The Collected Letters, Volume 4


EDWARD IRVING TO THOMAS CHALMERS; 15 September 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270900-EI-TCH-01; CL 4:e10.


6 Brown's buildings Norwood by London [mid-September 1827]

My Dear and Honoured Friend …

The thing which occasions my writing at present is as follows: My friend Thomas Carlyle whom the world now knows as the author of several works connected with Literature wrote me concerning a purpose which he had of applying either for the Moral Philosophy or Rhetoric Chair in the London University. In reply to which I wrote to him mentioning in confidence how you had been entreated to accept the former, and explaining to him how vain it was for any other man living to enter into any competition with you, set as the Directors were upon you, and all-interested in your acceptance of it. But nothing of this kind was necessary to determine him: for the moment he heard of your name being before the Directors, he resigned all thought of presenting him: and began to prosecute enquiries by the help of his friend Mr Jeffrey concerning the Chair of Rhetoric: in the pursuit of which certain things came to his knowledge which led him to believe that you had given a formal refusal to their application, and at the same time he found the sphere of the Rhetoric Chair so narrowed & circumscribed in the idea of the directors, as to lead him greatly to prefer the other, if it was open to his pursuit. But being unwilling to take any measures whatever until he shall have ascertained exactly the ground which you occupy at present, he has requested me to write to you which I also was willing and indeed offered to do, in order to have from yourself the information direct. Would you be kind enough to let me know by return of Post: for it would seem in the Month of November the Professorships are all to be appointed to. Be assured that I will make no improper use of the information which you are pleased to communicate to me.

My feelings towards Thomas Carlyle are exactly such as your feelings are towards Mr Jeffrey with whom he takes counsel in this matter. I trust and pray that the Lord would open his eyes to the beauty and all-suffering which is on the face of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And I hope the Lord is leading him in that way. He has a very deep feeling of “what is true and honest and pure and lovely and of good report”;1 and I think he has a right idea of “Wisdom”: but it has not yet pleased the Lord to bring him to that condition of ‘the babe’ to whom it [is] his will that the things of Christ should be revealed.2 What a mystery, Dear Doctor, that is of the great Counsel of Eternity, to bereave the glory of the human understanding by the foolishness of preaching, that no flesh should glory in his presence.3 And how needful for an intellect like yours to bear it in even mind. For myself I ever pray to be enabled “so to receive that I may be worthy to understand; so to believe that understanding may come as the reward of my faith.” My Dear friend Carlyle is making approaches to this ground but hath not yet been permitted to stand firmly upon it. And being conscious with myself that he is an enemy of all unrighteousness, and of all those who profane the holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and set at naught his Holy Gospel, I feel that he is of that class “who are not against us and therefore for us.”4 For if I thought that he was to oppose in any thing the name of Christ I durst not upon my fealty to my Sovereign Lord give him any encouragement, in any way, remembering the word of the blessed Apostle “that we should not bid such God-speed”5 But feeling on the other hand convinced that he is a proper person to reclaim the rage of those disputers of this world who would cast off the bonds of our God and his Church, and so lead man into other views of truth. I feel very desirous that he might succeed in this object, and should augur[?] better for[?] his success than of any other Moralist of the School of Stewart and Reid or even Locke,6 and I can find no one except “our old Coleridge” who goes higher. …

Your affectionate Friend & Brother / Edward Irving