1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 13 January 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250113-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:249-251.


Haddington 13th January [1825]

My dearest Friend

I little thought that my joke about farming Craigenputtock was to be made the basis of such a serious and extraordinary project. If you had foreseen the state of perplexity which your letter has thrown me into you would have practised any self-denial (I am sure) rather than have written it. But there is no use in talking of what is done— “cosa fatta ha capo!” [“A deed is crowned when done”]!1 The thing to be considered now is what to do.

You have sometimes asked me, did I ever think. For once in my life, at least, I have thought myself into a vertigo, and without coming to any positive conclusion[.] However—my mind (such as it is) on the matter you have, thus precipitately, forced on my consideration, I will explain to you, frankly and explicitly, as the happiness of us both requires.

I love you— I have told you so a hundred times; and I should be the most ungrateful, and injudicious of mortals if I did not—but I am not in love with you—that is to say—my love for you is not a passion which overclouds my judgement; and absorbs all my regards for myself and others—it is a simple, honest, serene affection, made up of admiration and sympathy, and better perhaps, to found domestic enjoyment on than any other— In short it is a love which influences, does not make the destiny of a life.

Such temperate sentiments lend no false colouring no “rosy light”to your project. I see it such as it is, with all the arguments for and against it; I see that my consent under existing circumstances would indeed secure to me the only fellowship and support I have found in the world; and perhaps, too, shed some sunshine of joy on your existence which has hitherto been sullen and cheerless; but, on the other hand, that it would involve you and myself in numberless cares and difficulties; and expose me to petty tribulations, which I want fortitude to despise, and which, not despised, would imbitter the peace of us both

I do not wish for fortune more than is sufficient for my wants—my natural wants, and the artificial ones which habit has rendered nearly as importunate as the other—but I will not marry to live on less; because in that case every inconvenience I was subjected to, would remind me of what I had quitted; and the idea of a sacrifice should have no place in a voluntary union— Neither have I any wish for grandeur—the glittering baits of titles and honours are only for children and fools — But I conceive it a duty which every one owes to society, not to throw up that station in it which Providence has assigned him; and having this conviction, I could not marry into a station inferior to my own with the approval of my judgement, which alone could enable me to brave the censures of my acquaintance.

And now let me ask you have you any certain livelihood to ma[i]ntain me in the manner I have been used to live in? any fixed place in the rank of society I have [been] born and bred in? No! You have projects for attaining both—capabilities for attaining both—and much more! but as yet you have not attained them. Use the noble gifts which God has given you! You have prudence (tho' by the way this last proceeding is no great proof of it)—devise then how you may gain yourself a moderate but settled income; think of some more promising plan, than farming the most barren spot in the county of Dumfries-shire— What a thing that would be to be sure! you and I keeping house at Craigenputtock! I would just as soon think of building myself a nest on the Bass-rock2—nothing but your ignorance of the place saves you from the imputation of insanity for admitting such a thought. Depend upon it, you could not exist there a twelvemonth. For my part I would not spend a month on it with an Angel— Think of something else then—apply your industry to carry it into exffect[sic,] your talents to glid over the inequality of our births and then—we will talk of marrying. If all this were realized I think I should have goodsense enough to abate something of my romantic ideal, and to content myself with stopping short on this side idolatry— At all events I will marry no one else— This is all the promise I can or will make. A positive engagement to marry a certain person at a certain time, at all haps and hazards[,] I have always considered the most rediculous thing on earth: it is either altogether useless or altogether miserable; if the parties continue faithfully attached to each other it is a mere ceremony—if otherwise it becomes a galling fetter reviting [riveting] them to wretchedness and only to be broken with disgrace.

Such is the result of my deliberations on this very serious subject[.] You may approve of it or not; but you cannot either persuade me or convince me out of it— My decisions—when I do decide[—] are unalterable as the laws of the Medes & Persians— Write instantly and tell me that you are content to leave the event to time and destiny—and in the meanwhile to continue my Friend and Guardian which you have so long and so faithfully been—and nothing more

It would be more agreeable to etiquette, and perhaps also to prudence, that I should adopt no middle course in an affair such as this—that I should not for another instant encourage an affection I may never reward and a hope I may never fulfil; but cast your heart away from me at once since I cannot embrace the resolution which would give me a right to it for ever. This I would assuredly do if you were like the generality of lovers, or if it were still in my power to be happy independent of your affection but as it [is] neither etiquette nor prudence can obtain this of me. If there is any change to be made in the terms on which we have so long lived with one another; it must be made by you not me— I cannot make any

All this I have written with my Mother's sanction; if my decision had been more favourable to you, she might have disapproved it but would not have opposed it. And this I think is more than you could expect, considering how little she knows you.

I shall not be comfortable till I hear from you again so I beg you will not keep me waiting. God bless you ever affectionately

Yours Jane Welsh