The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 18 July 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230718-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:398-401.


Mainhill, 18th July, 1823

May blessings be upon you, my dear Jane, for the letter I got yesterday! It delivered me from a load of perplexities: I had not been in so galling a predicament for many months. What had befallen us, what kept you silent so long, I could not with any plausibility conjecture. Of your truth and kindness I harboured no doubt; my “faith” in you will stand far severer trials. If the weakness of poor human nature perpetually exposes us to offend even those we love most, I know you too well to suspect that you can entertain anger against me, even with a just cause—feeling as you must how impossible it is that my will should sin in this particular, and how amiable it is to pardon and forget. Had you been of that punctilious temper, had you acted at all as an ordinary woman, we should never have advanced thus far; the first week of our acquaintance must have been the term of my services; I should then have received a perpetual leave of absence, and have stood forever, if I stood at all, in your rememberance, as simply the most untoward and unpleasant individual it had been your evil chance to meet with. Thank heaven, it is not so! No, no, “we will never never quarrel more!” Thus it stands in your own handwriting, in black and white against you: I keep the paper as a kind of magna charta, with which I put to flight the armies of the Alien whenever they attack me in that quarter. But if these partisans of the Enemy were so triumphantly repulsed in their main battle, they came on with but the more vigour in the wings. I thought surely you must be sick, or embarrassed, or unhappy in some one of the thousand ways of being so. I believe I have the most benign imagination of any youth in His Majesty's dominions. When I learned that you were still in Nithsdale, and yet found no letter for me here, it seemed as if something very awful was impending! I wrote twice to you, and burned my papers successively before they were concluded, that I might not plague you with my silly fantasies. At length I determined to wait till Saturday; then if news came not, to write in the most sublime manner; and after another week of fruitless expectation to begin being wretched in good earnest. But you are an excellent creature in your own way; among the hills of Galloway you had been caring for me. I was sitting yesterday with my eyes fixed on Jonathan's German lesson, and my thoughts wandering some twenty miles away from it, when your letter came,—like the dove to Noah's ark, with a branch of olive in its bill, to shew that the Earth was not yet quite ruined. Well! we should be thankful that all is right. I have only to add my humble prayer that Mademoiselle would never again keep me as long ignorant of her proceedings, never while we both continue in this world. This you call rather an impudent prayer; but the most part of prayers are so; you will do your best to grant it

Why, now that the Burble is all unravelled, I should risk producing it again, and at any rate afflict you so early with my scribbling, I know not; unless it be that my chief pleasure lies in afflicting you. Certainly you are a “great temporal blessing”1 to me in this respect. But I want also to keep you in mind of that precious promise “to write to me at large in a day or two.” See that you think of this to fulfil it! I must know your whole history, your enjoyments and chagrins, all your ups and downs for the last seven weeks. Above all, do not forget to consider and tell me, when and where I am to see you. I am not Job more than you are, tho' both of us are of kindred to Job's wife.2 These disappointments are enough to exhaust one's stock of patience altogether. I do long to see you and talk with you in freedom. A thousand things are lying on my heart, which I dare not trust to paper, the half of which I should not trust to words: let me behold your fair face and black eyes, that I may study them, and see whether you are to me an angel of light yea or not. I believe you in my heart to be a sorceress, and that no good will ever come of you. Nevertheless let me examine face to face. Tell me when, and I will abide my time without complaining. At present I am scarcely more than twenty miles from Templand: it would be the easiest thing in nature for me to come riding so far across the moors, and the joyfullest—if that were all. But I have so much confidence both in your affection and prudence that I will not think of attempting it without your express permission. It would indeed make the next a glad week: but I scarcely hope it. In that case, shall I see you at Haddington as I go up about the tenth of August? I do intreat you to contrive something: if I go back to Kinnaird without having seen you, I shall be fit for treasons stratagems and spoils.3 No, I will not grow cholerick, but I shall be very sad. Write, write, and send me help if you can.

Poor little Jane got her book from you three weeks ago; she has it covered with paper, and laid up in the most secret places of her drawer, guarding it so religiously from harm that she will not venture to read it, but has borrowed another copy for that purpose. She is prouder of it than of any other present ever given her; and well she may. My dear friend, you are really too good to me; I absolutely feel ashamed of your kindness when compared with my demerits. To think of your affection, and the many delightful ways you take of shewing it, and then to think of all that I should have done for you and have not offers but a melancholy contrast. With my wishes towards you I have sometimes reason to be satisfied; but alas for their accomplishment! I have derived from you some of the finest enjoyments and hopes of my existence; natural feeling tho' unseconded by such calls of gratitude would imperiously command me to serve you: and all these claims I have yet to cancel! Well I swear it shall yet be done! If it be in the power of fallen man, some suitable result shall come out of these many strivings. I think if I knew you happy and fulfilling the destiny for which nature marked you, I too should be happy. Let us hope, my best Jane, let us never cease to endeavour: in time we too shall have our day of triumph. Would it were here!

You regret unjustly the departure of another year: it has not departed in vain. You know much that you knew not this time twelve-month; you seem to me in a much more reasonable state of mind; you are getting arrangements made for a better future: on the whole I am satisfied with your progress. Nor will this long rustication be altogether useless. You have need to be called away at times from dead books and studies into the living world. A Blue imagines that all the interests of life are comprised within the letters of the alphabet: a superior woman knows that many persons ignorant and careless of “literature” in all its branches, are more deserving of attention than ninety-nine hundredths of “the mob of gentlemen that write with ease.”4 There is a world that is not of types and printers: it is a too great abstraction from this warm variegated world that causes most of the misery and many of the faults which deform too frequently the literary life. I rejoice that you are with sensible persons, that love you and are of habits so foreign to your own. Bear the interruption with patience; you will return to your studies with the greater ardour. The good Musäus lies in durance for you at Haddington, longing to be free. You will make a brilliant figure with him, before the winter begins: I have given you all needful notices (and many things not needful besides) in a long melancholy letter, which I wrote when very sick. I calculated then on completing my instructions verbally. Shall I not be so favoured? Do think and study what is to be done. If I may come to Templand, expect me very soon: if not invent something else. At all events write to me as you promised immediately. If you cannot see me, now or in August, do not vex yourself about me: I shall arrange matters some other way, and still live on hope. God bless you my Dearest! Seeing you or not seeing, (“In two days”!)

I am ever your's, /

Thomas Carlyle.