January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO WILLIAM TAIT; 24 July 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300724-TC-WT-01; CL 5:125-126.


Craigenputtoch, 24th July, 1830—

My Dear Sir,

Several years ago I engaged that the first Book I had to publish, you should have the offer of it; which promise, or threat, I have now, unexpectedly enough, opportunity of fulfilling.

The Messrs Whittaker's grand scheme of a ‘Series of Literary Histories,’ in which I, after the time I saw you last, and on better terms than had then been held out, was engaged to cooperate, had fallen into such a state of stagnation, the Editor1 having even taken into electioneering, that I have altogether withdrawn from the concern; recalled my Manuscript from the Ave Maria Lane2 premises; lit my pipe (or will do so) with their Letter of engagement; and determined to publish the ‘History of German Literature,’ first enlarging it about one half, on my own foundation.

In this new state, the Book will consist of Four Volumes, each containing about 150 pages of Edinburgh-Review Letterpress; or it might be arranged in Three Volumes; or any way, for it is in Chapters and can be split up as we please. One volume is finished; the Second more than half-finished: the other two I will write before rising. It has cost me an immensity of trouble; I am anxious beyond measure to have [it] fairly off my hands, and as soon as may be. I reckon it an indifferent kind of Book, honestly enough written; combining Philosophy with popular Lightness, abundance of Facts with logical arrangement, as well as I could manage. Whether it is likely to be wanted in the market at this time; especially, whether it would lie in your way, how much it would be worth to you in that case, when you could publish it, and so forth; these are all questions which I now propose for your consideration, and beg for an answer to, by your earliest convenience. Deliver a Negative, with perfect freedom, if that be your mind; for I should grieve much to involve you in any losing speculation; and the Book, which I will finish, go as it may, can lie in my drawer here, and need no board wages.

Neither, on the other hand, must I hide from you, that at this moment, I could not make a bargain with you straightfoward; not till I have discussed another claim and negociation on the same subject from an Editorial Gentleman in the South;3 whom, however, I expect to hear from in a few days. I will say farther that my past experience of your punctuality and integrity, will induce me, whatever offer he may make, to give your offer a very considerable additional weight in my comparison.— This, it appears to me, is the whole history of the matter as it yet stands; to which let me again beg your attention and speedy answer.

I am in great haste tonight; otherwise I would have thanked you for the welcome volumes you lent me and gave me long ago: they are all safe here, and read, and will be returned, such of them as are to return, by the first parcel I send to Edinr, which duty, for it is now becoming such, I mean to do soon.

Another project of publication I give you to consider at your leisure: a reprinting namely of the principal things I have written in the Edinr and Foreign Reviews; remodelled, added to &c, and hammered into a sort of unity, whereby they might stand together in some volume, or two volumes, under a common Title, and without blushing for one another. I have this project also from London; but had much rather do it myself in Edinburgh: however, as I said, it can wait: it is only the other that presses for execution.

Expecting to hear from you soon,

I remain, / My Dear Sir, / Very truly Your's, /

Thomas Carlyle—

Would you save me the trouble of a Letter and Postage, by sending over one of your Boys to Mr Aitken4 (Messrs Bell & Bradfute's, Bank-street) with this message: that Mr Aitken is requested to be so good as send off for me whatever Books, &c he may have, by the Dumfries Mail of Tuesday Night; especially a small Roll, or Parcel, which contains a Print we have been long anxious to see, and which probably is all he has.— Do this, if you please, and excuse the trouble I give you.——