The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 9 September 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530909-TC-RWE-01; CL 28: 263-266


Chelsea, London, 9 Septr, 1853—

Dear Emerson,

Your Letter1 came ten days ago; very kind, and however late, surely right welcome! You ought to stir yourself up a little, and actually begin to speak to me again. If we are getting old, that is no reason why we should fall silent, and entirely abstruse to one another. Alas, I do not find as I grow older that the number of articulate-speaking human souls increases around me, in proportion to the inarticulate and palavering species! I am often abundantly solitary in heart; and regret the old days when we used to speak oftener together.

I have not quitted Town this year at all; have resisted calls to Scotland both of a gay and a sad description (for the Ashburtons are gone to John of Groat's House,2 or the Scottish Thule, to rusticate & hunt; and, alas, in poor old Annandale a tragedy seems preparing for me, and the thing I have dreaded all my days is perhaps now drawing nigh, ah me!)—I felt so utterly broken and disgusted with the jangle of last year's locomotion, I judged it would be better to sit obstinately still, and let my thoughts settle (into sediment and into clearness, as it might be); and so, in spite of great and peculiar noises moreover, here I am and remain. London is not a bad place at all in these months,—with its long clean streets, green parks, and nobody in them, or nobody one has ever seen before. Out of La Trappe,3 which does not suit a Protestant man, there is perhaps no place where one can be so perfectly alone. I might study even; but, as I said, there are noises going on; a last desperate spasmodic effort of building,—a new top-story to the house, out of which is to be made one “spacious room” (so they call it, tho' it is under 20 feet square) where there shall be air ad libitum, light from the sky, and no sound, not even that of the Cremorne Cannons, shall find access to me any more! Such is the prophecy; may the gods grant it! We shall see now in about a month;—then adieu to mortar-tubs to all Eternity:—I endure the thing, meanwhile, as well as I can; might run to a certain rural retreat near by,4 if I liked at any time; but do not yet: the worst uproar here is but a trifle to that of German inns, and horrible squeaking choking railway trains; and one does not go to seek this, this is here of its own will, and for a purpose! Seriously, I had for 12 years had such a soundproof inaccessible Apartment schemed out in my head; and last year, under a poor helpless builder, had finally given it up: but Chelsea, as London generally, swelling out as if it were mad, grows every year noisier; a good builder turned up, and with a last paroxysm of enthusiasm, I set him to. My notion is, he will succeed; in which case, it will be a great possession to me for the rest of my life. Alas, this is not the kind of silence I could have coveted, and could once get,—with green fields and clear skies to accompany it! But one must take such as can be had,—and thank the gods. Even so, my friend. In the course of about a year of that garret sanctuary, I hope to have swept away much litter from my existence: in fact I am already, by dint of more obstinate quiescence in such circumstances as there are, intrinsically growing fairly sounder in nerves. What a business a poor human being has with those nerves of his, with that crazy clay tabernacle of his! Enough, enough: there will be all Eternity to rest in, as Arnauld said: “why in such a fuss, little sir?”5

You “apologise” for sending people to me:6 O you of little faith!7 Never dream of such a thing: nay, whom did you send? The Cincinnati Lecturer I had provided for with Owen;8 they would have been glad to hear him, on the Cedar forests, on the pigs making rattlesnakes into bacon, and the general adipocere questions, under any form, at the Albermarle street rooms;—and he never came to hand. As for Miss Bacon we find her, with her modest shy dignity, with her solid character and strange enterprise, a real acquisition; and hope we shall now see more of her, now that she has come nearer us to lodge. I have not in my life seen anything so tragically quixotic as her Shakspeare enterprise: alas, alas, there can be nothing but sorrow, toil, and utter disappointment in it for her! I do cheerfully what I can,—which is far more than she asks of me (for I have not seen a prouder silent soul);—but there is not the least possibility of truth in the notion she has taken up: and the hope of ever proving it, or finding the least document that countenances it, is equal to that of vanquishing the windmills by stroke of lance. I am often truly sorry about the poor lady: but she troubles nobody with her difficulties, with her theories; she must try the matter to the end, and charitable souls must further her so far.

Clough is settled in his Office;9 gets familiarized to it rapidly (he says), and seems to be doing well. I see little of him hitherto; I did not, and will not, try to influence him in his choice of Countries; but I think he is now likely to continue here, and here too he may do us some good. Of America, at least of New England, I can perceive he has brought away an altogether kindly, almost filial impression,—especially of a certain man who lives in that section of the Earth. More power to his elbow!— —Thackeray has very rarely come athwart me since his return:10 he is a big fellow, soul and body; of many gifts and qualities (particularly in the Hogarth line, with a dash of Sterne superadded),11 of enormous appetite withal, and very uncertain and chaotic in all points, except his outer breeding, which is fixed enough, and perfect according to the modern English style. I rather dread explosions in his history. A big, fierce, weeping, hungry man; not a strong one. Ay de mi!— But I must end, I must end. Your Letter awakened in me, while reading it, one mad notion. I said to myself, “Well, if I live to finish this Frederic impossibility, or even to fling it fairly into the fire, why should not I go, in my old days, and see Concord, Yankee land, and that man again, after all!”12— Adieu, dear friend; all good be with you & yours always. T. Carlyle