1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 28 November 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251128-TC-JBW-01; CL 3:416-420.


Hoddam Hill, 28th November, 1825—

My Dearest,

Your kind command was duly communicated to me, and I calculated on obeying it last thursday, and this having failed, on every one of the subsequent days. But a fit of diligence has seized me of late weeks; and as I imagined you yourself would have disapproved of my neglecting my appointed task for such a purpose, I forebore writing in the morning, and every evening some perverse occurence or another came athwart my measures to prevent it then also. You must forgive this delay, like a good girl as you always are, and believe that tho' silent towards you, I am neither day nor night forgetful of you, nor shall ever be by God's blessing, while I continue in this sojourn of the living and the loving. My Mother has already scolded me sufficiently for my omission: she figures you to be of the same imaginative disposition as herself, and would not have you for a moment exposed to the assaults of that afflicting faculty. You have not done as Job's wife counselled Job, notwithstanding your threat?1 No, you are alive still, and love me, and hope to see good things with me in this world after all! If you were to die, either blessing God or any other way, what should I do, think you? Where would the living heart remain that I could long to incorporate with my own, the spirit in whose presence some faint dawn of true existence still visited my bewildered eyes? O my Dearest! Surely I am an ungrateful man to murmur at Fate, and forget that it has given me thee! I know, I feel, when the malignant demon leaves me for a moment, that peace from all my woes awaits me in thy arms; that with thee the world shall again become for me a green hospitable field, and the gloomy spectres of imagination fly away before the bright warm sunshine of reality. Why do I forget this, and live without faith in the world? O that faith were changed into Light, that believing had become enjoying! Love me truly, and all will yet be well.

Your letter to my Mother had been anxiously expected, and was gladly and gratefully received. Had she the pen of the ready writer, she would have sent you a reply of a grander texture than any you have ever got from Bedford-square2 itself: but alas, she has scarcely any pen at all, and must live for the present “with a most voiceless thought.”3 She bids me give you her kindest love; she “has a hundred things to say, but” unhappily “cannot put any of them into language.” Jane would have written you a postscript, I doubt not; for she has read and re-read your letter; but to-day she is at Mainhill, and the wild sleety weather leaves no chance of her returning in time.

I regret heartily this irruption of puppyism, quadruped and biped, with which you are threatened and perhaps even now visited.4 It is deplorable to have one's heart vexed, and one's thoughts and occupations put to flight by that inane hubbub: yet what can be done or attempted for deliverance? Perhaps, caring less about it! Conceive that you have neither part nor lot in the affair, that your whole duty in it is to keep its influences excluded from your heart and head, and to live as if it were not there. Why should you fret yourself? Your business for the present is to keep yourself peaceful and still, in the prospect of more active and worthy days: if you can be contented and amused, by any harmless means, it is all that your present situation can be called on to do for you. By taking thought you cannot alter one thread in the tissue of your fate: it is I that must labour for myself and you, to prepare a scene for us to labour in together. Think of this, and let your gay Lancer with his pugs and poneys take his swing before you, as you would a cunning artist that was come to eat fire and emit ribbands for your pastime. The Captain must be better entertainment than is common about Haddington; and it is right that you be entertained with him. Besides consider, that he is a kindly soul with all his frivolousness, and really loves you, perhaps is in love with you; a quality which covereth a multitude of sins.5 What if you should try a slight flirtation with him, by way of driving on the time? Perhaps, you had better not, however. There is no use in jesting with edge tools; and if he ran away with you, I should be obliged to follow him and pull his dyed whiskers—unless indeed it were with your own free mind and cooperation, in which case, I suppose, there would be nothing for it, but to curse with sufficient emphasis the whole generation of inexprimables [“inexpressibles” or “breeches”], and set my house in order, and go and hang myself. A baleful consummation either way!

For the last three weeks I have been the most industrious man in Annandale. It would do you good to see with what steadfastness I equip myself every morning with dreadnought and wooden shoes and sally forth to walk to the Kelhead toll-bar, regardless of the fury of the elements; then return to breakfast and translate; to mingle in fit proportions throughout the day the exercises of the body and the mind, till late night finds me a sheet farther forward in my compilation. I am not happy, but neither am I miserable, and my work advances without injury to my health. Ere long I suppose I shall be in Edinburgh arranging the printing. I have written to Tait6 for more books, which I expect in a day or two; and I am already done with Goethe's Mährchen, and Musäus' Stumme Liebe and Libussa. The former was meant for you, but for want of other work, I took it up myself. I have still his Melechsala before me, and then I bid him adieu with small regret. He is a man of fine talent, but has no genius whatever. One volume of the publication I purpose to occupy with Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, Goethe's last work, instead of Werther, which I once had thoughts of but cannot now abide. There is also one Maler Müller (The Painter Müller) of whom I hear a most flattering report, tho' he is entirely unknown in this country; from him I calculate on gathering another half volume. On the whole I begin to be better satisfied with the aspect of this business; and at all events eager to get it off my hands. I should not be surprised tho' you saw me in a few weeks! You shall take me in your arms and kiss me ten times over then! You must of your own accord!

May Heaven pity me and you with this accursed pen and paper! Alick brought the letter up from Annan, and tho' my life were lying on it, the ink will not look at it! I see not how you will ever get it road. But that is your concern! Jack writes that he saw you on the morning before you went to Haddington. He says you were very kind to him; but tho' you did not complain to him, he thinks your health is not so good as it was in summer, and I must write to you not to study. This piece of news threw a damp over me at first, which I have now, I know not on what grounds, contrived to put aside. O my Darling, the bare idea of miseries that might too easily occur fills my whole soul with darkness! Never till I had lost thee should I know how deep and abiding was thy dwelling in my heart. But it must not and shall not be. O for your love of me, take thought of these things! Be careful, sedulous scrupulous about your safety; for it is mine too. Do you walk daily? Every day? There is no drug or doctoring in the whole Pharmacopeia that is worthy a pin but this. Promise me that you will observe it, tell me that you are well, and I shall be at ease. I shall ride to Ecclefechan on the back of Larrey with this to-night. Fear not for the ungracious beast; with marting[a]le and curb and spurs he is quiet as Garron7 Bawn, and could not hurt me tho' he were Bucephalus8 himself. He is condemned for sale at the first Dumfries fair; and I very seldom ride even now.— I am lonely for the want of poor Jack, tho' his logic afflicted me while he was here; yet I am fast getting used to solitude. Alick and my Mother read beside me at night: for the last two nights she has been busy with the Life of Mr John and Mr Josiah your ancestors from the “Scots worthies.”9 I objected somewhat to her apotheosis of these noble-minded persons: but she answered: “say nae ill o' thy ain!”— You will write directly? Yours auf ewig

T. Carlyle