The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES ; 4 September 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400904-TC-RMM-01; CL 12: 235-237


Chelsea, 4 Septr, 1840

Dear Milnes,

Tell me a little more minutely what your movements are to be; that we may see whether there is any possibility in this. I do seriously meditate a run to the North; and indeed most probably shall be off thitherward in a week. My course is vague,—as that of Life itself. Except to see my Mother, I have no duty or errand anywhither; only friendly faces, Heaven thank them, in this place and that, looking towards me, “Could you not come and be happy for a day or two with me?”—“Happy? Ach Gott!”— So I meditate on many Railways, on all manner of Steamers, from Lowestoff [sic] up to Dundee, which latter is my Thule1 for the present. The chance is, I shall box myself, desperately, into the Liverpool Steam-vehicle,—wishing I could be drunk or dead all the way; thence straight into a Solway Steamship, and so home to my poor birthland; wander, mostly silent, for a week or two there, with the strangest disconsolate ghost-feeling, as if one were already a ghost, and disembodied or nearly so of all earthly bonds: after which the rule is, Plunge hither again, the faster the better, shot out of a cannon if you could get it so,—readier to weep than to laugh! This is generally the history of my Scotch Tours. Sinner that I am!

But really I think I should like well to see you sub Dio [under God], among green fields, in your Yorkshire kingdom. Had you been there now, I believe it would have decided me for Hull, Selby, and the rest that might have followed. My speed Northward is generally not so intense. Prophecy, a little, of your times and places! I will keep it in my eye, as a beautiful possibility. “Alas,” says Goethe, “that not only the Impossible should be denied us, but so much that is Possible too!”2

That day in July when you called at the Buller's with your friend Hope,3 I was on the top of Leith-Hill;—a pleasant enough place, but nothing so celestial as old John Dennis4 found it! The air was dim that day; but what indeed could any day have done? A blowsy mass of green fertility, very ‘beautiful’ in its way,—the beauty of a fat dumpling? There are few things beautiful! Nevertheless I smoked a cheroot with great satisfaction, lying on the heath there; saw God's everlasting Sun over me, tho' with starving labourers and corn-law landlords under me;—and the damnable cackle of Cockneydom was safe—and far!— Mrs Buller was urgent to get up a dinner-party, and have you and Hope over next day; but I had to mount early in the morning: Julius Hare expected me; and I arrived. It was an explosion of riding, wherewith to end fitly my Equitism: I am now Pedes again, and my Horse standing for sale.—

As Sumner5 cannot now drive me to despair with his lukewarm sea of milk-and-water prose, you may return his compliments with all the lovingkindness that suits. I really pray for the good man's prosperity body and soul,—in a remote part of the Planet. Was it you too, you villain, that set Monteith6 on asking me to come and pay my vows to mad Urquhart?7 I believe it was! At that bait the fish would not bite.

The other day not far from your door in Pall-Mall, I met the new Bishop Thirlwall,8—in Bishop's dress this time; a most effectual-looking Overseer. He walked with me, talked with me; I love him as a most solid soundhearted man. Who shall say that even as a Bishop he may not do much good?

Heaven love you. Be happy, be busy.

Yours very truly /

T. Carlyle