The Collected Letters, Volume 10


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 9 September 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380909-JWC-TC-01; CL 10: 167-172


Sunday [9 September 1838]—

Thou precious Cheep!

I am rejoiced to find you working out your plan so strenuously and stead[i]ly. That is really one kind of virtue which does seem to me to be always its own reward; to have done the thing one meant to do, let it turn out as it may, is “a good joy”:1 You will come home to me “more than plumb”2 with conscious manhood, after having reaped such a harvest of ‘realized ideals.’3 For me I am purposely living without purpose; from hand to mouth as it were; taking the good the gods provide me,4 and as much as possible shirking the evil—a manner of existence which seems to suit my constitution very well; for I have not had a single headach these three weeks, nor any bodily ailment except occasional sleeplessness, with touches of that preternatural intensity of sensation, which if one did not know it to be the consequence of sleeplessness, would pass for perfection of health, rather than ailment, and which I study to keep down with such dullifying appliances as offer themselves, in dearth of “a considerable bulk of porridge.”5 The people6 are very attentive to me—almost too attentive, for they make me talk more than is for the good of my soul, and go thro' a power of my tea and butter & bread! Nay, Cavaignac was found sitting here yesterday when I came home from my drive, and said with all the cold bloodedness imaginable—“voulez-vous donner-moi à diner [would you like to give me dinner] Madame”? an astounding question to a woman whose whole earthly prospects in the way of dinner were bounded there and then to one fried sole and two pommes de terre!—and when this sumptuous repast was placed on the table with the addition of a spoonful of improvised hash; he sat down to it exclaiming a plusieurs reprises [several times]—“Mon dieu comme j'ai faim moi [My god how hungry I am]”!— However as Helen remarked “its nae matter what ye gie him, for he can aye make the bread flee”! He had brought, he said, a letter for you, because ‘you seemed rather shock-ed that he did not write you from Ireland’ but he also carried it away again— No matter since I have really no possibility of getting franks, unless by applying to Henry Taylor which I feel a reluctance to do, especially as he is understood to be entirely engrossed at present in an over-head-and-ears affair with Mrs Norton!7 I told you that his “my Gods,” were a symptom of demoralization and je ne trouve que moi qui a toujours raison [I find only I am always right]— He has been occasioning a good deal of wicked merriment by saying in various places when talking of his excursion with her to that ever memorable Bulah [sic] Spa— “As an instance of the innate modesty of the woman, think of her lying down on the grass in presence of five thousand people”!!8 one would say however, as I remarked to Mrs Crawfurd it could hardly be an “unconscious” modesty; after the public prints had [graved?] the practice on her mind in such a critical point of view9—Little Rice10 was quite right not to marry a man who “goes into society purely for the sake of the women.”— But all that is irrelevant— I desire a frank (and will get one from Stimabiledom when it returns from Hastings where it has been for the last week) to inclose you Emerson's second letter, longer than the first, which came the other day with a duplicate Bill11: in the mean time, tho' I grudge him the paper, I had better extract the business part12—“our two first vols of the Miscellanies are published. I have sent you a copy. The edition consists of 1000 copies. of these 500 are bound, 500 remain in sheets. The title-pages of course are all printed alike; but the publishers assure me that new title pages can be struck off at a trifling expence, with the imprint of Saunders & Otley. The cost of a copy in sheet or “folded” is 89 cents; & bound is $1.15 cents. The retail price is $2.50 a copy; & the authors profit $1.00; & the booksellers 35 cents, per copy, according [to] my understanding of the written contract, (all which I have written off with faith and hope but with infinite ennui, not understanding any more of cents than of hieroglyphics) “I think there is no doubt but the book will sell very well here, but if for the reasons you suggest you wish any part of it you can have it as soon as ships can bring your will. We have printed half the matter. I should presently begin to print the remainder inclusive of the Article on Scott in two more volumes. but now I think I shall wait until I hear from you. Of those books we will print a larger edition say 1250 or 1500 if you want a part of it in London for I feel confident now that our public is a thousand strong. Write me therefore by the Steam-packet your wishes.” So you can “consider”13 Cheep!14 and be prepared to answer the letter when I send it in a day or two in the lump— For my part I think I should vote for letting these good Americans keep their own wares they seem to have an art unknown in our Island of getting them disposed of— I can say nothing of how Sartor poor beast is going on—only that people tell me with provoking vagueness from time to time, that they have read or heard honourable mention of it, but where or when or to what possible purport15 they seem bound over by oath to be quite silent upon. Mrs Buller for example the other day (when I called at her house, said, while eating a “,pilaow [pilau] that she was glad to find it succeeding—“was it succeeding”? I asked “for I really was quite ignorant”—“O she had heard and seen the most honourable notice of it,” and then she took another dainty pick of the pilaow, and the subject was allowed to drop— The individual most agog about it seems to be the young Catholic (whose name I now inform you and beg you to remember is Mr T. Chisholme Anstey [)]16—He sat with me one forenoon last week for a whole hour and half rhapsodizing about you all the while—a most judicious young Catholic as I ever saw or dreamt of! He had been “in retreat” as they call it for three weeks—that is to say in some jesuit, La Trappe establishment in the North of England—absolutely silent—which he was sure “you would be glad to hear”—and he is going back at Christmas to hold his peace for three weeks more!— He has written an article on you for the Dublin review, which is to be sent to me as soon as published17—and the Jesuits he says are inchanted [sic] with all they find in you—your “opinions about sacrifice” &c &c are [“]entirely conformable to theirs”!! “After all” said Darwin the other day “what the deuce is Carlyles religion, or has he any”? I shook my head and assured him I knew no more than himself. I told Mr Chisholme Anstey I could not give him the Lecture-book then as I was copying it— “You copying it!” said he in enthusiasm—“indeed you shall not have that toil—I will copy it for you—it will be a pleasure to me to write them all a second time!![”] so you may give him the ten shillings for he actually took away the book and what I had done of it par vive force [by main force]!!18 I wish some other of your admirers would carry off the bed curtains by vive force and finish them also—for tho' I have had a sempstress helping me for three days they are still in hands.— perhaps a Swedenborgian will do that—

