JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 25 October 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251025-JBW-TC-01; CL 3:393-398.
JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Templand—Tuesday [25 October 1825]
Your letter was very consolatory to me; and much do I stand in need of consolation: for since you departed this life, I have been the forlornest, most dispirited of creatures. “What can be worse than to dwell here, driven out from bliss,”1 amid wind and whist and ill-humour? Is there any livelier image of hell? Oh Time bring the roses2 as fast as you can; for the winter of our discontent3 is ill to bear!
It was on the day after your departure, that the storm, which has been brewing in my Mother's mind for many weeks, broke forth in copious eloquence. Oh mercy! what cruel, unreasonable things she said; but nothing distressed me so much as her bitter reflections against you, whom she accused of having “bewitched and poisoned my mind.” She was unjust, I told her; my connection with so wise and honourable a man could be attended with no ill consequence; and, any way, such language, now, was out of time,—particularly, since it was with her knowledge and consent, that I had come to look upon you as my partner for life. She sulked for four and twenty hours, and then wrote me a long epistle; wherein she demonstrated (not by geometrical reasonings) that I was utterly lost to all sense of duty; and took much bootless pains to explain the inconsistency of her conduct towards you. “She had, indeed, given her consent to our union” (she said) “when you should have made yourself a name and a situation in life [entire phrase underscored twice]; but only because I asked it, with tears, upon my bended knees, at a time, too, when my life seemed precarious!!” (to the best of my recollection I was enjoying tolerable health)[.] “Afterwards, however, when you came to Haddington, when she watched your temper, and perceived its effect upon me, it was then her soul was torn &c &c &c” “A pack of damned nonsense, the whole of it![”] “Temper!” “effect!” Truly, she has seen her own temper have a hundred times worse effects upon me than ever yours had, without being troubled with such tender solicitude. No! my own Darling! we shall not be parted on this account. Your irritability is the very natural consequence of continual suffering; when you are well, and happy (oh that you were!) you will be the best humoured man alive. And tho' you should never be good-humoured, what then? Do we not love each other? And what is love if it can not make all rough places smooth! Nein! I am not afraid that my happiness will be wrecked upon this rock; nor is my Mother either if the truth were told. I could lay my life this grand objection never entered her head, till she was sitting with the pen in her hand, hunting after an excuse for so much caprice.— Another cause of offence is my intimacy with Mrs Montagu, “a woman whom I never saw, whom I know nothing about, and for whom nevertheless I have the most unbounded love and admiration”— Now Heaven grant me patience! for this would have made Job himself cry “Damnation”! and gallop half a mile! What! my honest esteem for a clever, high-minded woman, who has offered herself to me as a friend, with the most captivating grace and frankness, is to be looked upon and persecuted as a heinous fault! But it is to no purpose! I will go on corresponding with Mrs Montagu as long as I have ink and paper; and no man, woman or child shall prevent me from loving and admiring her as ardently as I please. You too, my Dearest, I will continue to love and admire tho' the whole Earth should blame my choice; for I know in whom I have put my trust, and my resolution is s[t]eadfast as a rock— I have told this to my Mother, once for all, in a tone of decision, which should prevent further remonstrance—
Nevertheless I am any thing but insensible to her displeasure; and rather than be under it I would make every sacrifice consistent with reason. But it would be folly to make myself the slave of her variable humour— Oh it is heart-breaking, shocking, to live in this manner, with one to whom I am bound by the holiest tie! deprived of her sympathy in the matters which lie next my heart! obliged to be silent on my dearest hopes, except when I am called upon to defend them! How different it would be, if there were that cordial, trustful affection betwixt us which ought to be betwixt parent and child!—but, alas! alas! we understand each other no more!4
What will become of me until I have you again? Tell our worthy Doctor to write me out a recipe for patience, the stock which I received from Nature being well nigh exhausted, or converted into furor5— Our departure has been already talked of for one week; in another, perhaps, with the blessing of God, it may be executed—but decision is a thing which has nought to do with our proceedings—
I have had an answer from Mrs Montagu full of rhetoric, and kindness: but no matter for the rhetoric! She is good to me; and charity covereth a multitude of sins— She says “Mr Carlyle ought not to have stept in between you and your kind intention; nay more, he ought himself to have seen my boy— How many miles I should have gone willingly to pleasure him or ought belonging to him!— But a man is always—a Man—a fine animal in his way, yet selfish withal”— Do now lay this to heart “Dear”; and be tolerant of Mr Charles, cub altho' he be—
So Edward Irving is gone! gone without seeing me! Well! times are changed and we are changed in them!—but it matters not!— I pity the poor man for the loss of his little boy; it is well, however, that he bears it so manfully. According to Mrs Montagu's account of the matter, I was imagining him “in the most awful distress, quite overwhelmed by the sudden stroke”: but our fair friend is a lover of the pictureesque— You might have read his letter to me, en passant, a constrained, affected, extraordinary performance as may be! Poor Edward! poor white man! Let us pity him, as you observe, and be thankful!——Oh Lord!
