The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 19 June 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390619-TC-JOST-01; CL 11: 131-134


Chelsea, 19th June, 1839—

My dear Sterling,

Your Letter arrives this morning; many thanks to you for it. Mrs Strachey, whose Letter1 perhaps accompanied yours in some frank hitherward, writes in raptures about you; rapture of admiration, but also of anxiety—as to your health breaking down. My dear fellow, you must positively learn the great art of sitting down; of keeping yourself alive for the sake of us all. “Asseyez-vous, mes enfans!”—“Monseigneur, il n'y a pas de quoi!2 The good lady does not see how you can subsist with such perpetual vivacity of movement (so charming to her too); nor do I;—tho' I know the feline toughness of the subject withal; and persist in asserting continually that he will one day discover a sufficient “de quoi” (much to his astonishment), and become one of the finest fellows extant in these parts. Seriously, I like very ill to hear of the “blister”;3 and will keep silent about it, in hopes of better things speedily.

The American “Miscellanies,” part first, have arrived “in the River”; part second to follow in perhaps six weeks. You do the writer honour in hesitating to strike into him. When did a reviewer pause for “not understanding”? By the nature of him, he understands what thing you will, and the end of his log-line is the bottom of all manner of waters. You will never get on in that way.— But as to this Miscellany man I do confess him questionable.4 None of the intelligiblest of men, not he; yet perhaps with a kind of meaning in him too (poor devil), which he is struggling to express and get out of him as he can! Better let him rest on his own basis for a while? Safer I do believe. And yet Sterling was never known as a prudent man, timid, or even cautious. My bet is that the very hazard will pique him into the adventure; and there will be nothing but limbs flying before long. Nobody can say.

We have a whole cargo of American celebrities here in these days. Miss Sedgwick, the “divine Miss Sedgwick,” whom I have not yet got eye on: she is herself a host. Yesterday Milnes gave us breakfast in honour of Webster, the Washington Senator. Sir Stratford Canning, Hallam, Sir R. Inglis &c;5 and Webster actually there “in the old country”! I will warrant him one of the stiffest logic-buffers and Parliamentary athletes anywhere to be met with in our world at present. A grim, tall broad-bottomed, yellow-skinned man, with brows like precipitous cliffs, and huge black dull wearied unweariable-looking eyes under them; amorphous projecting nose; and the angriest shut mouth I have anywhere seen;—a droop on the sides of the upper lip is quite mastiff-like, magnificent to look upon, it is so quiet withal. I guess I should like ill to be that man's nigger!6 However, he is a right clever man in his way; and has a husky sort of fun in him too;—drawls, in a handfast didactic manner, about “our republican institutions” &c &c, and so plays his part.

Thirlwall, they whisper, is going to be wedded, or rather to wed. I passed a long evening at Spedding's7 where he was a main figure lately. Very pleasant; free and easy; with windows flung up, and tobacco ad libitum [as desired]: a most sarcastic, sceptical, but strong-headed, stronghearted man, whom I have a real liking for.8 Milnes gave us dilettante Catholicism, and endured Thirlwall's tobacco.— I regret to say the business, which seemed so innocent, consisting only of talk, tobacco, and a cup of black tea, proved again noxious to the nervous-system, destructive of sleep and creature-comfort for two days ensuing.— Enough of all this.

What I had to say is that probably we are off for Scotland some time within the next fortnight. Future movements undecided; but you shall hear of them. Our address will be always known at Knightsbridge. We are bound for Mrs Welsh's “Templand, Thornhill, Dumfries N.B.,” which is to be our head-quarters: but whether we loiter a few days in Cumberland and Westmoreland on the way thither, is not yet made out. My Mother's is distant a day's drive. We depend on seeing the heats over there. I mean to read about the “Working classes,” if there be any book discoverable [or] pamphlet on that subject worth reading,—which is not the case [hith]erto. My Brother is on his way to Ischl (not far from Salzburg), had got as far as Florence, is probably in the Tyrol heights today. Lastly it seems decided that I am to have a horse; and in that case the likelihood becomes very considerable that I shall actually ride it out to Clifton some time or other, and then all round Clifton with the landlord of the place there,—a man whom you would like if you knew him!

Your brave Brother is here, looking better than ever. We partly expect him this evening. No word of Mill. My Wife salutes you, and your Wife and household. Adieu, dear Sterling; we all love you.

Yours ever truly /

T. Carlyle

That Note is to the mad breakfasting Lion-hunter, “Revd Montagu,” who invites me to come out to him!9 Will you walk over with my kindest respects and thanks to Mrs Strachey, till I have time to write them more at large. I expect you will get very fond of her, were you once acquainted.10 No more earnest-hearted woman ever came across me in my pilgrimage.

—Or what if I should take the horse straightway, and ride over to you with your Brother, and ride about with you both, for a week while the packing goes on here,—altogether at my ease!11 An odd bed does certainly exist somewhere; here I shall do little good, except while I sleep. If Anthony will consent to take horse with me? I will speak to him this very night; he will tell you the issue.— Is not that a bright idea?