January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 5 May 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430505-TC-JOST-01; CL 16: 156-157


Chelsea, 5 May, 1843—

My dear Sterling,

It is but some four weeks since I one day bade your Father say that, having now a little leisure, I meant to write to you straightway;—and alas, since then, there has fallen out so much about which there was no writing. We have had to think of you in silence. “Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.”1 It is the old story; as old as the first existence of mankind in this Earth; and yet to every one of us it arrives with a strange originality, sharp and astonishing as if it had never happened before. Ah me!— You must take care of your health more than ever: all kinds of grief weigh on one with double pressure when the body is weak. Grieve not, all grief is useless;—we are but a little way behind. As the old Psalmist said, “We shall go to them, they will not return to us”;2 there is in this an everlasting source of composure: death would be intolerable otherwise.

Probably you will be better within reach of London; and if so, Southampton surely is an eligible region. You are but four hours from us there, and yet almost a hundred miles. I have often thought of a cottage for myself on the beach of some cove in the Isle of Wight: but I believe I shall never get it, or anything resembling it; my notion begins to be that I am doomed to this spot, unlovely as it is to me: alas, few places are very lovely in late times; the Earth all growing into a kind of Golgotha for me;3—a golgotha which is a flaming Sinai4 too, however: let us complain of nothing! We must not complain, we must march on like men:

Ruhn oben die Sterne
Und unten die Gräber.5

All Gospels and religions, as it were, lie included for me in those words. Courage!—

My health is not so much bad, as painful, depressing; to which, I suppose, the solitary life I have been long leading, and still insist on leading, must somewhat contribute. The speech of men does nothing for me in general; it grieves and distresses me, on the contrary, for most part. I am positively almost frightened now and then at quack speech! The remedy of course is: Avoid it. Yes; and yet there is much to be said on the other side withal. I think of doing two things: first, slinking off into the country so soon as the Sun comes fairly out; and then secondly endeavouring to get forward with some fresh work or other. There is always work enough for a man,—thank God! And plenty of comfort for a man accordingly. I do not feel unable for new work, were I once rested a while.

For the present I get along mainly by help of Danish, in which I have got a master (or rather got one lesson, for that was all that proved necessary) of Müllers Sagabibliothek in that language, and all manner of perplexed shadows out of Scandinavia. It is as good as “worsted work”6 for a weak man! I really delight greatly in the essence of that old Norse World, where I can get a glimpse of its essence. Agamemnon and Achilles seem to me lucky in their Homer; I have fallen in with as good fellows, if not better, that remain entirely unsung! Besides, compared with Exeter Hall, are not Gimle and Valhalla really respectable places?7——

We saw your Brother often, and liked him better than ever. I do not think he knows completely what regard is entertained for him here. Adieu, my Friend: be careful of your health; the rest you will do without advising.8 Yours ever T.C.