1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JWC TO DUGALD GILCHRIST; 14 September 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240914-JWC-DG-01; CL 3:e5.


Templand 14th September [1824]

My dear Friend

I am unwilling to commence our correspondence under evil auspices; so I shall not fatigue you with any long-winded apology. I merely declare, as I am a christian woman and hope to be saved, my delay in answering your letter has not proceeded from forgetfulness—on the contrary the idea that you might be feeling anxious about me has often twinged my conscience very severely. But (as I told you before) I can do nothing when I have visitors to attend to. Mr Baillie1 who accompanied us hither went away only yesterday, and there has been a host of people here besides.

So you think my sweet cousin unamiable, do you? Blessings on your modest assurance! Depend upon it Mr Dugald your critical sagacity is in this instance at fault— You know as little of Mr Baillie as of the great Mogul—not that I question your penetration by no means—I would not be so sceptical for all the the [sic] world: but I hold it impossible for you, or I, or any semi-barbarian whatever, to comprehend at a glance a character so wrapt and disguised in the manner of fashionable life, as this Mr Baillie is. For my part I have studied him for a month—harder than I ever studied the crampest German—and I confess I have not even now a right idea of him in my mind. There are still intricacies in his character which I cannot unravel, inconsistencies which I cannot reconcile—but nevertheless I understand him well enough to love him after no every-day fashion— I know him to be true and affectionate in his nature—manly in his feelings—magnificent in his whole manner of being. and if these qualities joined to perfection of beauty, perfection of native elegance and courtly polish do not make up an amiable man—will you tell me in God's name what an amiable man is?— My Cousin you perceive is a favorite with me as well as with my Mother, so no more reflections against his amiability please! in case I should take a fancy to beat you with a stick—just to teach you good manners—

I have been wonderfully idle since we parted—my tasks have all been thrown to the right and left—Miss Dunwoodies honied note2 is still unanswered; and (what is still more iniquitous) a pathetic epistle from Edward Irving3 and a brilliant one from another of my correspondents4 have met with the same neglect. The Lord help me, and give me grace to amend my ways! I declare I sometimes almost doubt my own identity! I am so changed!— Instead of rising full of ardour to begin my tasks; and lying down at night with a satisfied conscience; instead of being the diligent methodical young woman which I want to be, I am become the idlest little goose in his Majesty's dominions— I get out of bed when “the day is aired” saunter, trifle, or play chess all the forenoon, and cards in the evening; day after day departs leaving nothing behind but the thoug[ht] of wasted time—a comfortable reflection, for one who feels so that life is short and art is long5—so comfortable that it would almost make one hang oneself! Mr Carlyle says nondum [not yet] should be his motto, with poppies argent and three sloths dormant on a tree disleaved—it should be mine too—I ambitious indeed! I should cast away all my dreams of glory and happiness, should descent from the poetry to the prose of life—from the azure clouds to the miry earth—should be content to “suckle fools and chronicle beer6 for the rest of my life and to die—as millions have died before me—leaving no more trace on the earth than smoke on the air or a bubble on the water!—but I am getting sublime upon it; and the sublime on such paper as this would be quite out of place— You must not trust to me for the essay which you spoke of—it is quite uncertain how long this malady of idleness may afflict me—and in case it should be got the better of before the time when the essay will be required, still I have got another more unfortunate task assigned me which must be done before any task whatever—

Now tell me have you not been hurrying through my letter, looking for an answer to your serious question? if so, your destiny has ordained you a disappointment— I am not in a grave mood to night and will have nothing to do with grave subjects— in my next I will tell you—not who it is that I am to marry—but my reasons for telling you nothing about the matter—so pray be patient—like Job— My Mother wrote to Catherine7 a day or two ago—we hope to hear soon both from her and you— Mother sends you her kind love[.] Remember us to your Father & Sister and believe me always your sincere and affectionate friend

Jane Baillie Welsh—Write soon

I should make some sort of apology for this very inane and very untidy epistle— Well I have written it with bad ink & a bad pen on bad paper and in bad humour—will that do?

God bless you