1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 14 February 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250214-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:280-283.


Haddington 14th February [1825]

My Dearest

You are welcome to Scotland again, since it must be so. I wished you to remain where you were; for London, it seemed to me, had more inducements to retain you than Scotland had to bring you back. But it was for you only to decide as to what you only understand and after all, I am persuaded that you are in the right,—that you are more likely to find health and happiness among the honest unpretending hearts of your Fatherland, than in the Great City, with all its Poets and Orators and Bluestockings, which you have left behind you.

Indeed, it would be difficult for you to do any thing that could make me doubt the propriety of your judgement. I know not how your spirit has gained such a mastery over mine in spite of my pride and stubbornness: but so it is—tho' self-willed as a Mule with others I am tractable and submissive towards you; I hearken to your voice as to the dictates of a second conscience, hardly less awful to me, than that which nature has implanted in my breast. How comes it you have this power over me? for it is not the effect of your genius and virtue merely: sometimes, in my serious moods, I believe it a charm with which my Good Angel has fortified my heart against evil— Be that as it may, your influence has brought me nothing but good—

When will you be here? Be sure you write beforehand, for I hate surprises, however agreeable. I am longing to see you again; to hear your travels history1 since we parted; and to talk with you over all our concerns. But how am I to meet you now. Do you know, I think it is more than probable that I will take to my own room, when you come, and not go out of it as long as you are in the house. Upon my word, Mr Thomas Carlyle, I can hardly forgive you for bringing me into this very shocking predicament— Here am I blushing like an idiot, whenever your name is mentioned, so that any body, who looks at me, may read the whole matter in my face—and then to be half engaged—I who have such a natural horror at engagements! it gives me asthma every time I think of it— And yet such is the inconsistency of human nature, or of my particular nature, that I would not, if I might, be free. “Ce que je fait, je le ferois encore” [“What I am doing I would do again”]. I cannot say this of much else I have done in my day— You will come, however; and at all events, you will see my Mother and Miss Gilchrist. I cannot think how this bur of a girl is to be got rid of. The term of her invitation expired last month; and here she is still; terrifying me by talking of what we are to do together weeks and months hence. These Gilchrists are as tenacious as bugs of their quarters; when they have once found their way into a house, their is no driving them out again. I looked to the London project for deliverance; but that, I perceive, is to miscarry this Season, as it did the last: and I am not sorry. Now that you are gone, I should have little enjoyment in it; convinced as I am that Edward Irvings much vaunted friendship for me, is nothing more than a froth of professions. I will not quarrel with him however. I love him still, after all he has done, and all that he has not done,—and I shall love him to the last—in memory: but I have ceased to admire him, to put trust in him— He has disgusted me.

What a precious creature this Mrs Strachey must be! I am sure I shall like her; since she has the grace to be fond of you. How old is she? Seriously, you could not do me a more acceptable service, than making me acquaint[ed] with a woman, about my own years, whom I could really like.2 I have never found such a one—my female acquaintances are all either creatures of no characters, made up of seemings; or they are so cold, so vain and selfish, that my heart shrinks from them. Our sex is certainly less friendly than yours; at least our affections are more easily perverted by self-interest. Men may be rivals, opponents in their fortunes, and yet be friends in their hearts, and fair towards each other's worth: but woman, the instant she is rivalled, becomes unjust. Mercy! what jealousies, what envyings and heart burnings are amongst us! I declare ‘I would rather be a Kitten and cry Mew’3 than live as I see many of my female acquaintance do, tearing each others characters to pieces, and wearing out their lives in ‘vanity and vexation of Spirit.’4 He was a wise man who thanked the gods that they had not made him a woman.5 There are twenty chances to one, that he would not have been wise if they had.

The fortnight is not out yet, and already I am looking for the Book. it will surely come this week! But Booksellers are not to be depended on, so I may be kept waiting for a month— I declare it is you who are “a consequence of the fall of Adam”! Why dont you scold your Bookseller, or “thrash” him into good behaviour, if scolding will not do? I tell you, I am dying to have this Book,—to see my heroic Max, and Carlos & Posa6 and all my favorites, with an air of you about them! If it does not come soon! I will ring such a peal in your ears, as you have not heard the like of since the day you were at Lady Warrenders.7 Do you remember it? I think I outdid Xantippe8 on that occasion; and it was nothing—nothing at all to what I can do. Ask Catherine, when you come, how long she has heard me rail at a time, and she will tell you what will make your hair stand on end, ‘like quills upon the fretful porcupine.’9

Now I should like to know when you will be here? Do write immediately and tell me. Give my love to your Mother, and a kiss to my poetical namesake.10 What has her little Muse been doing? or is it gone to sleep? Come! Ever Yours

Jane Baillie Welsh