TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 19 November 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411119-TC-RWE-01; CL 13: 299-303
TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Chelsea, 19 Novr, 1841—
Since that going down of the American Timber-ship on one of the banks of the Solway under my window, I do not remember that you have heard a word of me. I only added that the men were all saved, and the beach all in agitation, certain women not far from hysterics;—and there ended. I did design to send you some announcement of our return hither; but fear there is no chance that I did it! About ten days ago the Signor Gambardella arrived with a Note and Books from you:1 and here now is your Letter of October 30th; which, arriving at a moment when I have a little leisure, draws forth an answer almost instantly.
The Signor Gambardella, whom we are to see a second time tonight or tomorrow, amuses and interests us not a little. His face is the very image of the Classic God Pan's; with horns and cloven feet we feel that he would make a perfect woodgod;—really some of Poussin's Satyrs are almost portraits of this brave Gambardella.2 I will warrant him a right glowing man of Southern-Italian vitality,—full of laughter, wild insight, caricature, and every sort of energy and joyous savagery: a most profitable element to get introduced (in moderate quantity), I should say, into the general current of your Puritan blood over in New England there! Gambardella has behaved with magnanimity in that matter of the Portrait: I have already sat, to men in the like case, some four times, and G. knows it is a dreadful weariness; I directed him, accordingly, to my last Painter one Lawrence a man of real parts, whom I wished G. to know,—and whom I wished to know G. withal, that he might tell me whether there was any probability of a good picture by him in case one did decide on encountering the weariness[.] Well; G. returns with a magnanimous report that Lawrence's picture3 far transcends any capability of his; that whoever in America or elsewhere will have a likeness of the said individual must apply to Lawrence not to Gambardella,—which latter artist heroically throws down his brush, and says, Be it far from me! The brave Gambardella: if I can get him this night to dilate a little farther on his Visit to the Community of Shakers,4 and the things he saw and felt there, it will be a most true benefit to me. Inextinguishable laughter seemed to me to lie in Gambardella's vision of that Phenomenon,—the sight and the seer: but we broke out too loud all at once, and he was afraid to continue.— — Alas, there is almost no laughter going in the world at present. True laughter is as rare as any other truth,—the sham of it frequent and detestable like all other shams. I know nothing wholesomer; but it is rarer even than Christmas, which comes but once a year, and does always come once.
Your satisfactions, and reflexions, at sight of your English Book are such as I too am very thankful for.5 I understand them well. May worse guest never visit the Drawing-room at Concord than that bound Book. Tell the good Wife to rejoice in it: she has all the pleasure;—to her poor Husband it will be increase of pain withal: nay let us call it increase of valiant labour and endeavour; no evil for a man, if he be fit for it! A man must learn to digest praise too and not be poisoned with it: some of it is wholesome to the system under certain circumstances; the most of it a healthy system will learn by and by to throw into the slop-bason, harmlessly, without any trial to digest it. A Thinker, I take it, in the long-run finds that essentially he must ever be and continue alone;—alone: “silent, rest over him the stars, and under him the graves!”6 The clatter of the world, be it a friendly be it a hostile world, shall not intermeddle with him much.——— The Book of Essays, however, does decidedly “speak [to] England,” in its way, in these months; and even makes what one may call a kind of appropriate “sensation” here. Reviews of it are many, in all notes of the gamut;—of small value mostly; as you might see by the two Newspaper specimens I sent you (Did you get these two Newspapers?). The worst enemy admits that there are piercing radiances of perverse insight in it; the highest friends, some few, go to a very high point indeed. Newspapers are busy with extracts;—much complaining that it is “abstruse,” neological, hard to get the meaning of. All which is very proper. Still better,—tho' poor Fraser, alas is dead (poor Fraser!), and no help could come from industries of the Bookshop, and Books indeed it seems were never selling worse than of late months—I learn that the “sale of the Essays goes very steadily forward,” and will wind itself handsomely up in due time, we may believe! So Emerson henceforth has a real Public in Old England as well as New. And finally my Friend, do not disturb yourself about turning better &c &c; write as it is given you, and not till it be given you, and never mind it a whit.
The new Adelphi piece seems to me, as a piece of composition, the best written of them all.7 People cry over it: “Whitherward? What, What?” In fact I do again desiderate some concretion of these beautiful abstracta. It seems to me they will never be right otherwise; that otherwise they are but as prophecies yet, not fulfilments. The Dial too, it is all spirit-like, aeriform, aurora-borealis like. Will no angel body himself out of that; no stalwart Yankee man, with colour in the cheeks of him, and a coat on his back! These things I say: and yet, very true, you alone can decide what practical meaning is in them. Write you always, as it is given you, be it in the solid, in the aeriform, or whatsoever way. There is no other rule given among men.——— I have sent the criticism on Landor to an Editorial Friend of L's;8 by whom I expect it will be put into the Newspapers here for the benefit of Walter Savage; he is not often so well praised among us, and deserves a little good praise. (Turn back)9
You propose again to send me monies,—surprising man!10 I am glad also to hear that beggarly misprinted F. Rn is nearly out among you. I only hope farther your Booksellers will have an eye on that rascal Appleton, and not let him reprint, and deface, if more copies of the Book turn out to be wanted. Adieu, dear E. Good speed to you at Boston and in all true things. I hope to write soon again. Yours ever