1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 29 December 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251229-TC-JBW-01; CL 3:443-447.


Hoddam Hill, 29th December, 1825—

My Dearest,

I must no longer postpone writing, or the fortnight will be expired, and your kind services unrepaid with even the scanty recompense of thanks. In good sooth you are a most benignant little Genius to me; and do me messages of all sorts, with the promptitude and dainty helpfulness of an Ariel. My own little Ariel! I wish I deserved you better, and could love you as I ought: you might beseem the bosom of a chivalrous Prince; and I, poor I, have neither princedom nor chivalry to share with you; nothing but a “knapsack and fifteen florins to share with any one”!1

You should feel some contentment with your present lot, how untoward soever in other points, for the service it enables you to do to others. There is honest James Johnstone the most meritorious of pedagogues; by your means he is going to be a made man. I had a letter from him the other week, brimful of this one subject; for James is a nervous character, and longs with trembling hope to be at anchor, after his perplexed voyaging, tho' it were in the meagre roadstead of the Haddington parish school. He is making interest with Earls and Lords and Principalities and Powers, as Gilbert Burns directs him; and unless the Fates are more than usually shrewish, certainly “to Goodness” the honest man will reach the high top-gallant of his joy, before the close of the ensuing month. I encouraged him with a glimpse of your good deeds towards him, and wrote out a most peremptory Testimonial for his use, which indeed was nothing more than he deserved. I owe you much for these exertions in a matter so foreign to your own habits, and should not owe you less tho' the issue disappointed us.

And for this Epistle Recommendatory to the Major, I now heartily rejoice that I asked it of you: it will be a new tie of gratitude betwixt us; and this is not the least precious of acquisitions, tho' you cannot take it to the market, and sell it by weight or measure. My own Jane! I am surely an unbelieving man, a genuine representative of the Doubting Thomas in the Gospel: I sometimes feel as if you had not yet got possession of the tithe of my heart; as if by persisting in this self-denial you would long hence convince me, and force me to trust in you with my whole being, and then I should be yours not in word or even in deed, but in thought and life, “one soul, one mind, one body,” one thro' all vicissitudes and fortunes now and forevermore. “What a story! The creature not mine after all? Whose then? I protest, the foolish soul is made of ice, or rather rock, for ice would have thawed long ago, had I warmed it but half so much!” Be patient, my gentle Darling! Rock also may be “cast into fusion”; and the melting will be the more impetuous, and the figure it is moulded into the more enduring.

As to the practical result of this kind letter, it is still uncertain; tho nothing but good is to be expected from it. Alick gave in his offer on Wednesday gone a week, and was informed by His Majorship, who received him with great courtesy, that he must go to London before these matters could be settled, but that in three weeks something certain would be known. The Major it seems is a manpleaser in his acceptance of offers; favours to none, to all he smiles extends; and every one has some secret hope that the urn of De[s]tiny will cast out the prize for himself. Meanwhile all is patient waiting for the stirring of the waters: our agriculturists have offered £230 for the farm, and everyone is anxious more or less that the offer be accepted. If it be, the whole household will have daily cause to remember their Autumn visitor, and to bless her kind name every seedtime and every harvest; for Shawbrae is beyond comparison superior in comfort and convenience to Mainhill, and I know not that the Grand Duke Constantine would feel as much real happiness in wresting the boundless Empire of all the Russias from his rival Brother, as these sunburnt men in acquiring that piece of “bonny dry land” from Hab of Meinfoot and the other eager competitors. So true is it that “the mind of man is modified by circumstances”; a truth which I know not whether you have ever remarked, tho' it has long been pa[r]tially known to philosophers of a metaphysical turn. My Mother would like to go to Shawbrae almost as well as you would do to be Queen of England; but she leaves it all “to His Disposal, for what is good the Lord will give.” Could she do more if crowns and sceptres were the stake? She also told me that she “kenn'd you would write,” tho' by what magic intimations she came to ken it was not stated. The good mother speaks of you almost daily, and loves you as truly as any other does except myself.

But I must quit my tattling, for this is the last page. You will grieve, as I do, that for the last two weeks I have again been forced into idle habits. My books were all exhausted; and except writing a sorry sketch of a Life for Musäus, I have done nothing! I should have been in Edinr ere now; but I dreaded the Christmas jollifications, and contented myself with despatching a portion of manuscript to set the printers in motion before my arrival, which must now take place, as I reckon, early next week. This Book is but a confused piece of work, and very little to my taste, after all the trouble I can take with it. Next time—precious next time! What I am to do this next time, nevertheless, is still enveloped in the mantle of night. It will be long, long, before I can do my best, bad as this poor best may prove. You bid me show you all the imaginations of my heart: but some of them are much too crude for your inspection. Sometimes I almost think of asking you to wed with me as things are, and set forth by my side to—beg thro' the world, for there were little else that we could hope to do at present! One [on] the whole, however, I am not disconsolate, or in straits about my future course. I think myself on the right [w]ay at present, whatever others do, for my health I believe is distin[ctly im]proving, and this is more to me and those that love me than mines of gold. Patientia! Patientia! The day will come, my day and yours, and we shall know what it is to be happy with such happiness as this world can give, and blessed in one another with a happiness that breathes of better worlds.

At your request I have written to the Noble Lady, a letter full of metaphorical disclosures,2 truer than any she ever got from me before. Last night also I saw her son. It was my first visit to Ruthwell;3 where I spent a more inter[e]sting evening than had fallen to my lot for many a week, tho it needed all my nerve to cause my ass to be saddled and determine on the mighty enterprise. Young Montague awoke for two moments, at sight of me, from his usual lock-and-key condition: at meeting and at parting, he came towards me, and actually shook hands with some touch of cordiality. The boy is a curious boy: he is made of human with even some angelic materials, but they are kneaded together by the Devil. Another of Montague's sons, I was shocked to learn, is gone deranged! He was a kind simple soul whom I used to see in London: another brother of his (they are both half brothers to Moniseur Charles) has gone even a worse road, in spite of all his father could strive. The Noble Lady must have had wild times of it among them!

From “Julia Strachey” I hear nothing, tho' I have written to her twice, and spent the other night in dreaming about her and Catherine Aurora,4 one of the most “imaginative” dreams I have had for many a month. “O may the Devil take them both!” Soft now, my bonny Jane, not the real Devil, the ugly black Satanas! I declare they are very praiseworthy persons, and I love them both with a love ganz bruderlich [altogether brotherly]. So shall you too by and by ganz schwesterlich [altogether sisterly].

I long for more and more details about your studies and proceedings. Has that ugly fit of sickness altogether left you? Exercise and care in regimen, I repeat it again and again, are your only safety, and at present you[r] most imperative duty. Be sedulous in discharging it for the love of me, if you had no other reason! What of your Life? Shall I see it, when I come to Edinr? For you[r] Mother, do not let her unkindness afflict you: answer it by contrary conduct; if you think it foolish and harsh, be you the more wise and gentle. This it is to overcome evil with good, the only proper weapon to resist it with. But here comes Jane, accincta ad scribendum [girded for writing]! I must give way.

[Jane writes the lines given below;5 then Carlyle adds the following postscript:]

If you do not write within a week, direct to Edinr, the Doctor's abode, 13. Hill Place. It seems likely I may leave the Hill on Tuesday-morning, by five o'clock, and intercept the Edinr Coach at Moffatt. I heard of you last night from a fair young lady, who had caught some rumour of our visit to Grange: When shall I see you, and hear of you from your own lips? Adiez Señoretta [Farewell, my Lady]!

T. C.