The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JBW TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 7 March 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260307-JBW-JAC-01; CL 4:54-55.


Haddington Tuesday [7 March 1826]

Dearest John

I have often considered in my own mind, whether a pleasure is welcomest after long expectation, or when it takes us by surprise. The experience of yester-night was a powerful argument on the surprise side of the question.1— Indeed, my kind Doctor, I was in no hope you would take any further notice of me; till, like an honest woman, I had balanced our account: for you were not to be supposed in the secret of my silence; and so, moved to the tender mercy of remitting me my debt. But you are more beneficent, I am glad to find, than it had entered into my heart to conceive— And, now, you are to have the pleasure of knowing that what you did of free grace, was really just what I deserved at your hands. Ever since my journey to Edinr till within the last few days, I have been a free agent only in will—in deed, altogether at the mercy of the angel of sickness—angel of the bottomless pit! an inflam[m]atory complaint brought on by excessive fatigue confined me for the first fortnight to bed; and, even now, I am but got the length to be up and about my business six hours out of the twelve. However, I have neither pain nor sickness— “His name be praised”— no ailment in the world but weakness; and this would soon follow the rest, if the cold weather did not confine me within doors.

Of course it was impossible for us to make out our visit, at the appointed time; and it is now put off, I believe, till the end of April—so much the better!— There is nothing to take me to Edinr; unless it be to see you: the rest is all vanity and vexation of spirit, mud, smoke and bustle—

You could not, I think, have chosen a better subject for your Thesis— Madness is not only the most prevalent malady of the present time; but, of all maladies seems to be the least understood. In nineteen cases out of twenty it does not even get its right name, and the poor wretches are left at large a pest of society. Just in my own acquaintance, to go no further, I could find you upwards of a hundred Lunaticks, whom their Physicians suffer to go about like roaring lions seeking whom they may devour; when it were better for their own safety and the community's that they should be com[m]itted to some Asylum, in straight waistcoats. But your essay, I doubt not, will dispel this ignorance of the medical world, as the sun dispells the shadows of night; and we shall forthwith see madhouses large enough to contain two thirds of the inhabitants erected in every city and village thro'out the kingdom—2

I had a letter from your Brother last week. He must be getting into exceeding good health; if it be true, as they say, that crossness is a symptom of convalescence— Thank you for Herder which came in the nick of time; as I had just heard the last oracle of Nathan, and was ennuying myself with Tasso's Aminta3— I will write a greater length when I return the books—this is merely by way of acknowledgement— God keep you my beloved Brother— I am always most cordially yours Jane B Welsh