1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 12 August 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240812-TC-JBW-01; CL 3:132-136.


Birmingham, 12th August, 1824—

My Dearest—what in Heaven's name is the matter? Are you sick or in distress? Is that cursed headache tormenting you that you cannot write to me? Or are you angry at me, and determined to avenge yourself by keeping silence and leaving me to the guardian Angels of the Imagination? Tantaene oe animis cœlestibus irae?1 Have you the heart willfully to keep me in impatient anxieties for a month, and then begin your letter as you threatened with a “Sir”? Do not, I intreat you: what use is it to vex one another, as if Fate did not vex us both sufficiently. I declare I know not what to make of it: every morning, that old hooknosed man totters up to the post-office; bringing Badams news of vitriol and vermilion and pictures and sweepstakes; bringing me too letters and packets from the north and from the south—but from Jane no breath of tidings! What shall I do? If I know you to be well and happy, I could wait for months in patience: as it is, I must wait; but Heaven knows, not in patience. If you do not mean to be very cruel, you will write me—tho' it were but a line—to say that you are in the land of the living, at peace and cheerful and not utterly oblivious of the all-important me. I pray God that I may hear of your welfare, and that common causes only have prevented you from writing. I mean not to languish in the pastoral style at present: but dear, dear Jane, do write; and there's an end of it!

Perhaps after all, you have but been jaunting up and down the world, and have had no leisure to think or talk, much less to write. Perhaps even you have never got my last scrawl, and know not whither to address a letter. If so, you are still a stranger to the sad news that Rübezahl, your much laboured Rübezahl, has been already printed in English! I have not seen the book; one Crabbe Robinson, an ancient Templar, told me of its existence, and more by token, that they had called the lubber Gnome himself by the name of Number-nip2 [nip underscored twice], which Crabbe thought no ordinary stroke of editorial felicity. Finish your tale however, and let us keep it as a memorial of your diligence. The publication is of course now out of the question; but the benefit to you is not lost; and we shall easily devise some other task for you. Nay I have already thought of one; which I want much to hear your vote upon. That interminable Life of Schiller, has at length drop by drop appeared in the London Magazine—all except the last fragment; and after much higgling to and fro, I have nearly agreed to publish it in a separate and much enlarged form with Taylor & Hessey—they, greedy Knaves, allowing me fifty pounds additional, for the projected improvements, the extent of which need be only very small but will most probably be considerable[.] Among these improvements, the most obvious are translations of Schiller's best pieces in prose and verse—scenes from his plays, poems; and extracts from his historical and philosophical writings. Now is there aught here for my own scholar? What if you should send for Schillers Gedichte (the two first volumes of his Werke) and read them over, selecting whatever you liked best, and were most disposed for? “O you fool! I cannot, I cannot!” O you fool, you can, you can. The Tiger3 (not of Bengal, but Dundas-street) would get you these books from Gillies; they are to be had for a trifle in the book-shops. Here would be room for your critical sagacity, and for the exercise of your powers of composition. Many of the poems you will not like, or perhaps fully comprehend—unless you are wiser than your philosopher: but others of them are delightful; The Germans prate about the Cranes of Ibycus (which is not bad) and the Ritter Toggenburg (which is not good) and the Spaziergang and the Ideal and the Glocke and many more; which I relish even less: but among those I have yet read I remember none that pleased me more than Hero and Leander and the Alpenlied both in the second volume. Try the Alpenlied: it is short and quite a jewel for beauty. Or will you have scenes of plays—translate me the scene between Posa and Philip in Don Carlos, or any scene in Wallenstein that you like. Or will you have prose: translate me Schiller's critique on Bürgers Gedichte4 (I think in the eighth volume) or any other thing that strikes you. Trouble yourself not about incorrectness and inability; try something if you love me: for look you, meine Liebe, I have set my heart on it; something of thine must and shall be in this book; as I predicted last year that we should go forth together, umschlungen zärtlich Seit' an Seite [affectionately entwined arm in arm]. And think if it will not be pretty to have your little casket locked up and begirt on every side in the masses of my coarse stoneware; shielded from all danger of critical-teeth with J. W. at the bottom, and no soul but ourselves one whit the wiser! You must write to me long and largely on this: and do not think to sham Abram,5 you lazy creature, and tell me that you have not talents et cetera; I tell you I have firmly resolved that your mind shall not run to waste, but come forth in its native beauty, before all is done, and let the world behold it. Shall your life of noble tho' half-blind struggling be utterly lost? Where is the laurel wreath I promised you? Be diligent and patient and wise, and it shall yet be yours.— Write about these things to me—seriously and copiously. What is the use of me, if not to help you forward in the pa[th] of duty and improvement? There is not another soul alive that wishes w[ith] such earnestness to see you good and perfect, the lovely and graceful and wise and dignified woman it is in your power to be. Oh that my powers and wishes should be so discrepant! Yet cease not to consult with me, at least; by our united efforts, notwithstanding all our errors, much, much may be accomplished: let us work while it is called to-day; for the night cometh wherein no man can work! I hope from you more than I will trust to words: it depends on both that the fairest visions be not utterly abolished, and nothing but a waste wreck of dreary ruin left behind!

I have no room to speak about myself. Badams still swears he will bring me into condition, will restore my health, and set me fairly on my feet unshackled by the infernal miseries that have almost sunk me into utter nothingness. If he keep his word, I laugh at fortune! As yet however it is all, or very nearly all, prospective: I am weak and stupid and depressed as ever; for the man has been experimenting on me, and drugs are an abomination to me in all their shapes. What think you of rising at six o'clock, and gallopping two hours upon a fiery hunter before breakfast? I began this morning. Badams is one of the finest fellows I have ever seen: in years scarcely older than myself, he has his destiny as it were subdued and lying at his feet, and all things fit around him, like the wheels in an eight-day clock. I cannot help wondering at the man, and at the relation I am in to him. Six weeks ago I did not know of his existence, and now we are acquaintances of fifty years standing! Badams has a clear head, an ardent simple heart,and no genius, as you would call it: thus he is quiet and kind and frolicksome and good. I begin to think the world has more worthy persons in it than I counted on. I have also seen learned ladies here!— But satis jam [enough]! No word farther till you write me, on far more interesting topics!

And when will that be, Liebchen? I declare it will be doubly and trebly hard, if you keep me waiting longer. Do not, do not! I long to know your history, your thoughts and purposes and feelings. Tell me every thing, in your dear chatting style. There is nothing in life like one of your right letters. Ask me about your reading—about every thing: I am now at leisure; and shall I not forever be, Dein Eigener [your very own]

Th: Carlyle

[In margins:] Tell your Mother that she must not forget me, or think of me otherwise than as I think of her. Is she well and good friends with you and yours? Make my kindest compliments to her, and claim for me a place in her remembrance.— Write, write, if you love me.

The Orator has an heir, with blue eyes I am told, and both straight in its head!6 The good Orator, of course, is one of the happiest men in England. Are you reconciled to him? Be so—you will, will you not?

The address, if you have forgot it, is: Care of John Badams Esqr, Birmingham—