TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 29 May 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390529-TC-RWE-01; CL 11: 119-121
TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Chelsea, London, 29th May, 1839—
My dear Emerson,
Your Letter, dated Boston 20th April, has been here for some two weeks. Miss Sedgwick,1 whom it taught us to expect in “about a fortnight,” has yet given no note of herself, but shall be right welcome whenever she appears. Miss Martineau's absence (she is in Switzerland this summer) will probably be a loss to the fair Pilgrim;—which of course the rest of us ought to exert ourselves to make good.
Your Bookseller's Proposition as to the stereotype edition of the F. R. will already have become void for you by intelligence arrived before this at Concord. I gave up the stereotype speculation, the plan of printing at my own expence at all; the estimates indicated too much cost: it would have been a throwing of all the money I had yet got out of this Book, and more, anew into the melting-pot,—with bookseller alchymists to manage the projection (at a minimum charge of 42 per cent), I myself understanding nothing of it. The comfort is that by this new method with Fraser I cannot lose; the past is safe, and for the future also the poor man is like to do something. My satisfaction from your news, however, is, that 500 copies are actually wanted for the American market; precisely the number now, by guess, getting ready for that. I, along with this letter, despatch you a perfect sheet of the new edition, by way of specimen; the 500 New-England and 1500 Old-England copies are printed so. There are to be, it is computed, 47 sheets; to make three volumes, which Fraser will sell here at 24/; some 7 shillings cheaper than the former. His estimate of cost has risen a little, by some change of paper and figure; I find these 500 copies, as they leave the Printers' warehouse, unbound, 47 sheets each, will cost me 3/6 each, or within a penny or so of that. It is said there is some kind of drawback on our taxed paper, which will perhaps carry the commodity over to Boston or nearly so. Between 3 and 4 shillings, prime cost; that is the best guess we can make.
Now, my friend, the thing I want you to do is to present this specimen sheet to a Bookseller, make a bargain with him, and send me his name to put on the title-page.2 Such a task is rather shameful on my part, I fear;—but how can I help it? You yourself opened this American silver-vein for me; hitherto America has paid me in the proportion of 3, while England paid only 2. On the whole, however, if you cannot do any good, bargaining, pray give it up, and I will keep these 500 copies here, and, putting the English title-page on them, let them go into Fraser's general stock and sell as they can.——— As to the Miscellanies, Fraser will not start selling till all the four volumes are here. He requests greatly that your Binder would take pains to bind the two last volumes exactly like the first two. The first two ought to be near our shores by this time; the last two will follow as they can: it seems to be little matter whether they arrive in what is cal[l]ed “the season,” or not.
My Lectures are happily over ten days ago; with “success” enough, as it is called; the only valuable part of which is some £200, gained with great pain, but also with great brevity:—economical respite for another solar year! The people were boundlessly tolerant; my agitation beforehand was less this year, my remorse afterwards proportionally greater. There was but one moderately good Lecture, the last,—on Sansculottism, to an audience mostly Tory, and rustling with the beautifullest quality silks! Two things I find: first that I ought to have had a horse; I had only three incidental rides or gallops, hired rides; my horse Yankee is never yet purchased, but it shall be, for I cannot live, except in great pain, without a horse. It was sweet beyond measure to escape out of the dust-whirlpool here, and fly, in solitude, thro' the ocean of verdure and splendour, as far as Harrow and back again; and one's nerves were clear next day, and words lying in one like water in a well. But the second thing I found was, that extempore Speaking, especially in the way of Lecture, is an art or craft, and requires an apprenticeship, which I have never served. Repeatedly it has come into my head that I should go to America, [this] very Fall, and belecture you from North to South till I learn it! Such a thing do[es] lie in the bottom-scenes, should hard come to hard; and looks pleasant enough.— On the whole, I say sometimes, I must either begin a Book, or do it. Books are the lasting thing; Lectures are like corn ground into flour; there are loaves for today, but no wheat harvests for next year. Rudiments of a new Book (thank Heaven!) do sometimes disclose themselves in me. Festinare lente [To hasten slowly]. It ought to be better than the F. Revn; I mean better written. The greater part of that Book, as I read proofsheets of it in these weeks, does nothing but disgust me. And yet it was, as nearly as was good, the utmost that lay in me. I should not like to be nearer killed with any other Book!— Books too are a triviality. Life alone is great; with its infinite spaces, its everlasting times, with its Death, with its Heaven and its Hell. Ah me!
Wordsworth is here at present; a garrulous, rather watery, not wearisome old man. There is a freshness as of brooks and mountain breezes in him; one says of him: Thou are not great, but thou are genuine; well speed thou. Sterling is home from Italy, recovered in health, indeed very well could he but sit still. He is for Cifton [Clifton] near Bristol, for the next three months. I hear him speak of some sonnet or other he means to address to you: as for me he knows well that I call his verses timbertoned, without true melody either in thought, phrase or sound. The good John! Did you ever see such a vacant turnip-lantern as that Walsingham Goethe? Iconoclast Collins strikes his wooden shoe thro' him, and passes on, saying almost nothing.3— My space is done!
I greet the little maidkin,4 and bid her welcome to this unutterable world. Commend her, poor little thing, to her little Brother, to her Mother and Father;—Nature, I suppose, has sent her strong letters of recommendations, without our help, to them all.— Where I shall be, in six weeks, is not very certain; likeliest in Scotland, whither our whole household, servant and all, is pressingly invited, where they have provided horses and gigs. Letters sent hither will still find me, or lie waiting for me, safe: but perhaps the speediest address will be “care of Fraser 215. Regent Street.” My Brother wants me to the Tyrol and Vienna; but I think I shall not go. Adieu, dear Friend. It is a great treasure to me that I have you in this world. My Wife salutes you all.——— Yours ever and ever