August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JAMES BALLANTINE ; 13 March 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440313-TC-JBA-01; CL 17: 305-306


Chelsea, London, 13 March, 1844.

My dear Sir,

I have to thank you for the kind gift of your new Book; and should, and but for accidents would, have have1 done so a good many weeks ago.

I have read the Miller of Deanhaugh2 with due appreciation of its various genial qualities; with due interest in itself and its Author. In your Scotch rhymes I find a certain savage picturesqueness, sometimes a deep pathos; these please me best, on the whole. Some of your Edinburgh figures, such as you have yourself known, are very genuine delineations; “Coal Jock” and others I recognise with great welcome! Your Artist3 too has his merits; and supports your pen with a true pencil in many cases.

I suppose your plan of publication by monthly parts, which necessitates a too rapid mode of operation on your part, is somewhat unfavourable to you. But then, on the other hand, it is probably the best or the only convenient plan that offers itself to you for publishing. What can we say? That a true man will do his best, and manfully struggle to do ever better, under the given conditions. His faithful struggle will improve the conditions themselves, and alter them; will gradually improve all things. You are to keep your eyes and your heart open, your hand ready and diligent; to learn more and more what is true, and adhere more and more to that.

You plead with real earnestness for mercy to the poor, for general mercy and generosity from all men towards all men. Which is surely right, and not unwanted at present. By and by, however, I think we shall hear from you withal a more distinct recognition how the poor and all men are first, if I may so speak, to show mercy on themselves. Without this preliminary, mercy from others is not possible in general. I desiderate an internal rigour in the heart of your beautiful pity; like the bony inflexible framework in the beautifullest human body;—such an internal rigour exists everywhere in Nature, physical, spiritual, moral, and without it no Virtue can stand on its feet in this world.

These are all the observations I will make; I might have stood by mere thanks and unmixed compliments had I regarded you less. My thanks are very cordial, and my good wishes for you always.

Yours very sincerely,

T. Carlyle