The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 3 July 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400703-TC-JOST-01; CL 12: 186-187


Chelsea, 3 July, 1840—

Dear Sterling,

Before parting with this Horse of mine, as I have now nearly resolved to do, it seems to me a question, Whether I ought not first to take a free ride on the quadruped, and survey with my own eyes some section of English land, better than a sedes exploratoria [explorer's seat] on the Coach-roof will [were]1 one never so intent upon it? Many times has such a purpose been in me; and who knows whether I am likely soon or ever to have a better opportunity The thing does go through my head occasionally; and at the Category Whitherward? You will not wonder that Clifton, and an unreasonable Friend of mine there, should turn up oftener than any other place whatever. Well: what are you doing; what think you of this thing; will you have anything to do with it, or at all relate yourself to it except by an “unblameable passivity” alone? Speak a word if you have leisure. A word on this will at least be a word: no word at all is the worst way of it from you.— But indeed I know not whether I should at bottom invite you to speak, or have myself spoken; the practical chances are so small: this is the real truth! Were you here, booted and road-ready to go with me, I do indeed believe I should go at once, and be benefitted by going. But you are not here; it is four days of a solitary ride:—cannot you meet me about Stonehenge or some where to encourage my heart! Alas, I get so dyspeptical, melancholic, half-mad in the London summer, all courage to do anything but hold my peace fades away; I dwindle into the pusillanimity of the ninth part of a tailor;2 feel as I had nothing I could do but “die in my hole like a poisoned rat.”3 Ach Gott! However, I take shipping usually; find that there is fresh everlasting sea-water; rivers, mountains, simple peaceful men; that God's Universe is not wholly an accursed dusty deafening distraction of a Cockneydom;—and so get some strength again by and by! I will let you speak or not speak, as you like; that is the best rule.

Your Letter by your lady Mother, which was dated 4th June, did not get here above a week ago; it had lain at the bottom of a travelling-bag, I guess! Fox4 is a fine open-souled young man; one wishes him right well in his clear wholesome Quakerism,—but sees not entirely how he is to get it kept in these times, and grow as he seems minded to do. They are all good people; we saw them at Mill's. Their admiration for a certain Sterling amounts to the Transcendental.

The Review of you in the Quarterly5 is welcome to all friends; significant then and now; but not in itself of much significance. I found the praise rather underdone,—stingy one might have called it; the advice given or implied, not good. Why, man, I with a safe conscience could have praised your Poems far more; and yet behold I would have repeated with emphasis the old precept to write Prose! You must pick your way, out of conflicting cackle of all kinds; you for yourself, my Friend; as we all have to do. A brave manly goal, if you err not all-too unconscionably, is surely possible.

Here is the Horse; the Groom's inexorable Knock. No word more. Adieu, adieu!

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle