TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 2 December 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381202-TC-RWE-01; CL 10: 228-231
TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Chelsea, London 2nd December, 1838—
My dear Emerson,
Almost the very day after my last Letter went off, the long-expected two volumes of “Miscellanies” arrived. The heterodox pamphlet has never yet come to hand.1 I am now to write to you again about that “Miscellany” concern: the fourth letter, I do believe; but it is confirmatory of the foregoing three, and will be the last, we may hope.
Fraser is charmed with the look of your two volumes; declares them unsurpassable by art of his; and wishes (what is the main part of this message) that you would send his cargo in the bound state, bound and lettered as these are, with the sole difference that the leaves be not cut, or shaved on the sides, our English fashion being to have them rough. He is impatient that the Book were here; desires farther that it be sent to the Port of London rather than another Port, and that it be packed in boxes “to keep the corners of the volumes safe,”—all which I doubt not the Packers and Shippers of New England have dexterity enough to manage for the best, without desire of his. If you have printed off nothing yet, I will desire for my own behoof that Two hundred and sixty be the number sent; I find I shall need some ten to give away: if your first sheet is printed off, let the number stand as it was. It would be an improvement if you could print our titlepages on paper a little stronger, that would stand ink, I mean: the fly-leaves in the same,—if you have such paper convenient; if not, not. Farther as to the matter of the titlepage, it seems to me your Printer might give a bolder and broader type to the words “Critical and Miscellaneous,” and add after “Essays” with a colon, (:) the line “Collected and Republished,” with a colon also; then the “By” &c. “In Four Volumes./ Vol I” &c I mean that we want in general a little more ink and decisiveness: shew your man the titlepage of the English “F. Revolution,” or look at it yourself, and you will know. R W. E's “Advertisement,” friendly and good, as all his dealings are to me ward, will of course be suppressed in the English copies.2 I see not that with propriety I can say anything by way of substitute: silence and the New England imprint will tell the story as eloquently as there is need.
For the rest you must tell Mr Loring,3 and all men who had a hand in it along with you, that I am altogether right well pleased with this edition, and find it far beyond my expectation. To my two young Friends Henry S. McKean (be so good as write these names more indisputably for me) and Charles Stearns Wheeler,4 in particular, I will beg you to express emphatically my gratitude; they have stood by me with right faithfulness, and made the correctest printing; a great service: had I known that there were such eyes and heads acting in behalf of me there, I would have scraped out the Editorial blotches too (notes of admiration, dashes, “we thinks” &c &c, common in Jeffrey's time in the Edinr Review) and London misprints; which are almost the only deformities that remain now. It is extremely correct printing wherever I have looked, and many things are silently amended; it is the most fundamental service of all. I have not the other Articles by me at present; I think they are of themselves a little more correct; at all events there are nothing but misprints to deal with;—the Editors, by this time, had got bound up to let me alone. In the “Life of Scott” fourth page of it (p.296 of our edition), there is a sentence to be deleted. “It will tell us, say they, little new and nothing pleasing to know”: out with this, for it is nonsense, and was marked for erasure in the Ms. I daresay. I know with certainty no more at present.
Fraser is to sell the 4 volumes at 2 guineas here. On studying accurately your program of the American mercantile method, I stood amazed to contrast it with our English one. The Bookseller here admits that he could by diligent bargaining get up such a book for something like the same cost or a little more; but the “laws of the trade” deduct from the very front of the selling-price—how much think you?—forty per cent and odd, where your man has only fifteen, for the mere act of vending! To cover all, they charge that enormous price. (A man, while I stood consulting with Fraser, came in, and asked for “Carlyle's Revolution”; they shewed it him, he asked the price; and exclaimed, “Guinea and a half! I can get it from Am[er]ica for nine shillings!” and indignantly went his way;—not without reason[.) There] are “laws of the trade,” which ought to be repealed; which I will take the li[berty] of contravening to all lengths by all opportunities—if I had but the power! But if this joint-stock American plan prosper, it will answer rarely. Fraser's first “French Revolution” for instance will be done, he calculates, about New Years day; and a second edition wanted; mine to do with what I like. If you in America wanted more also—? I leave you to think of this.— And now enough, enough!
My Brother went from us last tuesday; ought to be in Paris yesterday.5 I am yet writing nothing; feel forsaken, sad, sick,—not unhappy. In general Death seems beautiful to me; sweet and great. But Life also is beautiful, is great and divine, were it never to be joyful any more. I read Books, my wife sewing by me, with the light of a sinumbra,6 in a little apartment made snug against the winter; and am happiest when all men leave me alone, or nearly all,—tho' many men love me rather, ungrateful that I am.7 My present book is Horace Walpole;8 I get endless stuff out of it, epic, tragic, lyrical, didactic: all inarticulate indeed. An old blind schoolmaster9 in Annan used to ask with endless anxiety when a new scholar was offered him, “But are ye sure he's not a Dunce?” It is really the one thing needful in a man; for indeed (if we will candidly understand it) all else is presupposed in that. Horace Walpole is no dunce, not a fibre of him is duncish.— Your Friend Sumner was here yesterday, a good while, for the first time: an ingenious cultivated courteous man; a little sensitive or so, and with no other fault that I discerned.10 He borrowed my copy of your Dartmouth business, and bound himself over to return with it soon. Some approve of that here, some condemn: my Wife and another Lady call it better even than the former, I not so good. And now the Heterodox, the Heterodox, where is that? Adieu my dear Friend. Commend me to the Concord Household; to the little Boy, to his Grandmother11 and Mother and Father; we must all meet some day,—or some no-day then (as it shall please God)! My wife heartily greets you all. Ever Yours
I sent your book, message and address to Sterling; he is in Florence or Rome. Read the Article Simonides by him in the London & Westr: brilliant prose, translations—wooden? His signature is £ (Pounds Sterling!).12— Now you are to write soon? I always forgot to tell you, there came long since two packages evidently in your hand, marked “One Printed Sheet,” and “One Newspaper”; for which the Postman demanded about 15 shillings: rejected. After considerable correspondence the Newspaper was again offered me at ten pence; the sheet unattainable altogether: “No,” even at tenpence. The fact is, it was wrong wrapt that Newspaper. Leave it open at the ends, and try me again, once; I think it will come almost gratis. Steam and iron are making all the Planet into one Village— A Mr Dwight wrote to me about the dedicating of some German translations: Yes.13 What are they or he?— Your Sartor is off thro' Kennet. Could you send me two copies of the American Life of Schiller,14 if the thing is fit for making a present of, and easy to be got? If not, do not mind it at all.— Addio [farewell]!