The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 16 March 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380316-TC-RWE-01; CL 10: 49-52


Chelsea, London, 16th March, 1838—

My dear Emerson,

Your Letter thro' Sumner was sent by him from Paris about a month ago;1 the man himself has not yet made his appearance, or been heard of in these parts: he shall be very welcome to me, arrive when he will. The February Letter came yesterday, by direct conveyance from Dartmouth. I answer it today rather than tomorrow; I may not for long have a day freer than this. Fronte capillata, post est occasio calva [Although chance has hair at the front, she is bald behind]:2 True either in Latin or in English!

You send me good news, as usual. You have been very brisk and helpful in this business of the Revolution Book, and I give you many thanks and commendations. It will be a very brave day when cash actually reaches me, no matter what the number of the coins, whether seven or seven hundred, out of Yankee-land;3 and strange enough, what is not unlikely, if it be the first cash I realize for that piece of work,—Angle-land continuing still insolvent to me! Well; it is a wide Motherland we have here, or are getting to have, from Bass's Straits all round to Columbia River, already almost circling the Globe:4 it must be hard with a man if somewhere or other he find not some one or other to take his part, and stand by him a little! Blessings on you my brother: nay your work is always twice blessed.— I believe after all, with the aid of my Scotch thrift, I shall not be absolutely thrown into the streets here; or reduced to borrow, and become the slave of somebody, for a morsel of bread. Thank God, no! Nay of late I begin entirely to despise that whole matter, so as I never hitherto despised it: “Thou beggarliest Spectre of Beggary that hast chaced [sic] me ever since I was man, come on then, in the Devil's name, let us see what is in thee! Will the Soul of a Man, with Eternity within a few years of it, quail before thee?” Better, however, is my good pious Mother's version of it, “They cannot take God's Providence from thee; thou hast never wanted yet.”5

But to go on with business; and the republication of books in that Transoceanic England, New and improved Edition of England. In January last, if I recollect right, Miss Martineau in the name of a certain Mr Loring6 applied to me for a correct List of all my fugitive Papers; the said Mr Loring meaning to publish them for my behoof. This List she, not without solicitation, for I had small hope in it, did at last obtain, and send, coupled with a request from me that you should be consulted in the matter. Now it appears you had of yourself previously determined on something of the same sort, and probably are far on with the printing of your Two Select Volumes. I confess myself greatly better pleased with it on that footing than on another. Who Mr Loring may be I know not with any certainty at first hand; but who Waldo Emerson is I do know; and more than one god from the machine is not necessary. I pray you, thank Mr Loring for his goodness towards me (his intents are evidently charitable and not wicked); but consider yourself as in nowise bound at all by that blotted Paper he has; but do the best you can for me, consulting with him or not taking any counsel just as you see to be fittest on the spot. And so Heaven prosper you, both in your “aroused Yankee” state, and in all others;—and let us for the present consider that we have enough about Books and Guineas. I must add however that Fraser and I have yet made no bargain. We found, on computing, that these would be five good Volumes, including Teufelk; for an edition of 750 I demanded £50 a volume, and Fraser refused: the poor man then fell dangerously ill, and there could not be a word farther said on the subject; till very lately, when it again became possible, but has not yet been put in practice. All the world cries out, why do you publish with Fraser? “Because my soul is sick of Booksellers, and of trade, and deception, and ‘need and greed’ altogether; and this poor Fraser, not worse than the rest of them, has in some sort grown less hideous to me by custom.” I fancy however, either Fraser will publish these things before long; or some Samaritan here will take me to some bolder brother of the trade that will. Great Samuel Johnson assisted at the beginning of Bibliopoly; small Thomas Carlyle assists at the ending of it:7 both are sorrowful reasons for a man. For the rest, people here continue to receive that Revolution very much as you say they do there: I am right well quit of it; and the elderly gentlemen on both sides of the water may take comfort, they will not soon have to suffer the like again. But really England is wonderfully changed within these ten years;—the old gentlemen all shrunk into nooks, some of them even voting with the young.— The American ill-printed 2½ dollars Copy shall, for Emerson's sake, be welcomest to me of all. Kennett8 will send it when it comes.

The Oration9 did arrive, with my name on it, one snowy night in January. It [is off] to Madeira, probably there now. I can dispose of a score of copies to good advantage. Friend Sterling has done the best of all his things in the current Blackwood, “Crystals from a Cavern”; which see. He writes kind things of you from Madeira, in expectation of the Speech.10 I will gratify him with your message; he is to be here in May; better, we hope, and in the way towards safety. Miss Martineau has given you a luminous section in her new Book about America; you are one of the American “originals,”11—the good Harriet! And now I have but one thing to add and to repeat: Be quiet, be quiet! The fire that is in one's own stomach is enough, without foreign bellows to blow it ever and anon. My whole heart shudders at the thrice-wretched self-combustion into which I see all manner of poor paper-lanterns go up, the wind of “popularity” puffing at them, and nothing left ere long but ashes and sooty wreck. It is sad, most sad. I shun all such persons and circles, as much as possible; and pray the gods to make me a bricklayer's hodbearer rather. O the “cabriolets, neat-flies,” and blue twaddlers of both sexes therein, that drive many a poor Mrs Rigmarole to the Devil!12— As for me, I continue doing as nearly nothing as I can manage. I decline all invitations of society that are declinable: a London rout is one of the maddest things under the moon; a London dinner makes me sicker for a week, and I say often, It is better to be even dull than to be witty, better to be silent than to speak.

Curious: your Course of Lectures “on Human Culture” seems to be on the very subject I am to discourse upon here in May coming; but I am to call it “On the History of Literature,” and speak it, not write it.13 While you read this, I shall be in the agonies! Ah me, often when I think of the matter, how my one sole wish is to be left to hold my tongue, and by what bayonets of Necessity clapt to my back I am driven into that Lecture-room and in what mood, and ordered to speak or die, I feel as if my only utterance should be a flood of tears and blubbering!14 But that, clearly, will not do. Then again I think it is perhaps better so; who knows? At all events we will try what is in this Lecturing in London. If something, well; if nothing, why also well. But I do want to get out of these coils for a time. My Brother is to be home again in May; if he go back to Italy, if our Lecturing proved productive, why might we not all set off thitherward for the winter coming? There is a dream to that effect. It would suit my Wife too: she was alarmingly weak this time twelvemonth; and I can only yet tell you that she is stronger, not strong:15 she has not ventured out, except at midday and rarely then, since autumn last; she sits here patiently waiting summer, and charges me to send you her love.— America also always lies in the background: I do believe, if I live long I shall get to Concord one day. Your Wife must love me. If the little Boy be a well-behaved fellow, he shall ride on my back yet: if not tell him I will have nothing to do with him, the riotous little imp that he is.16 And so God bless you always, my dear friend!— Your affectionate

T. Carlyle