The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO GERALDINE E. JEWSBURY ; 15 June 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400615-TC-GEJ-01; CL 12: 163-166


Chelsea, 15 June, 1840—

Dear Miss Jewsbury,

Your Letter, the express image of an honest, clear, energetic, humbly and nobly resolute soul, gives me great pleasure, in spite of all my sympathy for what you suffer. Persist in that way, my dear friend; it is the right way; and will lead you (you do not yet guess how) to a happy not an unhappy goal. Understand also that whatever suffering you have, and bitter grief for longings that are are [sic] not fulfilled,—is but the measure of the quantity of right life and worth that is in you! A stone suffers nothing, longs for nothing. Be of comfort in your silent pain; all growth is sickly, painful. At bottom, what is pain but fatigue, weariness under the burden that is laid on us? No labour is joyous; it is grievous. Yet the greater our burden, are not we too the greater,—learning to bear that! The end of all labour is peaceable fruit and conquest, if we stand to it.1 Persist, and faint not—

It is by no means clear to me that I could, even by free long-continued speech, throw much light for you on those so natural but yet so unfathomable questions. You yourself (open more and more to small still voices such as speak to us responsive everywhere) will work out a peaceable solution, adequate for your own wants, one day. For us, and for all mortals in all times, the solution must be fractional, a part only [of] the IMMEASURABLE; cannot possibly be complete, or finally correct. A peaceable solution, unmutilated by craven falsehood on our own part; some peaceable solution, that will let us work wholesomely in welldoing, with the divine Spirit of this universe inspiring us, in whatsoever logical shape: this seems to me the grand result of all. Ours is a world, as old Johnson said, “where much is to be done and little is to be known.”2 That is a true saying—

To your first question, therefore, what can I answer, but that you do wisely well to recognize God with worship “in every blade of grass.”3 That is God; the Highest reveals himself in that too,—how much more in us, in our perpetually miraculous Life: and our eyes and hearts should be open for him everywhere. At bottom I know not what other worship the like of you can have at present: all liturgies have gone silent; the star-domed temple is the only divine one left.4 And yet to call this Pantheism,—I do not advise that. Call it no ism at all; follow after it in silence, in truth and humbleness of heart, to get your life guided by it: you will find it actually good and helpful, actually bad and obstructive,—in this as in many other ways will “Doubt remove itself by Action,”5 and by that only! But to call the worship one follows (the inner light that keeps one living) by any name, at present, is to transform it into a wretched logical crotchet; no Faith any more, for most part, but a barren jangle in the argumentative head. I laugh at Pantheism when people plague me with it; and ask them, Do you not prefer Pot-theism rather!6SILENCE, SILENCE: in a thousand senses I proclaim the indispensable worth of Silence, our only safe dwelling-place often. “Who dare name HIM?” says Faust. Aye who,—if we think of it, my Friend! This shallow generation knows nothing of Silence: that is even the disease of it; will be the death of it, if not cured. “Self-renunciation” too,7 that is Silence in one of its senses. Your own noble heart (go on as you are doing) will teach you better what it is than any word of mine could. I find it the primary fundamental act required in the Christian and all other moral Laws; the beginning of virtue for a man— But this too if we talk much of it will degenerate into an ism; a vain babble of no use for us. We must keep this too hidden—if possible even from our selves.——— I will add only one other word; about Physiology: do not study that for such a purpose; it has no light for you, but darkness visible, the thing they call Physiology at present.8 “Science falsely so called!” Man's Body too, is it not “a garment woven in the loom of Heaven?”9 I mean that scientifically; in spite of all royal societies, that is the very truth of it. My right hand is miraculous to me (were I not stupid of heart), as miraculous as a soul made visible10is; as a ghost rising from the dead would be. Consider what is your right hand. Were there only one right hand in the world! On the whole, you will see by and by that “Materialism” is but a black spectral Illusion,—to be looked at, with brave eyes, and then it vanishes, owns itself to be Nothing.11

My haste today, dear Miss Jewsbury, is very great, and these are not subjects to be written about in haste. Perhaps I but confuse you, do not forward but obstruct you; I always doubt that, there is such a fundamental infirmity, vitiating insufficiency, in all words. Yet your mind seems to me always one I may try to speak to: I speak to you, as to a right brave sister, freely from the heart, with hope at least— Friend Goethe says “we begin to be in error the first word we speak!”12

Your criticism on Meister is worthy of what I otherwise know of you. I[t] is true, modest, genuine—I will not say all I think of it, for good reasons— There is a soul ‘grande comme le monde [large as the world]’ in that Book. A kind of old Heathen greatness,—for in Heathenism too there was truth; I see not why we should forget true Heathenism altogether—stern in its beauty, great, silent, almost cruel-looking is that soul,—as the kind great World itself is, withal! Ye[t] I will agree with you about Lothario.13 One never could have written that[,] one would have left it unwritten. The tragic suffering of the secondary characters is also a real trait of the man, which you have finely discerned It means I suppose that the truly great soul is superior to pain; that pain (of which a soul, I think, shares exactly in proportion to its greatness) does not with the great soul get the length of disease; that the lastingl[y] miserable is truly as you say “a cripple.” Ethnic, Roman, that; but great, and with a truth in it. I thank you much for understandin[g] it.

I find Goethe's other book14 here; and send it (today by some coach or other). An old circulating library copy; it belonged honestly to me nevertheless; and now, if you will have it—. It is well worth your reading.

Adieu, dear brave young lady. Write again if at any time I can benefit you in anything whatever.

Yours with true regard /

T. Carlyle