The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO OCTAVIAN BLEWITT ; 6 March 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530306-TC-OB-01; CL 28: 64-66


To Mr Blewitt.

Dear Sir,—This was written yesterday for the use of Dickens, in the case of Maccall,—keeping the name veiled under the cover “B. D.” I did not send it to Mr Dickens, having in the interim decided to go at once to yourself. After that comfortable interview, I need not send it to D.; yet it seems not fit for direct presentation to the Committee,—wherefore it must go, if not into the fire, then to you, to present what of it you like. I also enclose D's Letter to me, which please return.1

6 March 1853—T. Carlyle2


Case of B.D. (in reference to Literary Fund)

Educated at Glasgow University, then at Geneva; became a Unitarian Clergyman, first in the North of England then in the South,—distinguishing himself by high moral conduct, vehement sincerity of character, and a great turn for abstruse and independent philosophical speculation. Outgrew the Unitarian Theorem of Things; and had, doubtless after much internal struggle, but in obedience to conscience and higher calls, to quit his Congregation and Profession,—perhaps about ten years ago,—on the vague outlook of making Literature suffice for his objects. He had already published various little Books (small Pamphlets rather) in the Country; some of which I have seen: all are on Theologico-moral subjects, or rather on one such subject taken up on various sides (which is B. D.'s great idea and text in this world),—earnest shrill-voiced Pieces, full of heroic conviction, and indicating no inconsiderable faculty of original thought, but quite unlikely to find general audience from the public. B.D. had wedded while in the North of England; had, and has still, one Child, and an excellent thrifty courageous wife prepared to front all kinds of fortune with him.

B.D.'s history during these ten years has been one continuous silently indignant struggle against a world of contradiction, unenlivened by any victory, or promise of victory. He has written a great many things, not only on his old subjects, but on more popular ones (Literary Biographies &c in magazines and other Periodicals); and has been faithful, ardently prompt and zealous, in whatever he could get to do: his talents too are intrinsically very considerable for writing; and one feels that he well deserves a hearing from his contemporaries, but also alas that he has little chance to get one for those little Books of his, and the high-soaring Theologies and Martyr Heroisms that are in them. One of the truest men, but thin-skinned, “shrill-voiced” (as I said), wrapt up in shy reserves: steeped in poverty and ill-success, and yet with a pride in him (as I can see, tho' perhaps he cannot) equal to the pride of emperors, or of gods,—these are a distressing set of contradictions for a man! A small perceptible vein of humour is the most genial feature of B.D.; bitter as absynth, as wormwood; but clear and wholesome, and flavouring agreeably, in that manner, the austere truths and clear judgments one gets from him on men and things. Such is B.D.

He has endured, on his own resources, silently, and really with a manful dignity, the narrowest condition of finance, ever since he adopted this Literary course of life. I believe he has, for most part, still had some kind of slight connexion with his old business,—preaching occasionally to some small audience, here or there, of the least tight laced Unitarian species;—otherwise he could not have lived by his earnings in writing.

Within the last two years I saw less of him than usual, but perceived that he was going on his course at a swifter rate, and getting more impetuously determined than ever. He laboured incessantly, in small Periodicals &c &c, with a prodigal excess (as I now find), and would not and could not stop; till at last, some months ago, he broke down into Brain-fever of the most alarming kind;—and is now in utter weakness; and lost, if he cannot get rest and help. I believe he contemplates abandoning the business of writing, and wishes to resume in some form his old business of speaking, as “lecturing,” or the like—which probably is a judicious notion.

These are the main features of B.D.'s case, correctly true, so far as I can give them: you can now tell me whether it is suitable to the Literary Fund; and above all (for this is the essential point for the poor & proud B.D.) whether there is not danger of being refused on applying?

T. Carlyle

4 March, 1853—