1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO ELIZA STODART; 18 January 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250118-JBW-EA-01; CL 3:251-254.


Haddington 18th January [1825]

Amiable Cousin

I said to myself, weeks ago, that I would write to you with the books: now then the books are finished; and here I am writing. I might, perhaps, have been tempted to anticipate my purpose, if I had had any thing worthwhile to communicate; but my history, since we parted has been uninteresting, to the last degree; and it would only have been ennuying you to send you any fragments of it.

From this you may conclude that I have been rather happy as otherwise. If I have had no cause of rejoicing, neither have I had any of complaint: my little universe has been at rest from all sorts of commotion; has been “calm and unruffled as a summer's sea, when not a breath of wind flies o'er its surface”;1 or as a summer's quagmire, to use a more appropriate simile— The only event, which has jarred the music of my soul, for any length of time, was a visit from Dugald Gilchrist, a most impudent and improper visit, “all the circumstances of the case considered” (as Mr Anderson would say)[.] He came uninvited, and staid a week, stomaching the most du haut en bas [condescending] treatment from me all the while: one would have thought that even the patience of an Indian must have rebelled under it—but this Dugald creatur belongs to the Spaniel genus (I opine); the more he is kicked about, the more he fawns and cringes. I told him, among other things, in tolerably plain English that he was given to lying! (and good reason I had for saying so) in reply, he kissed my hand! This was obeying the scriptures with a vengeance! If I had bid him get out at the door, I suppose, he would have taken me in his arms. Drivelling, meanspirited, “thrice doubled Ass”! He is sunk immeasurable fathoms, deep, in my disdain!— “Mais doucement! [But softly] Mademoiselle! there is no use of putting yourself in a passion— The young gentleman is a moon-calf—that nobody will deny you—but he is at present sixteen miles off, and not likely to disturb your equanimity again”—c'est bien!

On the other hand, the most pleasurable thing, which has befallen me, was receiving two packets, from England, in the same night: the one a letter of fifteen pages from Mr Baillie; the other a collection of Autographs from his Opposite. What do you think? among these were a letter from Goethe, and a fragment of a letter from Byron! Goethe's was written to Mr Carlyle himself—it is highly complimentary; and coming from the man whom he honours, almost to idolatry, must have gratified him beyond measure— I question if a charter of nobility could have gratified him as much. The other was given him by Proctor (Barry Cornwal[l]). You cannot think how it affected me! This, then, was his handwriting! his whose image had haunted my imagination, for years and years; whose wild, glorious Spirit had tinctured all the poetry of my Being! he, then, had seen and touched this very paper,—I could almost fancy that his look and touch were visible on it, And he—where was he now? All the sentiment in me was screwed up to the highest pitch; I could hardly help crying like a child or Dugald Gilchrist; and I kissed the seal with a fervour which would would [sic] have graced the most passionate Lover2

But to be done with sentiment, for the present, is not this a “d—d odd” affair of our handsome Cousin's? He does not write as if any thing was decided yet; on the contrary his matrimonial fate seems to be poized in the scales of Fortune, with the most beautiful nicety. I can form no conjecture to which end the beam will incline— In the mean time he wishes me to come & keep house with him and Phœbe in Sussex-shire; that I may be present at his marriage if it does take place, or comfort him if it does not— Comfort the most bewitching Man “in all England”! there would be an office!—if I were foolhardy enough to try it—but no! no! Mr Baillie, I will stay at home here, and read my german books, which is dull work in compairison [sic], but infinitely better for me—

The baskets are come, and have relieved my Mother from a great deal of anxiety about you— Present your Uncle with the united thanks of the family, for the beautiful oranges— The hamper looking thing was the parcel which my Mother spoke of—it contained a Jelly-glass and a butterplate! which the Gilchrist was commissioned to buy for her. Moreover I am desired to intimate to you, that you are to consider the cake from Templand, the same as a cake from my Mother, it having been made at her request—but this is a theorem which I do not pretend to demonstrate— Now my dear, dear Angel Bessy will you get for me at Wood & Smalls, the first time you are in his neighbourhood. “Dolce Concento” (Mozart) and “The Huntsman's rest” (both of them Duets) “Rest Warrior rest” (a song) also “The last rose of Summer” and “Roy's Wife of Alldivaloch” with introductions and variations by Kiallmark3— If you do not like the commission perhaps George Stodart will execute it for me— Did my Mother tell you that I had a letter from Lady Lenox?4 She is in a most interesting situation, James Baillie says, how d—d odd!

My kindest love to your Uncle, your Mother and the Wee Lady in which my Mother joins— You can say to all the people who ask for me, that I desired particular remembrances to them— If it were not very late, and my pen very bad, I would write you another sheet, since I am about it— Good night dear! God bless you! never forget me; and believe me always

Your faithfully attached Friend /

Jane Baillie Welsh