The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO ELIZA STODART; 21 January 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230121-JBW-EA-01; CL 2:277-281.


Haddington Tuesday [21 January 1823]

It is over! my dearest cousin!— Heaven be praised, the “grand veesit” is over!— They—to wit, that pattern of a wise man my uncle Robert, his big, bouncing, brute of a Dog, and pretty, proper, prosaic wife—took themselves off last saturday morning— Since Miss Betty Grey, of curious memory, stept into “the good intent,”1—summer was a year, I think I have not sent so hearty a “get ye good morning Audrey”2 after any departing visitor—

After keeping two honest Linton hens in an indiscribable state of anxiety for a whole fortnight, and precluding us from enjoying any Christmas civilities, our neighbors might prof[f]er us; they came just on the day we did not expect them—for it rained atrociously and just on the day we did not want them—for my Mother and I were particularly engaged—She—that is, our Mother—was making nice things, and ourself was in the act of toasting a clean, cold handkerchief before the fire—in preparation for the last scene of Schiller's ‘Wal[l]enstein,’3 the most tragical of tragedies—when the door burst open, and that young person, who has the honour to be our aunt in law, sailed in in all the pride of furs and feathers, followed by her husband in a shooting dress, and preceeded by the inimitable Dargo—that Dog of Dogs—“la huitieme merveille du monde” [the eighth wonder of the world”]—prancing, capering, and overthrowing, with all the boldness and impudence to be expected in a Town-dog on a visit to friends in the country— However, to do Dargo justice, he seems the most kindly disposed of the three; for he no sooner described Shandy, than he made straight up to him, and commenced kissing and caressing him with great good will—Shandy unacquaint[ed] with town manners approved not of such freedoms; nor was he slow in showing his resentment, for that brief morsel, like the offspring of the bass-fiddle,4 has a bigger soul than his size entitles him to—his eyes lightened—his back bristled, like a very cat's—and he poured forth such a volley of indignation, that the canine Goliath quite astounded by his eloquence made a rapid retreat, with his tail between his legs— This hubbub deserves the notice I have taken of it; for it was the only moment of excitement I experienced during their stay—

Oh I have been enduring the pains of purgatory for the last fortnight— The sweet people, hereabouts, fiddling, feasting, and capering away their wits, as if they had heard a blast from Oberon's horn5 all for joy that they have got one step nearer to the close of their pitiful existence—were of themselves sufficient to have thrown me into a wonderful quandary— and then withindoors! “O Gemini and Gilliflower water!” could you have had a peep within! There was my precious uncle, sneezing, snarling, and sometimes snoring—the Lady dressing, yawning, and practising postures—our Mother wearying her heart to entertain them—all in vain—and our sorrowful self casting many a wistful glance towards the little table where our good friends Schiller and Alfieri lay neglected; and wishing, from time to time, our cold visitors in hotter quarters than they might have found to their liking—

You may think me bitter—perhaps inconstant towards these gentry—may be so!— I certainly once loved Robert truly—for no reason I can discover but his being my uncle— I looked to him as a protector, and a friend when I needed both, and I have found him as indifferent to my interests as any stranger. The warm affection I offered him, deserved something better than bare toleration, and even that, it hath scarcely found— “Slighted love is ill to bear”6 as the song says, and I am no miracle of patience— I have knocked at the door of his “hard and stony heart” till my knuckles are sore—it hath not been opened unto me, and, of a verity, I will knock no longer. As for the Lady, with her cold routine of looks and words—her affectations and insipidities, she delights not me—“my soul is above her”— Moreover she once called a certain, witty, dashing, ac[c]omplished friend of mine7 ‘a heavy looking lad’—[lad underscored twice]— Oh the indiscriminating Ass! I will never forgive her for it! never! But what could be expected from Port glasgow? She may look on the physiognomy of muslins—and understand—but of “the luminous characters of the soul, impressed upon the brow” her obtuse mind hath no perception!— Away with them! it is an unworthy subject—

David Sherriff8 is to be speedily married to Miss Richardson's thousand pounds— Esperance! ma chere! when such women as Miss Richardson get Lieutenants we shall have generalissimos at least. Thomas Gillespie9 is to be here next week— Capt Spalding is waiting till next month for a friend, whom Miss Mair says I know well—but I do not know well nor can I imagine who she alludes to—if it is somebody coming to woo I will send him to you; for I mean to be a belle for these eighteen months to come. What a bright creature Hope is, after all! but, to the point— I suppose our visit to town must remain, in prospectu, for some weeks longer till these good people are come and gone— Well time flies swift enough it is already six months to day since the day before we went to Edinr to see the King10— I expect to like Edinr next time, which I have not done in my late visits there—for God's sake Bess never let there be any be any more coolnesses betwixt us—they go to my heart—tho' I can look proud enough all the time—— Give Jane Welsh's respectful compts to Mr Aitken and request of him to display his best taste in the beautifying of my wee wee Cicero— The ‘pigmœi’ race are likely to be in fashion this season, and I am desirous to have the little elf superbly dressed11— Have you seen the Simpson lately? do you know he has been guilty of plagiarism or, at best, of most servile imitation in one of those poems of his— You remember “as the core blasted tree &c &c”? It is the best thing he ever wrote—well in looking over some scraps of verse the other day I found a beautiful passage from Moore's Melodies that has indubitably been the mother of ‘the core blasted tree’—how provoking!—

As a beam oer the face of the waters may flow,
While the tide runs in cold'ness and darkness below;
So the cheek may be tinged with a warm sunny smile
While the cold heart to ruin runs darkly the while.12

Pray ask him which he thinks, has expressed the sentiment best? he or Moore? Adieu my Darling! my play time is done, or I would not take leave of you yet—for I am in a scribbling humour to day— My piano has been tuned and ‘the blue Bell’?13 sounds divinely— Ta-Ta kisses to Brady and Maggie—Your affectionate

Jane B Welsh

What a pity but Mr Micklew (oh I have forgot to spell it again) roth14 (I think) had a right look of me—he seems to be labouring under a strange mistake—