1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 13 March 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250313-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:300-302.


Haddington 13th March [1825]

Really, Dearest, my affection for you (as Mrs West1 says of her son) is very severe. A twelvemonth of the most devoted attentions, on your part, will hardly atone for the uneasiness you have occasioned me, one way and another, within the last few weeks. I begin to think the little Dr had some reason after all, for the terrible charge which he brought against you. You are a most uncertain gentleman. There was I, on the faith of your promises, waiting and waiting for two whole weeks, counting every day and hour, and turning pale at the sound of every coach-horn—all for nothing! And it was not illness or any necessity which detained you: you merely staid to talk with the Orator. Eh bien! I hope you will not take many fortnights of talk, by the way; or my patience, I am afraid will hardly hold out—and woe to thee Mr Thomas Carlyle if it does not. However, tho I was sadly disappointed when your letter arrived I am glad (as it has happened) that you did not come when you said. I have been ill ever since and little out of bed; so I could not have been with you tho' you had been here. But now that my head is mending again you may come when you like.

I never wished so earnestly to see you in my life— It seems as if my destiny depended on this visit; and we were now to understand each other for the first time. Heretofore we have never met but amidst the most vexatious impediments—in circumstances, when I dared neither suffer your confidence, nor show you mine: but now our situation is different; what I dreaded to think of is past; and there are no longer any reasons for reserve betwixt us: on the contrary, there are the strongest reasons for being open and sincere. Would to Heaven all doubts and uncertainties were ended! and that we loved each other as both of us might love! How happy, how unspea[k]ably happy should we be! And what hinders it? nothing but the miserable perversion of my own sentiments—it is this which raises up a barrier of separation betwixt us; but for this my whole soul would rush to meet yours, and be one with it for ever! Surely I must be the weakest of creatures! I know where the evil lies, and do nothing to mend it; my existence is a sort of waking night-mare, I see the right way strait before my eyes,—the only way of escape from the disquietudes which pursue me, and I have not power to follow it— Yet do not despise me, or altogether despair of me. I hope that, ultimately, I shall be every thing, anything you wish—c'est ne qu'il premier pas qui coute [only the first step gives trouble]2— “One bold stroke to break the bell in pieces and thou art delivered!”3

What a multitude of things I have to ask you and explain to you, which I cannot undertake on paper! And, very possibly when you are come they will all be gone out of my head. It is particularly unfortunate that I never can talk when I have got any thing to say; and that at all times I can be anything easier than myself. I have lived so long among people who do not understand me or sympathize with me,—been so long accustomed to refrain and disgu[i]se myself for fear of being laughed at; that I am grown as difficult to come at as a snail in a shell; and what is worse I cannot come out of my shell when I wish it— This dumpling of a highland girl too, will be sadly in the way. I have tried every thing I can think of to make her quarters too hot for her; but no coldness or crossness can induce her to decamp. She is quite a Spaniel in her nature; the worse I use her, the more she fawns on me, and follows me. I cannot shake her off for an instant all the day long: and then she annoys me so with her awkward imitation of my dress and manners[.] For some days past, she has been making the most hideous grimaces that were ever beheld; and when I insisted upon knowing the meaning of them, she told me she was merely trying to turn up her eyes, as I did mine; it looked so very pooty! I could hardly keep from beating the creature. You will write immediately? and from Edinburgh I hope. So you are for living there now! I do not think you know, Dear, what you would be at—at least I am sure I do not. One day you are for turning Farmer and living in a wilderness: and just when I have pictured to myself the deliciousness of a country-life, Away! you are bent on settling in Edinr (where certainly there are no great conveniences for farming) or if Edinr does not answer there is London in reserve. What do you wish? You will tell me in a fortnight at furthest, will you not? I am out of all temper about the book—indeed I rather think I will not read a word of it now when it comes. God bless you however

I am ever yours

Jane Baillie Welsh