The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL ; 23 March 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390323-TC-JSM-01; CL 11: 58-61


Chelsea, 23d March, 1839—

My dear Mill,

Grant1 assures me that a word of mine will be welcome to you in your foreign wanderings; and proposes, yesterday, by a solemn message thro' the Threepenny Post, that I should take for that end the first section of a Sheet which he is about despatching. I willingly comply with so fair an offer. I ought to have written on my own footing, indeed, and meant to do it; yet perhaps but for Grant's helpfulness it might have remained still a mere pious purpose,—one of those unfortunate substances, with which, it is said, a certain place is “paved”!2 My life is indeed altogether barren at present, so far as speech goes; my indolence is great. I write to nobody except on the clearest compulsion: once a month to my Brother, and about as often to my Mother and kindred in Scotland.

Last time my Brother wrote, he mentioned having seen you, just arrived at Naples, and how you had sat with him for two hours. You must have been a Godsend to the man in that noisy solitude, where inaction and want of rational human communion seem to be his main sufferings hitherto. He did not report very flourishingly of your health; but it was with and [sic] old date that he compared the actual aspect of matters; I think, he did not see you at all in England last year, or indeed know you before otherwise than in the state of perfect strength. You will doubtless profit by the gentler winter, by the many interesting things you enjoy and lay up for enjoyment: nevertheless if your disease be not subdued, nay if it were not much alleviated, I would still charge you to entertain no discouragement for that. Dyspepsia is an old friend of mine; I know it pretty well now, by a daily and hourly acquaintance of twenty years. Of its virtues, its vices and severities, of the jewel which like the toad it bears in its ugly head (with a pest to it!) I have much to say, not admissible here: but there is one thing I have got a great clearness in, That Doctors can in general do little for it; that a man learns to be his own Doctor, and finds a far worse case than I take yours to be, quite manageable at last. It is the nervous-system of people that write and think, above all, that feel, which is too weak for the work. You must lay less work on it; one must learn to lay less. On the whole, as a worthy Scotch friend of mine said, last year, in speaking of the Duke of Wellington: “One must be sorry for a man that is unhappy, and yet if he is not unhappy,—I fear we must be still sorrier for him!” I do believe so. Fineness of organisation, nerves injurable, nerves injured, nearly sure to be injured: this I must apprehend to be the primary condition of all talent, of all spiritual worth whatsoever. And yet withal I say it is miserable and criminal to continue unhealthy; one positively ought to get healthy, cost what it may or can!— From all which I infer that perhaps the best thing will be to get half a horse along with me, by and by, from some benevolent stallmaster hereabouts, and take to riding!—

My existence here as I told you is outwardly as good as barren at present. I lie altogether fallow; and am even right thankful that I can do so. I have been reading a variety of things; books about Cromwell and the England of his day: some people will have me write some delineation of that. We shall see, we shall see; but for the present it does not look at all promising. I fancy I shall write something by and by. But as yet my soul's first wish is silence, silence. You will understand that better by and by. For the rest I have on hand a new Course of Lectures in these weeks; not audible to you, this year,—be thankful you. They are but six: “On Modern Revolutions” (I think): Protestantism; English Commonwealth (Puritanism); French Revolution (Girondism, Sansculottism); we shall cobble up some kind of story about it, I have little doubt. It is judged expedient to keep the ground open in that department of industry till we see farther; tho' I cannot say I have any liking for it at all; only less aversion than for writing in the mood I am in. Besides, this year I shall care far less about it; I mean likewise to get a horse, and be in better health: I am better than formerly, much quieter. The Americans have sent me a handsome purse of money as the produce of their Edition of the Revolution Book: is not that a smart thing? It was Emerson's doing. Our English Edition is just about out too; for which Fraser, blushing at the sight of the Yankee Bills (he actually blushed), says he will have cash to give me also, which he “hopes will be satisfactory!” I wait to see this before settling about a reprint for England and Yankeeland together. On this side all is well; and both you and I, we must admit, are handsomely out of the affair. Your review of it was very bold; second only to the boldness of writing such a thing.3 Il faut oser [One must dare].

I have hardly seen Buller once since you went away. He is quite silent till once Easter be past, and the Canada affair come specially on. All is silent, in fact, for me, out of that quarter; a jargon which I do not now even read Fonblanque's weekly abstract of.4 I see grapeshot, at no great distance, in the North, and gibbets; and inarticulate wretchedness, which must have itself articulated;5 and for articulating it, a set of pauca verba [few words]! Radicalism, with its hidebound limitation, with its barren bloodless formalism selfconceit, and pusillanimity, is a thing one daily has less patience for.

The Austins are gone to Richmond; I have not seen much of them since you went; John Austin hardly above once; at which time I thought him greatly improved by his Malta work. I have seen—Bulwers Richelieu and Bulwer himself: ach Gott im Himmel [oh God in Heaven]!6— But, alas, what will Grant say?7 What would Job himself say to see his sheet consumed in this manner?— Adieu dear Mill: come soon back to us; healthier and as kindhearted as ever. If you see John Sterling as you are like to do, remember me between you. Yours ever,— T. Carlyle