The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 30 January 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220130-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:26-27.


[30 January 1822]

My dear Friend,

I have read your letter over and over; and admired the talent displayed in it not a little. It is very spirited and very satirical and altogether very clever. I have a small, exceeding small vein of satire myself: but there is no need to conjecture whether it would serve to defend me in the present instance: you know well enough I dare not try. It was once reckoned generous, I believe, to “crush the haughty, but spare those who cannot resist”:1 however I do not complain. This conflict of sarcasms can hardly gratify or punish any very noble feeling either in you or me; and I am content to have my vanity humbled, since you wish it so.

The tragical humour, into which men fall sometimes, is certainly a very unnatural and ridiculous thing; at least, if one is not born to be a statesman or a soldier,—the only class of persons liable to die or suffer pain in this country: so we shall waive it for the present. I merely wish to say that when you read Schiller's History of the Thirty Years' war, you will like Bernhard von Weimar2 as much as I do. On going forth to fight beside Gustavus the Lion of the North, Bernhard wrote this epigraph on his standard: “Alles für Ruhm und Ihr.” And who was She? A great King's daughter, a brave King's wife: and all the poor Ritter [knight] hoped for, was a smile from her fair countenance to greet his triumph, or a tear from her bright eyes to hallow his last and bloody bed. Perhaps it was all he wished.

Upon the whole, my friend, this mode of writing to you pleases me very ill.3 It also forms a most awkward prologue to the main purport of my present letter. In spite of the ridicule which you cast on me, or rather in part because of it, I am coming out to see you shortly. If you were to ask what I am wanting?—I should scarce know what to say. One has few real friends on this Earth; and yet the feelings excited by those few are almost all that make it worth living on. I daresay I am very selfish; but still, if I thought this project of mine would incommode you much, I am not so selfish as to persist in accomplishing it. The truth is, my visit must be brief at any rate, and may not soon be repeated; I know not the times and the seasons, but I do not often mean badly: therefore I have persuaded myself that you will not be angry at this proceeding, even tho' it should prove ill-judged and unsuitable for many reasons. If you intend to meet me with frowns and cold ceremony; to-morrow is yet before us;4 tell me so—and I will stay at home patiently. I have but from Friday-night till Monday morning at my own disposal. If you do not write I shall see you on Friday-night, or Saturday-Morning; if you do, I know not when I may have it in my power to see you again. Those boys are come from London,5 and have kept me busy all this week; some permanent arrangement is to be made with them about the beginning of next— I am not ungrateful I hope or insensible to my own interest; but there are many drawbacks which I will tell you of.—

This is poor suing; I need not continue it. Excuse all my thousand faults: I know their number, and regret their magnitude as well as their number— Mais c'est assez [But this is enough]!

Present my kindest respects to your Mother—if you think it worth while; and believe me to be, with no feelings towards you but those of an honest man and a true-hearted friend, now and always,

Sincerely your's /

Thomas Carlyle—

3. Moray-street,