1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JAMES HUTCHISON STIRLING; 18 January 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540118-TC-JHS-01; CL 29: 23-24


Chelsea, London, 18 jany 1854.

My dear Sir,

I have read your little Essay on Cholera;1 and find it a very superior piece indeed. Lucid, ingenious, deep and true; everywhere intelligible, everywhere credible to me: it is by far the best account I ever got of that strange and haggard phenomenon; concerning which, indeed, a great deal of impotent nonsense has been uttered in the world, and “common sense,” I fear, has been much of a rarity.— Your little Pamphlet abounds, moreover, in fine and good ideas that are not strictly of a technical nature at all; and everywhere there come reflexes and irradiations from a general system of thought, philosophical as well as medical, which I much approve of, and which greatly distinguish you on such an occasion. You will do well, as leisure may be offered you, as possibility may be offered, to elaborate those notions; and set them forth, in practical application, to the view of the medical and general public. Too widely circulated, too thoroughly believed, they cannot be, at present. The real Physician, I believe,—were there but such an Animal discoverable,—is the the real Moralist withal of these epochs. How often have I reflected on that bit of old Teutonic Etymology, that “Healthy” is, in origin, identical with “Holy.” Gott der Heilige (God the Holy) signifies precisely God the Healthy too;—and ought ever so to signify, far as we have deviated, and sadly (into bottomless abominable quagmires and cloacas) since that true epoch! Do not neglect your word in season, if the opportunity is given you.

I have been in many humours, and in many places, ideal and real, since the time I saw you here! You also appear to have had your changes: I wish you had spent a word or two in explaining to me what combination of winds and tides had drifted you into the harbour of St Malo, and what you were specially doing there.2 I could guess: some body of English Industrials, to whom an English Doctor had seemed necessary?— Some years ago, I was one day at your old quarters, Merthyr Tydvil:3 a place never to be forgotten when once seen. The blackest place above ground; I suppose, the Non-plus-ultra of Industrialism wholly mammonish, given up to shopkeeper supply-and-demand;—presided over by sooty Darkness physical and spiritual, by Beer, Methodism and the Devil, to a lamentable and supreme extent!— — I have no more time, nor any more paper: I remain always,

Yours truly, /

T. Carlyle