April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO WILLIAM MACCALL; 6 November 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18481106-TC-WM-01; CL 23: 153


Chelsea, 6 Novr, 1848—

My dear Sir,

Your Letter and Present give me great pleasure, both on my own account and on yours. On my own, because you might easily enough have got into a surly humour with me under those circumstances; on yours still more, because I draw the best auguries for you from this brave face you offer. If you can learn and unlearn till you loyally suit yourself to the essential demand of this world and this universe,—which essential demand is more or less approximately expressed (tho' often in a very obscure and crabbed manner, hardly decipherable!) by every thing and by every person you fall in with in the market of life,—there is no doubt at all but you may do a good feat yet, and earn wages in all kinds far beyond what you claim or intrinsically need. To humble “the Individuality of the Individual,” and with courageous all-endurance lie open to light whencesoever coming: this is a prime duty of duties; this is an immense achievement;—every blockhead, and every contradictory platitude, becomes a man's schoolmaster, and teaches him till he do learn, in in1 this happy case!—

I am very anxious to hear that you have entered on the Lecture speculation, and what outlooks you have. If Northampton accept, try Northampton: if not, let us attempt, what can hardly be impossible, to find another free-stage. Cast all “abstractions” to the rear of you; take up such concrete, coloured, living subject as you think may fairly claim to interest poor concrete human creatures and workers such as you have known, take the best you have of such subjects; elaborate it with all your might, and with a single eye towards that result of getting men to listen to it;—all else will follow out of this first condition; nothing, as you well see, will follow without this! I believe the rule is, Never to mind your phraseology; keep the thing you wish to communicate blazing in your head, the words will come of their own accord, and be on the whole your best words. And set about the matter straightway, if I may advise; nothing seems to me nearly so feasible for you, as matters stand.

So soon as anything is settled, let me hear from you again;—or what will be better, come down, for example, on Sunday afternoon next,2 at 5 o'clock (precise); take a mutton-chop with us, and tell us what the news are.

In haste / Yours very truly / T. Carlyle