1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 25 January 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240125-TC-JBW-01; CL 3:21-24.


Kinnaird House, 25th Jany 1824

My dearest Jane,

Last Friday I was once more gratified with the sight of your handwriting on the back of a letter for me; a sight which never fails, even in my most lugubrious humours, to dispel the dark shadows from my mind, and replace them with images of happiness and hope. I enjoyed your letter very much: you see I am anxious for another such. I confess I have no right to reply so soon; and to-night I ought to be minding other business: but you must let me play truant for once; I shall work better for it in time coming.

Well! you are a dear, warm-hearted, fiery-tempered, faithful, affectionate creature: and tho' you should not have done the Doctor so much honour as to get enraged at him, it was kind and like yourself to despise and disbelieve his little calumnies. At the same time, I will not insult our friendship by thanking you for this: it were indeed poor times with us if our esteem for one another lay at the mercy of every puny whipster that chose to take it on him to criticise us: you have done as I should do in a similar case. As for our satirical and medical friend, I cannot say that this little piece of magnanimity has perceptibly altered the place he held in my estimation. Considering his circumstances, it can excite little surprise and still less resentment. Small as the man's feelings may be, ridiculous as we may think his fancied injuries, to him they are not ridiculous: the least and weakest of living creatures is a universe for itself: the hopes and wishes of a grasshopper are to that grasshopper all in all. Let us be just to the Doctor: it was difficult to be generous, nor easy to be even candid, in his case; I forgive him for this time; and trust that when he next goes to the George inn to see me order a horse, and (finding it spavined and mounted with a coach-saddle) to counter-order it, I may have grace given me to go through that appalling operation in a more heroical manner.

For the rest, tho' I regret that you should have taken the trouble to quarrel with little Fyffe, I rather rejoice that your intimacy is concluded. Blind chance never in its most capricious mood brought two more uncongenial souls into contact than yours and his: friendship it was impossible that you should ever feel for him; and what he was presuming to feel the most careless might discover. I declare it did astonish me: the impudence of the human heart seemed to me to pass all calculation; I should as soon have thought of perching myself upon the horns of the moon.— Pshaw! The body is going to make me also get sour at him, if I think any longer of this!

—Doubt not that I wait with eager anxiety for the explanations you have promised me. It is a subject not without interest to either of us. I more than once meant to write of it or speak of it; but feelings you can easily conceive forbade me. How delightful it is that we have no secrets; but love each other, and trust each other, and are of one heart and mind even now! Do you think that it will continue? I sometimes think so. Many circumstances are against us; but we ourselves are in our favour! Consider that, mein Kind, and let us hope the best.

You do not say how you get on with Rübezahl the Carrot-counter,1 or with your history and other studies. Of course this journey to Edinr must have interfered with you a little; yet you will still get something done; and on the whole a little moderate dissipation will do you good. For Heaven's sake how is your health? On this point I have often tired you: let me again beg for my sake that you would be careful, solicitous in this matter. The loss of health is a thing quite possible with one of your temper and habits: it involves the loss of nearly all that life contains worth having. One thing I still must press upon you: it it [sic] to keep your mind as free as possible from vexatious thoughts. Above all, never let the slowness of your intellectual progress disturb you. Life is short, but not nearly so short as your fancy paints it: there is time in it for many long achievements, many changes of object, many failures both of our hopes and fears. Festina lenté2 is the motto: you make the greatest speed that way; if any thing can be attained, you attain it; if nothing, nature does not mean it; she has had fair play, and wherefore should we fret? That you write so slow and can still fix on nothing, I do not value a rush; in your circumstances, secluded and solitary as you have always been, it is of no account whatever. See! I am half a dozen years older than you; have done nothing else but study all my days, yet I write slow as a snail, a[nd] have no project before me more distinct than morning clouds. And do you think my dear that I have given up hopes of writing well, as well as ninetenths of “the mob of gentlemen that write with ease”3—far better than almost any of them, when in my vain key? By no manner of means, I assure you: my hopes are as good at this time as they ever were. Faith! and Patience! These are literary as well as religious virtues. Let us fear nothing.

You must not go away from Edinr till I come—if you can possibly help it. There is no certainty in these people: they are gone to Edinr themselves, and have left me here to follow on the tenth, on Saturday week. Then I shall be down without fail. At present I am not very uncomfortable: the young men and I are quite alone: they are fine creatures and esteem me extremely in their way; and what is better, they leave me much time at my own disposal, and I am rather busy. Schiller will be done at last in about a week. God be thanked! for I am very sick of him. It is not in my right vein, tho' nearer it than any thing I have yet done. In due time I shall find what I am seeking.— When not writing, which health permits but at rare intervals, I go striding along these roads, or trotting the “constitutional trot”; thinking of many things—often of Schiller; and ever and anon a little wicked gipsey, whose face I know too well is poking her nose into the concern—doing her best to distract my attention. Devil take you! But I will be revenged on you for all this yet.

Now will you write to me, before I leave this place—that is to say before ten days? I know you will. Also do try if possible to let me see you in Edinr. I am never absent from you a week, till I begin longing again to see you; and we almost never meet without etiquette or some cursed business depriving us of nine tenths of the pleasure. It is very provoking: but I swear it shall not always be so! I will go with you to London by the first of May—at least I hope and believe so. Write soon to me. God bless you my beloved Jane! Be good and love me. Your's forever,

Th: Carlyle