1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO ELIZA STODART; 11 April 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250411-JBW-EA-01; CL 3:312-314.


Haddington 11th April [1825]

My dearest Eliza

I do not think anyone can accuse me of idle letterwriting—or you either, if I may judge from my own experience. Well! “charity” (they say) “may exist without giving of alms,” and friendship without the expressing of it by letters: so there is no great need for either apologizing or finding fault. I write to you when I have got any thing to say; and am grateful for your letters when you are pleased to write them.

On the present occasion I have got something to say with a vengeance! Who do you think is living at the George Inn, and here every day? Himself! Mr Benjamin Bell!1 Had any body told me some months ago that this thing would come to pass; I believe I should have leaped over the moon for very gladness: but “times are changed, and we are changed in them”2— Mr Benjamin Bell is become about the most disagreeable person on this planet, and I am become—a fraction of a Philosopher! (This is no joke—as I hope to convince you by and by.— In the mean time you may be as sceptical on the matter as you please). Mr B's sojourn in this quarter is very agreeable to me, however, in one respect—it affords me opportunities of repaying that memorable bow, with courtesies after a similar fashion— Oh! it would have done your heart good to have seen how I received him. It was half dark when he came; my Mother and Catherine were working at the window; and I was talking with Mr Carlyle by the fireside; conceive my astonishment at so unlooked for an apparition! Himself suddenly stood before me, all smiles and cordiality, and held out his hand; I opened my eyes very wide, but my heart beat no faster; I rose deliberately from my seat and made him such a decidedly ceremonious courtesy, that I almost threw myself off my balance— He looked—just as I did when he passed me on the Waterloo-bridge—and I felt that I was revenged! He was come, he said, to reside among us for some time, to recruit his strength, he had been ill—confined to bed for three months—it was necessary that he should leave town, and his acquaintance with us and Dr Fyffe had induced him to fix on Haddington as the place of his retreat— How d—d odd!3 this courious annunciation was addressed to my Mother— I kept talking to Mr Carlyle all the while about the Peak of Tenerif—meanwhile the tea-kettle commenced a song “most musical, most melancholy,”4 which quite distracted my Mothers attention. She would not believe such sounds could be produced by a mere tea-kettle—Mr C lifted it to convince her of the fact; he replaced it again; he tried it in various positions, but the kettle would not be prevailed upon— “It was chagrined,” he said,—and so was Mr Bell— He talked for two hours, however, with a miraculous command of absurdity; and then departed after promising to be exceedingly troublesome to us. I behaved to him then and every time I have seen him since in the most pococurante [indifferent] manner imaginable. I suspect he will soon be convalescent enough to return to the city. What a winding up of our Romance! I would never have imagined that three years could have so metamorphosed any hu[man] being—from a frankhearted, tasteful, promising youn[g] Man he is grown into a perfect personification of vanity and emptiness—n'importe! [no matter!] it is but one more bubble melted into thin air!5

Speaking of bubbles, I do not go to London this season either—for reasons which I have not room to explain— It is not Mr Irvings fault this time— There was a letter from James Baillie the other night—“his destiny is still undecided”— Lord help him! He is certainly any thing but wise—and his Innamorata must be downright mad. Cathrine Gilchrist is not gone yet—she is quite a bug in her habits—there is no dislodging her—

Will you take the trouble to get some more music for me?—any time—I am in no hurry— I want Tanti Palpiti (with variations) Ah perdona (with variations) The Carnival of Venice6Luthers hymn7Theme from the Creation,8 Favorite airs from der Freyschuz,9 Christs church bells, Gli innocenti giochi nostri—and any thing else you can recommend— Did you here Miss Ida had got twins?— What of Mrs John? My kindest love to Bradie and your Mother— Pray write soon like a good girl—Ever affectionately yours

Jane Baillie Pen Welsh