The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 1 April 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230401-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:319-321.


Haddington Tuesday [1 April 1823]

My dear Friend

I am threatened with an inundation of visitors for the rest of the week, and supposing you will like a short letter better than none, I write today tho' I have very little time to spare—my whole morning has been worried with a pest of a dress-maker, ryhming [sic] over her vocabularly of fashion, and pinning, fiddling and experimenting on my unfortunate person, till I felt a strong temptation to vent my patience in a box on her ear— I shall not get my head cleared of the science of gown-making for a month to come, and what is worse I fear I shall not get the gowns much sooner—and, it seems, I cannot appear without them— Our visit to town has not been talked of for the last week— I am quite out of humour about it, and resolved I will not mention the subject to my Mother again, until she knows her own mind— However be patient! we have been much longer without meeting than we are likely to be—

I do think we will never never quarrel more. I could not contrive to exist without the support our intercourse affords me— In my most dispirited moods your letters revive my ardour, strengthen my resolution and colour all my prospects with the golden hues of hope— I shall never find another who will be so much my friend, and whose friendship will so powerfully influence my character and destiny— I was trying to write an essay on Friendship—in honour of our relation—when I had squeezed out a page with great mental agony the Devil tempted me to look a[t] Cicero's de Amicitia just to see how the subject should be managed. I got interested in it, and read it through—the consequence was obvious—my mind was so filled with Cicero's sentiments it had no room for any of my own— it is a pity the poor essay did not come through—from the manner in which I was going to work it must have proved a most extraordinary performance—

I have finished Gö[t]z1 at last but there are still a great many passages I cannot make out— I must read the whole volume to you when I have an opportunity— Egmont 2 in particular I wish to understand thoroughly, as I should like a translation of it for my album— Göethe does not make me cry like Schiller, but I like him abundantly nevertheless— I am busy with the fourth volume of Gibbon and Machiavelli's discourses on Livy. He is the only Italian that has interested me— They have sent me other two volumes of Las Cases. I fear my patience will not carry me through them—they seem to contain nothing new about his Emperor but a great many superlative eulogiums on his Atlas3 and he is not done yet! I suppose he means to put out two volumes at stated intervals as long as he lives— The packman is turning out to my hearts desire—we had rather an alarming scene the last day he was here. The Taylor had made him a dress of fairy green and when he had put it on I placed him before a Mirror that he might contemplate his little person in its new attire— Whether he had never seen a looking glass before or whether he was struck with something ridiculous in his appearance I cannot tell—but certain it is he was suddenly seized with such convulsions of laughter that I really believed he was about to go off like his hump-backed predecessor in the Arabian tales4— He is a dear little pet—you shall see him the first time you are here[.] Dr Lorimer's second daughter is dead of fever—she was a fine healthy girl about sixteen—5 how easily might all my schemes be ended!—and my memory pass away “like smoke on the air or foam upon the wave”—there are not half a dozen people in the world that would mourn for me above a week— oh fame fame! it is the only antidote to death—and I shall never win it[.] I can feel, but I cannot write; the more I try it the more I am convinced that nature has raised some unsurmountable obstacle to my desires—it is very hard! for I am sure I have known more ignorant and more senseless people than myself that scribble away delightfully. Do write soon— I hope to be able to fix the day nextime—but do not be impatient and never get angry with me—

Yours affectionately /

Jane Welsh