The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 7 March 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260307-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:51-54.


Hoddam Hill, 7th March, 1826—

My Beloved Wife!—You are an Angel of Light, and I am a mean man of Earthly clay, who ought not to mete you by a standard fit only for vulgar natures. I have scanned this letter with critical eyes, to see if I could discover in it any trace of vindictive yet natural selfishness, any shadow of retaliation for my harshness, any glance of splenetic pride, any look of anger or recrimination: and I have found none! Nothing but longsuffering meekness, and gentleness, and loving weeping expostulation! My Noble Jane! Thy heart has taught thee a philosophy better than all the Schools will ever teach me. I am not worthy of such a heart; or my little paltry pride would not so easily catch fire, and turn a harmless jest into matter of such stern speculation. Have you not cause to weep over the arrangements of our Fortune? And in whose bosom can you shed those tears but in mine? Have you not cause, unknowing as you must be of much that is peculiar in my lot, to feel displeasure at many things I do and neglect to do? And am not I your last and only friend: to whom can you utter that displeasure but to me?

But let us forget the whole misunderstanding. Positively you must forget it. You cannot keep anger in your heart against me; can you? Against me, poor me, who love and honour you, as I have good cause; and whose fault is not want of tenderness to you, but of confidence in myself! These perplexities come of our living eighty miles asunder, and not by each other's side. Forget them, my own true hearted wife! Forget them; dry up your tears, and smile in my face, and all will be as it was! Are you pacified? Are you good to me? You love me forever, Jane; and neither Heighth nor Depth, nor things present nor things to come shall ever separate you from my heart.1 So be content, my Darling, and get well again, and write me a sunnier letter; for I have still much, much of a far finer sort than the last to tell you. And let us no more remember this unseasonable cloud; and let not the mountain ask if it came from the valley, or the valley if it came from the mountain: but let bright summer weather come back, and both rejoice in its presence. Ah! If I were beside you I would soon make up the peace. I would steal my arms about you, and lead you to my heart, and ask you if you thought it was not yours. Could you resist me? Would you turn away your face and your kisses from my prayer? No, Jane! you would not, and could not: for we are one in heart and soul; and if we had twenty thousand such misunderstandings, they must all come to one result at last. It is forgotten, then: is it not?

I got your letter along with five proof-sheets: but no hurry of business would excuse me for keeping you in such a state one day longer than the shortest possible time. I write this in stolen moments as a peace-offering: I will write to you again, about a hundred other things the moment you tell me all is well; perhaps on Sunday, whether you tell me or not.

For you must know, Darling, I have some important subjects meditating at this time. You bade me tell you all the imaginations of the thoughts of my heart: and I have had a wild scheme for these four or five weeks in my head; a scheme in which your “assistance” is not only “possible” but essential. Can you guess it? Dare you make yourself a beggar within six months? Dare you wed a wild man of the woods, and come and live with him in his cavern, in hope of better days? I declare, it is shameful to make you such an offer: and yet what can be done? Wedded we must and shall be sometime: why not soon as well as syne [late]? If Fortune will not make us rich, the base shrew, why not make ourselves rich, richer in each other's arms than the Kings and Kaisers of the Earth! “It is madness,” you say? No, Dearest, it is not; but a judicious desperation, a bold venture to escape from Purgatory fire into the verdant Groves of Heaven! Who knows but we shall prosper? I feel as if with you in my bosom, I should be a new man; as if the bitterness of life would pass away like a forgotten tempest, and I and my own loved one should walk in bright weather. Is not thy heart mine, Liebchen? Thy whole soul and being, mine? Why then are our lots parted, tho' mine is of the poorest? In sober truth, my Love, I do wish you would consider this matter: for I myself have been studying it in every mood for many days; and the longer I think of it, the more feasible the more rational it seems. If I get a house in the country, why should it not be yours also? My Mother has told me two hundred times that she expected to have you with her again in summer: would she like you worse or better as her own daughter; would you be happier as her guest or as your Chosen's wife? O Jane! My soft truehearted Jane! Are we not wealth and health and all blessedness to one another?

Perhaps I am a fool to whisper this to you as it stands at present: for as yet I have not even a cottage to offer you share of. In two days that latter question, however, will be determined: and go as it may, I declare to thee, my Child, that I see nothing for it but our union “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness in health,” now and forever, and this at no distant date. Think of it; consider, study, help me to meditate! It is the highest concern of both.

But I must cease and determine; for my work is leaving me out of sight, and without a start, it is all that I can do to keep up with it. Read this letter with the image of my hurry in your eye; and if you find any delirium in it, think that perhaps in a sober moment the aid of reflexion would have suppressed it. Above all, consider of this cottage scheme, and tell me if it is possible.

Another word I must not write you tonight. Will you answer this letter directly? Perhaps I shall not write to you on Sunday: what more can I say, till this business be sifted, and the wheat of it (if any) picked from the chaff by your hand?

Jane has not forgot you or your Mother: but is busy making ready for returning thanks. At least so I suppose. The creature has caught two or three of your looks, and sometimes recalls you to my mind as if you stood in this very room, which never had or will have such another inmate. Good night, my Beloved! Write to me that you are well, that you still love me, that you will be mine!

I am your own forever, /

Thomas Carlyle—