The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 23 January 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230123-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:281-282.


Haddington—Thursday [23 January 1823]

My dear friend

How could you find in your heart to inflict on me five whole pages of admonition, for scarce as many words of complaint? Tell you all that lies upon my heart! truly you give me fine encouragement to be so very com[m]unicative! were I to tell you all, or half, I should expect your next lecture by the carrier's waggon.

I dare say there is reason in what you say on the subject of my grievances—and were my eyes open to “the extreme enviablness” of my condition, I have no doubt I should be one of the happiest creatures on the face of the earth. However until this blessed revealation takes place, you must bear with me if lumpish visitors, or my own inveterate stupidity or any other impertinence now and then sets me afretting—and you may do so the more readily as I do not require pity of you, but only a patient hearing. God forbid that you, of all people, should pity me! it is but one step from pity to contempt, and you know or you ought to know that of your esteem I have absolute need.

As to my love of fame which has been the subject of so much discussion betwixt us I maintain that it is no such shallow principle as you imagine—but then your idea of fame is quite different from mine— I conceive fame to be something more than the mere applause of a world of people whose individual suffrages I should in all likelihood esteem not worth the having—something that is somehow to extend my being beyond the narrow limits of time and place fate has assigned to it—to bring my heart into contact with hearts that Nature has cast in the same mould—and enable me to hold communion with beings formed to love me and be loved by me in return even while I am divided from them by distance or death itself— You will scarcely understand what I would be at— I scarce do myself—but I feel clearly that I wish to be loved as well as admired—to be loved as I love Schiller and de Stael!!! and that unless I believed fame was to bring this about I should not much value it— All women love admiration and I do not pretend to be an exception to this general rule—but the hope of being admired could not of itself strengthen me against the obstacles and temptations that meet me in the course I am pursuing— No—it is to the hope of being loved, as it were, in spite of fate, that I sacrifice without regret the follies pleasures and amusements of my age and sex—and it is this hope that keeps my heart from breaking, when its affections recoil from the “iron breasts” around me back on itself— You will say it is my own fault that I am not loved alive and seen—it is not! indeed it is not! all the hearts mine is cast among all but one—are inacessibly intrenched within their self love. I might indeed attach many to me by benefits—or by the pleasure they find in my society or simply by the need of some attachment but of these I make no account— it is the ‘love of moral esteem’ not ‘the love of gratitude’ that I desire—and these love me for their own sake not mine— but I am writing the greatest quantity of nonsense I ever committed to paper—hurry and headach[e] must plead for my intellect— I have news for you that will I hope please you as much as it did me—my Mother wonders you do not think of coming out!!!— Now do you not see the fruit of my restrictions?— Had you come sooner on your own invitation or mine—you would have found nothing but cold looks and I should have been kept on thorns until you left me and now I am formally desired to invite you here, ‘in case it may be that you are standing on ceremony’—and come when you like dear you are sure of a hearty welcome— You cannot think how glad I am—for I make myself sure of your coming immediately—no not immediately—for my cousin will not be gone for a week—but do write soon and tell me what day you will come— Oh my poor head—and people are come to dinner and I am not dressed— we have had company every day this week and my lessons! Woes me!— Do not I beseech you read this twice— God bless you my dear friend Believe me ever

Yours Affectionately /

Jane B Welsh

My Mother was reading Corrinne1 and we cannot get the third volume in english in the town will you send it me— Mr. Aitken will get it for you if you cannot—