The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 21 January 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260121-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:20-24.


Edinburgh, 21st Jany 1826—

Liebstes Weibchen [Dearest little woman]!

I cannot but regret that you have had such a poor pennyworth in me of late: I have never had it in my power to write to you with the smallest portion of deliberation; and what I have written, in the midst of bustle and perplexity, has been nothing but a series of commissions involving you in toil and trouble. My good kind Jane! I do wonder at your patience and long-suffering; at the unwearied love and helpfulness with which you meet me in all the purposes that it enters into my heart to imagine. I have not found such Faith; no not in Israel.1 But it shall all be rewarded, if Fortune be not too hard a mistress, and my life more implicated and perverse than I have reason to expect. O Jane! I will love thee as thou wert never loved: I feel it in my secret heart that thou art dear to me beyond the utterance of words, that we are bound together by invisible ties, and cords of inmost affection stronger than the arrows of Death! No, Liebchen, there is nothing that shall part us: for thou lovest me, and thou art worthy the devotion of an undivided soul, and there is a soul which shall yet be thine in all its entireness. I am the “Doubting Thomas,” it is too true; but there is a strength of generous faith in thee which will call me back to life and hope and boundless love.

——Monday.—So far had I written on Saturday-afternoon, in the full faith that my words would reach your ear that night, when a “Curious Impertinent”2 knocked at my door, and favoured me with a transition into quite a new set of ideas. I was still in hope that I might get the man despatched in time; but just as the ceremony was concluding, who should enter but your famous Pedagogue, James Johnston from Broughty Ferry! Of course all thought of writing was banished for the day; and it is not till this moment, such has been the empty bustle round me, that I have got an hour's composure to conclude my letter. James is off to Haddington, to drink tea with you this evening! He, not I! My heart is rather sad; but we shall say no more of it.

I meant to tell you that your punctuality in the affair of Major Crichton was not in vain: I carried your letter to his Father-in-law's; had it properly addressed, and put it into the office that night. The Major would receive it on Saturday morning; and I am in good hopes it would not be too late. Last time I heard from home, no shadow of a decision had reached them. Alick missed the Major at Dumfries, by two minutes, on the day of his departure; otherwise this part of the perplexity need not have occurred. I owe you much for the spirit of devotedness which you have shown me in this small concern: the Duke has no farm or class of farms in his possession which I would accept in exchange for my glorious lordship in your bosom; he has not, and will never have, so precious an inheritance, tho' all his manors were enlarged a thousand fold. O Jane, why do I murmur at my Destiny! It is no girl's-fondness that irradiates my path with false and transient splendour: it is the calm deliberate love of a noble-minded woman that has given her generous self to me without reserve, the influences of whose fair spirit shine over my life with the warmth and light of a mild May Sun. And I complain, and call myself unhappy? Shame on me, for a discontented misanthrope!

On the whole I do not mean to weep much more over you; but to try what I can do to help you, and make the most for you, of your bad bargain. I feel more and more the need for both of us of being mingled with the current of human business; of being united in the eye of God and man, and beginning a new life in each other's arms. Who knows but by this time twelvemonth we may be married! Married—O Du guter Gott [O thou good Lord]!—and Jane shall be mine, and I shall be hers and not another's,3 and the soft breath of wedded love shall shed its balm over us, and refresh the thirsty desart of existence into fragrance and verdure as of Heaven! My kind little Töchterchen [daughter]! And you will scold me, and quarrel with me, and then kiss me into peace; and be my true wife, and attend me in my pilgrimage thro' height and depth, and take poverty with me, before wealth and honour with another! But is it really so? Or is it only opposition that excites you, that you [think] a union with me precious because it seems difficult of attainment? If I were to become happy and a Seladon, would you become a coy Phillis?4 Indeed you would not: you are mine thro' good report and bad report; and you have loved me with a noble trust, which might make you worthy of the best on Earth, and which my poor fortunes cannot diminish or increase.

But I must descend from the heights of sentiment into the level of sense, and tell you what I mean to do for realizing all these glories. Something I must and will do; and that without undue loitering. Of late I have been meditating more intently than ever the project of that Literary Newspaper. Brewster is still full of it, so is the Bookseller Tait: I myself think it would pay well, but the labour is tremendous. Brewster, it seems, had engaged Lockhart to take a third share in it along with him and me; in which case, I should have closed with the proposal without hesitation. Now Lockhart's preferment has overturned all that, and the matter rests where it was. I view it with wavering feelings, in which on the whole hope and desire predominate. As to the nature of the business it may be honourable or base according to the nature of its accomplishment. Did not the great Schlegel edite a literary Newspaper at Jena? Did not Wieland and Schiller at Weimar?5 By and by the business would get lighter, and I should get help in carrying it on, and find leisure for more permanent and weighty undertakings. Brewster would have it begun at Whitsunday or next November: in either case I should have to live in this vicinity, in my own hired house. Twice have I actually been out spying the aspects of the country; [it] is not an hour since I returned from Morning-side, where there are houses in plenty [of] every quality. My plan would be to take a small one; bring in Mary and Jane to keep it for me, till I saw the promise of our enterprize, and then bring in— If she would come! Would she? How do you like this form of action? Give me all your criticisms without stint or reservation. It is right that we should both be satisfied, for it is strictly an affair of the common-weal. Poor old common-weal! It is pity that it should not flourish better: but we will manage it and force it to flourish.

At present I am sicker than usual, and must not think of staying here. Will you write to me, before I go, ein langes und breites [at length]? I talk of setting off on Thursday morning: perhaps it may be Friday; for I should like to see the termination of the schoolmaster concern before I went. Honest James6 must surely prosper: he is grown five years older since I saw him last spring; for “care sits on his faded cheek,”7 and the world is to him a fremmt [foreign] abode. Write largely in the interim if you have any time; if not I shall be patient as possible. Have you written to my Mother at the Hill? In your own good time. Alick sent me some kind thanks to you, the terms of which I have forgot, the spirit of them you can easily figure.

The other day I was walking along Princes-street in company with Dr Brewster, and saw Eliza Stoddart's kind face as she was turning up a cross street. She evidently noticed me, and was pointing me out to another young lady who was holding by her arm. I turned away my eyes; for the pressure of etiquette was too heavy for me to bear. Tell Eliza that I saluted her in my heart, and wished her all good things; and if you like you may give her a kiss in my name, and I will pay you at the rate of two thousand per cent on sight. This is fair trade; is it not?

My sheet is done, and the hour of four is just at hand. Tonight I have to write to Goethe, and send him the Copy of Schiller by a person that is going to London. Therefore I must on all accounts have done.— There is nothing but bankruptcy going on here. Constable the huge bookseller has failed; then Ballantyne (my present printer); and today Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter was deeply involved with both: his debt is said to be £60,000; and it seems he takes it heavily to heart; is fallen sick and gone to bed, and refuses to be comforted. O curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane!8— Now, write like a good lassie, and “tell us all you know.”

Are you got well again? Or is the headache still perplexing you? I shall never forgive myself if I have made you worse. But you must and shall get well; for you are mine, and I would not give you for the Universe. God keep us both!

I am yours forever and ever, /

Th: Carlyle