TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 31 August 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230831-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:419-422.
TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH
Kinnaird House, 31 Aug., 1823—
My dear Jane,
I have longed for the arrival of this day, as the reward of a week's disquietude and toil: I determined not to write, till I should have it in my power to say that I was settled at my tasks, and doing something however small. The miserable weather kept me four days later in arriving than I had expected: your letter (with a heap of meaner scrolls*) was waiting to welcome me. And such a welcome! I felt, in reading it and reading it again, as if it were more to me than the charter to all the metal of Potosi. What a frank and true and noble spirit is my Jane's! No artifice, no vulgar management; her sentiments come warm and fearless from her heart, because they are pure and honest as herself, and the friend whom she trusts, she trusts without reserve. I often ask myself: “Is not all this a dream? Is it true that the most enchanting creature I have ever seen does actually love me? No! thank God it is not a dream: Jane loves me! she loves me! and I swear by the immortal powers that she shall yet be mine, as I am hers, thro' life and death and all the dark and bright vicissitudes that await us here or hereafter.” In more reasonable moments, I perceive that I am very selfish and almost mad. Alas! my fate is dreary and obscure and perilous: is it fit that you, whom I honour as among the fairest of God's works, whom I love more dearly than my own soul, should partake in it? No, my own best of Maidens, I will not deceive you. Think of me as of one that will live and die to do you service; whose good will, if his good deeds cannot, may perhaps deserve some gratitude; but whom it is dangerous and useless to love. If I were intellectual sovereign of all the world, if I were— But it is vain to speculate: I know that I am nothing, I know not that I shall not always be so. The only thing I know is that you are the most delightful, enthusiastic, contemptuous, affectionate, sarcastic, capricious, warm-hearted, lofty-minded, half-devil, half-angel of a woman that ever ruled over the heart of a man; that I will love you, must love you, whatever may betide, till the last moment of my existence; and that if we both act rightly our lot may be the happiest of a thousand mortal lots. So let us cling to one another (—if you dare when thus forewarned)—forever and forever! Let us put faith in one another, and live in hope that prospects so glorious and heavenly will not end in darkness and despair. If your happiness be shipwrecked by my means, then woe, woe is to me without end! But it will not: no, you will yet be blessed yourself in making me more blessed than man has right to look for being upon Earth. God bless you my heart's darling; and grant that our honest purposes may prosper in our hands!
All these incoherent inconsistent things you have often heard already: but you will bear with me in uttering them yet again. For me no subject connected with our correspondence and affection for each other needs the charm of novelty to make it interesting. If it were repeated to me fifty times a day that you loved me, I should still desire to hear it oftener. For the present, however, I must let you go.
How is it that you have lost all influence with your Mother, that she will not return and let you be at rest? I declare even I am beginning to get vexed at these delays. No wonder that you murmur, that you have given patience to the winds, and become determined to look on Templand only as a place of torment. That “strenuous idleness” was not made for minds like yours. Yet what is to be done? You have forsworn the understrapping virtue of submissive endurance; cannot you betake yourself to the more profitable resources of activity? Might you not write to the little Doctor to send you down Musäus [in large capitals] (can you read it now?) from the coach-office; and then bolt your chamber-door, and sit down to render it, in Nithsdale as in Lothian? If you are not to depart in a week or two, I do think you should try this. These Volksmahrchen are a promising enough kind of task for you: you will translate them excellently, I have no fear; and Boyd1 to whom I talked on the subject, as I last went thro' Edinr, is all in trim to have them published. I think they will make a very pretty volume, and a fair commencement of your intellectual labours. About your talents and ultimate success I have less doubt every day. No soul so vehement, no heart so fine as yours, but must ultimately come to light, to full development and full reward, in spite of difficulties far weightier than yours. Be restless, then, but not unhappy at your present isolation. I would ride their horses to death, and dispute every word they said, till they let me go. Long before October, when I see you, you will have advanced far into Musäus; full of ardent thoughts and cheered by gleams of celestial promise, you will have exchanged the residence of “Hell” for a region that stretches to the neighbourhood of heaven. If you are so delicious in that ugly abode, what will you be in the other! Be at peace, then, if you can, till the hour of freedom arrive. There is a long and brilliant life before you: trust in yourself and me, my best beloved Jane; and fear nothing. For you I am still a prophet of good not of evil. Stand to your task, and there is no danger.
You ask me what are my employments and my plans; you speak to me like my guardian Angel as you are. My feelings you seem perfectly to understand; I thank you a thousand times for your encouragements and sympathy; and I still hope however feebly that a day will come when you will say that they have not been in vain. Alas! no! I am not satisfied: my mind is a prey to everlasting strife when I contrast what I would be with what I am. There is a restless ardour in my heart as in yours. Like you I am ambitious, far too much so, tho' I phrase it otherwise; but the root of my inquietude lies far deeper than yours. My character is full of contradictions; outwardly, on the surface as it were, I am timid as a leveret; while within there are feelings that might suit a tiger—fierce, desperate, deep tormenting feelings! Hence a perpetual inconsistency in my conduct; hence my habit2 is less to act than to endure; hence the great principle that moves me is little better than a kind of—desperation. Poor Gentleman! I wonder what is to be done with him at last. A difficulty harder than all and partly peculiar I have yet to mention. O how often, when sicker than I am now, have I prayed that I might but be broken on the wheel every morning, and then have nothing more to do with pain! O! thrice and four times accursed “physical disease”; Tophet has not in its recesses such a tremendous scourge as thou! But what avails it to speculate? This evil also is but another element in the Chaos of materials out of which the intellect and the will (if any) are to create a glorious and manly history. This Evil too I will overcome. I have brought a horse out with me hither; I am trying every precaution to keep myself in tolerable health; in three weeks if I find that I cannot live here without the loss of that priceless blessing, I shall return to Mainhill—where a single month had almost made me whole. Meanwhile too I am not unemployed: after long re-deliberations, I have been decided (by the Bookseller)3 to go on with Goethe. Ten pages a day is my task: with riding, and teaching and other drivelling, I seldom get begun till six at night. Some parts of Meister are very stupid; and it is all very difficult to translate. But “let us not despise the day of small things!”4 All experience tells us that mountains may be removed by faith.5 Yes! I swear it, my noble Jane, you and I shall yet vanquish all these mean impediments, and shine together in the degree of brilliancy which is ours by nature, whatever that may be. If not—then woe to that man, it were good for him that he had never been born! In November they expect to begin printing Meister; when will Musaus be ready? Work, work, my heroine! There is nothing but toil, toil—till we reach the golden glowing summit,—and then—!— But I must cease, tho' the thousandth part has not been told. O! do write to me constantly, and often often: let no week pass without writing to me: we are one heart and soul forever, and each of us has none but the other to love and look to. Adieu my ever-dearest!
I am always yours,
Write to me without any delay, if you love me. I have millions of things to say, and boundless desire to say them. I will [underscored twice] see you in October, if both of us are this side Hades. Be diligent and good and love me with all your heart as I do you.
*Among these—one from his Reverence of Hatton Garden,6 good enough in its way. His book is come this minute—a copy purchased by Mrs B. I did not write the critique you mention: I have not yet read a word of the performance