The Collected Letters, Volume 2


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 30 December 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18231230-JBW-TC-01; CL 2:495-497.


Haddington 30th December [1823]

My dear Friend

You never sent me a letter in your life that afforded me more satisfaction than your last. For a week I had been marvelling at your silence, and for the last two days of it I had been miserable outright. I do think there never was a brain so clever as mine in conceiving all possible calamities. One minute I fancied that I had lost your affection—at least in part—(and the conjecture looked likely enough; for you had seen me face to face, and must have found it no easy matter to recognise in my actual self, the superexcellent creature you had been picturing me among the hills of Perthshire.) and then I regre[t]ed that you had come hither at all, to be disturbed from an illusion so agreeable to us both; but presently the consciousness of my true affection for you reassured me on this head, it was impossible that you could cease to love one who loved you so faithfully and so well—and the next minute I had fully persuaded myself that you were ill-God knows there was small comfort in that view of the matter—the idea that you were dying, perhaps actually dead was like to drive me crazy altogether— Mercy! what an ass I am— The blue devils, it turns out, was all the matter!

The fates are against us my dearest Friend— This truth grows plainer and plainer every day. You however may fight it out to the end. You have a brave spirit in you, and nothing—nothing but a premature death can prevent your being in the long run one of the brightest ornaments of the age we live in—of this I am very sure— But for me! I have not force of mind to struggle through. “I have no genius”— I feel it—my ambition will be born[e] down at last by the difficulties that oppose its gratification—and when my ambition is no more what good reason will there be that I should occupy any room in our Creator's Universe— Lord have mercy upon me! when I cease to be ambitious I am a ruined woman!— I could not help smiling in bitterness of heart, when I found that your time had been spent, since we parted quite as unprofitably and unpleasantly as my own— You left me more than ever bent on well-doing, more than ever prepared to kick to the Devil every obstacle that should withstand the lofty purposes of my will. In this proper mood I was set down to my books before you were a mile on the way to Edinr— For two days I went on briskly at the appointed rate, on the third I was taken ill—more seriously than I had been before, and almost ever since, I have been bundled up among blankets on a sofa, and constrained to follow Mrs Montagu's divine prescription1— Oh the thumping pain in my head and feverish listlessness of mind that I have endured for these last three weeks I declare I was many times tempted to help myself to a doze of Arsenic when their detestable drugs and decoctions afforded me no relief— But I am well now—better than I have been for several months— I fell asleep one day last week, and for eight and forty [hours] slept as soundly as the enchanted Princess in in [sic] the story book— When I came to myself I was quit[e] another creature— I mean to devote the remainder of this year to the recovery of my strength, and to set to work in good earnest on the first of January—

Thus Rübezahl2 and Gibbon remain in stato quo and three weeks more of my time is passed away ‘leaving no wreck behind’3—but tho' my illness has impeded my progress it has materially mended my situation; and therefore I nothing regret it— When my Mother saw me so white-faced she quite forgot all my enormities and shewed a tenderness and solicitude for me which I have not experienced from her for a great while & I flatter myself that chance has thus laid the foundation of a more agreeable relation betwixt us in time to come. I assure you it shall not be my fault if I fail to conciliate her goodwill— to live without it, as I was living, would in a very short time break my heart. Do not allude to this subject when you write because— I must not keep your letters from her any longer. Tho' you recommend it to me to make concessions I am afraid you will hardly thank me for making this one—but it must be so— I cannot help it without casting matters back to where they were—as long as there was no confidence in my Mother's treatment of me, it passed well enough—the secret which I made of your letters looked merely like retaliation. But at present the case is quite different and such a reserve on my part would break very awkwardly in on* my confidential conduct in other respects and give rise to suspicions which it is neither for your credit nor mine that she should entertain— Besides, after all, it cannot prove any hardship to you or me that my Mother should see your letters as long as she continues in this benign humour. It is not necessary that you should write under any restraint[—]she will understand you, understand every thing at present just as I like—to convince you of this I need only tell you that I read her your last letter all except the part that related to herself (for skipping which I made a very bungling apology) and she found no fault with it. She even laughed heartily at your Mother's projected trip to Cornwal[l]—and after that what have we to fear?— indeed I should not have told you my intention at all—but have put into execution without making any words about the matter, only that I dreaded lest by alluding to herself you might place me again in a very awkward predicament— I cannot write another line— I never was so tired in my life— God bless you my dearest Friend— Yours for ever and ever

Jane B Welsh