The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 15 November 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381115-TC-RWE-01; CL 10: 214-218


Chelsea, London, 15th November, 1838—

Dear Emerson,

Hardly above a week ago, I wrote to you in immediate answer to some friendly inquiries produced by negligence of mine: the Letter is probably tumbling on the salt waves at this hour, in the belly of the Great Western;1 or perhaps it may be still on firm land waiting, in which case this will go along with it. I had written before out of Scotland, a Letter of mere acknowledgement and postponement; you must have received that before now, I imagine. Our small piece of business is now become articulate, and I will despatch it in a paragraph. Pity my stupidity that I did not put the thing on this footing long ago! It never struck me till the other day that tho' no copy of our “Miscellanies” would turn up for inspection here, and no Bookseller would bargain for a thing unseen, I myself might bargain, and leave their hesitations resting on their own basis. In fine I have rejected all their schemes of printing “Miscellaneous Works” here, printing “Sketches of German Literature,” or printing anything whatever on the “half-profits system,” which is like toilsomely scattering seed into the sea; and I settled yesterday with Fraser to give him the American sheets, and let them sell themselves, on clear principles, or remain unsold if they like. I find it infinitely the best plan, and to all appearance the profitablest as to money that could have been devised for me.

What you have to do therefore is to get 250 copies (in sheets) of the whole Four Volumes, so soon as the second two are printed, and have them with the proper titlepage sent off hither to Fraser's address; the sooner the better. The American titlepage, instead of “Boston”: &c at the bottom, will require to bear, in three lines: “London: / James Fraser, 215. Regent Street / 1839 /.” Fraser is anxious that you should not spell him with a z; your man can look on the Magazine, and beware. I suppose also you should print labels for the backs of the four volumes, to be used by the half-binder; they do the books in that way here now: but if it occasion any difficulty, never mind this; it was not spoken of to Fraser, and is my own conjecture merely; the thing can be managed in various other ways. Two hundred and fifty copies, then, of the entire book: there is nothing else to be attended to that you do not understand as well as I. Fraser will announce it in his Magazine; the eager select public will wait.2 Probably there is no chance before the middle of March or so? Do not hurry yourselves, or at all change your rate for us: but so soon as the work is ready in the course of nature, the earliest conveyance to the Port of London will bring a little cargo, which one will welcome with a strange feeling! I declare myself delighted with the plan; an altogether romantic kind of plan, of romance and reality: fancy me riding on “Yankee3 withal, at the time, and considering what a curious world this is, that bakes bread for one beyond the great ocean-stream, and how a poor man is not left after all to be trodden into the gutters, tho' the fight went sore against him, and he saw no backing anywhere. Allah akbar, God is great;4 no saying truer than that.— And so now, by the blessing of Heaven, we will talk no more of business this day.

My employments, my outlooks, condition and history here, were a long chapter; on which I could like so well to talk with you face to face; but as for writing of them, it is a mere mockery. In these four years, so full of pain and toil, I seem to have lived four decades. By degrees, the creature gets accustomed to its element; the salamander learns to live in fire, and be of the same temperature with it. Ah me! I feel as if grown old; innumerable things are become weary, flat, stale and unprofitable.5 And yet perhaps I am not old, only wearied, and there is a stroke or two of work in me yet. For the rest, the fret and agitation of this Babylon wears me down: it is the most unspeakable life; of sunbeams and miry clay;6 a contradiction which no head can reconcile. Pain and poverty are not wholesome; but praise and flattery along with them are poison: God deliver us from that; it carries madness in the very breath of it! On the whole, I say to myself, What thing is there so good as rest? A sad case it is, and a frequent one in my circle, to be entirely cherubic, all face and wings. “Mes enfans,” said a French gentleman to the cherubs in the Picture, “Mes enfans, asseyezvous [My children, sit down]”—“Monseigneur [Sir],” answer they, “il n'y a pas de quoi! [there's nothing to do it with!]”7 I rejoice rather in my laziness; proving that I can sit— But, after all, ought I not to be thankful? I positively can in some sort exist here for a while; a thing I had been for many years ambitious of to no purpose. I shall have to lecture again in spring, Heaven knows on what; it will be a wretched fever for me; but once thro' it, there will be board wages for another year. The wild Ishmael can hunt in this desart too,8 it would seem. I say, I will be thankful; and wait quietly what farther is to come, or whether anything farther. But indeed, to speak candidly, I do feel sometimes as if another Book were growing in me,—tho' I almost tremble to think of it. Not for this winter, O no! I will write an Article merely, or some such thing, and read trash if better be not. This I do believe is my horoscope for the next season: an article on something, about New-Years day (the Westminster Editor, a goodnatured admiring swan-goose from the North Country,9 will not let me rest); then Lectures; then—what? I am for some practical subject too; none of your pictures in the air, or aesthetisches Zeug [aesthetic stuff] (as Müllner's Wife called it,10 Müllner of the “Midnight Blade”):11 nay I cannot get up the steam on any such hest; it is extremely irksome as well as fruitless at present. In the next Westminster Review therefore if you see a small scrub of a Paper signed “S.P.,” on one Varnhagen a German,12 say that it is by “Simon Pure,”13 or by “Scissors and Paste,”14 or even by “Soaped Pig”—whom no man shall catch!15 Truly it is a secret which you must not mention: I was driven to it by the swangoose above-mentioned, not Mill but another. Let this s[uf]fice for my winter's history: may the summer be more productive.

