October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


JWC TO ELIZA MILES; 15 July 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330715-JWC-EMI-01; CL 6:409-411.


Craigenputtoch: July 15, 1833.

My dear Eliza,—

I well remember the fine evening last year when I received your letter. I was riding alone across our solitary moor when I met my boy returning from the post-office, and took it from him and opened it and read it on horseback, too anxious for news about you to keep it for a more convenient place. Had anyone predicted to me then that the good, kind, trustful letter was to lie unanswered for a whole year, I should have treated such prediction as an injurious calumny which there was not the remotest chance of my justifying! Alas! and it is actually so! For a whole year I have left my dear little friend in Ampton Street to form what theory she pleased concerning the state of my mind towards her; and finally, I suppose, to set me down for heartless and fickle, and dismiss my remembrance with a sigh; for her gentle, affectionate nature is incapable, I believe, of more indignant reproach. And yet, Eliza (it was), neither the one thing nor the other. I am capable of as strong attachment as yourself (which is saying much), and if I do not abandon myself to my attachment as you do, it is only because I am older, have had my dreams oftener brought into collision with the realities of life, and learnt from the heart-rending jarring of such collision that ‘all is not gold that glitters,’ and that one's only safe dependence is in oneself—I mean in the good that is in one. As little am I fickle, which I must beg you to believe on trust; since my past life, which would bear me out in the boast, is all unknown to you. What is it, then, you will ask, that makes me fail in so simple a duty of friendship as the writing of a letter? It is sometimes sheer indolence, sometimes sickness, sometimes procrastination. My first impulse, after reading your letter, was to sit down and answer it by the very next post. Then I thought I would wait the Lord Advocate's return, that he may frank it. Then troubles thickened round me: my mother's illness, my grandfather's death, gave me much fatigue of body and mind. That, again, increased to cruel height my own persevering ailments. About the new year we removed to Edinburgh, where we stayed till the beginning of May. It was a fully more unhealthy winter for me than the previous one in London. I wrote to no one; had enough to do in striving with the tempter ever present with me in the shape of headaches, heartache, and all kinds of aches, that I might not break out into fiery indignation over my own destiny and all the earth's.1 Since my home coming I have improved to a wonder, and the days have passed, I scarce know how, in the pleasant hopelessness that long-continued pain sometimes leaves behind.

Nay, I must not wrong myself. I have not been quite idle. I have made a gown which would delight Mrs. Page,2 it looks so neat and clean; and a bonnet, and loaves of bread innumerable. At present I am reading Italian most of the day with my medical brother-in-law, who is home at present from Rome. It was my husband who, for all his frightening you with some books, raised me from Ariosto today, with the chiding words that it would be altogether shameful if I let his book parcel go without that letter for Miss Miles, which I had talked of writing these six months back.

… How is your health? I hope you do not go often to Dr. Fisher's, or at all. The more I see of doctors the more I hold by my old heresy that they are all ‘physicians of no value.’ My brother-in-law is a paragon of the class, but he is so by—in as much as possible—undoctoring himself. He told me yesterday, ‘Could I give you some agreeable occupation to fill your whole mind, it would do more for you than all the medicines in existence.’3

I wish I had you here to drink new milk and ride my horse.

We are at home now for the summer and autumn, most likely for the winter also. We think of France next summer, and moving in the interim were scarce worth while. Surely your father might find someone travelling to Edinburgh by sea, who would take charge of you. It is the easiest and cheapest conveyance possible.

Write to me all that you are thinking and wishing, and never doubt my kind feelings towards you.

Your sincere friend, /

Jane Carlyle.