1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 4 November 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251104-TC-JBW-01; CL 3:404-408.


Hoddam Hill, 4th November, 1825—

My Dearest,

I thank you heartily for your long good-humoured letter, and for the august mandate smuggled into the Newspaper, the behest of which I proceed with all despatch and submission to fulfil. In spite of your “Verdammniss” [“Damnation”], I will not think you utterly unhappy at Templand. The resources of the gallant Lancer cannot be exhausted already: be content with him, like a good prudent girl, for a day or two; and think that long before Eternity is done, you must be delivered from that sort of grievances. Yet I am not without sympathy for your distresses, opposite as they are to my own; on the contrary I feel them more and more deeply and distinctly every day, and pray with more and more earnestness that the time were come which is to “bring the roses,” and free us both from such vile durance forever. Our will is not submitted to our conscience; so we are not even calm, to say nothing of happy. I lie helpless and unrestful, one part of me sunk in the mire, while the other part is struggling towards the third Heaven; there is no unity in my condition; and you, still more helpless and unrestful, are constrained to stand in silence, amid multiplied obstructions and contradictions, watching the progress of my struggles. Let us be patient and resolute, and trust in ourselves and each other! I maintain that the weal of every human being, not perhaps his enjoyment or his suffering, but his true and highest welfare, lies within himself. O that we had wisdom to put this weighty truth in practice! That we could think with resolute calmness, and decide with rigorously active steadfastness; to know our duty (for a duty every living creature has), and do it with our whole heart and our whole soul! This is the everlasting rock of man's security; against which no tempest or flood shall prevail. This is the true feeling of the Poet and the Sage, which I never understood till lately, which many never understand at all: “sufficiently provided for within,” the outward gifts or amercements of Fortune are but the soft or the hard materials out of which he is to build his fairest work of art, a life worthy of himself and the vocation wherewith he is called.1 But I am verging towards cant; so I shall hasten to the right-about.

Your Mother is not wise or just in spoiling the stinted enjoyments of your present way of life by the reflexions and remonstrances with which she pursues you. Her views of me and my connection with you I cannot greatly blame; they coincide too nearly with my own. But what, one might ask her, does she mean you to do? Anything? If so, it were better that she simply proposed it, and backed it out by all attainable reasons in simplicity and quiet; that if just and fit, you might go thro' with it at all haps and hazards, instantly and completely. If nothing, then silence is the least that can be asked of her. Speech that leads not to action, still more that hinders it, is a nuisance on the Earth. Let us remember this, as well as call on others to remember it! But after all where is the mighty grief? Is it ruin for you to think of giving yourself to me, here as I am, in the naked undissembled meanness of my actual state? Consider this, with a cold clear eye, not in the purple light of love,2 but in the sharp chill light of prudence: if your mind still have any wavering, follow the truth fearlessly, not heeding me, for I am ready with alacrity to forward your anticipated happiness in any way. Or was this your love of me no girlish whim, but the calm deliberate self-offering of a woman to the man whom her reason and her heart had made choice of? Then is it a crime in you to love me, whose you are in the sight of God and men? Can you love me too much? Love me, my Dearest, and let the devil and the world chatter over it as they like!

This story of my temper is not worth much. I actually do not think myself an ill-natured man, nor even, all things considered, very ill-tempered! Really it is wearisome to think of these things. What counsel to give you I know not. Submission has its limits; when not based on conviction it degenerates into hypocrisy, and encourages demands which perhaps ought to be resisted. But in asserting your rights be meek and reasonable; carefully avoid the faults that offend you in the other. Above all, do not cease to love your Mother, and to sweeten her days for her by every method in your power. What is this caprice and sullenness to you, but unhappiness in herself; an effort to increase her own scanty stock of satisfaction at your expence, or rather to shift a portion of her own suffering upon you? She cannot cease to love you; and this is saying much. For me I beg of you to take no thought: her anger at me, her aversion to me, shall never be remembered against her. They do not irritate me: why should they? She thinks of me in the main to the full as highly as she ought; and these gusts of unreasonable caprice should be met by increased equability and steady forgiving self-possession; as angry gusts of wind are rendered harmless, not by other conflicting gusts, but by a solid wall of stone and mortar. Think of this, and do it, my good Jane! For you it is far far harder than for me; but this is one of your duties, and it will bring its own reward.

