August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 2 June 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580602-TC-RWE-01; CL 33: 231-234


Chelsea, 2 june, 1858—

Dear Emerson,

Glad indeed I am to hear of you on any terms, on any subject!1 For the last 18 months I have pretty much ceased all human correspondence,—writing no Note that was not in a sense wrung from me; my one society the Nightmares (Prussian and other) all this while:—but often and often the image of you, and the thought of old days between us, has risen sad upon me; and I have waited to get loose from the Nightmares to appeal to you again, to edacious Time and you. Most likely in a couple of weeks you wd have heard from me again at any rate.— Your friends shall be welcome to me; no friend of yours can be other at any time. Nor in fact did anybody ever sent by you prove other than pleasant in this house; so pray no apologies on that small score.— If only these Cincinnati Patricians2 can find me here when they come? For I am off to the deepest solitudes discoverable (native Scotland probably) so soon as I can shake the final tag-rags of Printer people off me;—“surely within three weeks now!” I say to myself. But I shall be back, too, if all prosper; and your Longworthys3 will be back; and Madam will stand to her point, I hope.

That Book on Friedrich of Prussia,—first half of it, two swoln unlovely volumes, which treat mainly of his Father &c, and leave him at his Accession, is just getting out of my hands. One packet more of Proofs, and I have done with it,—thanks to all the gods! No job approaching in ugliness to it was ever cut out for me; nor had I any motive to go on, except the sad negative one, “Shall we be beaten in our old days, then?”— But it has thoroughly humbled me,—trampled me down into the mud, there to wrestle with the accumulated Stupidities of Mankind, German, English, French and other, for all have borne a hand in these sad centuries;—and here I emerge at last, not killed, but almost as good. Seek not to look at the Book,—nay in fact it is “not to be published till Septr” (so the man of affairs settles with me yesterday, “owing to the political &c, to the season” &c); my only stipulation was that in ten days I shd be utterly out of it,—not to hear of it again till the Day of Judgment, and if possible not even then!— In fact it is a bad Book, poor, misshapen, feeble, nearly worthless (thanks to past generations and to me); and my one excuse is, I could not make it better, all the world having played such a game with it. Well, well!— — How true is that that you say about the Skater; and the writer too depending on his vehicles, on his roads, on his etceteras!4 Dismally true have I a thousand times felt it, in these late operations; never in any so much. And in short the business of writing has altogether become contemptible to me; and I am become confirmed in the notion that nobody ought to write,—unless sheer Fate force him to do it;—and then he ought (if not of the mountebank genus) to beg to be shot rather. That is deliberately my opinion, or far nearer it than you will believe.

Once or twice I caught some tone of you in some American Magazine:5 utterances highly noteworthy to me; in a sense, the only thing that is speech at all among my fellow-creatures in this time. For the years that remain, I suppose we must continue to grumble out some occasional utterance of that kind: what can we do at this late stage? But in the real “Model Republic,”6 it wd have been different with two good boys of this kind!—

tho' shattered and trampled down to an immense degree, I do not think any bones are broken yet,—tho' age truly is here, and you may engage your berth in the Steamer whenever you like7 In few months I expect to be sensibly improved: but my poor Wife suffers sadly the last two winters; and I am much distressed by that item of our affairs. Adieu, dear Emerson: I have lost many things; Let me not lose you till I must in some way! Yours Ever T. Carlyle

If you read the Newspapers (which I carefully abstain from doing) they will babble to you about Dickens: “Separation from Wife” &c &c: fact of Separatn (Lawyer's Deed &c) I believe is true; but all the rest is mere lies and nonsense. No crime or misdemeanor specifiable on either side: unhappy together these good many years past, and they at length end it.8— — Sulzer said, — — “men are by nature good.” “Ach, mein lieber Sulzer, Erkennt nicht diese verdammte Race [Ah, my dear Sulzer, you do not know this damned race]!” ejaculated Fritz, at hearing such an axiom.9