January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JAMES DODDS ; 20 May 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430520-TC-JADO-01; CL 16: 175-176


London, 20th May, 1843.

My Dear Sir,—Several weeks ago I duly received your letter, and read it, as I always do your letters, when they bring such news of you, with welcome and pleasure. It has been in my mind ever since to write to you with a certain expansion in some hour of leisure, but as that hour does not arrive, and, alas! gives no promise yet of arriving, I must content myself with this swift and brief acknowledgement, rather than with none at all, which is the other branch of the alternative.

You are an enthusiastic man, and look at all things through magnifying lenses, productive, too, of beautiful prismatic tints brighter than nature; nevertheless, I find your image of the object sharply distinct, and just, too, though exaggerated on a larger scale than usual. The scale is not mathematically important; the distinctness and the justness are alone important. On the whole, I like that mood of mind very well; a true portrait and a gigantic one, done with haloes and tints of the rainbow; there are worse kinds than that.

It gives me great pleasure to find you persevere so manfully, “following your star,” where, except the star itself occasionally beaming in the distance, there can be little to cheer you by the way. Persevere, persevere; that is the strength of a man. I will promise you all manner of good if you persevere. You shall have victory, more conquest perhaps than perhaps you yet believe; you shall have heroic battle, which is the noblest conquest of all.1

It is far from my advice that you should relax in your law studies, in any of your studies, which I honor you for prosecuting in a strenuous silence. Nevertheless, it strikes me that you might be gradually attempting something in the way of writing too. You have, doubtless, hours now and then which, by thrifty assiduity, you might devote with advantage to trials in that kind. I speak with reluctance about writing, whither, I know, all your ambition tends, opposed by all your virtue and philosophy. But I fancy you are getting stronger on that latter side, and can afford a little excursion there by a time. Writing as well as law requires to be learned; and to writing, as I can predict, you, amid all your law, or after all your law, will pretty certainly come at last. A solid man knows how to combine the ideal with the practical; to do the obligato [that which one is obliged to do] better than another, and combine with it the voluntario [that which one wishes to do], which others think not of. May a good Genius guide you always.

To Gordon,2 who likes you well, I send many kind regards, and with good hopes and good wishes, I am, yours most truly,

T. Carlyle