The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 25 May 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230525-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:362-365.


Kinnaird House1, 25th May, 1823—

My dear Friend,

Your punctuality towards me required a better recompense than this apparent negligence. I galloped down to Ecclefechan on the day appointed, amid storms of wind and rain; I found your letter waiting for me, like a diamond among the rubbish of the place, and returned home to read it, careless of the tempest, and more quickly than I had come. Since Thursday, if you have thought of me at all, it must have been with something of irritation at my sloth: but you would lay aside that feeling if you knew the bustle and confusion in which I have passed my time. I scarcely exaggerate when I call this the very first quiet hour that has occu[r]red in my history since you wrote. Now that I am settled, I shall be as regular as ever. Our correspondence has always been delightful to me; and I now begin to augur from it even more enjoyment than before. Let me beg of you to second my endeavours to make the most of it, while the Fates allow it to continue. It seems to depend upon ourselves whether we shall be as happy as two persons need be.

I spent a joyful week in Annandale, amid scenes in themselves unattractive or repulsive, but hallowed in my thoughts by the rude but genuine worth and true affection of those who people them. I know not how it was that I so confidently anticipated seeing you on my return either at Edinr or Corstorphine. Perhaps I reckoned on the irregularity of your movements, and imagined that the chapter of chances would for once turn up in my favour. But it did not: on Thursday morning, these delusions were dispelled. The Coach had just reached Workman's door in Moffat, and I was sitting calmly on my place, reposing after a hard ride on horseback of nearly twenty miles, when a voice below pronounced my name in a tone of gladness; and whose should the voice be but your little Doctorkin's! It was Fyf[f]e himself travelling like a weavers shuttle from Edinr and back to it: he took his place beside me on the roof, and we journeyed together. “Miss Welsh, sir,” said he “arrived at her Grand-father's the night before last.” This joyful intelligence was given with an air of knowingness and self-sufficiency which I relished very little. The topic of “Miss Welsh” I studied to avoid for the rest of the day. This Fyffie is a jewel of a creature; made of the kindliest clay, feels good will towards many persons, ill will towards none; and his little spirit mounts and swells and whirls about with all the briskness of the freshest cann of penny-beer. I cannot but admire the man, a little more would make me envy him. The lion is ruler of the forest, but the squirrel leads a merrier life: one had sometimes rather be the squirrel. I shall always entertain a species of affection for your Doctor: he is of the genus cricket, and I like all crickets.

There was nothing but toil and chagrin for me in Edinr; so I staid there only a few hours, and last night I arrived here. Of course I can yet say nothing definite about those mighty enterprizes in which you and I are to be engaged throughout the summer; only, in general terms, that I still augur well of their success. Müsae[u]s was not come to Edinr, when I passed; but I look for it here shortly: when I have perused two volumes of it, you will find them at Haddington, with my remarks, and then you must begin the work of translating with might and main. In the mean time, I hope you are busy with Faust and Egmont, and already recovered from the fatigues and vexations of the North. Be careful scrupulously careful about your health; keep yourself constantly employed in the same noble occupations which have hitherto formed the great business of your life; never forget your worshipful Tutor; and no evil shall betide you. I often feel assured that we shall yet join hands in perfect happiness: God grant the time were soon to come, and never to pass away!

For my own part, I think I am going to be comfortable enough in my new quarters. The Bullers are good people, and what is better, the first hour when they treat me uncivilly shall likewise be the last. So we live together in that easy style of cheerful indifference, which seems to be the fit relation between us. For the rest, I have balmy air to breathe, fine scenery to look at, and stillness deeper than I have ever before enjoyed. My apartments are in a house detached from the larger building, which except at meals and times of business, I intend to frequent but seldom: my window opens into a smooth bowling-green, surrounded with goodly trees, and the thrushes have been singing among them, tho' it has rained every moment since I came. Here then I purpose to spend my hours of leisure, to labour hard, and think sweetly of friends that are far away. Here will Jane's letters be perused as they arrive, and many foolish but delightful thoughts about her be entertained. These day-dreams are blessed things at times! And surely it is kind in Nature to give us these images of Heaven when she cannot give us Heaven itself. Falsò queritur de Naturá;2 I protest people use the old Lady in the most unhandsome manner. If Her[schel]3 with his telescope can shew us the Ring of Saturn, shall we blame him because he does not bring us down a slice of it to carry home in our pockets? No! I will dream away, as I look at these beautiful vallies with their sides of rock and their bottoms of emerald verdure; dream of happiness that is not in store for me: the barren reality will come soon enough, but cannot rob me of the pleasure I enjoyed in disbelieving it.

But I must let you go for this time: my paper and my time are done; and stupid and confused as I am what good were it tho' I had quires and days at my command? You must write me one of your longest letters the very first hour you can spare after this reaches you. Tell me every thing that you have done and suffered since we parted. Are we not friends, and to continue so forever? You smile at my forever, and tell me of chance and change: but I will hope for better things. Both of us have a thousand faults; but we are both truehearted people, both full of obstinacy: so let us trust in each other, and never fear the tricks of Fortune. I shall have no rest till I hear from you: write, therefore, write my kind Jane, as early as you can find a moment's leisure. It will be a pretty affair when I come down in August, if you have forgotten me! But you are the best of all the Maidens now alive, and would not do so uncivil a thing for the world. God bless you, my own dear Jane! I am always—Your's from the heart,

Th: Carlyle.

The Address had almost been forgotten! Put: Kinnaird House, Dunkeld; and that will find me.— Tell your Mother that I have got a kind of copy of the old chaunt Bridekirk's Hunting4 for her: it is not worth postage, but I will send it by the first parcel.— Müsae[u]s is arrived just now, and Meister and all of them! The former is in five pretty volumes; you shall hear of them ere long. Write soon, if possible. I am tired to death, and stupid as lead; next time I will do better. when I have gathered my wits again. Good night, and joy be with you!