The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO ELIZA STODART; 22 July 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230722-JBW-EA-01; CL 2:405-407.


Templand 22d July [1823]

My beloved Cousin

I have one excuse to offer for my apparent forgetfulness of you, and of my promise—it is rather metaphysical in its nature; but there is ‘common sense’ in it for all that— However as it would require at least two pages of my paper, to explain it fully, and as I have other matters more interesting to discuss, I shall rely on your christian charity, in the mean time; confident of obtaining your full forgiveness when we meet—

If ever my excellent Mother gets me wheedled here again! three weeks indeed! I conjectured how it would be from the very first— Oh my beloved German, my precious, precious time! Were there only some definite prospect of a release! but there is none—as long as our friends here press us to stay, my Mother will not stir—my only hope is in tiring them—

We have got my Uncle from Liverpool, his wife, the most horrid woman on the face of the earth, and five such children! in addition to our family-party—and what with the mother's scolding and the children's squalling, and my Uncle's fighting, and my Grandfather's fidgetting, I am half demented; and if some speedy alteration for the better does not take place in my condition, you may expect to hear of me being found drowned in the Nith or hanged in my garters1

Now and then a visit to Penfillan or somewhere has afforded a little variety to my existence— The week before last I spent with my Uncle George at Boreland2—and such a week! There was no amusement within doors, and the weather precluded the possibility of finding any without— The only book in the house (“Cœlebs in search of a wife”) was monopolized by a young Lady who, I strongly suspect, had come there upon Cœlebs's errand—and the rest of us had no sort of weapon whatever to combat time with[.] For four whole days I had nothing for it but to count the drops of rain that fell from the ceiling into a bason beneath; or to make a ‘burble’ of my watchchain, for the satisfaction of undoing it— Oh! Plato Plato! what tasks!— At length in a phrensy of ennui I mounted a brute of a horse that could do nothing but trot, and rode thirty two miles just for diversion— I left the good people at Boreland wondering, when it would fair? they had wondered for four days, and when I came back they were still wondering! How few people retain their faculties in rainy weather!—

I spent two days in Dumfries on my way back—and these two days were more interesting than the three hundred and sixty five preceeding ones. Who do you think was there at the self same time?— My own gallant Artist! Benjamin Bell himself! I fancied him still inhaling the atmosphere of Goëthe when I learned he was within a stone-cast of the spot I sat on! But I did not see him!!! or rather I did not speak with him; for I actually saw him—on the opposite bank of the river! Let any human being conceive a more tantalizing situation! saw him—and durst not make any effort to attract his notice—tho', had my will alone been consulted in the matter, to have met him “eyes to eyes, and soul to soul,” I would have swam—ay swam across, at the risk of being dozed [dosed] with water-gruel for a month to come— Oh this everlasting etiquette! how many, and how ungrateful are the sacrifices it requires! Providence has surely some curious design respecting this youth and me! it was on my birth-day, we parted a year ago—it was on my birth-day we met or (but for that confounded river) should have met again— and there are many stranger coincidences in our histories besides— Something must come out of all this!—and yet it was strange in Providence, after bringing us together from such a distance, to leave us on the opposite banks of a river! I declare I do not know what to make of it—but time, time unravels all mysteries— And now whither is he gone? to the north, or two the South? I learned that his father had taken a seat in the English mail—but was it for himself or for his son? I wonder what the devil keeps my Mother here?—

We are off again tomorrow on another visit—to the Chrighton's3 at Dabton— Mrs C is one of my first favorites.

—I hear William Gordon is to be married to a cousin of his own in Dumfries— I declare I cannot hear of these marryings and givings in marriage without some feeling of irritation—but esperance! it is my motto—

What think you of the “great centre of attraction,” the “spanish Adonis,” the renowned Edward Irving? did I not tell you how it would be? Oh I do share in his triumph! but I fear—I greatly fear he has not a head for these London flatteries—

This travels by the ‘Proffessor (one f) of silence’4—as also Mr Aitken's books and two pairs of shoes—the shoes I will thank you to get transmitted to Anderson—and I will likewise thank you remember me to Mr Aitken and to apologise to him for my having detained these books so long— I never liked risking them by the coach and this is the first opportunity that has occur[r]ed— The parcel will be left at the shop—

Every body here except the woman—who knows nothing at all about you—unites with me in kind love to yourself and Brady5— Remember me, according to your discretion to all my acquaintances you know.

Write to me, if you can forgive me—and believe me

Always Affectionately Yours

Jane B Welsh