1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 19 October 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251019-TC-JBW-01; CL 3:387-392.


Hoddam Hill, 19th October, 1825—

My Dearest,

It is now a week since I lost you, and time that I should have recourse to writing, the poor substitute for that lively interchange of feelings which we can now enjoy no longer. Let us be thankful that this inadequate expedient is not taken from us also! That we are still living, still near each other; still obstinately hoping that brighter days await us, that a day will come when we shall part no more!

I predicted, without great gifts of prophecy, that I should be sad when parted from you; and I am sorry to say that my prediction has been fully realized. I had a melancholy journey home that day, by the graves of my Ancestors,1 with the thoughts of bygone joys for my companions! Your dreary silent walk by my side, your mute parting kiss, the tear that I saw hanging in your long black eyelashes when I went away, all hung like a black cloud over my remembrances, and withdrew the sunshine from the scenes we had lately seen together in such peace and gladness. But wherefore should a living man complain? If we have joy, we must have sorrow; if we are not wae to part, how should we be blithe to meet? There is a misery beyond the sharpest parting sadness; the misery of a heart grown dead to sadness as to joy; that loves not, fears not, hopes not, but sits amid utter desolation, reckless of all farther ravages. This also I have felt; I ought rather to rejoice that I feel it no longer.

Since my return and settlement, the case is but little mended. I have been taking some glimpses into the Books of Conscience; and in truth I find a weighty balance standing there against me. What am I to do, or to attempt? How am I again to mingle in the coarse turmoil of men, and gather from their selfishness and harsh contradiction the means of happiness? And thou, too, my kind, trustful Jane! My poverty, and all my wealth! O why should I be as a broken reed, and wound the hand that leans on me! But this is useless murmuring: if aught can be done, let us do it quickly; if not, let nothing at least be said. It is not evil but the shadow of evil which affrights me. Things are not worse but better than they were. It is only that I am parted from you, and that old “October Tirl-the-trees” is riding on his furious blast, and bringing desolation to the world within as to the world without. The summer with his glory has left me, and the rosy clouds of imagination in which I lay asleep are passing with him, and I look down upon the naked barrenness of my destiny as it is, not (let me hope) to bewail it, or curse it, but to front its earnest difficulties with all the strength and craft that is in me. Up! Up! Thou sluggard! Not to plan but to execute what is already planned however pitiful!— I have worked two days honestly at Tieck; in other ten, I hope to be done with him, and perhaps attempting something better. Fear not utterly, my darling! There are moments when with thee against my heart, I feel more than match for whatever can befal us. Life is yet all before us, and many proud hours when we shall withstand in true and closest affection all its storms and perils, and be more to one another than all the universe besides.

The fire is blazing in the room, and the rain is raging vainly without the window; but she with the long black curling locks is not here! Nothing but Jack with his history of Arzneikunde [Medicine], and I with my lazy pen, sitting front to front in silence. How altered and forlorn! Yet I am far from regretting that you came, and made a blank among us by your absence. I never knew so much of you before, my soul was never so united to yours, never saw it face to face, and dared to love it as now. Let us trust that these “sabbath-weeks” were but an emblem of the long sabbath-years we are to spend together forever and ever! One would think they might be made as happy; but that were an error.

I am tattling very sadly, yet I must continue for a little. My Mother's thanks were boundless when she saw your kind remembrance of her; she will wear the gown come what come may, and think of you I doubt not every time she puts it on. Alick's purse brought a grateful smile over the features of the rugged husbandman: he is up with it to-day at Dumfries, perhaps at Dabton, beside you, in treaty with the Major2 for the farm of Shawbrae. Jack pursues his moral philosophy with the same broad placidity as ever; he has changed his celebrated moral aphorism lately; and now declares that: “There is nothing but a mixture of good and evil in the world, Mother”;3 a truth which I think obtains as little patronage as its predecessor. He bids me send you his kindest regards.

On Sunday I had a letter from Robert Dickson of Annan, informing me that his brother-in-law4 was to “pass thro'” the place on Thursday, and wished to see me then. His poor little boy Edward is dead! I grieve for the good Orator and still more for his wife; for their hearts were set upon the child. To-morrow I go down to meet him; as I conjecture, for a few minutes. This does seem a perverse arrangement; but the man is married, and belongs to Isabella. “Let us pity the poor white man,”5 and not blame him too harshly! Who knows but the case may be his own? [a rap over the knuckles; and exit,—till to-morrow.]

Friday-morning.—I was interrupted on Wednesday-night by a rap over the knuckles, and a call to supper; and till this moment I have never been able to resume my operations. Yesterday, I went down with Alick (going to the Annan fair) to meet the Orator according to appointment. I found him sitting in his Father's little parlour, among a crowd of cousins and admirers, of whom he soon shook himself loose, to go and stroll among the fields with me. The sight of the poor Orator mollified my heart, and his cordial welcome awoke in me some old feelings which late events have been doing much to extinguish. He is sallow and care-worn; his boy died of hooping-cough about a week ago, a few days after his wife (who was not once allowed to see the little sufferer!) had brought him a daughter. Yet he bears these things wonderfully; his vivacity has not forsaken him; he talks with undiminished eagerness about the “spirit of the Gospel” and “the mind of man”; now and then as our dialogue proceeded he even laughed with all his ancient vehemence. I will not judge harshly of this strange man. He has a heart with many virtues; and tho' overgrown with still ranker weeds than formerly of what in another I should call cant and affectation, it ill becomes me to forget the noble plants that flourish in the midst of them. I was sad to the very heart when I saw him step out of his Father's little quiet room, to dash once more into the great billowy sea of life. I walked with him two miles on the Carlisle road by the light of the moon; he was going towards Dornock to see an uncle, and await the coach for London: we parted in the howling of the north-wind, and I turned back across the moors to Hoddam Hill to meditate in silence on the chances and changes of this strange whirlpool of a world.

The inclosed letter he said he had written two days before the unexpected death of his child. He had purposed to visit you at Templand along with me; and hoped that we should have much happiness together. Be not too severe upon the man! He merits some love from you: as men go, there are a thousand worse for one better.

I saw young Montague likewise at Annan. Be thankful that you did not go to visit this untoward cub! I never in my life [saw] a human biped of a more doure and sinister humour. Duncan6 “for the want of proper accommodation,” means to part with him at New-year's day: Charles pokes his lip, and curls his little snub nose, and cannot determine what to do. The other day he wrote to me, to go to Bolton Abbey and join his Father and Badams. For certain I was to go! For certain I wrote a letter and did not go an inch.7

Irving and I had some talk about the London University. It seems he had been a party in some of the conferences which the Utilitarians had carried on with the Religionists; he was even a committee-man at one time; but left the concern “because religion was not cared for.”8 I have, still some faint thoughts of looking after some appointment there; and some faint idea that I might succeed: but there is nothing fixed yet. You shall hear directly if any thing occur.

You cannot get this letter till Saturday-night. I grieve for the dissappointment you will suffer, if you chance before then to get into the expecting vein. I might have sent it yesterday; but without news of the orator I thought it would more irritate than satisfy your curiosity. Be not anxious about me or yourself, my own Jane! We love one another, and the most precious part of our happiness is out of the power of Fortune.— You will write to me next week, and “tell me all you know?”9 I shall expect your letter.— You must present my kindest regards to every member of the hospitable family of Templand: your grandfather and your aunt were very good to me; passing good considering my untoward habitudes and situation. The best love of all this household is with you. God bless you my own Dearest!— Your's Auf ewig [unto eternity],

Thomas Carlyle.10