The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO THOMAS MURRAY ; 18 December 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401218-TC-TM-01; CL 12: 368-369


Chelsea, London, 18 Decr, 1840.

Dear Murray,

You may depend upon it I will bear well in mind this Letter of yours, in whatsoever it falls to me to do about Mr Simpson.

There was talk of him last Wednesday at the Committee Meeting,1 and one or two Letters were read respecting him: his character, very much as you now represent it, seemed well substantiated to the most; the doubt was whether he might be of active energetic habits for not only buying and classing of Books, but for modelling and executing the multifarious miscellany of general Business which would fall to him here,—in regard to which the palpable fact of his not knowing London or its ways naturally weighed against him. Another circumstance, well worth his own consideration, is the fundamental question, Whether the salary they may be enabled to offer him here will in real value for London exceed what he now has for Edinburgh? There are yet but 500 names; there may be, if the thing prosper, 5000. The skill of the Librarian, it is considered, will be a main element of success. With him, as with the thing he ventures on, it can at best be but a progressive business. The salary they could offer him at present will necessarily be very limited. A certain Dr Fisher resident here, highly recommended for learning, grammatical and bibliographical, for method, diligence, fidelity &c,—and as to Business, not yet tried,—can, it is understood, be got for £100.

The matter is to be decided on the first Wednesday of February. Fisher and Simpson seem to be the favourite candidates of this non-business sort. But Cochrane, once of the Foreign Quarterly Review, is also in the field, seems eager to do all he possibly can in lowering himself towards the present possibilities of the business, trusting by his activity to make it a great thing, and himself a great person, by and by. So far as I can judge, the odds at present were in favour of Cochrane's getting it, if he will have it on such terms as can be offered him.— This is the true prognosis of the case; presented you not as by an official secretary but by a private eye-witness; such part of which as you see good and discreet (taking on yourself the character of secretary!) you may communicate to Mr S. for his guidance. On the whole, tho' they put my name on their papers, I have had in reality, at least since the thing became visible above ground, very little to do with it; wishing always to have less. So soon as a Librarian is got, I purpose to withdraw altogether. The true working “Hon Secretary” is young Brother Christie (W. D. Christie Esqr, 4. Harcourt Buildings, Temple) to whom, and not to me, if there be anything wanted, Mr Simpson should address himself. Or indeed, to the “London-Library Office, 57. Pall Mall,” where for the present a Clerk always is in waiting.

May it turn out well; and good reading be provided in this black benighted city,—under Mr Simpson's guidance, if that be best for it and him!

Do you still study occasionally in old Scotch Covenanterism?2 I read at present partly in that province; but with great want of material as attainable here. Can Baillie's Letters and Journals be procured in Edinburgh by borrowing, buying, begging, on any supportable terms? Perhaps you yourself have it; for they say it is not uncommon in Scotland. In the British Museum here I can look at it, not read it; elsewhere not so much even as look at it after digging in a dozen Bookshops. Fraser's Edinburgh Agent is named Menzies, I think; I, on my side, make conscience of returning Books that the charitable lend me!

Adieu, dear Murray; a merry Christmas to you, a cheerful hearth and whatever else is good to you and all yours!— With affectionate remembrance—

T. Carlyle