1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 17 September 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240917-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:149-152.


Templand 17 September [1824]

Dearest Friend

I began a letter to you last post day; but it pleased the Devil I should write only a dozen lines of it— Some she-people came to call, and the mail passed by before I could get away from them. As now it is likely you will be gone from Birmingham before my letter reaches it: n'importe, your Dr will know where you are to be found.

I have a great many things to tell you, and little time to tell them in— In the first place, I have got a new Brother! so unlike me! and yet we love each other dearly. His name is Baillie1 and he is my Mother's cousin-german. I mentioned him (I think) when I wrote last; but I had then seen him only for a day; and at the outset of our acquaintance I hardly liked him. I could not but admire his figure, so gracefully noble, his handsome countenance—the handsomest I ever saw or fancied—his brilliancy, native elegance and courtly polish; but I was magnanimously resolved not to suffer myself to be caught by a dazzling exterior; and his internal qualities I estimated at a very low rate: I mistook his fashionable breeding for his real character, and as he did not wear his heart upon his sleeve, I concluded without the smallest ceremony that he was heartless— Besides I had heard that Lady Jane Paget, and Miss Wickham2 who was asked in marriage by a Prince of the blood would have given their little fingers to get this “elegant Mr Baillie” for a husband; and I thought it would be highly creditable for me to be more difficult to please than the highest born Lady and richest Heiress in the Land— Now, dont you think I deserved to fall seriously in love with him, as a punishment for my sauciness? I believe nothing but his want of genius could have saved me—for in the month we have lived together I have found him more and more amiable every day. He is as generous and affectionate in his nature as the Orator, and more delicate and tender. He has a quick intellect, a most refined taste, and wit more graceful and goodhumoured than Mr Terrot's3 and quite as brilliant—in short he is my beauideal in every respect except that he has no genius! he does not even reverence that quality in others— What a pity! or rather what a mercy! for he is to be married in a month or two to one of the loveliest and most accomplished women in England: and I have no passion for hanging myself in my garters—like my namesake the “unfortunate Miss Baillie[.]”4 As it is, I am likely to have much enjoyment in this new acquaintance—provided his wife does not prove a dear Isabella5— It is settled that as soon as may be after his marriage, I am to visit him either in London or at his place near Brighton— And then I shall be introduced into the Great World; and its novelty will doubtless charm me for a time; tho', I am pretty sure it will have no abiding attraction for me— Here is another fine chateau en Espagne! God grant it may not share the fate of the last! The Orator says, in his pathetical epistle to me, that, as soon as his house is ready for the accommodation of a Lady, I shall hear from him, or if I have forgotten to believe him from one whose constancy of promise and affection I as well as he had reason to admire! Well! in case of his inviting me very kindly; I was planning to stay a few weeks with him on my way to Brighton—but my Cousin says I shall do no such thing—that after having lived with Mr Irving I will be blue and evangelical past redemption, and that he does not want me to be instituting family worship in his house and reforming his whole menage— I do not know how it will be arranged or if it will be arranged at all— I wish most devoutly it may—for I am quite tired out with my present manner of life— I think, for the last six weeks my Mother has not once been in the same humour for two hours at a time—and then her jealousy of me is so intolerable that I am actually frightened when any one shows me kindness—ne puis [can't help it]! I suppose I shall grow philosophical by and by—

You ask what I am doing? Wonders I assure you— I get out of bed when “the day is aired”—walk, trifle or play chess in the forenoons, ecartè6 in the evenings and fall asleep upon the comfortable reflection of having lost another day— I brought Goethe's Memoirs and Schillers Gedichte along with me, but I have made hardly any way in either—I have not the least hope of being able to execute the task you assign me —as I cannot even translate the poems into prose—nevertheless I will try any thing you please[;] it is only failing—and one had better fail in a difficult enterprise than in an easy one— Write me a good round scold, will you? I stand very much in need of it—

I saw Him7—as I passed thro' Edinr—and (will you believe it?) I did not like him a bit—either he is much altered for the worse or my standard of men is immensely improved since I saw him last—I dont know which—but certain it is the vulgarity of his face and the volley of nonsense he talked gave a shock to my nervous system which it did not recover for four and twenty hours— I am in great haste to day, as you need not to be told—excuse me this once and I will not send you such another brief and untidy epistle for twelve months to come— Write my darling as soon as ever you can, and more largely than I have any right to expect— I have great need at present of all the consolation which your affectionate letters afford me— Address to me here I shall not get away till the festival—which is to be sometime in the end of October8— I must reserve my histories of the Gilchrists and the little Dr till my next—but keep yourself easy—he has been telling no lies of me— Tell me all you are doing. You are not to like any of these fine ladies so well as me remember!— for none of them can like you half as well as I do— Is there any decent review of Meister? I have seen only one, in the London magazine,9 it did not make me angry— I should have grieved to see you well treated in the same page where Goethe was handled so unworthily

For ever affectionately yours

Jane Baillie Welsh