April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO JOHN RUTTER CHORLEY ; 4 May 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440504-TC-JRC-01; CL 18: 34-36


Chelsea, 4 May, 1844—

My dear Sir,

I have received your Garland of the Rhine (Rosary of the Rhine),1 and the very kind Letter that accompanied it; for both of which I return you many thanks. The Sonnets are of exquisite finish, complete according to the hard Law of Sonnet; and give me, as thro' narrow elaborate fourteen-sided-chinks, a pleasant glimpse into many high and wide expanses of things. I have read them all with interest. This, from one who is not only no friend to the Sonnet, but rather a declared enemy to it, and never read even a Sonnet of Milton or of Petrarch without some consciencious protest as he went on,—seems to signify some thing!

In fact, my dear Sir, you must permit me this opportunity of saying that I will by no means let you off for Sonnet-work: you are fit for far other enterprises; and you shall not rest without doing them! This is a fact; and really you should lay it to heart. I speak often with your Brother2 on that subject; we are both agreed that few men in England are hiding such a gift and opportunity so sedulously under a napkin as even the criminal John Chorley now does;—and we hope he will at least grow more and more miserable till he be forced to unfold it. Miserable, I say; for how can a man be other with a talent hid in a napkin? The “Wife of Ballinacrazy” was good; but a hidden talent is worth ten of her for “keeping a man unasy”; you may depend upon that, and look for the consequences.

Seriously, I do wish, and counsel, that you would write me and the world a good broad Book on some subject that the world is vitally interested in,—illuminate for me and the world something that is, and that is at present dark and chaotic: why is a man gifted with insight, with veracity and energy of mind, with leisure and opportunity of fortune, if not simply for the like of this? Your watch tower, where you now sit, commands an extensive enough horizon, within the compass of which lie great things, dark enough, confused enough, crying very impressively in their dumb way, “Let there come light on us!”3— Nay, it is too bad!

If I were Spiritual Archbishop, for example, I would order you to do it; I would say, why don't you give us a right epic History of Lancashire for instance? There is not a bigger baby born of Time in these late centuries; and I would fain have him christened in some way! He is staggering about, a dumb piece of Savagery hitherto; plenty of sense in his eyes, but tongue-tied; really needs that the Articulate Speakers come about him, give some account of him!——— In good truth, I could fancy a most beautiful Poem, written in plain historical prose; the title of which should be Lancashire for the last two centuries. Start with the Siege of Manchester in Cromwell's time; end with the Anti-Corn-law league in Peel's! There were five good years of work for you; and a Book at the end of them, of which there is no model yet.———Well, at all events, I will thank you for what you have already done, I will send my friendliest regards to your good Mother, to your Brother in Wales;4 and beg you always to be assured of my very hearty good wishes and great esteem. Sincerely yours,

T. Carlyle.