October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


TC TO AN UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT ; 7 April 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570407-TC-UC-01; CL 32: 121-122


Chelsea, 7 April, 1857—

My dear Sir,

I had lost your Letter till this morning.

Being extremely occupied at this time, and not calculating that I can do any good at the London Library, I decided to leave this Election altogether alone;1 and shall probably not be in a Committee meeting at all till after this matter is ended. I went one afternoon, some weeks since, to reinforce a small minority there was, who pleaded that Bibliographic Accomplishments, as we had found by sad experience since the loss of poor Cochrane,2 were to all appearance a quality that did not really exist among Candidates (perhaps was extinct in the British Nation at present); that we ought to be content with a certain Sublibrarian we have at present, who is an excellent methodic, industrious goodnatured man, and knows the London Library by heart;3—and give up the idea of fishing out a real “Librarian” from the miscellany of the Public, till we incidentally might notice some symptom of one. This idea was not relished by the majority (among individuals of whom I could privately trace some decisive expectations directed upon yourself);—so that my whole work being done in the business, I had only to return home, and leave it till finished.

To several of your qualities, extant in a superior degree, I can myself bear witness; and it is possible, probable, the majority of the Committee will not have so strict notions of what a “knowledge of Books” means as I have;—at all events, I can well believe you are probably superior in this respect also to anything that will offer. So that I should say your chance on the whole seems good; and I believe I may promise farther that the Committee will decide bonâ fide upon such evidence of fitness as they may get,—and certainly without prejudice again[st] you, so far as I could gather that day.

I can only therefore encourage you to do your best in the way of shewing what you are; and shall hope (and believe, of you more than of another) that whatever you may want of Bibliography &c on entering on your Office, you will steadily go on acquiring till you are perfect in it. With many good wishes— Yours Sincerely,

T. Carlyle