The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES ; 14 September 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400914-TC-RMM-01; CL 12: 258-260


Chelsea, 14 Septr, 1840—

Dear Milnes,

It is as well to tell you now as afterwards that my whole travelling schemes have misgone; that I travel nowhither, but sit still here, and wait till my friends return to me! So, after mature meditation, and computation rigorous as Cocker,1 have I with a sad but a quiet heart decided. It is like the life of Samuel Coleridge; it is like the walking-stick of Joseph Andrews,—“he did design” to carve upon it Mother Goose and Gammer Gurton; then he did design to carve upon it Guy of Warwick and the Dun Cow; likewise he did design to carve upon it Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and the Pindar of Wakefield (meaning one Richard Monckton Milnes); likewise he did design &c &c,—and, alas, he ended by carving on it one nutcracker countenance, there being room for nothing more! So goes it in this world. Have I not a right to say with Dr Bowring, as I sit here in so composed a manner, “I am calm but energetic”?2

We have clear weather here, and a temperature fast hastening towards zero. I have Books round me, and paper; solitude nearly perfect,—for I walk oftenest across the River, avoiding the Wen and its ways: the smoky monster, blotting out only half my sky in that distance, plays the part of a rather beautiful theatrical phantasmagory for me,—exhibited gratis.

On Saturday night there arrived a curious present here: a German Translation of Burns's Songs by one Heinze. The man has missed the tune for most part; otherwise the workmanship is really not so bad. It seems there are three others of the same; one by a certain Kaufmann of Berlin, of whom I remember Goethe spoke to me once: Germany has had Four Translations of Burns sent forth this summer! It never rains but it pour[s.] Consider however whether this is not an interesting world, this of ours, after all? Let a poor ploughman in the dingiest slough of habitable creation, in the broken speech of mere ploughme[n] utter any wise word from him,—infallibly it flie[s] over the whole earth, and the whole earth keeps it forever!

I wish you would give up occasional poems and write one right poem (in prose I would advise) with what of true music and insight does dwell in you! And yet why should I wish it? Perhaps you could no longer be a merry-hearted man; perhaps the smile would depart out of your face, and Richard never were himself again in this world!3

With real regard and wishes, / Yours, dear Milnes,

T. Carlyle