The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO HENRY COLE ; 11 May 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380511-TC-HC-01; CL 10: 79-81


Chelsea, Friday [11? May 1838]

My dear Sir,

I will speak to Hunt about the Petition when I see him.1 To shew my own goodwill, and satisfy my conscience,2 here is a rough scroll of some of my own ideas on the matter;—rough and ready.3 It is not fit for the Hon. House but it is partly true nevertheless. I give it you with full leave to make what use of it you will;4 on this condition, which I beg you to consider strict and literal, That my name be not mentioned or whispered in regard to it, and also that I hear no more tell of it for a month to come—being wholly in the agony of Lecturing at present!

I send you some Prospectuses,5 if anybody want to see them; and am always,

My dear Sir, / very truly yours, / T. Carlyle

One of our Dumfries Papers, the Dumfries Herald, is a zealous advocate of Penny Postage, when the question turns up.6 Do you see that?

To the &c The Petition of the undersigned Men of Letters

Humbly sheweth,

That your Petitioners, engaged in multifarious inquiries, connected in manifold relations, of friendship, kindred, business, community of study, and other calls for correspondence by letter, find the present rates of Postage a heavy burden and obstruction; and desire much that Mr R. Hill's Plan of Uniform Penny Postage were adopted in this Kingdom.

That meanwhile their personal interest in this Plan, however real and considerable, is yet small in comparison to the benefits they, as members of society, anticipate from it, in all points of view, moral, social, economical, to all classes; especially to the largest and poorest class, which counts not by units or by hundreds but by millions.

That man, as your Petitioners will crave leave to repeat, is distinguished from animals by the gift of Speech, and civilized man from savage by the art of Writing (which is but an infinite extension of Speech); to which miraculous art the Post-Office for daily individual purposes, as the Press for lasting universal ones, seems indispensably important, worthy of all furtherance and the utmost attainable freedom.

That alike by primary impulse of Nature and by continual necessities of Business, men are called to speak together; that men are rendered friendly and in all ways helpful to one another, chiefly by this same, by communicating their wants, attainments, sympathies, purposes,—in a word, by speaking together when they wish to speak.

That Nations too exist united, and from heterogeneous Aggregates have grown into Nations and continue so, by no circumstance so much as by community of language, or the faculty of mutual speech and communication; that the more rapid, free, constant and universal such communication is in any Nation, the stronger, more coherent, vital, and victorious over difficulty, must that Nation every way become.

That there seems good reason to believe that Mr R. H.'s Plan would ultimately, in this Kingdom, occasion no loss but rather a gain to the revenue; such an increase of letters, when all writers wrote freely, and the now unwriting millions began to write, might be anticipated from it.

That even in the contrary case, and supposing the Post-Office should become unproductive in finance, your Petrs will humbly urge that a tax on Letter-writing is a tax on deliberate Speaking,—on the deepest want and most indefeasible right of man; a tax, as it were, on the act of living (for man's life is but an utterance of himself); a tax fitter for Turkey and a Sultan's Divan, than for England and a legislature like your Hon. House

May it therefore please your Hon House to consider in your wisdom how the said Plan of Uniform Penny Postage may be put in action, and pass the same into a law.

And your Petrs will ever pray.