The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 21 February 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260221-JBW-TC-01; CL 4:36-39.


Haddington Tuesday [21 February 1826]

My Dearest

I have set you a dangerous example this time, which, I trust, you will be humane enough not to imitate. And, believe me, it is no symptom of declining grace that I have made you wait beyond the appointed term; well knowing how much anxiety the omission was likely to occasion you: for the truth of the matter (tho' I am ashamed to be always harping on the same thing) is just that I have had another illness, and could not in consequence, write so soon as I wished—

The Doctor would probably tell you of my “weaver-shuttle”-expedition into Edinr; and probably, too, thro' his Doctorial skill predict the consequences of it— As was to be expected I have never had a day to do well in since, but have, for the most part[,] lain in bed, considerably more dead than alive—yet console toi [yourself], my Beloved, for the worst is now, certainly, over; and I will take heed how I endanger a life that is yours another time.

“Well! and what, will you tell me, took you to Edinr at all, when to your certain knowledge I had been gone two weeks”? You may well ask what— The inducement, then,—that is, the ostensible inducement—was to call for Mrs Crichton, whom indisposition prevented from coming hither; but, besides this, I had a fancy to see our Brother John, the next best sight in the world after yourself; and to give directions about—a gold ring—no less! with a little heart on it of hair—“whose hair? Another Lancer's?”1— Nein! da sey Gott für!2 I am done with Lancers—

And you really are not transported beyond measure at my project? Was ever mortal so difficult to please? He needs only to allow me the ground to build on; and I raise him up the most magnificent Castle,—fast as thought! But, oh mercy what ground! It reminds me of the large whale, on which Crusoe's or Gulliver's or somebody's ship cast anchor; no sooner have I erected my superstructure on the supposed terra firma than it makes a movement, and the whole concern is a heap of ruins!3 Seriously Dearest, you are the most tantalizing man in the world; and I the most tractable woman— This time twelvemonth nothing would content you but to live in the Country; and tho' a country-life, Heaven knows, never before attracted my desires, it nevertheless became my choice, the instant it seemed to be yours; in truth I discovered a hundred beauties and proprieties in it which had hitherto escaped my notice; and it came at last to this that every imagination of the thoughts of my heart was ‘love in a cottage’ continually— He bien! and what then? A change comes oer the spirit of your dream;4 while the bees are yet humming, the roses blooming, the small birds rejoicing and every thing in summer-glory about our ideal cottage I am called away to live in prospectu in a very different scene, amid the smoke and bustle and icy coldness of Edinr—prosaic, money-making Edinr— Now this I call a trial of patience and obedience— And, say, could I have complied more readily tho' I had been your wedded Wife twelve times over? Without a moments hesitation, without once looking behind, without even bidding adieu to my flowers, I took my way with you out of one Paradise, to raise another in the howling wilderness—a labour which could not have been effected, under all the circumstances, by any thing less than a miracle of love— Oh mind of Man! And “this too must pass away”!5 Houses[,] walled gardens, conversaziones, and all the rest of it pass away like the baseless fabric of a vision!6— And Lo! we are once more a solitary, homeless pair, “the world all before us where to choose our place of rest”7— Be Providence our guide!—— Suppose we take different roads, and try how that answers. There is Catherina Aurora Kirkpatrick,8 for instance, has fifty thousand pounds, and a princely lineage and “never was out of humour in her life”—with such a “singularly pleasing creature” and so much fine gold, you could hardly fail to find yourself admirably well off— While, I, on the other hand, might better my fortunes in many quarters; a certain, handsome stammering Englishman I know of would give his ears to carry me away South with him, my secondcousin too, the Dr. at Leeds has set up a fine establishment and writes to me that I am “the very first of my sex”—or, nearer home, I have an interesting young Widower in view, who has no scruple about making me Mother to his three small children, Bluestocking tho' I be— But what am I talking about? As if we were not already married,—alas, married past redemption! God knows, in that case, what is to become of us! at times I am so disheartened that I sit down and weep—and then at other times! oh Heaven!

I had learned the loss of Schawbrae before I got your letter; but not the Major's remarkable excuse. If [it] is not a lie it is certainly sufficiently like one; Yet candour requires we should believe people innocent until they are proved to be guilty, and the evidence, I think in this case does not amount to a proof— For the rest, the loss I fervently trust will turn out a gain; and if it does I shall not be sorry—even tho' the Major has lied in the matter— When shall we know?— What is become of Jane's epistle? I prepared my Mother for the honour which awaited her, and she seemed not a little flattered by it— This is an ill-looking letter Dear as ever I wrote; but I could make no more of it in my present posture; for like our Orator in the hour and power of music— I am laid at length on a sofa, practising what I have long learnt—to rest! Write instantly will you? and tell me all about your tasks— John sent me the first half of Libussa, which I think much better done than Dumb Love9— What impudence! God bless you my Darling. I am yours for ever

Jane B Welsh