Of the Hill or myself I have little good to tell you. I finished Tieck ten days ago; and then rested for half a week, till I grew so savage that I was forced to begin one of Goethe's Mährchen,3 with which I am more than half done. This Publication must henceforth proceed with spirit! I have written to Tait for fresh materials, having now well nigh determined what pieces are to be selected and how they are to be arranged. Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre I intend to make the third volume of the book; Musäus and Tieck and some other the first; Richter, Hoffmann Müller &c the second. I feel some satisfaction in this arrangement, and shall proceed with stern assiduity if possible till it is done. What is the use of this loitering? Why cannot I mingle in the busy current of activity, and fish pearls from it as others do? O thou thrice-cursed health! But fair and softly! I will take thee in flank, if I cannot in front.

During my half-weeks repose I was busily meditating some scheme of a Kunstwerk [work of art] of my own! There are pictures and thoughts and feelings in me, which shall come out, tho the Devil himself withstood it! For this time, it was Larry4 not the Devil. That ungrateful untoward nag has used me like a knave. He had taken cold and staid unmolested in his shop for three days; on the fourth I took him out to walk round by the Smithy and Hoddam Kirk; I was thinking of you and my Kunstwerk, when I met a carrier's cart, and my cursed beast, knowing that I was studying and had nothing but a snaffle bridle, got the bit in his teeth, whirled round at full gallop down a steep place, and had my fair person dislodged from his back and trailed some yards upon the base highway in the twinkling of an eye! Proh pudor [Disgraceful]! I was stunned and scratched and thoroughly bemired: I have scarcely got quit of my headache, and the tailor is mending my coat even now. Larry's friendship and mine is at an end! I have got a fierce iron curb for him, and I mount him daily with an oak cudgel, and batter his carcase and gallop him into complete tameness. What a termination for my novel! But the time will come, must come!

Jack is going to Edinburgh, he says, on Tuesday week; he will write to you, and see you if you desire it: he sends his kindest regards to you. Poor Jack! I shall be lonely in winter without him, tho' his logic has often galled me while he was here. You must write to my Mother, according to your promise: she loves you truly, as do they all. That poor girl in the cottage at the foot of the Tower is departed at last. The other day I was walking at the foot of the hill; and saw among rain and stormy vapour her hearse and humble convoy setting out for the churchyard, and her poor old widowed Mother was standing looking after it beneath the waving leafless tree at the corner of her hut. I could have wept burning tears. Sharpe5 was hunting on the other side of the glen with a young new-married wife. So geht die Welt [So goes the world].

The words of the motto are: LIBERTAS VERITAS PAUPERTAS;6 there is plenty of room for them in your seal. The motto of the light is: Terar dum prosim,7 written in a circle round the flame of a candle. Take “Damnation,” if you dare, you little gipsey! Am not I your—obedient philosopher?

Jack is going off to Ecclefechan, and will carry this, so I must have done. Punctual as clockwork to the fortnight! When shall I hear of you? Write the moment you arrive in Edinr; sooner if you linger in setting out. Be happy, my kind Darling, as happy as thou canst! I love thee, and am thine forever. Fortune must and shall look on us less harshly: we shall yet be “one and indivisible,” and I shall wear thee in my heart of hearts. I kiss thee truly. Thine auf ewig [unto eternity],

Thomas Carlyle

The Newspapers are stopt. Look for no more of them, till I find a more courageous partner than the Ecclefechan Surgeon.8 Leb wohl [Farewell]!