The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 16 September 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230916-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:426-428.


Haddington 16th September [1823]

My dear Friend

Your letter only reached me this morning, having sojourned at Templand more than ten days, “expecting an opportunity”— Charming as it is, I could almost wish it had not cast up at all; for it has troubled me more than I can tell— I feel there is need I should answer it without delay— And what can I say to you? it is so hard to explain one's self in such a situation! but I must! and in plain terms; for any reserve at present were criminal and might be very fatal in its consequences to both—

You misunderstand me—you regard me no longer as a friend, a sister; but as one who at some future period may be more to you than both— is it not so? is it not true that you believe me, like the bulk of my silly sex, incapable of entertaining a strong affection for a man of my own age without having for it's ultimate object our union for life? “Useless and dangerous to love you”! “my happiness wrecked by you”!— I cannot have misinterpreted your meaning! And my God what have I said or done to mislead you into an error so destructive to the confidence that subsist[s] betwixt us, so dangerous to the peace of us both? In my treatment of you I have indeed disregarded all maxims of womanly prudence, have shaken myself free from the shackles of etiquette— I have loved and admired you for your noble qualities, and for the extraordinary affection you have shewn me: and I have told you so without reserve or disguise—but not till our repeated quarrels had produced an explanation betwixt us, which I foolishly believed would gauruntee [sic] my future conduct from all possibility of misconstruction— I have been to blame— I might have foreseen that such implicite confidence might mislead you as to the nature of my sentiments, and should have expressed my friendship for you with a more prudent reserve—but it is of no use talking of what I might or should have done in the time past— I have only to repair the mischief in as far as I can, now that my eyes are opened to it now that I am startled to find our relation actually assuming the aspect of an engagement for life—

My Friend I love you— I repeat it tho' I find the e[x]pression a rash one—all the best feelings of my nature are concerned in loving you— But were you my Brother I would love you the same, were I married to another I would love you the same—and is this sentiment so calm, so delightful—but so unimpassioned enough to recompense the freedom of my heart, enough to reconcile me to the existence of a married woman the hopes and wishes and ambitions of which are all different from mine, the cares and occupations of which are my disgust— Oh no! Your Friend I will be, your truest most devoted friend, while I breath[e] the breath of life; but your wife! never never! Not though you were as rich as Crœsus, as honoured and renowned as you yet shall be—

You may think I am viewing the matter by much too seriously—taking fright where there is noth[ing] to fear— It is well if it be so! But, suffering as I am at this very moment from the horrid pain of seeing a true and affectionate heart near breaking for my sake, it is not to be wondered at tho' I be overanxious for your peace on which my own depends in a still greater degree— Write to me and reassure me—for God's sake reassure me if you can! Your Friendship at this time is almost necessary to my existence. Yet I will resign it cost what it may—will, will resign it if it can only be enjoyed at the risk of your future peace—

I had many things to say to you—about Musæus and all that. but I must wait till another opportunity— At present I scarcely know what I am about—

Ever Affectionately Yours /

Jane B Welsh