TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 18 June 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260618-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:101-105.
TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH
Scotsbrig, 18th June, 1826—
Liebstes [Most beloved]— I must not let this day pass without sending you a word, else you may have to wait another week, and the next vacant day may find me as unready as the present. This parched Lybian wind blowing thro' my crazy apartment where I sleep and write (the carpenters are all dozing) has given me a cold and sore throat; and the printers of the Ballantyne office leave me no rest night or day. To write sense is out of the question; so for this time, you must be content with a line or two of nonsense.
How many thousand thoughts might your last letter give rise to! We are, it seems, to begin this wonderful married life; a scene so strange to both of us, so full of hazards, and it may be of highest happiness! May the Fates award the latter; as they will, if we deserve it. I could write and say volumes on the subject, for to me it seems great and momentous (in our little destiny) and requiring deepest thought from both of us. But why should I? We shall talk it all over shortly, in its whole breadth and length; when I am free of this Egyptian bondage for a week or two, and able to think of something else than Novels and Novellists with their long etcetera of stupid consequences. All I say is: Fear nothing; I will see you in a few weeks (perhaps in six) and arrange the whole matter; and then—das Weitere wird sich geben [the rest will follow in due course], and we shall be wedded and happy, come of it what may.
I have called my task an Egyptian bondage; but that was a splenetic word, and came not from the heart but from the sore throat; for I have not been so happy for many a year, as since I began this undertaking on my own strength and in my own home: and is it not to have a termination which scarcely an Epic Poem could deserve? O my little Weibchen! The next Book I write, another shall help me to correct and arrange! And my fairest recompense will be the glad look of two kind black eyes, thro' which a soul is looking that belongs to my soul for ever and ever! Let us not despond in the life of honourable toil which lies before us. Do you not think, that when you on one side of our household shall have faithfully gone thro your housewife duties, and I on the other shall have written my allotted pages, we shall meet over our frugal meal with far happier and prouder hearts than thousands that are not blessed with any duties, and whose agony is the bitterest of all, “the agony of a too easy bed”?1 In labour lies health, of body and of mind; in suffering and difficulty is the soil of all virtue and all wisdom. By and by, when we have put our house in order, and our hearts in order, and come to understand one another as indivisible portions of the same whole, I predict that we shall be the finest little pair imaginable! A true-hearted dainty lady-wife; a sick and sulky, but diligent, and not false-hearted or fundamentally unkind goodman: and these two fronting the hardships of life in faithful and eternal union, conquering the evils of their lot by wise effort and perseverance, and every conquest not for self but for another self far dearer! Let us but be true and good, and we have nothing earthly to dread.
As to the wedding, I agree with you in heartily recoiling from it. Pity indeed that we could not both fall asleep, and awaken married in each others arms! It would be infinitely finer and far less trouble. Nevertheless the Fairies will not do this for us: we must be wedded with our eyes open, by some flesh-and-blood minister of the Church of Scotland, and join hands “before many witnesses,” and whisk away in post-chaises, and in short suffer a short [sort] of Purgatory, before we can expect to arrive in Heaven. We shall get thro' it all, however, I doubt not: and then the Heaven is awaiting us, more sweet from the transition.
At the present moment I am wonderfully in the dark about arrangements and possibilities of arrangement. Here in my eremite seclusion, I know nothing, and hear nothing; and the whole world into which I am so soon to enter is lying before me, like a far off cloudy vision. Will you write to me at length and leisure, and tell me all that you know about it. Where is this house? In Edinburgh or out of it? What is it like? Among other houses, or apart from them? When is it to be ready? When does Fyffe take possession? And a thousand other whens and hows—which after all, I shall never learn to any purpose till I see you face to face.
Tell me at any rate what you are doing at present? How spending your time. Learning from your Mother the elements of housewifery? I think she should make you mistress for a month; under such superintendance, I could become a very moderate housewife in a month myself. I could bet considerable sums that you never think of me at present—except by accident.
After all, this Edinburgh arrangement is much better than any other could have been. A writing character is wonderfully out of place in rustic society. Here in Annandale, for instance, I have simply no association with fellow creatures at all, except within the threshold of my own habitation. I speak to the honest rustics out of doors: I even talk to them, for half-hours when I cannot help it; and they think, I am a queer or it may be a very decent sensible young man; but alas! alas! the heart sits solitary in its own lone chamber, and no voice addresses it, no ear hears it. Some days I grow very dreamy, sometimes rather sad. This morning, while buckling my stock, I recollected purchasing it in the Snarrgate of Dover: then came the cliffs of that ancient sea-haven, and Paris, and London and the forges of Brummagem,2 all mustering before me like visions of some sp[ect]ral country, overcast with the paleness of Separation, and lovelier than they were to the bodily eye!— I went down, and had some warm tea, the best Christian comfort3 within my reach.
I am babbling very sadly: but I must not close my letter without telling you something more precise respecting the great event. I come to Edinr and to you, when once this Book is done. I am about fifth way gone in the last volume; the printers are nearly done with the preceding one. It is very full of small cares, the process of manufacturing it; but I go along contentedly: for I reckon it tho' a poor enough affair, yet an innocent even a laudable one; and considerably the best sample of German genius that has yet been presented to the English. And who can blame me for a little satisfaction in the thought, that even I, poor I, here in the wolds of Annandale, am doing somewhat to instruct the thinkers of my own Country to do justice to those of another?— Well, I calculate that this Book if I am diligent which I have cause enough to be will be over in about five or six weeks. I come to Edinburgh then, to devise some other enterprise, to see you, and settle with you once for all the preliminaries and paraphernalia of this our magnificent Enterprise! Till then I despair of thinking any reasonable thought about this or any other matter: what with “estimates of genius,” what with estimates of housekeeping, and dreams of a wicked little gypsy that haunts me, and solemn hopes and fears, and magnificent and unfathomable anticipations,—I declare my head is entirely overset, and has for the time being given up the reins of management into other hands—those of Habit, I suppose, and Imagination.
You however have time, and will write and think for us both. Write at any rate, whether you can think or not. Never mind your Déshabille. By the Blessing of Heaven, I hope to see you in many other deshabilles yet, before all is done. Our poor stock of Letters is now drawing to a close: soon, I shall send you news by readier conveyances; in place of scolding me, you shall scratch me; in place of praising me, you shall kiss me. Es werden glückliche Zeiten seyn [Happy times are coming]!— My Mother turned back the other night on her road to Mainhill, for the purpose of charging me to send you “her best love,” and “put it into words myself.” It cannot be in better words, for it comes from a true unpretending heart. You must also write to her, as soon as possible: she has asked me twenty times, if there was no word of a letter for her? I promised that there would be one in good time. Do all this, and love me with your whole heart, and be a good girl and mine forever.
I am always your own /
I should have thanked your Mother for her splendid Cowper; a fair gift, and fairer for the meaning it carries. I have been getting deeply in her debt of late. Say all that is grateful and affectionate to her, in my name.— Have you written to the Noble Lady? If not I wish you would; and say in due time, she shall hear of me too.