August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 21 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421121-TC-JOST-01; CL 15: 197-198


Chelsea, 21 Novr, 1842—

Dear Sterling,

In a Letter which arrived three days ago from Emerson,1 there were, close under the seal, these words: “Sterling's Papers,—if he is near you,—are all in Mr Russell's hands. I played my part of Fadladeen2 with great rigour, and put my results to Russell, but have not now written to J. S.”— These words, whatever they may mean, I have since undertaken to convey to you;—and here you have them. The interpretation I suppose is that a Yankee Bookseller is about doing his duty to you; which I wish he would do, and let us see the result.

Today your Letter came; and, sticking to it by the wafer, another Letter from you to your Mother: both had been shoved thro' our doorslit as one; and indeed I had torn up the cover of your Mother's, before they fell asunder,—to my extreme amazement! It is a document as to the use of improved wafers. My Wife carried up your Mother's share of the affair;—found her not worse, except from some rebellious tooth which is plaguing her a little. She is instructed to send up Arnold's Lectures3 tomorrow,—I mean my wife is. I, as you, liked these Lectures considerably; an admirable calmness, cunning candour, adroitness to insinuate the thin edge into unwedgeable and gnarled Oxford with its prejudices and platitudes. It was Arnold's forte. He seemed to me likely to be the far best Schoolmaster I had ever in my life seen. A brave man. But his Lectures are rather a game of battle than a battle: Prolusions to a Waterloo!

You ask me to retract at least Shakespeare's conditional silence.4 It seems a small request! And yet when I think of Oliver Cromwell, the best King we ever had, escaping by the merest accident from dying as a grazier at Ely; and Martin Luther, by the like, from disappearing as a silent Dominican; and when I look at myself, and at other great un-writing souls that I have known, and small unweariedly writing souls that I yet know,—it becomes hard for me to retract! No, my friend, wherever I go or stand, I find the inarticulate dust of Poets (of Makers, Inventors, great struggling souls, who never higgled for Copyright in the Row,—and merely tended towards Heaven and God, and from Hell and the Devils wards); and I say to myself, There have been millions of millions of Poets, and hundreds of them have been Shakspeares, perhaps thousands, or a higher ratio, since Adam first put on fig-breeches! That, in real sobriety, is my faith.——— And truly the longer I live, I find there is no “fame” &c &c in this poor scrub of a world that could make a real piece of Manhood go far out of his road to gather it; I think, still, if he is a Reality, he runs and strives towards God, and from the Devil (if we will understand the words well), and not from or towards any kind of wages whatsoever that could be even promised him, much less made good to him, in these climates.

Return safe from Donnybrook5 with your head whole.—

Yours ever

T. Carlyle