I was interrupted yesterday by furious rapping at the door— It was my Lancer-Cousin!6 arrived in a fine emblazoned chariot with four horses; and all glittering in jewels, from the gold pendant of his rosecoloured cap, to the ruby buckles of his slippers. You never saw such a man! He is, if possible more Adonis-like, witty, and elegant than ever. Such an air! such a voice! such a profusion of little dogs! I wish, in my heart, he were returned, to the place whence he came; for I will confess to you, dear friend, that—you have not the slightest cause to be jealous—jealous!—oh mercy! when I compare this fine gentleman with the man I love; what is he after all? A mere painted butterfly, fluttering over the flowery surface of the Earth—the creature of a sunshiny day! while he—my own—is like to the royal Eagle, who soars aloft thro' the regions of ether, and feasts his eye on the glories of the sun. “Zwey unverträglichere Gegentheile fand die Natur in ihrem Umkreis nicht”!7—but “ohe jam satis!”8
We have had another visitor of an altogether different species— the old woman of Craigenputtock, who came riding on the “ill, thrawn [stubborn, misshapen] beast,” bringing “a wee compliment” along with her, in the shape of a pair of black, silk mittens. Poor old Nany! she had got them, I suppose, at some funeral, and laid them by, to make me wae for a whole evening.
Pity you did not see Dr Badams! and ten thousand pities Dr Badams did not see me! Suppose, now, that Mrs Montagu and I had been of the party; and that your friend had fallen in love with me, and rolled on the floor.9 I could never, certainly, have withstood such a demonstration; but must have gone off to Birmingham on the spot— and what would Mr Wisdom10 have said then?—that “I was squirting a syringe in the face of an admantine rock”? or would he not rather have rolled upon the floor in his turn? You will tell me when I am gone to Birmingham—
“Tell our Brother John to write us,”11 as soon as he arrives in Edinr; that I may know what house in what street contains the best of Doctors—and tell him, moreover, that “every thing in the world is made up of heaven and hell” or he would be oftener at my side, to gladden me with “the broad Atlantic of his countenance”— Most excellent Doctor! I have a real affection for him— My kindest regards to all the rest, not excepting even wee affectation12— I have been twice at Dabton and have not executed your commission— Nevertheless you must not think me cold in the service— To get your people into a good farm, I would readily give one of my fingers (with your permission) but I found it impossible to overcome my horror of asking anything like a favour— You will write early next week to George-Square (the Glasgow project is given up) and you will bear in recollection that a fortnight used to be the time, which ought not surely to be lengthened now—now that we are more to each other than ever— I hope in Heaven you may go to London. I like the idea of it more than any scheme you have proposed to me— London must surely be a far finer place to live in than cold Edinr. But you are talking young Lady, of matters which you do not understand, and besides it is time you should make an end of your letter— Eh bien! plan as your reason and the Gods direct you—so that the thought of me gives vigour to the execution it is enough. My will is cast into fusion— “Was sind die Haupttugend[en] der Weiber? Geduld und Gehorsam” [“What are the chief virtues of women? Patience and obedience”].— This will cost you double postage, but if I choose to write two sheets, you cannot choose but pay for them— I am done— “console toi [console yourself]![”] God bless you my dearest—I am yours all
Jane B Welsh
Have you heard of Mr Gillespies13 death— He was married but a few weeks ago to a young Lady whom he was engaged to for years— This is truly awful— Oh that I could believe like Mrs Strachey! for except the word of God there is no stronghold here on earth—
Should the words Libertas &c begin all of them with capitals? Write them down for me, and also the motto round the candle,14 tho I rather think I shall fix upon damnation after all—it is short and expressive