The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 27 September 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260927-TC-JBW-01; CL 4:137-139.


Scotsbrig, Wednesday [27 September 1826]—

My Dearest,

Surely I am bound by all laws human and divine to “write you a few lines,” however enormous the “trouble” may be; and this the rather as except thinking about you and this general Finale that lies before us, I have next to nothing to do. You will never in the world guess what sort of a pastime I have had recourse to in this windbound portion of my voyage. Nothing less than the reading of Kant's Transcendental Philosophy! So it is: I am at the hundred and fiftieth page of the Kritik der reinen vernunft;1 not only reading but partially understanding, and full of projects for instructing my benighted countrymen on the true merits of this sublime system at some more propitious season. To speak truth, however, one of Scott's novels would suit me much better: last night, I found Kant was getting rather abstruse; and in one or two points he puzzled me so, that today I have not once opened him. On the whole, this present “middle state”2 might, so far as the Almanack and the Clock are concerned, seem peculiarly favourable for literary projection: but alas the heart is not there; I am fallen, fallen from the pure regions of Art into the boggy Syrtis3 of session-clerks and Tailors and Postkeepers; and I feel too clearly that till the great Day is over, I can neither think of one thing nor another to any purpose. Would it were over, and [one line has been scratched out here] neither Kant nor any of his commentators can teach me.4 The Philosophy of living well is the end of all Philosophies, transcendental and common; and if affection be the soul of life, shall we not teach one another to live?

After all I believe we take this impending ceremony far too much to heart. Bless me, have not many people been married before now? And were they not all carried thro' with some measure of Christian comfort,5 and taught to see that marriage was simply nothing but—marriage? Take courage, then, my Darling; and let no cold shudder come over you, and call not this an “odious ceremony,” but rather a blessed ordinance, sanctioning by earthly laws what is already sanctioned in Heaven, uniting two souls for wor[l]dly joy and woe, which in God's sight have chosen one another from amongst all men! Can any road be dark which is leading thither? You will see it will all be “smooth as oil,” notwithstanding our forebodings. Consider Goethe's saying: “we look upon our scholars as so many swimmers, each of whom, in the element that threatened to devour him, unexpectedly feels himself borne up and able to make progress; and so is it with all that man undertakes.”6 With all, marriage as well as other things. By all reasons, therefore, German and English, I call upon you to be composed in spirit; and to fear no evil in this really blessed matter.— Now tell me at this moment, when your apprehensions are the darkest, how much would you take to rue? Five guineas? Fifty thousand? I do not think you would take—five.

To your arrangements about the journey and the other items of the How and When I can only answer as becomes me: Be it as thou hast said. Let me know your will, and it shall be my pleasure; and so by the blessing of Heaven we shall roll along side by side with the speed of post horses, till we arrive at Comley Bank; and then, as Richter says, the door we open is no longer mine or thine, but ours; and we two are one and indivisible forever and ever! I shall only stipulate farther that you let me by the road, as occasion serves, smoke three cigars, without criticism or reluctance, as things essential to my perfect contentment! Yet if you object to this article, think not that I will break off the match on that account; but rather like a dutiful husband, submit to the everlasting ordinances of Providence, and let my wife have her way.

You are very kind, and more just than I had reason to expect, in imputing my ill-natured speeches (for which Heaven forgive me!) to their true cause, a disordered nervous system. Believe me, Jane, it is not I but the Devil speaking out of me which could utter one harsh word to a heart that so little deserves it. O, I were blind and wretched, if I could make thee unhappy! But it will not and shall not be; for I am not naturally a villain, and at bottom I do love you well; and so when we have learned to know each other as we are, and got all our arrangements accomplished, and our hous[e]hold set in order, I dare promise you th[at] it will all be well, and we shall live far happier than we have ever hop[ed.] Sickness is the origin, but no good cause of indiscriminating spleen: if we are wise, we must learn if not to resist at least to evade its influences; a science, in which even I (in the midst of my own establishment) fancy I have made some progress, and despair not of making more.

As to the Proclamation, on which I expect your advice, deeply as I feel ashamed of you, I protest I had rather be proclaimed in all the parish churches of the Empire than miss the little bride I have in my eye; a wicked gypsey truly, but one whom I see not how I am to do without. So get the gowns made ready, and loiter not, and tell me, and in a twinkling me voilà [there I am].— Thank your Aunt for her kind invitation, which I do not refuse, or accept till next letter; waiting to see how matters turn. I was surely born to be a Bedouin: without Freedom I should soon “die and do nocht ava'.”7 My chosen abode is in my own house, in preference to the Palace of Windsor; and next to this, shall I not (with the man in the play) take my ease at mine Inn?8— I wish my kind compliments to Grandfather, if he will accept them; in his monosyllabic manner of existence, I discern the features of a genuine heart, and feel that I could like him much.

My Mother's prayers (to speak with all seriousness) are, I do believe, not wanting either to you or me; and if the sincere wishes of a true soul can have any virtue, we shall not want a blessing. She bids me send you the kindest message I can contrive; which I send by itself without contrivance. She says she will have one good greet [cry] when we set off, and then be at peace.— Now then, Dearest, what remains but that you appoint the date; that you look forward to it with trust in me and trust in yourself, and come with trust to your husbands arms and heart, there to abide thro' all chances forever? O we are two ungrateful wretches, or we should be happy! [line crossed out]; write soon, and love me forever. And so good Night mein Herzenskind [my darling]! Thine auf ewig [to eternity],

T. Carlyle