The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 8 May 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410508-TC-RWE-01; CL 13: 127-129


Chelsea, London, 8 May, 1841—

My dear Emerson,

Your last Letter found me on the southern border of Yorkshire; whither Richard Milnes had persuaded me with him, for the time they call “Easter Holidays” here. I was to shake off the remnants of an ugly Influenza which still hung about me; my little portmanteau, unexpectedly driven in again by perverse accidents, had stood packed, its cowardly owner, the worst of all travellers, standing dubious the while, for two weeks or more; Milnes offering to take me as under his cloak, I went with Milnes. The mild, cordial, tho' somewhat dilettante nature of the man distinguishes him for me among men, as men go. For ten days I rode or sauntered among Yorkshire fields and knolls; the sight of the young Spring, new to me these seven years, was beautiful, or better than beauty. Solitude itself, the great Silence of the Earth was as balm to this weary sick heart of mine; not Dragons of Wantley (so they call Lord Wharncliff, the wooden Tory man), not babbling itinerant Barrister people, fox-hunting Aristocracy, nor Yeomanry Captains cultivating milk-white moustachios, nor the perpetual racket, and “dinner at 8 o'clock,” could altogether countervail the fact that green Earth was around one and unadulterated Sky overhead, and the voice of waters and birds,—not the foolish speech of Cockneys at all times!— On the last morning as Richard and I drove off towards the Railway, your Letter came in, just in time; and Richard, who loves you well, hearing from whom it was, asked with such an air to see it that I could not refuse him. We parted at the “station,” flying each his several way on the wings of Steam; and have not yet met again. I went over to Leeds, staid two days with its steeple-chimnies and smoke-volcano still in view; then hurried over to native Annandale, to see my aged excellent Mother yet again in this world while she is spared to me.1 My birthland is always as the Cave of Trophonious2 to me; I return from it, with a haste to which the speed of Steam is slow,—with no smile on my face; avoiding all speech with men! It is not yet eight-and-forty hours since I got back; your Letter is among the first I answer, even with a line; your new Book3— But we will not yet speak of that.

For first I have to say that from Leeds without any loitering I wrote Fraser about the defective “first six sheets”;4 by whom, as I learned shortly after, they were straightway made up in the due post-office figure; despatched to Liverpool, and there “shipped in the Cato for Boston on the 22d of April”;—quod bonum sit [may it turn out well].5 I cannot conjecture what has become of the other set; for they, and all the sheets of the Book were duly sent off, in swift succession, by conveyances which fair judges reckoned safe. Probably they have now arrived, before Fraser's? If they have not, if Fraser's too have not, and there is still somewhat wanting,—then let it and them wander forever and ever in the Ocean brine, let the New York pirate work his will, and my brave Emerson free himself from such sorry trouble; for which I would again apologise, were not apologies a new trouble to him! Nay, probably he feels it a luxury to help in any way his brother over here; in which case why should I grudge it him? Is not the man worthy to help,—one of these rare men that are worthy?— As for the antecedent Bookseller's Account, to me dim as hieroglyphics, James Fraser did look it over, with his sharp trade-eyes; declared it, if I remember, to be all correct according to bibliopolic tables of the Law,—except (now I bethink me) that of one Book (I no longer know, or almost never knew, which Book) there were more copies marked printed than were accounted for as either sold or unsold in the statement,—an error which your man will by and by rectify of himself; or else we will denounce it, specify it with details!6 And now enough of Booksellers, the ignoble blockheads; let me speak a moment about Books, about one Book.

My friend, I thank you for this Volume of yours; not for the copy alone which you send to me, but for writing and printing such a Book. Euge! say I, from afar. The voice of one crying [in] the desart;7—it is once more the voice of a man. Ah me, I felt [as] if in the wide world there were still but this one voice that responded intelligently to my own; as if the rest were all hearsays, melodious or unmelodious echoes; as if this alone were true and alive. My blessing on you, good Ralp[h]8 Waldo! I read the Book all yesterday; my Wife scarcely yet done with telling me her news. It has rebuked me, it has aroused and comforted me. Objections of all kinds I might make, how ma[n]y objections to superficies and detail, to a dialect of thought and speech as yet imperfect enough, a hundredfold too narrow for the Infinitude it strives to speak: but what were all that? It is an Infinitude, the real vision and belief of one, seen face to face; a “voice of the heart of Nature”9 is here once more. This is the one feat for me, which absorbs all others whatsoever. Persist, persist; you have much to say and to do. Those voices of yours which I liken to unembodied souls, and censure sometimes for having no body,—how can they have a body? They are light-rays darting upwards in the East; they will yet make much and much to have a body! You are a new era, my man, in your new huge country: God give you strength, and speaking and silent faculty, to do such a work as seems possible now for you! And if the Devil will be pleased to set all the Popularities against you and evermore against you,—perhaps that is of all things the very kindest any Angel could do.

Of myself I have nothing good to report. Years of sick idleness and barrenness have grown wearisome to me. I do nothing. I waver and hover, and painfully speculate even now, as to health, and where I shall spend the summer out of London! I am a very poor fellow;—but hope to grow better by and by. Then this alluvies10 of foul lazy stuff that has long swum over me may perhaps yield the better harvest. Esperons [Let us hope]!— Hail to all of you from both of us.

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle