TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 2 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421102-TC-JOST-01; CL 15: 159-161
TC TO JOHN STERLING
Chelsea, 2 Novr 1842—
The thing you speak of1 has several times passed thro' my own head: about last year this time, I can remember, it was there in so lively a state that I wrote of it to somebody or other,2—apparently not to you. The enormous confusions that obstruct any fair foundation of such an enterprise, and then the enormous labours of carrying it on, with the small and uncertain outlook of the same, had driven it into the distance again. I do not at present receive the suggestion with a Satanic grin from the Tree of Knowledge; far from it! I myself would cheerfully undertake the editor function, and go right heartily into it, were the thing feasible. Nay I suppose were these detestable dust-mountains of Civil-Wars Folios once out of my way,—fatal dust mountains in which three years of my life already lie buried, without as yet the smallest visible fraction of a result,3—it is very likely I might resume the enterprise as one really to be attempted.
Two things as you say seem very plain: first that there is at present no preaching in England, and a visibly growing appetite (the sternest necessity there has long been) to have some: and second, that the Printing Press is the only or by far the chief Pulpit in these days. Whether in that case we are not verily to set about erecting, by way of new Paul's Cross4 for the nineteenth Century, some Miscellany, Magazine, Review or Periodical Publication of our own, and speaking out with amazing plainness therefrom? Alas, it is beset with impediments; a most questionable adventure, tho' actually not without promise too!
Difficulties are many; but the preliminary desperate difficulty is always with me the question, What writers are there? Supposing all else smooth, Who is to write? Really except yourself I cannot at the moment recollect one English soul whom I should reckon much of a trump card in that game! Your Harewood5 is one of a considerable class, of great worth, nay of inestimable worth in comparison, for they are sincere, as not one of the old hacks is or was: but the writing talent of the class is by no means transcendent.
On the whole suppose you try to elaborate the scheme of such a thing practically in your head; to make an actual list of Writers;—especially a list of “people with funds” that might be applied to! I will give it more consideration when you shew it me in that shape. Gradually the thing may ripen.— As for me at present, I am sunk under a thousand fathoms of short rubbish; and feel for most part as if I should have the life choked clean out of me there, and never in this world be heard of more. Eheu!
An American Woman has compiled, in two pretty little volumes, a Life of Jean Paul;6 with very little talent, except a loving heart and a deft pair of scissors; yet with a remarkable success for her readers. It is a tropical grove, of thousand flowers and fragrances; and the image of Jean Paul, in white hat and wide green coat, is ever and anon visible thro' it. I have not read a pleasanter book for many months. How easily might good books be made, if people were not themselves bad!— —
Poor Allan Cunningham: the news of his sudden summons falls stern and heavy on me. A rough true mass of manhood, with far more faculty than he himself knew of. One human face—that always smiled on me will smile on me no more.7 Adieu, dear Sterling.
Love me while you live! / Yours ever