The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JBW TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 31 January 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260131-JBW-TC-01; CL 4:28-30.


Haddington Tuesday [31 January 1826]

My Dearest

You are now, I suppose, sitting in peace and quietness within your own four walls, waiting, patiently, for the promised long broad letter that became due to you last week— And far be it from me to disappoint you in any such most reasonable expectation; particularly since two nights of sound sleep have left me no sort of apology for a longer delay.

I declare I hardly know whether to laugh or to weep over this last act of our drama; it appears altogether so tragi-comic, now that one has leisure to think. Ever since our sorrowful parting upon the highway, I had looked forward to your arrival in Edinr as the next epoch of hope; and not doubting but I should find you there any time for a month, graciously accepted an invitation from the hatefulest family of my acquaintance. All for nothing; since the prospect of meeting is vanished, like unto Adoniss gardens;1 and the “wine of worm-wood”2 remains to be swallowed undisguised by any morsel of sweet. To complete the business; no sooner are eighty good miles betwixt [us] than my Mother becomes the very best, reasonablest Mother alive— The little present to Jane, and her great kindness to James Johnston had already led me to prognosticate fair weather; but now I am actually basking in the April-sunshine of her smiles,—a change wonderfully refreshing after the tremendous phenomena that preceded it. Last night we were positively confidential: she was inveighing against Haddington, and asked me flatly if I should have any objection to leave it— None, I told her; I had already been here too long—she then questioned me about where I should like best to fix my abode; and this called forth a speech,—the longest, I think, I ever made in my life. All places, I told her were alike indifferent to me, so long as you had no settled habitation. Therefore she need have no sort of scruple about pleasing herself, and taking up house, as she wished, in Dumfries-shire Only in case of your settling in the neighbourhood of Edinr, as you were, at present, half determined, and being some way enabled by the blessing of heaven to make a livelihood for two, it would not be worthwhile perhaps that we should make any intermediate change, “I say we,” I added, “because wheresoever it is appointed me to live, you cannot, surely, intend we should ever live asunder.” At this she burst into tears and exclaimed throwing her arms about my neck, “why have you never said as much before?” Our dialogue was long and interesting; the result of it, a prospectus for a “joint stock company” such as it hath never yet entered man's heart to conceive, and which I hereby submit to you for your mature deliberation, as a party concerned. He bien! you are to hire the said nice little house, by all manner of means, and next November we are to—hire one within some dozen yards of it!! so that we may all live together like one family until such time as we are married, and after— I had infinite trouble in bringing my Mother to give ear to this magnificent project. She was clear for giving up fortune, house-gear, everything to you and I, and going to live with my poor old grandfather at Templand: but my arguments, prayers, tears and kisses at length got a promise from her that she would do exactly as I pleased; and my pleasure is, to live with you in poverty all the days of my life sooner than encroach in the smallest degree on her independence. No? God forbid! What sort of happiness could I expect ever in your arms, were I conscious of having failed in the first duty of my life! Whatever comes of it then my Mother must keep my fortune, or else she must keep—myself— But how do you relish my plan? Should you not like to have such agreeable neighbours? We would walk together every day and you would come and take tea with us at nights[.] To me it seems as if the kingdom of Heaven were at hand— As for the literary newspaper, so that it does not hurt your health, it is perhaps better than farming after all— The part of your scheme however, I cannot possibly approve, which is, bringing in your young Sisters to keep your house. Indeed my Darling they would make but sorry housekeepers in a situation so new and strange and you, with all your kindness and wisdom would make a still sorrier Mother. Whatever you do never think of carrying off Jane. She is my child, and shall go no such road; till I am there to guard her. of this you may rest assured— Any news of Schawbrae? Tell me presently— I have not said a hundredth part of what I know and yet my paper is nearly filled. Attribut[e] my dulness to partial intoxication— I drink strong ale at present to make me sleep, and it operates by making me in the first place tipsy— Write— Write— My kind love to your Mother and all the rest. “Would I come?” certainly not—

Yours auf ewig, /

Jane Welsh