The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 19 July 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260719-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:115-119.


Scotsbrig, 19th July 1826—

My Dearest,

Had we been young lovers, just commencing the process of courtship, you might have had just cause to take exception against so long a silence in return for so kind and altogether balmy a letter as your last; nay perhaps in your wrath to pay me off and cashier me finally, as an ungrateful and ungainly subject. But, you see, we are old lovers just finishing the process of courtship, and going to be married; and so poor Jane cannot for her life get any vent for her fierce rage against me, and I stand swordproof before her, shielded in her own arms against all perils whatsoever. Blessed state for an honest man to be in! The little Bird of Paradise is mine, and her home is in my bosom (pray Heaven it may be a happy one!), and no power shall snatch her from me.

The truth is, my good Jane, the longer I am in writing, the sooner shall I be in coming; the fewer letters I give you, the sooner shall I give you myself. I have been writing wonderfully, with sublime effort, which as usual destroys my little fraction of health, and after a short continuance leaves me unfit for anything. By and by I shall learn wisdom in this as in other matters: to me health is more important than all imaginable philosophy; and were it not that philosophy teaches the recovery of health as her first maxim, she would not avail three straws. Even yet, make me thoroughly sick for three days, and without the prospect of improvement (which, however, I can now hardly be without) I were still as miserable a man as need be; half as miserable as ever I was. But what then? I throw my books to the ground, and myself into the fields and open breezes; and swear that no man or thing shall torment me any longer in that flame; and so in brief space my prison doors are unbolted; and I am again as of old.

It is thus that the “mind of man” can learn to command the most complex destiny; and like an experienced steersman (to speak in a most original figure) to steer its bark thro' all imaginable currents, undercurrents, quicksands, reefs and stormy weather. By and by, Liebchen, you will have to take the helm by turns yourself; for it is to be a victualled ship, no single-man canoe! What royal way we shall make—that is, provided we do not overset! No, my own lassie, we will not overset; but act wisely, and love one another not in words but in deeds (one of which is worth five thousand words), and courageously make front together against all the grievances of our lot. Here are two swallows in the corner of my window that have taken a house (not at Comley-bank) this summer; and, in spite of drought and bad crops, are bringing up a family together with the highest contentment and unity of soul. Surely, surely Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle, here as they stand, have in them conjunctly the wisdom of many swallows! Let them exercise it then, in God's name, and live happy as these birds of passage are doing!— It is not Nature that made men unhappy; but their own despicable perversities. The Deuce is in the people! Have they not food and raiment fit for all the wants of the body; and wives and children and brothers and parents and holiest duties for the wants of the soul? What ails them then, the ninnies? Their vanity, their despicable very despicable self-conceit, conjoined with or rather grounded on their blindness and lowness of mind. They want to be happy, and by happiness they mean pleasure, a series of passive enjoyments: if they had a quarter of an eye they would see that there not only was not but could not be such a thing in God's creation.—I often seriously thank this (otherwise very infernal) distemper for having helped to teach me these things. They are not to be learned without sore afflictions: happy he whom even affliction will teach them!— And herewith ends my present lecture.— Beloved pupil! art thou not afraid of the wonderful Lectures thou art fated to encounter from a husband so didactic? Or is it rather by (curtain) Lectures that thou purposest to instruct him?1

It is singular what a mockbird I am: I am writing here unconsciously in the very note of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, on whose works I have been labouring for the last four weeks. I sent a most mad article on the man to press with Alick this morning by Dumfries. It is pity that it was not wiser; for he is a great genius: but how can a man write about geniuses when he has a bride waiting to be written to? The best of it is, I shall be done with Richter in four days from this date; and with the Preface in two days longer, and then the Book is off my hands! Jack tells me you are to remove about the 25th of this month: write to me from under the shadow of this Tree, and tell me when I am to come and get fifty kisses from you. Oh what wonderful burblements [troubles] and embroilments we have to come thro'! I wish to Heaven we were married three calendar months, and I sitting writing another book in the little parlour, and you coming in to get ware for the dinner (from certain presses there) and I catching you round the waist and stealing two kisses by way of Promethean fire from the fairest lips in the world, [and pres]sing the truest heart in the world for one moment against mine. I believe in sincere truth, if the Devil be not in me, I shall like you very heartily; and learn to put faith in you as my best helper, and be your helper and husband in heart soul and spirit. O my Dearest! Our love has hitherto been a sound, a voice; it is now to become an action, and we shall have much to encounter and enjoy together. Let us not be foolish but wise, and all will be well!

Enweri tells us (a most royal man,
the deepest heart and highest head to scan):
At every place, at every time, thy surest chance
Lies in Decision, Justice, Tolerance.2

Tolerance is the hardest for those that have it not by Nature; and we must learn to tolerate, for it is never out of place; to “bear one another's burdens,”3 to be true, patient, meek, humble, one in heart as we are to be in fate and interest.

My paper is wearing done; and what is the matter? Have I aught more to say but, in a thousand figures and diverse phraseologies, that I love you as my wife, and will soon see you to take counsel about this and all that concerns us?

Write to me whenever you are settled, and tell me when I am to come. I purpose sleeping in this Comley-bank house; for by God's blessing a “Lodging” is a place I will never exist in more while in this world—if I can help it. The first night, I am roused by some infernal tumult from my sleep; the next day I feel as if broken on the wheel with one annoyance and another; and in three weeks, I am fit for Lob's po[u]nd,4 no better place. These things I tell you because it is good that you know them: to other people I had as soon not tell them, because it is good that they do not know them. The tender mercies of the world are considerable in a case of that kind: I have known a little of them; and splenetic contempt is not the best fruit, I hope, they have produced in me. I have hundreds of compliments from you here; in various dialects of speech, all coming from the region of the heart. The Joiners are in two days to begin repairing this house, and then they (not the Joiners) hope to see—us.— Remember me in all affection to your Mother, whom I hope soon to speak with at large.— Make my compliments also to James Johnston: if you can do an encouraging or kind thing to him, you do it to a good man, and to my old schoolfellow and constant wellwisher. Write when you arrive. I am your own forever— T. Carlyle

[In margin:] My Mother has come up expressly (with the candle—for sealing—which gave her notice) to say that she has received with many feelings of gratitude your celebrated marmalade pot, which she reserves the trial of for some great occasion. She has still a hankering for a letter: and sends you her warmest love, whether you write or not.—