The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 26 December 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411226-TC-JOST-01; CL 13: 329-330


Chelsea, 26 Decr, 1841—

Dear Sterling,

I have read your Coeur-de-Lion1 (Cardalion King of Urinals) with much amusement; occasionally, indeed, with loud laughter testifying the same to bystanders,—or rather to the one bysitter, the Sorrow of my Life here;2 to whom I had, in consequence, to read the latter half of the poem aloud! You have got a very notable facility of rhyme; there is also a right lively dancing careless kind of rhythm in this piece, which rattles along like a bundle of hardware going down stairs ever faster, in a manner comfortable to hear. True Sterlingian drollery of heart contrives to shew itself thro' the cage-bars of those stanzas; and enamelled tints too of the higher Sterlingian qualities,—caged as they are: alas, all ways of utterance are cage-bars, and our very bodies in this world are cages! I find I remember the narrative with a peculiar sunny distinctness; the sign everywhere of a good delineation. Cardalion himself is a broad joyous Son of Anak;3 and Archbishop Joss, and brown-beautiful Budoor, and the Physic-craft of the Father of Budoor,—they are all welcome to me, and dance as at home thro' my head. Some of the double rhymes provoke explosions of laughter,—partly with them and partly alas at them. Slim rod, Nimrod; Bishop, fish up &c! You are a strange fellow.

My critical censures and proposed emendations are not many. First, were it not expedient to shorten somewhat the didactic tendencies of Aljawam, the ancient Doctor-Sheik, and explain better what he was wanting there in the desert,—other than lecturing on Strauss Leben Jesu and such high matters! Next, I will remark that the “twenty days” of Budoor's captivity had passed over me like one minute: what Richard, what the world had been doing all that while, except hunt down one unfortunate little gazelle, we do not in the least discover. A stanza or two were well worth intercalating there. Thirdly, I do vote that you get some other hest for Richard's riding to the hills than that mad one of hunting down the “onager,” which really was as hopeless as a Scottish “hunting of the gowk [cuckoo],”4 and is disgraceful to Cardalion! For the rest, why were not all the English out in search of him when missing on that occasion? Fourthly—But no, I will not add any fourthly: the thing, I tell you, made me guffah in honest laughter; that is the sum of all criticisms that will interest you5

And so good b'ye for this day; and good and ever better speed to you, my bonnyman!

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle