The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 2 July 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400702-TC-RWE-01; CL 12: 182-186


Chelsea, London, 2 july, 1840—

My dear Emerson,

Surely I am a sinful man to neglect so long making any acknowledgement of the benevolent and beneficent Arithmetic you sent me! It is many weeks, perhaps it is months since the worthy citizen, your Host as I understood you in some of your Northern States,1—stept in here, one mild evening, with his mild honest face and manners; presented me your Bookseller Accounts; talked for half an hour, and then went his way into France. Much has come and gone since then; Letters of yours, beautiful Disciples of yours:—I pray you forgive me! I have been lecturing, I have been sick; I have been beaten about in all ways. Nay, at bottom, it was only three days ago that I got the Bibliopoliana2 back from Fraser; to whom, as you recommended, I, totally inadequate like yourself to understand such things, had straightway handed them for examination. I always put off writing till Fraser should have spoken. I did not urge him, or he would have spoken any day: there is my sin.

Fraser declares the Accounts to be made out in the most beautiful manner; intelligible to any human capacity; correct, so far as he sees, and promising to yield by and by a beautiful return of money. A precious crop, which we must not cut in the blade; mere time will ripen it into yellow nutritive ears yet. So he thinks. The only point on which I heard him make any criticism was on what he called, if I remember, “the number of copies delivered”—that is to say, delivered by the Printer and Binder as actually available for sale. The edition being of a Thousand, there have only 984 come bodily forth; 16 are “waste.” Our Printers, it appears, are in the habit of adding 1 for every 50 beforehand, whereby the waste is usually made good and more; so that in 1000 there will usually be some dozen called “author's copies” over and above. Fraser supposes your Printers have a different custom. That is all. The rest is apparently every-way right; is to be received with faith; with faith, charity and even hope,—and packed into the bottom of one's drawer, never to be looked at more except on the outside, as a memorial of one of the best and helpfullest of men! In that capacity it shall lie there.

My Lectures were in May, about Great Men. The misery of it was hardly equal to that of former years, yet still was very hateful. I had got to a certain feeling of superiority over my audience; as if I had something to tell them, and would tell it them. At times I felt as if I could, in the end, learn to speak. The beautiful people listened with boundless tolerance, eager attention. I meant to tell them, among other things, that man was still alive, Nature not dead or like to die; that all true men continued true to this hour,—Odin himself true, and the Grand Lama of Thibet himself not wholly a lie. The Lecture on Mahomet (“the Hero as Prophet”) astonished my worthy friends beyond measure. It seems then this Mahomet was not a quack? Not a bit of him! That he is a better Christian, with his “bastard Christianity,” than the most of us shovel-hatted? I guess than almost any of you!— Not so much as Oliver Cromwell (“the Hero as King”) would I allow to have been a Quack. All quacks I asserted to be and to have been Nothing, chaff that would not grow: my poor Mahomet was “wheat with barn-sweepings”; Nature had tolerantly hidden the barn-sweepings; and as to the wheat, behold she had said Yes to it; and it was growing!— On the whole, I fear I did little but confuse my esteemed audience: I was amazed, after all their reading of me, to be understood so ill;—gratified nevertheless to see how the rudest speech of a man's heart goes into men's hearts, and is the welcomest thing there. Withal I regretted that I had not six months of preaching, whereby to learn to preach, and explain things fully! In the fire of the moment I had all but decided on setting out for America this autumn, and preaching far and wide like a very lion there. Quit your paper formulas, my brethren,—equivalent to old wooden idols, undivine as they: in the name of God, understand that you are alive, and that God is alive! Did the Upholsterer make this Universe? Were you created by the Tailor? I tell you, and conjure you to believe me literally, No, a thousand times No! Thus did I mean to preach, on “Heroes, Hero-worship and the Heroic,” in America too. Alas, the fire of determination died away again: all that I did resolve upon was to write these Lectures down, and in some way promulgate them farther. Two of them accordingly are actually written; the Third to be begun on Monday: it is my chief work here, ever since the end of May. Whether I go to preach them a second time extempore in America rests once more with the Destinies. It is a shame to talk so much about a thing, and have it still hand in nubibus [in the clouds]: [but] I was, and perhaps am, really nearer doing it than I had ever before been[. A] month or two now, I suppose, will bring us back to the old nonentity again. Is there, at bottom, in the world or out of it anything one would like so well, with one's whole heart well, as PEACE? Is lecturing and noise the way to get at that? Popular Lecturer! Popular writer! If they would undertake in Chancery, or Heaven's Chancery, to make a wise man Mahomet Second and Greater, “Mahomet of Saxondom,” not reviewed only, but worshipped for twelve centuries by all Bulldom, Yankee-doodle-doodom, Felondom New Zealand, under the Tropics and in part of Flanders,—would he not rather answer: Thank you; but in a few years I shall be dead, twelve centuries will have become Eternity, part of Flanders Immensity: we will sit still here if you please, and consider what quieter thing we can do!— Enough of this.

Richard Milnes had a Letter from you, one morning lately, when I met him at old Rogers's. He is brisk as ever; his kindly Dilettantism looking sometimes as if it would grow a sort of Earnest by and by. He has a new volume of Poems3 out: I advised him to try Prose; he admitted that Poetry would not be generally read again in these ages,—but pleaded, “it was so convenient for veiling commonplace!” The honest little heart.— We did not know what to make of the bright Miss Tuckermann4 here; she fell in love with my Wife,—the contrary, I doubt, with me: my hard realism jarred upon her beautiful rosepink dreams. Is not all that very morbid; unworthy of the Children of Odin, not to speak of Luther, Knox and the other Brave? I can do nothing with vapours, but wish them condensed. Kennett had a copy of the English Miscellanies for you, a good many weeks ago: indeed it was just a day or two before your advice to try Green henceforth. Has the Meister ever arrived?5 I received a controversial volume from Mr Ripley:6 pray thank him very kindly. Somebody borrowed the Book from me; I have not yet read it. I did read a Pamphlet which seems now to have been made part of it. Norton surely is a chimera; but what has the whole business they are jarring about become?7 As healthy worshipping Paganism is to Seneca and Company so is healthy worshipping Christianity to—I had rather not work the sum!— Send me some swift news of yourself dear Emerson. We salute you and yours, in all heartiness of brotherhood. Yours ever & always— T. Carlyle