The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 3 October 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18231003-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:442-445.


Haddington Friday [3 October 1823]

My dearest Friend

First a furious pain in my head that laid me up for a week, and then incessant and unavoidable occupation, of no pleasant nature, have kept me from writing to you all this time— I beseech you never suspect me of being unmindful of you—never unless you know for certain, that I am either deranged or dead— Tho' you may sometimes be at a loss to conjecture the cause of my silence, you may always be assured it is not want of will— Your idea is inseparable from my thoughts whatever they think on—were it torn away from my mind my whole existence would be laid waste—but I am not my own Mistress and am often constrained to devote my time to employments from which my heart is far away— Oh I do love you my own Brother! I even wish that Fate had designed me for your Wife; for I feel that such a destiny would have been happier than mine is like to be— But Fate is every whit as capricious as Fortune; if it is not the selfsame Deity, and rarely unites those whom nature meant to be united— And so you will cease to correspond with me when I marry! and you think I will ever marry at such a cost? Where is the Lover on the face of this earth that could console me for the loss of my Friend? We shall not cease to correspond! never never as far as it depends on me— If “Mrs——” is to be estranged from your affections I am Jane Welsh for life—

Are you better? Do tell me particularly how you are. What can Providence mean in bestowing health on so many millions that waste it in idleness or worse than idleness; and yet withholding it from you who would turn the blessing to such glorious account? perhaps to display your character in the most dignified point of view in which it could possibly be placed; for when does a noble mind appear more noble than when fighting with and gaining victories over Fate? Oh be careful of yourself! for the worlds sake and for mine— Were I again to lose the friend of my soul,1 again to be left alone in the midst of society—loving no one and yet possessing the faculty to love—perceiving nothing but the blackness of death in the universe around me—in the bustle and glitter and grandeur of the earth, nothing but the parade of a Funeral, Great God how wretched how ruined I should be! but you shall live, to be my guardian-angel—it cannot be the will of a merciful God that I should return to the dreary existence which I endured before we met—it cannot be his will that a soul born to enlighten the earth, to be the daystar of ages, should be obscured by the shadows of death ere a world has perceived its splendour. You shall live to love me while I live, and to mourn for me when I die & the thought that I shall be mourned by a heart so warm and true will overcome the terrors of death[.] I wish you were settled in your hermitage and I with you[;] you would be well in a months time; and then such books we should write! Oh etiquette etiquette! what a paradise of a world this might be if that accursed thing were banished!

I have just been interrupted by one of the most curious little gentlemen I ever set my eyes on— An Asiatic traveller, who is exploring the face of the earth “in quest of happiness” with a tremendous gold chain like a Lord Provost's round his neck and a magnificent rose-diamond on his second finger— He came to Edinr some weeks ago with a great stock of impudence and introductory letters, and has contrived to get himself noticed by all the literary people the place affords from the Blues up to Sir Walter Scot[t]— He was sent out to me, on a horse, by a very beautiful very silly woman, a sister of Ghrame the Poets,2 but for what purpose, I cannot divine—unless it were to observe the difference between a Town-Blue and a country one— If that was his errand he must have been gr[eatly] disappointed for I have played the idiot in such style that I am sure he is away in the belief that I am not at all dipped3— I sewed most industriously all the while he was here—lost my scissors and needle in the midst of his finest descriptions—railed at Learned Ladies all and sundry—answered continually No to all his questions about reading and completed his dismay by declaring that no new publications ever got to Haddington and that having no time for reading I never thought of sending for any— Poor little pug faced Turk (or whatever he is) it has not been here that he was destined to fall in with happiness— I have really used him shamefully ill; but it was so senseless to send an outlandish creature here that no one knows any thing about except that he is a friend of Maturin and Mrs Shell[e]y and visits at Keswick and Abbots Ford— Devil take him he has occupied far too much of my paper4— I wish I saw Meister— I do not understand this translating work at all—however I have commenced the tales—and was getting on with Lybussa at the astonishing rate of four pages a-day! When my illness and my Grandfather's5 death interrupted my studies— He was only ill two days—and died before his family were at all aware of his danger— I wish to God I had been with him— I could not have believed his loss would have affected me as it has done— Mr Irving is to be here for a few hours on Thursday— Mr Bradfute and Eliza are with us at present, and I shall get nothing done till they are gone— Alas alas it was a sad mistake in Nature to make me so ambitious— I wish you may have patience to read this scrawl[.] I am terribly hurried.— God Bless you my Beloved Friend[.] You[rs no]w and hereafter.

[Jane] B Welsh