The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 5 February 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260205-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:33-36.


Hoddam Hill, Sunday—[5 February 1826]

My Dearest,

I love you too well to put you on exercising your patience for another week; and unless I write today, that must inevitably be your fate. I am busy as ever man was at present; and have no hope of being otherwise for the next four months. The people have agreed on adding a fourth volume to their book;1 the printers are chacing me like greyhounds; so from dawn till dewy eve, and often till rainy midnight, I am kept in a perpetual flurry. Writing, riding, walking or smoking, there is no moment of my waking hours unoccupied. This very day I have retouched a sketch of La Motte Fouqué, which I expected to be dunned for tomorrow; retouched it, alas! in time stolen from divine service; and thro' virtue of the same pious sacrilege, I am now writing to Miss Jane. In addition to all this, the present day is a solemn fast with me; not on religious, but on dietetic principles: therefore you need look for nothing from me but haste, acerbity and Tartareanism.

The business of Shawbrae is over. Alick sent off his letter as I directed, and next day, was informed—that the farm had been appointed to another. They have since had a letter from the Major at Dabton, excusing the oversight by what appears to me extremely like—a telling of the thing which is not. He says he thought the place spoken of (the name it seems was in his mind) had been Locherben! Credat Judaeus Apella!2 I grieve to think that the Major should be a Variator of this sort: but no doubt of the matter is entertained by any one here, or indeed was, from the first intelligence of his communication to you. This, however, is the concern chiefly of the man himself; you and I have nothing more to do with it after ascertaining, what I think is tolerably well made out, that you stand under no obligation to him; farther than for inventing a lie to give you a civil denial with. As it now rests, you are even, and owe him no good or ill will for what he has done in the business. So let it lie!

And now, my own Jane, accept anew my gratitude, and that of all my kindred, for your prompt and warm kindness: you merit it and have it the more, that you have not prospered, that you have had to encounter both the trouble and the disappointment. I am sure as if I saw it, that you feel five hundred times more grief on the occasion than any other party concerned. In good truth, I know not myself whether it is a loss or not. Alick was all along of opinion that they had offered too much rent for the place; and the late fluctuations in the market had even considerably cooled the ardour of my father who is a much more imaginative character. All hands in the long run composed themselves without effort to wish joy of his prize to the Agriculturist who has got it; one of the most worthless persons extant in Annandale at present; and a man, as they thought, much better meriting to be ruined or reduced to straits than they. My Mother bids me thank you, with a tone of double emphasis in her voice: she was dreadfully frightened at the letter I sent, with a hired messenger from the post-office, and “haste” on the back of it; Jack's approaching dissolution or yours or mine, or the general overturn of the Presbyterian establishment, seemed the least that it could forbode; and when Jane and she, the only parties at home, succeeded in deciphering the sheet, and found in it nothing but the loss of a paltry farm, they lifted up their voices in a chorus of glad derision, valuing not only all “the Duke's land” but “all the land the lift [sky] covers” at a sum not exceeding the moderate charge of three farthings.

For the rest, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”3 My Father is now bearing with crowded sails on a place called Scotsbridge;4 a finer farm, he thinks, than even Shawbrae, and to be had at a much lower rent. Another Carlyle5 of this neighbourhood acquainted with the proprietor (or rather possessor of it; for it belongs to the mad Hogan of waterside in Nithsdale, but debt excludes him forever from any voice in the disposal of it) has volunteered to recommend him, and become his surety if any were required; and all are at present waiting for the issue. There, if they prosper, it is probable enough I may spend the summer. And at last—enough, and more than enough of me and my acres!

You may believe I heartily rejoice in your reconciliation with your Mother; and pray that it may be permanent and cordial. It is so delightful a thing to live in unity with all men,6 especially with those near and dear to us, that hardly any price is too high to pay for it. It will be your effort, I doubt not, to profit by this fair season, for convincing your Mother that she does you wrong in thinking that you do not love her as you ought; and me too, in thinking that I ever wished or can wish to abridge by one hairsbreadth her rights either to her own fortune or to my regard. It is pity that she does not, and never will, do me even the slight credit to which I think I can lay claim; but it is just so much the more pressingly my duty in that case to avoid the error which I regret in her, and to suffer no poor selfish feeling to alter the estimate of my mind regarding her. My deliberate opinion is that she will never like me or find any pleasure in me; that it will be her wisdom therefore and yours also to keep me far from her; as it will be mine to endeavour at all times to act and feel towards her as to the virtuous, affectionate and honourable-minded, tho' with me unsympathizing Mother of [my] Jane. You did right stoutly and peremptorily to put an end to all [talk] about surrendering of houses and fortunes and so forth. I hope we shall hear no more of that affair. Does your Mother think it possible that I should not agree with you to the very heart in that determination? That if I loved her I should wish to interfere with her comforts for the sake of bank-notes and mahogany furniture, neither of which I need— Allmächtiger Gott [Almighty God]! Or that if I did not love her, I should be a whit nearer wishing it?

What a bright project you have formed! Matured in a single night, like Jock's Bean in the Nursery Tale, and with houses on it too! Ah Jane, Jane! I fear it will never answer half so well in practice as does on paper. It is impossible for two households to live as if they were one; doubly impossible (if there were degrees of impossibility) in the present circumstances. I shall never get any enjoyment of your company till you are all my own. How often have you seen me with pleasure in the presence of others? How often with positive dissatisfaction? For your own sake I should rejoice to learn that you were settled in Edinburgh; a scene much fitter for you than your present one: but I had rather that it were with me than with any other. Are you sure that the number of parties and formal visitors would be diminished in number or bettered in quality, according to the present scheme? My very heart also sickens at these things: the moment I am master of a house, the first use I turn it to will be to slam the door of it on the face of nauseous intrusions of all sorts which it can exclude; my prospective cottage would be calculated for different objects than your Mother's. O the hardness and inductility of earthly things! O the speed of will compared with that of power! Better to break the leg of Will that poor Power may not lose sight of it altogether. My will for the present is crushed and fractured till honest Power has even to take it by the arm and lug it along. I find myself wonderfully happier.

These are my first crude thoughts on the business: if you are serious in your intention, I shall willingly resume them and may perhaps find many things to alter. After all what is my concurrence? Cannot you settle in Edinr, and I no whit the wiser? Do you doubt that I should rejoice to see you there, tho' I had you to myself only for a minute in the week? Come, if your Mother will take charge of it; only let her not you, for fear of afterclaps. I wish from my soul you were out of Haddington. I wish from my soul, your hand were in mine, and we married in the eye of Heaven and Earth[.]

Your's forever, /

T. Carlyle

[In margins:] James Johnston was staying with Jonathan when I left Edinr that Friday. His youth seemed to be renewed even as the eagle's age7 by his success in that “election.” You ought to rejoice in the good you have done; and I will thank you, as long as I live.

Jane, I suppose, purposes inditing a letter to your Mother for her kind and much respected present. I gave Jenny sixpence as she stood by, to prevent her dying of hidden chagrin: she is a kind-hearted little creature, and I could not bear the melancholy patience of her “eagle eye.” My Mother “kens not what to say”: the caps are transcendental caps, worthy to be worn by queens or queenlike figures, and she has nothing to give you for them but love, a draught on the “Bank of Faith,” which I am sure you will endorse. The darned cap, it appears, is much better for the rent.

Brewster sends me no tidings of his Newspaper; from which I infer that he has not succeeded in inducing Professor Wilson to join in the speculation as he intended trying to do when I left him. Tant mieux [So much the better]! The country is my place in summer.