The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 17 January 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260117-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:17-19.


21. Salisbury-street, Tuesday [17 January 1826]—

My Dearest,

Your letter of yesterday threw me, for some minutes, into no small perplexity; nothing but “confusion worse confounded”1 appeared on all aspects of the matter. The true state of the case, however, now seems plain enough; and what is better, still some hope (tho' not too much) is left of bringing the affair into order. Haste! Haste! is the word at present, if we would do any good: for this reason I am troubling you again on this most prosaic of concerns.

In making his offer Alick naturally enough did not give the smallest hint of you, not knowing at that time whether you would be generous enough to write in his favour or not; tho' as it afterwards turned out, you had already done so at that date. Major Crichton again had never suspected that he was the party recommended by you; and had huddled in his offer among the thousand and one which he was that day publickly receiving; and in the press of business, the oversight continued still unnoticed. Perhaps he may still of his own accord discover the mistake; perhaps not, for it is possible enough that he may forget my Father's name as mentioned in your letter, and turn over his offer as he will have to do some hundreds with slight notice. It is even possible that he may have lost the document altogether: but this seems very unlikely.

Now unless the Major protracts the term of his decision beyond the appointed day, we are all lost, and need not wrinkle a feature of our face on the matter, for it is already settled, and nothing short of the King, Lords and Commons of this realm can produce any change in it. The offers were given in on Wednesday three weeks, and he told the offerers at that time that in three weeks the business would be finally determined, and he would write to his Baronry-officer from London, communicating the result. I hope, however, it is not yet determined, and that the whole burble may be happily unravelled.

Do you know at this moment where Mrs Crichton is? In Fife, she says; for a week: but can your letter find her there? A week may be as good as an age; a single post may be fatal to the whole scheme. At all events, write to her the first moment; ordering the letter to be “forwarded” if you think that best, or to wait for her here, if not: she cannot be away above a few days longer at most. Tell her to transmit instant intelligence to her Husband that the “James Carlyle” recommended by you did actually offer; a rent of £230 for the lands of Shawbrae and Lower Bogside; and that if the Major look among his papers, he will assuredly find it written so there, and in his own or his clerk's handwriting, for he himself specified on the margin of the printed paper the particular pieces of ground which his offerer had in view, that day at Dumfries when all and sundry were offering. If this notice reach him in time, the whole will be well: if not, we have done all we can, and Shawbrae may go to—Jericho if it like.

To guard against the only remaining possibility of mistake (the Major's having lost the paper containing this offer), I have despatched the speediest intelligence to Mainhill, advising them to send off another offer with express mention of your name, and explanation of the mistake. If Alick can find the Major's address, this will do of itself; only I fear it will not be discoverable in Annandale; and they must go to Dabton for it, which will cause the loss of another post if not of two. I gave them the first paragraph of Mrs Crichton's letter to you to copy.

By these sagacious measures, I am in hopes, the whole business may still be satisfactorily adjusted. For the rest, if it come to nothing, never mind it; you have done your part, and so have all the rest; and your kind feelings towards me and all that concerns me are as apparent as if I had actually got by your means the fee-simple of the British Islands[.] Let us rest contented with this; for it is of value by itself.

Perhaps if you do not know Mrs Crichton's address in Fife, the speediest and surest way would be to send your letter in a parcel to me; directing me where to find her abode in Edinburgh; and there I can investigate her present whereabout, and despatch the letter to her by post. I shall wait in the house tomorrow forenoon in case you think of this expedient.

I make no excuses and feel no “shame” for troubling you in this way: I can hardly even “regret” that you are getting so many stupid commissions on my account. For it is on my account; and I am yours, and you are my little Bräutchen [little bride], and a part of my own self, and I love you—very considerably.

This plan of taking up house in the vicinity of Edinr has not left me, nor does it seem so foolish as you appear to think it. I must and will have shelter from the horrors of Edinr lodgings; and unless my scale of expences be graduated on the minutest principle, I am like to find it in an Edinr jail. Can you suffer poverty? Do you know what it means? It is a word of three syllables, easily written, and looks romantic when spoken by the side of household love. Alas! Alas! The bearing if it is a different matter. For myself I am happy, and rich in the midst of it; but you, my poor Jane, would die before you learned this wisdom as I have had to learn it. There are many miracles in this world: but for a woman to descend from Superfluity to live with a sick ill-natured man in Poverty, and not in wretchedness, would be the greatest miracle of all. But I will tell you about this at large some other day. For the present it is but diverting you from your appointment. Tomorrow I expect to hear. Rich or poor, sick or well, you have me altogether and forever.

T. Carlyle

[In margin:] The Pedagogic Johnstone will prosper after all! Long life to you, my kind Ariel, for such you are in spite of Fate!