April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 19 April 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490419-TC-RWE-01; CL 24: 28-31


Chelsea, 19 April, 1849—

My dear Emerson,

Today is American Postday; and by every rule and law,—even if all laws but those of Cocker were abolished from this universe,—a word from me is due to you! Twice I have heard since I spoke last: prompt response about the Philadelphia Bill;1 exact performance of your voluntary promise,—Indian Corn itself is now here for a week past.

Lord Ashburton has recovered his money; so he tells me, on inquiry, the other day; many thanks to you and the Pennsilvanian friends;—Furness2 in particular has had his hands full with that business; of which, let us hope, he has now heard the last. Still more interesting is the barrel of genuine Corn ears, & Indian Cobs of edible grain, from the Barn of Emerson himself! It came all safe and right, according to your charitable program; without cost or trouble to us of any kind; not without curious interest and satisfaction! The recipes contained in the precedent Letter,3 duly weighed by the competent jury of housewives (at least by my own Wife and Lady Ashburton), were judged to be of decided promise, reasonable-looking every one of them; and now that the stuff itself is come, I am happy to assure you that it forms a new epoch for us all in the Maize department: we find the grain sweet, among the sweetest, with a touch even of the taste of nuts in it, and profess with contrition that properly we have never tasted Indian Corn before. Millers, of due faculty (with Millstones of iron), being scarce in the Cockney region, and even cooks liable to err, the Ashburtons have on their resources undertaken the brunt of the problem: one of their own Surrey or Hampshire Millers is to grind the stuff, and their own Cook, a Frenchman commander of a whole squadron, is to undertake the dressing according to the rules. Yesterday the Barrel went off to their country place in Surrey,—a small Bag of select ears being retained here, for our own private experimenting;—and so by and by we shall see what comes of it.— I on my side have already drawn up a fit proclamation of the excellencies of this invaluable corn, and admonitions as to the benighted state of English eaters in regard to it;—to appear in Fraser's Magazine, or I know not where, very soon.4 It is really a small contribution towards World-History, this small act of yours and ours: there is no doubt to me, now that I taste the real grain, but all Europe will henceforth have to relie more and more upon your western vallies and this article. How beautiful to think of lean tough Yankee settlers, tough as gutta-percha, with most occult unsubduable fire in their belly, steering over the western mountains, to annihilate the jungle, and bring bacon and corn out of it for the Posterity of Adam! The Pigs, in about a year, eat up all the rattle-snakes for miles round: a most judicious function on the part of the Pigs. Behind the Pigs comes Jonathan with his all-conquering ploughshare,5—glory to him too! Oh, if we were not a set of Cant-ridden blockheads, there is no Myth of Athena or Herakles equal to this fact;—which I suppose will find its real “Poets” some day or other; when once the Greek, Semitic and multifarious other Cobwebs are swept away a little! Well, we must wait.— For the rest, if this skilful Naturalist and you will make any more experiments on Indian Corn for us, might I not ask that you would try for a method of preserving the meal in a sound state for us? Oatmeal, which would spoil directly too, is preserved all year by kiln-drying the grain before it is ground,—parching it till it is almost brown, sometimes: the Scotch Highlanders, by intense parching, can keep their oatmeal good for a series of years. No miller here at present is likely to produce such beautiful meal as some of the American specimens I have seen:—if possible, we must learn to get the grain over in the shape of proper durable meal. At all events, let your Friend charitably make some inquiry into the process of millerage, the possibilities of it for meeting our case;—and send us the result some day, on a separate bit of paper. With which let us end, for the present.

Alas, I have yet written nothing; am yet a long way off writing, I fear! Not for want of matter, perhaps, but for redundance of it; I feel as if I had the whole world to write yet, with the day fast bending downwards on me, and didn't know where to begin,—in what manner to address the deep-sunk populations of the Theban Land.6 Any way my Life is very grim, on these terms, and is like to be; God only knows what farther quantity of braying in the mortar this foolish clay of mine may yet need!— They are printing a 3d edition of Cromwell; that bothered me for some weeks, but now I am over with that, and the Printer wholly has it: a sorrowful, not now or ever a joyful thing to me, that. The Stupor of my fellow blockheads, for Centuries back, presses too heavy upon that,—as upon many things, O Heavens! People are about setting up some Statue of Cromwell, at St. Ives, or elsewhere: the King-Hudson Statue is never yet set up; and the King himself (as you may have heard) has been discovered swindling. I advise all men not to erect a Statue for Cromwell just now.— Macaulay's History is also out, running thro' the fourth edition:7 did I tell you last time that I had read it,—with wonder and amazement?8 Finally it seems likely Lord John Russell will shortly walk out (forever, it is hoped), and Sir R. Peel come in; to make what effort is in him towards delivering us from the pedant method of treating Ireland. The beginning, as I think, of salvation (if he can prosper a little) to England, and to all Europe as well. For they will all have to learn that man does need government, and that an able-bodied starving beggar is and remains (whatever Exeter Hall may say to it) a Slave destitute of a Master; of which faith England, and convulsed Europe, are fallen profoundly ignorant in these bad ages, and will plunge ever deeper till they rediscover the same. Alas, alas, the Future before for us is not to be made of butter, as the Platforms prophesy; I think it will be harder than steel for some ages! No noble age was ever a soft one, nor ever will or can be.—— —— Your beautiful curious little discourse (report of a discourse) about the English was sent me by Neuberg; I thought it, in my private heart, one of the best words (for hidden genius lodged in it) I had ever heard; so sent it to the Examiner, from which it went to the Times and all the other Papers:9 an excellent sly little word.— Clough has gone to Italy; I have seen him twice,—could not manage his hexameters, tho' I like the man himself, and hope much of him.10 “Infidelity” has broken out in Oxford itself,—immense emotion in certain quarters in consequence, virulent outcries about a certain “Sterling Club,”11 altogether a secular Society! Adieu, dear Emerson; I had much more to say, but there is no room. O forgive me, forgive me all trespasses,—and love me what you can! Yours ever T. Carlyle

A nephew of Lord Ashburton's, a young Mr Mildmay (very good young gentn), coming over with Bates by this same Steamer, will deliver you a Note from me,—smile upon him.