The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO LADY BULWER LYTTON; 7 January 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510107-TC-LBL-01; CL 26: 9-12


Chelsea, 7 jany, 1851—

Dear Madam,

I have been at two Booksellers about your Mss.1 Moxon, a discreet judicious kind of man, of cautious habits, could himself (as indeed I had expected) do nothing with the work; but he gave me his best counsel in regard to it, and engaged, for the rest, to observe strict silence, and at least do no harm in these sad affairs, if he could be of no benefit. Which, alas, seems nearly all that any of us can engage with confidence to do!

To Chapman & Hall, who are Sir E.'s Publishers, it was clear, I must not in any way apply. From Schoberl, I found, there would ultimately no money be got,—the man himself having none. Newby, and others whom I forget, my oracle spoke of as dry sources for various reasons,—useless to apply to. In short he could bethink him of no Publishing House in the least likely, except that of Smith Elder & Co,—respectable people whom I do not myself know, but could have access to, if need were. He agreed with me, however, in the persuasion that I could intrinsically do the Book no good; that it would stand or fall on its own merits, and suitableness for the market; he added too that the present was “a bad season for novels” &c &c, as is the wont of that kind of persons. On the whole he seemed to think that the best chance of money for the Book would be in publishing it at first piecemeal in a Magazine, out of which it could be collected afterwards if there seemed a farther chance of sale. On this last hint, such as it was, I have proceeded, with due caution, a step farther; step capable of being retraced, if your own view be disinclined to it. I went yesterday to Parker of Fraser's Magazine; proposed the Novel to him; describing it as by a Lady of rank, and of such and such a quality and tenor: Parker, a quick clever little fellow, and of honourable correct habits in business, did not absolutely say No; was already “engaged with an Autobiography for three months to come”; spoke of the free flowing pen of women, and the necessity of correcting and here and there cu[rt]ailing them (all this in a cheerful polite fashion);—on the whole gave me no absolute hope of succeeding with him; but wished, as the preliminary of all things, to see the Mss. On this I engaged “to consult the lady, and send him answer of yes or no, in a day or two”: and there the matter, till your decision come, is resting. Pr does not the least seek to know the name, at present; but, before deciding to publish, his rule is that He must know it, the work may still be anonymous to the world, or not, as is judged best.— This is all the length we have yet gone. If you instruct me to send Pr the Mss, he shall have it, and will return it without much delay. Or would you rather have it kept out of his hand, and reserved for its destinies in another direction? I think he at least could do it no ill. But pray let me know what your will is, and it shall be followed.

My Wife is nearly thro' the Mss, the conclusion of which you send today; she has read me passages as she went along: a friendly critic you have in her; and one whose judgement I have learned to trust before my own in regard to such matters. She reports that the Book is of loose structure, not setting up to have much of a story, or any romance interest; that it will require correction before printing, and would be decidedly improved by curtailment (especially from before the middle of the First to past the middle of the Second Volume, which seems to be the weak part of the work);—for the rest that it is brisk, lively, wholesome and agreeable reading; a fresh vigorous spirit of observation looking thro' it, and a great variety of sound and practically useful benefits and remarks turning up, as the cheery life-like delineation of affairs goes on:—in short a work very fit to maintain its place among such rivals as it has: a strong and clever woman's work, who has done it in great haste: that I suppose to be really something like the verdict. Perhaps if Parker will have it, he were the best vehicle? We have still Smith Elder & Cy; and whatever hope may be in them, be it great or little, I am willing to exhaust, either at this or at a subsequent stage of the affair: after which there is not definitely clear to me anything farther that I can do.

You perceive, dear Madam, how poor my program is, and what a sorry horoscope the best I can offer of this affair is. I judge it kinder as well as more honest to give it you without embellishment or extenuation: the bare fact, tho' we paint it an inch thick,2 will come bare upon us at last. My vague sad guess is, there can little money be got for this Book; if £150, or £200 or even £100, it will seem to me not surprising: and, alas, I am too well aware how bitterly inadequate such a sum is to give any effectual help in your situation.

I at no time thought of applying to Sir Ed to let you have fair play in your literary endeavours; nor indeed have I acquaintance-ship or other imaginable authority for applying to him (without transcendent impertinence) on any branch of this truly miserable business. But I confess, from the first time I saw you, my one notion of any effectual help for you was in the possibility of his being advised to increase your income; and I felt that, had I been his intimate, I would with emphasis have represented to him how seemly such a step on his part would be,—nay how much it behoved him, whatever his provocation against you was, to do this act at once of generosity and justice, an honourable and blessed action still possible in the tragic ruin which all the rest was!— Falling in with Sir F. Doyle,3 I cautiously ventured to speak with him of your affairs; found him participate in my feelings to the full;—and am heartily glad that he has been awakened to friendly activity in them. I saw him again on Sunday; and cannot forbear the hope that some good may result from this interference of his,—which I earnestly beg you to second with all the powers of goodness, passive or active, that are in your exasperated and heavy-laden heart: for I assure you, dear Madam, there does not seem to me any other outlook of help for you worth comparing to this; and Sir Francis, a man of benevolence, integrity, and good judgement, authorized by his relationship to you, is willing to try all that can be done in it. Again I entreat you to second him with your best ability. It is possible your other friends and he may actually accomplish something.

The Letter4 has lain sealed up in an Envelope since Sunday gone a week,—with a new charge and entreaty to exert all the strength of soul you have in heroically holding your peace as to those sorrowful matters!5 That is really my advice; and is just,—and not unmerciful, tho' it may see[m] so at first.

Be pleased to let me know what I am to do with Parker. Surely you shall be very welcome here whenever you please to call. There is one wish respecting you in this house, the wish which you may challenge from all honest human hearts, That we knew how to help you in any measure, or to pacify those sad miseries which has made such havock in your life and you.

Believe me / Dear Madam, / Yours sincerely / T. Carlyle.

I am to return you many thanks for the two beautiful Birds.— If when you come next to Cheyne Row, you feel any need of escort upstairs, my Wife sits below, and will duly welcome you.