April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO JAMES BALLANTINE ; 31 October 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441031-TC-JBA-01; CL 18: 253-254


Dear Sir,

I had not time to read your Poem with nearly the attention that it merited;1 nor indeed could my judgement have been of any essential value to you, inasmuch as the preliminary question, which bars all others till it be answered, would in any case have remained in suspense: Whether, be its character what it might, you could find a Publisher for your Metrical Tale?

I have therefore done what I considered usefuller for you; I have got the Messrs Chapman and Hall to submit the Ms. to their practical Man of Advice in such subjects; he is actually to examine it, and to send you back some verdict about it, of Yea or No. I urged them above all things to commission him, after having really examined it, to give you some word about it that should be sincere,—his real mind upon it, on surveying it with a practical eye to publication. You will accordingly, thro' the Bookseller Menzies, receive some such communication, along with the Ms. itself; probably one of these very days.2

If your Poem cannot be published, certainly my distinct advice would be, that you gave it up,—proceeded no farther in it; saying to yourself, “Well, such is the temper of the time.” Indeed, in any case, my notion is, that true victory does not lie for you in that direction. The appetite to write “Poetry” (meaning Metre, as if there were no other Poetry) is almost universal among young men of genius at present; and the appetite to read it is (not without reason, as I compute) at as low an ebb, as it ever was, with the Public. Booksellers shudder at the very name of it!— You could write Scotch Songs, I think, to good purpose, and ever to better, should you persevere; but if my notion be correct, you were wise to go no farther in that direction.

In great haste, and wishing you heartily a wise guidance, which however will have to come from your own general wisdom,

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle