The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JWC TO ANNA D. B. MONTAGU; 2 September 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270902-JWC-ADBM-01; CL 4:250-253.


Comley Bank [2 September 1827]

My dearest Mrs Montagu

By way of excusing or at least explaining this long silence, I might tell you what various scenes I have come thro' of late weeks, and how their rapid shifting quite bewildered my brain so that no sense remained in it for any Composition whatsoever: but I fear the excuse would be worse to bear with than the failure; as no powers of description could make my travelling journal otherwise than exceedingly dull. Since our return home the illness of my favorite Aunt1 has afforded me almost constant employment, and of the most anxious sort; her malady requiring a painful and dangerous operation. Nevertheless I might still have written; for, in spite of Edward Irving's testimony to the contrary, I maintain none living is so busied, that he may not write occasionally to his friend: however, you will consider that I myself am the only loser by the omission; and so take my apologies, such as they are, in good part.

Has Mr Irving told you, my husband half purposes offering himself for a London professorship?2 No conceivable plan could be more opposite to the one detailed in my last; indeed you will hardly understand how they should be lying quietly together in one head. Yet, both have been admitted on the self same principle; for both are solutions (by different methods) of the problem of living. But for the want of some sure footing for our present situation to rest on, it were out of sight the most suitable and every way desirable of the three: our dear little home here grows more attractive every day; all the conveniences both of town and country lie around it; and we have as good society as the place (indeed perhaps any place) affords. But then to be at the mercy of such people as Booksellers! to be this with a sick body and a high mind! it would render the finest situation under the Sun unbearable. Now whether as a Farmer in the moors of Dunscore,3 or a Professor in the London university, one should be equally independent as to income: in the one case being placed below the necessity of writing for bread, in the other raised above it. For the rest; the arguments for and against the two projects are so well balanced, that one can hardly tell which to prefer. Which would you prefer in like circumstances? Do suggest something that may determine us at least which way to wish.

Mr Procter did us a great kindness by his letter of introduction to Jeffrey. He is quite a little jewel of a man, and seems to love my Husband truly, who in return as truly loves him. We shall leave Edinr with more regret, when along with it we leave this new friend: but regrets, even where one has leave to “speak them out” are of no avail. Let me rather then, look forward to London and Mrs Montagu or (which is my lik[e]lier fate) to Craigenputtock and—the pleasures of solitude.

We were greatly uplifted about two weeks ago by a little box out of Germany, containing a long, friendly letter from Goethe, along with the gracefulest gifts! a new edition of his poems, inscribed with his own hand to the “Werthen Ehpaare Carlyle für freundliche Theilnahme schönstens dankbar” [“to the Carlyles, worthy couple, with best thanks for their friendly interest”]—two other volumes of his works for the Herr, “zu freundlichem Andenken” [“in kind remembrance”]—and a fine pocket book also, in one of the pockets of which was the [pre]ttiest quatrain written on a coloured card

Augenblicklich aufzuwarten
Schicken Freunde solche Karten;
Diesmal aber heissts nicht gern:
Euer Freund ist weit und fern.4

Weimar 20 July / 1827

But what astonished me most, and indeed nearly turned my head a whole afternoon was a similar card for me, laid in a blue and gilt box with a fine wrought Dresden chain, and a locket engraved with the Poet's head. Tho' my paper is nearly filled, I must copy it also; for truly it is a pearl of great price.

Wirst Du in den Spiegel blicken
Und vor deinen heitern Blicken
Dich die ernste Zierde schmücken:
Denke dass nichts besser schmückt
Als wenn man den Freund beglückt.5

Weimar 20 July / 1827

Two medallions, one of himself, the other of his Father and Mother completed this wonderful “Sendung.” Our little drawingroom, with all these things, might now pass for a Sanctuary to Goethe: my Husbands translations of his works, in the tastefulest binding my fancy could invent, already ornamented the bookcase; and while we were away in Dumfriesshire a good Genius to give us a pleasant surprise hung up a finely framed portrait of him.

But I must positively conclude; for Mr C wishes to write a postscript, and I am encroaching on his room. Will you answer this without delay? And tell me how Charles has been going on and anything that concerns you? I know how little right I have to expect this: but I know also you are very good. God bless you my dear Friend

I am always respectfully and af[f]ectionately Yours /

Jane Welsh Carlyle

[TC's postscript:] My dear Madam, Jane has surely supposed a polyglott faculty in you; for here is German enough to puzzle Crabbe Robinson himself!— I have only room to say that I still think of you with affection, and long to hear of your good. How are you? How are all the true souls I came to know thro' your means? Sad would it be were I parted from them forever; but this I am not, and will not be!

Will you tell me something about this London University, and my project of professing to teach “poetic taste” there? Do think of it, and say something—wise, as you are wont. I should have answered Mr Irving's letter instantly; but that I am hurried into half-delirium by a paper for the E. Review[.] All good be with you and yours!

How is Mrs Procter? I do trust nothing wrong has befallen. Badams I suppose is gone from this wicked world;6 but surely his memory will always be dear to me, as the memory of a good man.

My best regards to your Poet,7 and in some respects mine. His kindness has not failed; this is its best recompense.

[Postscript by JWC:] What is become of that Angel or Demon (I know not which) Julia Strachey? She never writes hither now