The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO EDWARD STRACHEY ; 27 May 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410527-TC-ES-01; CL 13: 145-146


CHELSEA, August 27 [27 May?], 1841.

DEAR MR. STRACHEY,— You judge rightly that it would at any time give me very high satisfaction could I be of the smallest service to the lady now named Mrs. Phillips,1 the remembrance of whom, under what name soever, is always pleasant to me! I have, unfortunately, however, no connection at all with any publisher of German things; nor do I know in the least how they manage that business now, except, perhaps, that as there is greatly more demand for German ware in these days than gold, some wages may now, by wise methods, be derivable from it, which was hardly the case in my days. Mrs. Austin seems to be the established hand at present; Mrs. Jameson, too, works in it.2 I rather fancy the chief difficulty is to fix on some book likely to succeed,—which of course is the translator's own task. There is seldom any offer of a given book to be translated; or indeed, if there were, I suppose hundreds are ready for it on bread-and-water terms. Translation, I doubt, is no very good resource; indeed, literature in any shape, without some express vocation and necessity, is a thing not to be recommended to any one,—to a young lady least of all. My own prosecution of it was entered upon only by the severest compulsion, and has been a life-and-death wrestle all along. Whosover does not think lightly of starvation, in comparison with several things that he will see practiced, ought to keep aloof altogether from that province.

However, if the young lady so decide on trying the enterprise, I should think her best plan would be to prepare some actual translation and write it out in a legible hand,—some promising book, if she know of one, not of great extent,—whereby it could be judged what faculty she had fit for this business, and whether there were any hope in prosecuting it. I could show Mrs. Jameson such a performance; ask her advice about it; she is a reasonable, energetic, and very helpful woman. This is all very light; little other, as you see, than darkness visible.

You are very kind to sympathize so heartily with my books; the response of an honest, natural human heart is precious to whomsoever speaks. The tolerance of men is very great; I might say, the rarity of every word honestly spoken, and the growing desire for such, and for such only, is very notable in these times,—with deep sorrow, yet with hope that cannot die!

You should have come to see me. But indeed my wayfarings have been a little will-o'-wispish this season, and even still liable to be; for I feel I must soon be out of this Nebuchadnezzar furnace3 of a London, and know not in the least whitherward. Will you offer my loving remembrance to your good lady mother, from whom it is very long since I have heard anything? For yourself, be of good hope; and what is perhaps almost better, be a good patient4 in the interim, resigned to the will of One who knows better than we.

Yours always affectionately,