The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 24 March 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230324-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:309-312.


Haddington—Monday [24 March 1823]

My dear Friend

I have been longer in writing than usual and this time I cannot plead either excessive occupation or impertinent interruptions— But I have not patience to do anything when my mind is not at rest, and for the last week it has been in a horrible hubbub—

These nonsensical people with their Heirathsgedanken [thoughts of marriage] and Heirathsvorschlagen [proposals of marriage] will assuredly drive me mad. Like Carlos1 ich fürchte die wie die Pest [I fear them like the plague]—to cause unhappiness to others, above all to those I esteem, and would do anything within reach of my duties and abilities to serve, is the cruelest pain I know—but positively I can not fall in love—and to sacrifice myself out of pity is a degree of generosity of which I am not capable—besides matrimony under any circumstances would interfere schokingly with my plans—

The Philosopher that used to thank the gods he was born a man, and not a woman,2 must have had more sense than the generality of his calling—truly our fate is very deplorable. As soon as a poor girl takes that decisive step called coming out, she is exposed to a host of vexations men know nothing of— We are the weakest portion of the human kind, and nevertheless we have to bear two thirds of the burden of sorrows our unwise first Parents left behind them[.] Really it is very unjust!— What I would give to be a prime Minister or a Commander in chief! An old woman that boiled blankets in this town used to say when I was leaping the mill-dam some dozen years ago, ‘that providence had sticket a fine Callant[.]’ She understood my character better than anybody I have had to do with since— “The extreme enviabl[e]ness of my condition!” Oh dear me—I wish you had a trial of it for one twelvemonth—

What a wee darling this quartern loaf of yours must be! so clever and lively and affectionate!— If ever I am in Annandale again I will go and see her for I am certain I should like her dearly— Her little verses have brought to light as many infant geniuses in Haddington as will in process of time set Scotland in a blaze— Every Mother, that I have read them to, can recollect some equally surprising proof of abilities in a boy or girl of her own—and I am told of childeren (to all appearance lumps of stupidity) that have performed fetes no less marvellous than Johnsons epitaph on the duck3— My beggar Genius is turning out very badly—for my life I cannot get him to wash his face or refrain from lying—he is very greedy and very ungrateful—in short he has abundance of talent but not one virtue that I can discover—he is not even a Christian— His Father and Mother lived together five days—at the end of which term of matrimonial felicity the man (according to his wife's statement) went out and—never came in again—(if you saw the woman you would admire his sense) and so the poor object of a child having no Father forthcoming was never baptised— He is now old enough to take the vows upon himself but all Dr Lorimers4 eloquence cannot prevail with him to undergo the ceremony—he seems to have an instinctive repugnance to cold water—he cannot even drink it— I do not mean to have anything more to do with him—not because he is unchristined—there is something romantic in that circumstance—and not even because he is wicked—until he is hanged I am sanguine enough to entertain hopes of reclaiming him—but my praises have given him such eclat that I find my patronage is no longer necessary— A great family in the neighbourhood that would never have known his existence had they not heard of him from me, have thought proper to take him into their own hands without paying the least regard to my opinion or intentions respecting him— At first I felt as sore upon the business as a Dr that had been jockeyed out of a patient—but now I consider it a fortunate riddance— Besides Providence has furnished me with another protege to supply his place—a genius of industry— It is an irish pedlar with a broken back, about nine years old and eighteen inches high—a calm decided independent character—the very reverse of the Artist—he hops about with a crutch under one arm and a basket on the other—and ma[i]ntains three sisters younger than himself by selling tape and needles— Shandy has the merit of this discovery—if he had not barked at the little gentleman I should assuredly have walked over him—

I have finished the second volume of Gibbon the article on Christianity is real capital— Goethe gets no easier. I am near the end of Egmont5 which I like infinitely better than the two following pieces— — At last I am beginning to recognise the Goethe you admire— Sir Walter must be a bit of a thief the first interview between Amy and Lord Leicester6 is quite a translation of Clara's meeting with Egmont but the English version has not half the fire of the original— I began writing all the passages I could not find out; but they came so thick I thought it better to wait till we meet for their explanation. Boccac[c]io I return!— I have read the introduction and three of the tales which I took by chance from different parts of the book—in the two first my choice was fortunate and I was inclined to think the work had been belied—the third was enough— I will never open the book again—

I believe we shall not be in town till the beginning of the month—do not be impatient—should we go now my stay would be short and I should be dragged about all the time—for my Mother has made up her mind not to go to D[umfries]shire till our Highland cousin has returned to his glens—but in April I may hope for a little of my own will—

Mr Kemp is getting gradually worse he cannot hold out long— I have seen him frequently—but I think my visits rather agitate than amuse him—How in the name of wonder did you contrive to scrape acquaintance with my little armchair?

Thank you for the mustard— My Mother thanks you for Delphine but declares she will never undertake six volumes of love again— I think such beautiful love is very endurable—do write forthwith and at length— Compliments to your ‘Amplification7— I must see the life of Schiller before it goes

Yours Faithfully

Jane Welsh