April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 3 November 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441103-TC-RWE-01; CL 18: 258-260


Chelsea, 3 Novr, 1844—

Dear Emerson,

By the clearest law I am bound to write you a word today, were my haste even greater than it is. The last American fleet or ship, about the middle of last month, brought me a Draft for Thirty Pounds;1 which I converted into ready cash, and have here,—and am now your grateful debtor for, as of old. There seems to be no end to those Boston Booksellers! I think the well is dry; and straightway it begins to run again. Thanks to you:—it is, I dare say, a thing you too are grateful for. We will recognise it among the good things of this rather indifferent world.— By the way, if that good Clarke like his business, let him go on with it; but if not, stop him, poor fellow!2 It is to me a matter of really small moment whether those Booksellers' accounts be ever audited in this world, or left over to the General Day of Audit. I myself shudder at the sight of such things; and make my bargain here so always as to have no trade with them, but to be netto [clean] from the first: why should I plague poor Clarke with them, if it be any plague to him? The Booksellers will never know but we examine them! The very terror of Clarke's name will be as the bark of chained Mastiff,— and no need for actual biting! Have due pity on the man.

Your English Volume of Essays, as Chapman probably informs you by this Post, was advertised yesterday, “with a Preface from me.” That is hardly accurate, that latter clause. My “Preface” consists only of a certificate that the Book is correctly printed, and sent forth by a Publisher of your appointment, whom therefore all readers of yours ought to regard accordingly. Nothing more.3 There proves, I believe, no visible real vestige of a Copyright obtainable here; only Chapman asserts that he has obtained one, and that he will take all contraveners into Chancery,—which has a terrible sound; and indeed the Act he founds on is of so distracted inextricable a character, it may mean anything and all things, and no Serjt Talford whom we could consult durst take upon him to say that it meant almost anything whatever. The sound of “Chancery,” the stereotype character of this volume, and its cheap price, may perhaps deter pirates,—who are but a weak body in this country as yet. I judged it right to help in that; and impertinent, at this stage of affairs, to go any farther. The Book, is very fairly printed, onward at least to the Essay New England Politics, where my “perfect-copy” of the sheets as yet stops. I did not read any of the Proofs except two; finding it quite superfluous, and a sad waste of time to the hurried Chapman himself. I have found yet but one error, and that a very correctible one, “narvest” for “harvest”;—no other that I recollect at present.

The work itself falling on me by driblets has not the right chance yet,—not till I get it in the bound state, and read it all at once,—to produce its due impression on me. But I will say already of it, It is a sermon to me, as all your other deliberate utterances are; a real word, which I feel to be such,—alas, almost or altogether the one such, in a world all full of jargons, hearsays, echoes, and vain noises, which cannot pass with me for words! This is a praise far beyond any “literary” one; literary praises are not worth repeating in comparison.— For the rest, I have to object still (what you will call objecting against the Law of Nature) that we find you a Speaker, indeed, but as it were a Soliloquizer on the eternal mountain-tops only, in vast solitudes where men and their affairs lie all hushed in a very dim remoteness; and only the man and the stars and the earth are visible,—whom, so fine a fellow seems he, we could perpetually punch into, and say, “Why won't you come and help us then? We have terrible need of one man like you down among us! It is cold and vacant up there; nothing paintable but rainbows and emotions; come down, and you shall do life-pictures, passions, facts,—which transcend all thought, a[nd] leave it stuttering and stammering!”— To which he answers that he won't[,] can't, and doesn't want to (as the Cockneys have it): and so I leave him, and say, “You Western Gymnosophist! Well, we can afford one man for that too. But—!”4— By the bye I ought to say, the sentences are very brief; and did not, in my sheet reading, always entirely cohere for me. Pure genuine Saxon; strong and simple; of a clearness, of a beauty— But they did not, sometimes, rightly stick to their foregoers and their followers: the paragraph not as a beaten ingot, but as a beautiful square bag of duck-shot held together by canvas! I will try them again, with the Book deliberately before me.— There are also one or two utterances about “Jesus,” “immortality,” and so forth, which will produce wide-eyes here and there.5 I do not say it was wrong to utter them; a man obeys his own Daemon in these cases as his Supreme Law. I daresay you are a little bored occasionally with “Jesus” &c, as I confess I myself am, when I discern what a beggarly Twaddle they have made of all that, what a greasy Cataplasm to lay to their own poltrooneries;—and an impatient person may exclaim with Voltaire, in serious moments: “Au nom de Dieu, ne me parlez plus de cet homme-là [In the name of God, speak no more to me of that man]! I have had enough of him;— I tell you I am alive too!”6

Well, I have scribbled at a great rate; regardless of Time's flight!— My Wife thanks many times for M. Fuller's Book.7 I sent by Mr James a small Packet of your letters—which will make you sad to look at them!8 Adieu, dear friend.

T. Carlyle