July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO W. C. BENNETT ; 14 July 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470714-TC-WCB-01; CL 22: 15-16


Chelsea, July 14 1847


I have received your letter and sonnet,1 certainly a strong proof of your kind feelings to me, which deserves my thanks. For the rest, I fear you have gone much into the common tendency of poets, that of exaggerating, that of dressing up a small reality in the beauties of imagination—a tendency which has its worth, and also has its dangers, nay, its worthlessness. In any case, I thank you heartily for your goodwill, which I will keep as one of my possessions, so long as possible; and surely, if I have done you any good at all, it is a real satisfaction to me. May the proof of it appear, with more and more clearness, in the life another brave man leads, while the years are his!—that is the best I can wish you.

Your name hitherto is known to me chiefly as associated with verse.2 It is one of my constant regrets, in this generation, that men to whom the gods have given a genius (which means a light of intelligence, of courage, and all manfulness, or else means nothing) will insist, in such an earnest time as ours has grown, in bringing out their divine gift in the shape of verse, which now no man reads entirely in earnest. That a man has to bring out his gift in words of any kind, and not in silent divine actions, which alone are fit to express it well, seems to me a great misfortune for him; but that he should select verse with its half credibilities and other sad accompaniments, when he might have prose and be wholly credible, if he desired it,—this I lay at the door of our spiritual teachers (pedants mostly, and speaking an obsolete dialect), who thereby incalculably rob the world; making him who might have been a soldier and fighter (so terribly wanted just at present), a mere preacher and idle singer! This is a fixed perception of mine, growing ever more fixed these many years; and I offer it to you, as I have done to many others in the like case, not much hoping that you will believe in it all at once. But, certainly, a good, wise, earnest piece in prose from you would please me better than the musicallest verses could.

Wishing you heartily well, whether in verse or in prose,3

I remain, with many thanks, Sincerely yours,

T. Carlyle.