TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 11 June 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230611-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:375-379.
TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH
Kinnaird House, 11th June, 1823.
My dear Jane,
There must certainly be a spice of the sturdy Beggar in me, else I should not feel so impatient to get news of you. Never did woman write so faithfully to man so unworthy as you have long done to me; yet still my craving is unsatisfied, my cry is still: Give! Give! Yesterday at noon I was standing by the parlour-window, looking at these craggy mountains and the fleecy clouds, and wondering if Jane was well and happy, when the old grey Postman came pattering along the gravel on the outside of his nimble Shelty,1 bearing as usual his miscellaneous bag of tidings, his news of deaths and news of weddings, his matters spiritual and matters temporal, pieces of fine sentiment stuffed in beside bakers' and buthchers' bills, and all his long tag-rag of etceteras; himself the while minding no jot about the whole of them, calculating only when the devil he should get to Aberfeldy thro' these cursed roads. I thought anxiously if peradventure he brought no packet out of Nithsdale? Two minutes more resolved my query: the particoloured gentleman came smirking and scraping in with a large letter, which I knew to be from you! I nearly overset the particoloured gentleman, in my haste to reach my own apartment. Such a letter was worth waiting thro' a twelvemonth for: since then, I have thought of nothing earthly else. You are kinder to me than I shall ever be able to repay. No! my own Jane, I never never shall forget you, but love you better and more dearly all the days of my existence. None ever more deserved it.
In my repeated studies of your letter, no part of it escaped me: I need scarcely say with what attention I perused your clear and candid narrative of that disagreeable affair,2 which has vexed you so much. I am more than proud that you thought it necessary to disclose it to me, and had the firmness to disclose it so plainly. Such conduct is like your true and guileless self: if we both follow that manner of proceeding constantly, suspicion will not find a place between us, to disturb the harmony of our affection: I honour you for what you have done, and hope I might in a similar case be able to imitate what I honour. The matter itself I have maturely considered; and far from blaming you, I but love you the more for what was meant so well, tho' it has turned out so oppositely. You have in fact been guilty of nothing, except it be a crime to despise all coquetry, and to feel for the pain you are giving to a heart that loves you. If your endeavours have failed, the fault rests not with you, or at worst consists but in a want of cold calculation, the error into which your frank and generous nature is ever aptest to hurry you, and which I should pity myself if I did not rather respect than censure. Cease then to regard this unlucky business as a cause of self-accusation: whatever becomes of it, you are innocent as even I could wish you; dearer to me than you were, because I see in it a new proof of that warmth of heart and fearless upright simplicity for which I have always loved you. You are my own noble Jane still, and will ever be so.
The past then is right;3 the future may require more consideration. One thing is clear to me as the light of day, that you ought to explain the matter fully to the young man, without losing a moment. Whatever you may dread from the violence of his temper, the danger is increasing every moment that you leave him any hope, however slight; perhaps even the slighter the worse. Your own mind is irrevocably made up (is it not?) [is underscored twice]; and this you are bound to let him know distinctly and at once whatever may betide. For your friend, unfortunate as he is and apparently a very amiable man, I should be a savage if I did not feel deep sympathy: I see that your letter must fall upon him like a thunderbolt and leave him crushed as if forever. But if managed rightly, the effect will not be what you fear. Much of the torment arising out of these disasters is in all cases derived from the injury done to the pride of the sufferer as well as to his affections. Of course in your mildest and kindest manner, you will strive to spare him all that needless pain. Admire him, praise him, be his sister, any thing but his mistress. The latter, above all, let him see that it is not in the power of fate itself to make you. Thus cut off from every shadow of hope, the young man will be very wretched for a season: but he will at length have discovered truly the ground he stands on, imagination will no longer have the power to tempt and irritate and dupe him; whatever force is in him will rally to his aid; if silly he will most probably do his best to hate you; if a man of sense he will like you more reasonably than he did, but not a whit the less; any way you will soon be forever clear of his love, for love without some hope more or less is a plant rooted out from the soil where it grew, it withers in a single day. This young man is not like others, if the whole fortune of his life is set upon one single cast. He must have ambitions and wishes of many kinds, which this affliction will not ruin. Point these out to him if you know them: they will assert their own claims tho' you do not. In six weeks, unless he is excessively idle, or has a mind far weaker or far stronger than any man I have ever met with, I prophecy that he will look upon the whole transaction with composure; in twelve months it will be faded into distance,—a chasm, the widest among the many which disfigure life's journey, but soften[e]d from its horrors by the space that intervenes into a kind of melancholy beauty which it may always retain. I know, some men have done rash and terrible deeds in cases like this; but these men have had weak heads and wild hearts, and almost always they have had foul play. This friend of yours is in none of these predicaments: if you explain to him the genuine motives of your conduct, he will see that it has been spotless as an angel's; and without the feeblest expectation of any unnatural revenge to goad him on, he will have sense to perceive that “the last moment of his existence” is still at a considerable distance. God help him! poor fellow—I say it in truth and sincerity: he will be very miserable for a week or two, but that will be the worst of it.
On the whole, my dear Jane, I could wish that you had done with this vexatious business. I shall be on thorns till I hear what has become of it. If you like my advice, get it put in execution without delay, and tell me that the whole is over. I am indeed very impudent to set up for advising you in a concern which you know so much better how to manage of yourself: but I feel a deep anxiety about it, for many reasons which I need not state; and what one feels about one must be speaking of. I have already filled your sheet with it: no more of it now!
I am sorry that you find so little that is worthy of you in Dumfries-shire. Do not vex yourself, my dear kind-hearted Jane, about the shallow people of Penfillan. Your Father's memory lives in a shrine more worthy of it than hearts like theirs. I never saw him that I might have honoured him; but his character they tell me is still to be traced in yours, as certainly his watchful care for the formation of your mind and his unwearied love are visible in their effects: cherish the thought of so noble and so dear a man; cherish it, my Jane, within the secret cell of your own bosom, and heed not how vulgar mortals feel regarding it: if you ever think me worthy of the highest honour, you will let me unite with you in that most sacred of all your sentiments. My poor Jane!— But there is a life beyond this vale of tears, where souls that were made for love and for each other shall meet and never part any more.
I had many thousands of things to say, but I am got into a mood too solemn for talking of such matters. It is long past mid-night; darkness and stillness are over the face of this world; the shadows of the other come hovering round one's mind. No more to-night! May good angels watch over your pillow, may the Great Father of all forever bless you, my best my bosom friend! A Dieu!
Thursday-morning, 12th.— This is far too tragical a mode of writing, it will never do. Next time I shall be as merry as any Lark—as I ought to be, for I am happy here, at least happy when I talk to you. I am also a fool to write so soon; I might have had the better word of you for a week to come, now I must sit piping and pining reckoning how many days it will be till you shall please to give me anothers alms. But you will not be very long; that I know. Write to me all the sense or nonsense that is in your head, mind not what or how.
I finished your Musaeus ten days ago: it is a nice little book and will do very well. You shall have it at Had[dingto]n whenever you get there, with multifarious advices and palavers. I am beginning Meister, but getting very slowly on. Next time I will tell you all. I have been sick and sleepless, otherwise very happy; now I am recovering. You must ride every day. Be merry, and love me. God bless you.