1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 12 June 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250612-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:333-336.


Haddington / 12 June [1825]

My Dearest

“I write today lest you should get uneasy about me, or discontented with me”: —taking it for granted that you are neither uneasy nor discontented already—“not because I have the slightest particle of tidings that can interest you to communicate, or the slightest particle of speculation that can profit you”;1 —not that I take any earthly pleasure in writing to you, or feel any anxiety to get your letter in return.

You must be very critical if you are not struck with admiration of this ‘particular’ smart exordium— To have served you rightly, I should have made you wait for a month to come; but unluckily I have got several things to say which I cannot keep longer to myself. In the first place, then, I am coming to Nithsdale as soon as the currants are ripe, and the jelly made; and thence I am coming to Hoddam hill if you have not rued. My Mother was in one of her gracious humours the other night, and sounding me about Dumfries-shire. The moment seemed favourable so I opened my mouth and spake: “would there be any impropriety in my going to Annandale when I am in the neighbourhood”— The question sounded so abrupt and awkward that I blushed for half an hour after. “To Annandale[”] repeated my Mother, and then “Oh! impropriety? certainly not: on the contrary I think it would be highly advisable: and if you have any feeling about going by yourself—I am quite willing to accompany you.” What condescension! I expressed my sense of her obligingness but said I should have much less ‘feeling’ alone. This was one expedient for annihilating the happiness of our project, with the most wonderful rapidity she fell upon another. “It will be best for you,” she said, “to go straight to Annandale from here; I will stay a day or two behind you, that we may get to Templand about the same time; and in this way nobody will know of it.” I am surprised she did not propose sending me nail[e]d up in a box, with ‘glass’ written on the top. Such a mysterious arrangement, I told her, was likely to have a very different result. besides I designed to make no secret of the matter, as I did not care how many people knew of it. At last it was settled that I should go from my Grandmother's2 by the coach to Annan where you might come to fetch me to Repentance. This is the most convenient way; don't you think? tell me when you write. Oh if these tedious currants were only ripe! but they will not be, for two or three weeks yet, and it will be two or three weeks more before I get the length of Annan. The last time, I was at Annan I thought myself the most unfortunate person in it—when I am there again I shall be the happiest!

I have had a letter from Mrs Montagu3 and, (which is still more extraordinary) I have answered it. What on earth did you say, to make her so good to me? She could not have written more frankly and affectionately if I had been her own child. I have never met with any thing like this from Woman before— I purpose loving Mrs Montagu all my life; if I find her always the same as she has introduced herself to me. She is ‘noble’ and very clever. With what inimitable grace she manages every thing! After speaking of Edward Irving she says: “as for Mr Carlyle—but he4 deserves a sheet to himself, and I have got to the end of my paper.” Could she have ple[ased] me better, tho' she had extolled you thro' a whole quire? I hope you will not be jealous if I fall rather extravagantly in love with her?

But for the interruptions of headach[e]s and visitors—first Margaret Betson,5 and then Major Gilchrist and his precious daughter Catharine —I have been remarkably diligent since you left me. My Life is drawing to a close: there are already from forty to fifty pages of it—quite enough truly on so worthless a subject— If it were not that my honour is concerned in this task, I should [would written above]6 throw it aside not out of laziness, but despair at my own stupidity. I have less difficulty indeed in writing for you, than for the public [underscored twice]. Love I find is a far more inspiring thing than ambition—but still I have no genius—no particle of genius; I write neither easily nor well; and my little narrative is so ennuyeuse, that it will be an affliction for you to read to the end of it. However there is no use in vexing myself about the matter. As Nature has made a sheep of me, and not an eagle, I cannot with all the straining in the world raise myself off the ground. Oh Heaven! if I were not a sheep!

The Beans are taller than this paper. I examine yours every day; but cannot discover the smallest appearance of a house on it. How many fathoms deep did you sow the other seeds? None of them have come up except three lupins, two peas, and a few carrots in the place of mignionette. I watered them till I was tired, and then I poked the earth to see if they were there: but there was not such a thing! I am sor[r]y to say the omens to be drawn from our rose-family are any thing but favourable. You and I and Hope are quite dead.

I have enquired about the parish-school. There is to be one. but not for a twelvemonth. The house taken for the purpose will not be ready till then. If your Friend7 is not settled by that time, and the situation to his mind, I think there is little doubt of his getting it: for Gilbert Burns who has most to say in the business has promised me to support any person recommended by you. But I question if this person would like the situation. He would only have twenty pounds of salary— To be sure there will be a tolerable house, a good garden and the profits of his teaching besides—but still it will be no object to any body who is not very needy— Gilbert wishes a Schoolmaster who will not only teach the children to read but to understand: and who will give them ideas about religion. He bade me tell you this. I am writing so abominably ill; that I had better stop. Give my love to your Mother and John and Jane— God bless you my Darling[.] I am yours for ever and ever

Jane Welsh

Write instanter.

I have forgotten to thank you for these news papers. I wish you would not send any more of them unless you are getting them on your own account—I hate to be obliged in these sort of things