TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 23 June 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240623-TC-JBW-02; CL 3:82-86.
TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH
Kew-Green, 23 June, 1824—
Dearest— Were I to delay longer it would seem unkind, and you might feel uneasy on account of me; yet if I write at present, it must be under the most importunate distractions, and vaguely as a man writes in a scene foreign to him, and among many circumstances which perplex him. Ever since parting with you, I have been bowled about incessantly; continually in motion, my thoughts also have been fitful, brief and manycoloured: I have laid up the materials of some ideas, but as yet they are unworked, and their presence excludes those that lay finished in my mind before. But to you, my süsse[s] Liebchen [sweet darling], any thing from me has a value not intrinsic or dependent on its own qualities. You will peruse my travel's history with patience; and in return for it, you will send me your own; full frank and instantly. Will you not?
I had the most melancholy sail to London. Cross winds, storms, and what was ten times worse, dead calms, and the stupidest society in nature. Sir David Innes, if indeed he be a knight of flesh and blood and not a mere shadowy personification of Dulness, snored assiduously beside me all night, and talked the most polite ineptitudes all day. He had a large long head like a sepulchral urn; his face pockpitted, hirsute and bristly was at once vast and hatchet-shaped. He stood for many hours together with his left hand laid upon the boat on the middle of the deck, and the thumb of his right hand stuck firmly with its point on the hip joint; his large blue rheumy eyes gazing on vacancy, the very image of thick-lipped musing. Captain Smith was of quite an opposite species, brisk, lean, whisking, smart of speech and quick in bowing; but if possible still more inane than Dulness. These two, Dulness and Inanity, contrived to tell me, in the course of our voyage, nearly all the truisms which natural and moral science have yet enriched the world withal. They demonstrated to me that sea-sickness was painful, that sea-captains ought to be expert, that London was a great city, that the Turks eat opium, that the Irish were discontented, that brandy would intoxicate. Oh! I thought I should have given up the ghost! Monsieur Dubois a Strasburgher, Lord Bute's factotum, with his flageolet, his vaillant Troubadour and his Es hatt' ein Bauer ein Schönes Weib,1 alone contributed to save me. I laughed at him every day about an hour. On Sunday, do you suppose I was very gay? The Bass2 was standing in sight all day; and I recollected where the Sunday before I had been sitting beside you in peace and quietness at home! But time and hours wear out the roughest day:3 next Friday at noon we were winding slowly thro' the forest of masts in the Thames up to our station at Tower wharf. The giant bustle, the coal-heavers, the bargemen, the black buildings, the ten thousand times ten thousand sounds and movements of that monstrous harbour formed the grandest object I had ever witnessed. One man seems as a drop in the ocean; you feel annihilated in the immensity of that heart of all the Earth.
The good Orator and his ‘dear Isabella’ welcomed me with cordial words and looks; I thanked them from the bottom of my heart; for kindness in a strange land, is doubly kind. I staid with them till yesterday, and got along far better than I had anticipated. The orator is mended since I saw him at Dunkeld: he begins to see that his honours are not supernatural; and his honest practical warmth of heart is again becoming the leading feature in his character. Depend upon it, my dearest, you must not cast this man entirely away. He still loves you; he still means to attach you to him by substantial services. He contemplates your journey to London next Summer as a thing certain; a thing from which you and he are both to derive much enjoyment and advantage. I said you seemed indisposed to it now; and that was all I said. Do not cast him quite away, if you can help it: as men go, there are very very few that even approach him in true worth, deducting all his faults; and true affection is so precious that any touch of it intermingled even with many other feelings in the bosom of an honest man is worth the keeping.
How I spent my time in London I will take a week to tell you when we meet. I have seen some notable characters; of whom I long to speak with you at large. Mrs Montagu4 (do not tremble) is a stately matron with a quick intellect and a taste for exciting sentiments which two qualities by dint of much management in a longish life she has elaborated into the materials of a showy, tasteful, clear sighted, rigid, and I fancy cold manner of existence, intended rather for itself and for being looked at, than for being used to any useful purpose in the service of others. She loves and admires the orator beyond all others: me she seems to like better than I like her. I have also seen and scraped acquaintance with Procter (Barry Cornwall) he is a slender, rough-faced, palish, gentle, languid looking man of three or four & thirty; there is a dreamy mildness in his eye; he is kind and good in his manners and I understand in his conduct: he is a poet by the ear and the fancy, but his heart and [his] intellect are not strong, he is is [sic] a small poet. I am also a nascent friend [of] Allan Cunningham's;5 my dear modest, kind, good-humoured Allan. He has his [Niths]dale accent as faithfully as if he had never crossed the border; he seems not to know that he is any thing beyond a reading Mason.6 Yet I will send you his books, and tell you of him; and you will find in him a genius of no common make. I have also seen Thomas Campbell: him I like worst of all. He is heartless as a little Edinburgh Advocate; there is a smirk on his face which would befit a shopman or an auctioneer; his very eye has the cold vivacity of a conceited worldling. His talk is small, contemptuous and shallow: the blue frock and trowsers, the eye glass, the wig, the very fashion of his bow proclaim the literary dandy. His wife7 has black eyes, a fair skin, a symmetrical but vulgar face; and she speaks with that accursed Celtic accent, a twang which I never yet heard associated with any manly or profitable thought or sentiment; which to me is but the symbol of Highland vanity and filth and famine. ‘Good heavens!’ cried I, on coming out, ‘does literature then lead to this? Shall I too by my utmost efforts realize nothing but a stupid Gaelic wife, with the pitiful gift of making verses; and affections cold as those of a tinker's cuddie? With nothing to love but my own paltry self and what belongs to it? My proudest feelings rivalled, surpassed by Lord Petersham,8 and the whole population of Bond-Street? God forbid! Let me be poor and wretched, if it must be so; but never never let the holy feeling of affection leave me! Break my heart a hundred times, but never let it be its own grave!’— The aspect of that man jarred the music of my mind for a whole day. He promised to invite me to his first “literary dejeuner”: curiosity attracts, disgust repels; I know not whether will be stronger when the day arrives. Perhaps I am hasty about Campbell; perhaps I am too severe: he was my earliest favourite; I hoped to have found him different.— Of Coleridge, and all the other originals I will not say a word at present: you are sated and more.
Yet there is one original whom I wish I had ten sheets to write about; my own dearest original, whose image is never far from me, tho' many a weary mile-stone lies between us. How are you my beloved Enemy? Are you well? Are you busy? Alas! I think of Haddington, and the Green, and Paradise9 and your little garden;10 they come before my eyes, among strange scenes, with the clearness of paintings; and she and I are not there. Will you write to me next day? Do, Jane, if you love me: you may figure how I long to hear of you. Write like your own kind self—immediately—to your friend who loves you, whose friend you are auf ewig [to eternity]. I know you; you will not keep me waiting an hour that you can help— Is Rubezahl far advanced again? Is your mother well and kind to you and me? Assure her of my affectionate esteem. Adieu! I wait anxiously to hear of you: I am your own forever,
The address is Mr Page's, Kew-Green, London. We are here in lodgings (Charlie B. & I) only for a time. I have ceased to admire Mrs Buller and her manner of proceeding: I had to tell her in brief terms some fragments of my mind, to bring her from the vapours to the earth. She fears me, but she loves no one. They speak of France; but I do not think of going with them.
The place is pleasant and quiet, and coaches every half hour will take you to London for a shilling. It has rained three fourths of the time since I left you: to-day and yesterday, it poured incessantly. Write soon, that I may write soon and tell you more. God bless you dearest! farewell & love me!