1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 14 March 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240314-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:46-48.


Haddington Sunday [14 March 1824]

Dearest! I looked for your letter on monday as my reward for a weeks diligence; and I was not disappointed. It is very good of you to write me such charming long letters, when you are over head and ears in business. Indeed I can never wonder enough at your kindness to me in all things; it is really very affecting! God grant that some day or other I may deserve it! this hope is the only thing that keeps me from quar[r]elling with myself outright, when I think of all my demerits in the time past. I declare I am very much of Mr Kemp's1 way of thinking, that ‘certain persons are possessed of devils even in the present times.’ Nothing less than a Devil (I am sure) could have tempted me to torment you and myself, as I did, on that unblessed day. Woe to me then! if I had had any other than the most constant and generous of mortal men to deal with. Blessings on your equanimity and magnanimity! you are a dear, good, patient Genius. You are sure you forgive me? forgive me in the very core of your heart? I would rather pay you another dozen of shillings than that you should bear me the smallest grudge.

For the first time these great many months I am not ashamed to tell you how I have been living. For two whole weeks I have rigidly adhered to my new system. It will a[n]swer well I find. By the help of the Lord I have been upon my feet every morning by half after seven; and throughout the day I have not suffered anything or anybody to interfere with my tasks. Indeed it will be all my own fault if I relapse into idleness in my present circumstances: for there are very few obstacles, and no temptations at all in the way of my industry. My Archenemy headach[e] is fairly beaten off the field; and what with the explosion of the combustible Doctor, and the progress of the Lewinists or the Holy alliance as it is called heer, I am delivered from many interruptions that used to vex me grievously[.] This Dr Lewins (you must know) is a rascally practitioner of medicine, who settled here as an opponent to my Uncle Benjamin, and waged an exterminating pamphlet-war against him. But my poor Uncle was an overmatch for him; the excited feelings of the whole county were on his side; his name was deemed a sufficient guarantee for his ability and honourable conduct; and the proper spirit with which he met the other's attacks, non timens bella non provocans [neither shunning nor seeking the fight], obliged him at last to desist. If the hotheaded Doctor had depen[d]ed for a livelihood on the favour of the public, he must have long ago either starved, or shifted his quarters; but as the devil would have it, his wife has a handsome jointure, and he can give dinners and run a fine gig without asking anyone's leave, and so it is; tho' four years ago he was hooted out of all decent company as a lying unfeeling Bravo, he has so dined and gig[g]ed himself into favour again that a powerful faction has conspired to bear him out through thick and thin. Our connection with Mr Howden,2 as well as the reccolection of his infamous conduct towards my Uncle requires that we should set our faces stoutly against such doings: and the rivalry and animosity that is betwixt our party and his is come to such a pitch that I am in daily expectation of a general running to arms. It is not Dr Fyffes fault that we are not at it tooth and nail by this time: he has twice given Lewins the lie to his face; but no challenge has ensued—nor will— That gallant Dr likes better to fight with pens than with pistols; quietissimus in ipsa discrimine qui ante discrimen fortissimus [he who was boldest before was meekest in the fight].3 But this is a most unmerciful digression—however if you knew with what party fury every individual hereabouts has entered into this medical contest you would not wonder that I have caught the infection of it.4 What I was meaning to explain to you is that in consequence of the split in our commonwealth not to hard a manner for me to keep to the regulations which I have laid down for myself in the disposal of my time. Not that I should mind in the smallest disobliging these calling people by refusing to have any thing to say to them; I value their most vile voices not a straw— But the mischief is, I cannot disoblige them without running the risk of disobliging my Mother also; and domestic accordance I find to be absolutely indispensible to that tranquil frame of mind which is proper for study— To avoid those who are still in the practice of breaking in upon us before one oclock, I have excogitated an expedient for which I think I deserve some credit. While my Mother was colded we got into a way of breakfasting in her dressingroom, and finding that this arrangement, by which two pairs of stairs and a great many wooden doors are interposed between me and my enemies, contributed very considerably to my security, I managed to have it continued after my Mother got well again. I was still liable however to be sent for to the dining room, and must then either have complied or have irritated my Mother by a point blank refusal. The way I have fallen upon to avoid this inconvenience is the simplest that can well be imagined, and nevertheless it has hitherto proved effectual. When I get up in the morning I merely dash the sleep out of my eyes with cold water, comb up my hair and whip on my dressing-gown, taking care never to dress myself till after one oclock, As my Mother discovers no deeper motive in this proceeding than laziness or perhaps economy she does not at all object to it—and now—observe—when any one comes she knows well enough that I am not fit to be seen and so does not make any attempt to produce me. My paper is almost filled, and I have still a great many things to say to you; but as my affection for you is great I cannot find in my heart to cross such writing as this and will keep them all till another opportunity. When shall I have more of Meister? I do not know yet what to think of it. I cannot seperate your interest in it from Göethes, or my own opinion of it from what is likely to be the opinion of the public. I wish however it had not been so queer. My Mother sends her best regards. She was highly pleased with your last letter. depend upon it my friend it is for the good of us both that she is admitted into our correspondence. So remember! no darlings or anything of that nature in English; but never mind that, my heart supplies them for you w[h]erever they can be crammed in. When will you write[?] on Sunday at farthest— God bless you Ever

devotedly yours

Jane Welsh