornwall? This often strikes me to the heart.
But I must not waste all my sheet, till I have told you the message, such as it is. There are two German Books with you, I think; Jack is come into Edinr and needs to give them in to the Library. They can be sent back to you immediately if you wish it. Will you transmit them to Jonathan as soon as convenient. His address is: Robertson's Lodgings, 35 Bristo-street. He will be proud to furnish you with any books you want. This too we must arrange.— Now remember, my own Jane, what reason I have to feel anxieties about you, and what a case I shall be in unless you write to me without delay. O Do write— I shall imagine you are dead—if you keep so long silent another time. If you cannot fill a sheet; give me half or quarter. Your fortune is mine—let me know it, whatever it is. Adieu my heart's beloved! I am your own thro' life and death,