1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 14 October 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18241014-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:175-178.


Templand 14th October [1824]

“My Dear”—I do think I should have gone demented if your letter had not come on monday— While little Jock was away at the Post-office, I had out my watch at least fifty times; and when I saw him coming along the road, my heart beat so loud, you might have heard it at Dover— Why do you put my patience so often to the test? You know well enough it is not my most abundant virtue— You are continually chiding me for writing seldom: I am sure I have reason to complain of you on the same account; and this laziness is more inexcusable in you than in me. In the midst of new scenes and new friends, you have a thousand pleasures independent of my letters; but it is very different with me— I have no pleasure in life but what your letters af[f]ord me— Do think of this!—

I congratulate you on your present situation. With such a picture of domestic felicity before your eyes, and this “singular and very pleasing creature” to charm away the blue devils, you can hardly fail to be as happy as the day is long. Miss Kitty Kirkpatrick— Lord what an ugly name! “Good Kitty!” Oh! pretty dear delightful Kitty! I am not a bit jealous of her—not I indeed—Hindoo Princess tho' she be! Only you may as well never let me hear you mention her name again—

I wonder when I shall see this delightful “South,” where every body finds friends— From what my Cousin writes to me, his marriage seems likely to hang some time in the wind— When it does take place, who knows that his dear Charlotte will approve our project? I fear there is nothing certain to hope for from him. The Orator, you say, expects me. I am willing to b[e]lieve he does. But the Orator has only one voice in the matter; his wife has the other; and his wife I have obliged too deeply to hope for kindness from her. Depend upon it—the Orator's good intentions towards me will evaporate next season as they did the last— When the time for my visit arrives, his house will still be “unfit for the accommodation of a Lady”—

Well! if I do not go, I shall derive at least one advantage from my disappointment; I shall escape the danger of becoming “a fashionable Wife” Oh thou Goose! to fancy for an instant that I could end in this! If I marry a fine Gentleman you will have nothing more to say to me— Are you mad “Dear”? Has Miss Kitty Kirkpatrick turned your head? Really, I should just as soon think of marrying some inhabitant of the Frozen Regions, who could not exist out of a climate which I should shiver to death in; who could speak nothing but a strange tongue which I did not understand, and had no capacity for acquiring— A fashionable Wife? Oh never will I be anything so heartless! I have pictured for myself a far higher destiny than this— Will it ever be more than a picture? Shall I ever have the wish of my heart fulfilled? a ‘sweet home’ calmly embosomed in some romantic vale; with wealth enough to realize my ideal of elegant comfort; with books, statues, paintings all things suitable to a tasteful, intellectual manner of life; with the friendship and society of a few, whose conversation would improve the faculties of my head and heart and with one to be the polar star of my being—one warmhearted, highminded dearest Friend, whose sublime Genius would shed an ennobling influence on all around him; whose graceful and splendid qualities would inspire a love that should be the heart and soul of my life! Such happiness is possible, and alas! it is next to impossible to assemble the circumstances which compose it. But nil desperandum [let there be no despair]—my motto is ‘Hope’—

And much need have I, at present, to keep it in my mind's eye that I may behave with becoming philosophy— My life is a continual sacrificing of my inclinations and opinions, for peace's sake; and there is no peace after all! Eh bien! if it please God to spare me till after the Festival, I shall take a course different from any I have followed hitherto— Hero and Leander—I will try it as soon as I am settled; but at present I am too idle to have time to open a book— Grace à Dieu! I go to Edinr on Monday— My Mother joins me there about a fortnight hence, with her protégé Miss Gilchrist. She is to stay with us all winter! and I am to be her governess, it seems— So my Mother has arranged it; and I cannot say that I am particularly delighted with the prospect— Catherine Gilchrist is a very good little girl in her way; but she is no companion for me: and as a pupil she will be a grievous tax upon my time. Besides, her being with us will be a continual pretext for her Brother's visits; and I find her Brother is a fool, whom one cannot see too seldom. Only think after he left Haddington, he insisted with Mr Baillie that I had flaxen hair! And this is not his only offence: he pesters me with nonsensical, whining, ill-spellt letters— However there is no remedy. My Mother is so extravagantly fond of this white-haired couple, that she seems to have no aim in existence at present but to serve them— The only comfort I have is a faint hope that Doctor Fyffe may knock Mr Gilchrist's brains out; and be hanged himself for the murder— I should thus be quit of two very great plagues at once.

You must know the poor little Doctor is as jealous of me still as if we were man and wife— when he saw the Highlander day after day going into our house and coming out of it; he could not ma[i]ntain his majestic silence any longer. He wrote to me in his usual mock-heroic strain, imploring that I would meet him—curse him—and part with him for ever— I could have indulged him in all this without putting any great violence on my feelings; but, you know, you had prohibited me from swearing upon any account. Moreover he reminded me of a vow which he had made in one of his paroxysms of despair—videlicet, that if I would not marry him he would never marry another—and it seemed as if he would fain persuade me that “this sacred oath, tho' sworn by one had bound us both”;1 for he says, after heaping imprecations on his own head, that but for him I might live—love another—and be happy— You may believe, I was greatly astonished to find that such serious matters as my life and happiness depended on Dr Fyffe! Poor little Man! he really gave me credit for more humanity than I possessed— I was never once discomposing myself about either him or his ‘vow.’ And so I told him, in my answer to his letter, assuring him at the same [time] that he was quite at liberty to marry whomsoever he pleased, as what he said when he was in a fit of passion was no more binding than if it had been said in a fit of drunkenness or delirium. Moreover I used the freedom to suggest to him that no sensible Man would schakle his free will with vows; seeing that nature and fate already cast too many obstacles in the way of his wishes— One might have expected that he would [have] felt some gratitude to me for taking all this trouble— Instead of that, what do you think the little Viper did? He packed up all the scraps of my handwriting which he had in his possession, with a great quantity of other relics equally precious and sent them to me with the worst-bred letter I ever read in my life— It is now all gone out of my head, except the concluding words—“When you want a friend and know not where to find one—look towards me!” Magnanimous Doctor! I think I shall be badly off indeed, when I turn my eyes in his direction— Is this his last explosion, think you? He really hurts my nerves—

And now I must leave off; for I have a great many parting visits to make; and my trunks to pack in the evening— Tomorrow I go to Major Chrighton's2 and from thence direct to Edinr— Will you write immediately so that your letter may be in Edinr before the 30th; in which case I shall have it all to myself. Give my love to the Orator, and say I was content with his letter. Do you think he wishes to hear from me again? If I thought so I would write; but I have no notion of sending my letters to people that do not care for them— Kiss “Him3 for me— I would not do it myself for five guineas. Young children are such nasty little beasts! Address to 22 George Square and for Godsake do write immediately— You will hardly be able to decipher this abominable scrawl. I have been imitating your hand all this time—that I might have more room— God Bless you dearest[.] Never forget me— Yours auf ewig Jane Baillie Welsh