There is still no letter from John and I begin to be weary of the treatment I experience here— If I had had the least idea he was to have delayed writing so long I would have gone to Ramsgate at once as Miss Wilson in the most cordial of letters, urged me to do. But I waited on from day to day always making sure that the morrow would put me in possession of facts to regulate myself by, more securely. and now the chance is that the arrival will follow immediately on the announcement and I shall not get at all—at least till he is gone again. The announcement of Jenny's safe accouchement of a little female Hanning,19 came to me the day before yesterday in a letter from “my affectionate friend R H.” and I would have put it at the very beginning of my letter, but that you will have already learnt the fact at Scotsbrig— They were all well, and the “little Girel was to be called for our Deer Moy a very worthy friend!”— Besides this the letter sayeth nothing. I will write to your Mother in a day or two—— Macqueen called the other morning and paid me my ten pounds— He talked over the matter of Craigenputtoch in the most reasonable and good natured manner possible, and we parted with mutual good wishes— It was a pity he did not get the farm20— I am glad you learnt my Mothers non departure for Liverpool and wrote to her— In the Letter I received from her the other day she expressed herself hurt at your not coming by Templand (as if you could have known by inspiration she was still there)— Do not forget Mr Lawrence's scotch bonnet. Baron von Alsdorf came here the other night seeking your address to write to you for a testimonial. I was obliged to give him Sams having then no other, which will probably cost you a postage— But “such is the lot of celebrity i['] the world”21—O, my Revolution and Sartor are come home, such loves of books!—quite beautiful but such a price! seven shillings per volume! for half binding!—“was there ever any thing in the least like it”!22 The Fraserian Functionary seemed almost frightened to tell me—but seeing I could make nothing of debating about it I contented myself with saying—“Well! French Revolutions are not written every day and the outside should be something worthy of the in”— The man apparently struck with admiration of my sincerity and contempt of money bowed involuntarily and said— “It is indeed a book that cannot have too much expence put upon it” “Why the deuce, then,” I was tempted to answer “dont you give us something for it you” The German Romance is to be done in calf at 3/6 a volume— Do not trouble your head about my investing so much capital in the binding of these books—with such a prospect of cents; it were sheer parsimony not to give them a good dress. I have unpacked your wine and even tasted it—and lo! it proves to be two dozen pint-bottles of exquisite port!—which disagrees with you—did you not understand it was to have been Maidera? [sic] my Malmsey is not come yet23— How I laughed and how Cavaignac shouted at your encounter with Mrs. 'Ickson24—indeed your whole letter was most entertaining—and satisfactory— Do not be long of sending me another—they are very refreshing especially when they praise me.25 This is not so good “a return” as I could wish to make you—but in a single sheet one is obliged to manger [eat up] all superfluous details tho' these are more interesting to the absent than more important matters—

Robertson26 called on me the other day—wondering if you were writing any thing for him— He has had a splutter with Leigh Hunt—always spluttering. He talked much of Harriets “tail of hundreds” at Newcastle27 till I could not help fancying her as one of those sheep Herodotus tells about.28 I wonder how many things I have forgotten? Kind regards to them all—and to yourself—what you can say of most affectionate[.] I drive almost every day— Elizabeths letter is not come yet but I will write forthwith—whether or no

Your unfortunate /


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