As for Concord and New England, alas my Friend I should but deface your Idyllion [with] an ugly contradiction, did I come in such mood as mine is. I am older in years than you; but in humour I am older by centuries. What a hope is in that ever-young heart; cheerful, healthful as the morning! And as for me, you have no conception what a crabbed sulky piece of sorrow and dyspepsia I am grown; and growing, if I do not draw bridle. Let me gather heart a little! I have not forgotten Concord or the West; no, it lies always beautiful in the blue of the horizon, afar off and yet attainable; it is a great possession to me, should it even never be attained. But I have got to consider lately that it is you who are coming hither first. That is the right way, is it not? New England is becoming more than ever part of Old England; why, you are nearer to us now than Yorkshire was a hundred years ago; this is literally a fact: you can come without making your will. It is one of my calculations that all Englishmen from all zones and hemispheres will, for a good while yet, resort occasionally to the Mother-Babel, and see a thing or two there. Come if you dare; I said there was a room, houseroom and heartroom, constantly waiting you here, and you shall see blockheads by the million. Pickwick himself shall be visible; innocent young Dickens,16 reserved for a questionable fate. The great Wordsworth shall talk till you yourself pronounce him to be a bore.17 Southey's complexion is still healthy mahogany-brown, with a fleece of white hair, and eyes that seem running at full gallop. Leigh Hunt, “man of genius in the shape of a Cockney,”18 is my near neighbour, full of quips and cranks,19 with goodhumour and no common-sense. Old Rogers with his pale head, white, bare, and cold as snow, will look on you with those large blue eyes, cruel, sorrowful, and that sardonic shelf-chin:20— This is the man, O Rogers, that wrote the German Poetry in American Prose;21 consider him well!— But whither am I running? My sheet is done!

My Brother John returns again almost immediately to Italy. He has got appointed Travelling Doctor to a certain Duke of Buccleuch, the chief of our Scotch Dukes:22 an excellent position for him as far as externals go. His departure will leave me lonelier; but I must reckon it for the best: especially I must begin working. Harriet Martineau is coming hither this evening; with beautiful enthusiasm for the Blacks and others.23 She is writing a Novel:24 the first American book proved generally rather wearisome, the second not so;25 we have since been taught (not I) “How to observe.” Suppose you and I promulgate a treatise next, “How to see”? The old plan was, to have a pair of eyes first of all, and then to open them, and endeavour with your whole strength to look.26 The good Harriett! But “God,” as the Arabs say, “has given to every people a Prophet (or Poet) in its own speech”:27 and behold now Unitarian mechanical Formulism was to have its Poetess too; and stragglings of genius were to spring up even thro' that like grass thro' a Macadam highway!— Adieu, my Friend. I wait still for your heterodox Speech;28 and love you always.

T. Carlyle

An English Sartor goes off for you this day;29 thro' Kennet, to C. C. Little & J. Brown of Boston;30 the likeliest conveyance. It is correctly printed, and that is all. Its fate here (the fate of the publication I mean) remains unknown; “unknown and unimportant.”