The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 15 July 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230715-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:396-398.


Southwick Galloway / 15th July [1823]

My dear Friend

If you are not strong in faith you must be ready to cast me off as the most ungrateful of correspondents; but tho' appearances are against me I am not much in fault— The first of your three letters which was addressed to Templand reached me in due time— I was ashamed to answer it without having performed what you required—and never had you assigned me so difficult a task— That letter cost me more thought than all the letters I have written for a twelvemont[h], and after all, a sillier never was penned— The very day it was sealed and sent, I wrote to you—a long letter—to be put into the post office at Dumfries on my way hither— I was seated in the mail, with the said letter in my reticule, calculating, as we drove along, how many days it would be before it reached Dunkeld when the horses suddenly stopped and your last addressed to Hadd., flew in at the window— Had I not been in the most prosaic situation imaginable I might have fancied a pigeon or some winged spirit was in your service and had borne it through the air to where I was—but, alas! I was travelling from Thornhill to Dumfries by a mailcoach—and not on the top, where (according to the Hero of Hatton Garden)1 poetical feelings and romantic situations suggest themselves on Mondays, but within the dusty belly of the vehicle, with two “stout Gentlemen” “whose talk was of bullocks.”2 What but the very prose of life could appear to me in such a predicament?— I understood immediately that the Postmistress at Thornhill had found the letter on opening her bag—and being a civil woman had forthwith despatched a messenger after the mail to hand it in to me— I thanked her from the bottom of my heart— But the letter itself was not so quickly understood[.] You apologized for writing me two letters in two days, and I had not had one from you for two weeks, and then you spoke of visiting me—in Dumfries[s]hire before you set out for Dumfriesshire! I could not comprehend your meaning at all till it occur[r]ed to me to look at the post-mark—and then, when I saw the great black Haddington the whole affair was intelligible enough[.] You had sent a parcel there which of course I had never received our house being shut up—and the coach people not knowing where to address to me— What a genius like proceeding!—however I trust the books will come by no harm— You will perce[i]ve it was impossible for me to have answered your proposal in time for you must have reached Mainhill before I knew you had left the north— nor could I write to you sooner than now. To have sent the letter which I had ready, as it was—would only have made the burble worse, and I had not a minute to add a post-script at Dumfries; for the instant I arrived there, I was hurried on horseback, and carried twenty miles that night into the wildest part of Galloway.3 Here I have been for a week regret[t]ing the perplexity my silence might occasion you without being able to remove it; for the people here never write letters but on wednesdays, and there is no post for the accomodation of strangers who might incline to break through this regulation— Tomorrow I return to Templand—that eternal Templand—and if I hit on no other letter from you between the Howe of Southw[ick] and Dumfries this intricate explanation will probably be deposited there in passing— I scarcely know what I have written—nor have I time to write any more—I have ridden two and thirty miles since I rose this morning and in half an hour I must be dressed to receive visitors a[t] tea—but I shall have no time tomorrow and I cannot be comfortable with the idea of you being uneasy at my silence—the life I am leading is enough to drive a Job out of his wits—and me who am no Job it will shortly kill outright— Yesterday was my birth day—there is another year over my head and nothing nothing done— I could cry with vexation and shame—if strangers were not coming to tea— I will w[r]ite you more decently in a few days— my love to your Brother and little Sister[.] Yours ever affectionately

Jane Baillie Welsh