January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO MACVEY NAPIER; 20 January 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310120-TC-MN-01; CL 5:210-212.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries 20th Jany 1831—

My Dear Sir,

This Paper on poor Taylor being finished, I may as well send it off.1 I have studied to conform to your directions in one important point at least, in length; tho' having been sore afflicted all the way with bad pens, I have written in irregular style, and know not quite accurately how much there is.

And now I will pray that the next subject you give me may be an English one, at least no German one. On that last business I have said enough for a year or two; and innumerable men, women, and children have taken it up; who must see the surface clearly, and know that there is a depth, before you can help to show them what it is. I greatly approved of your friend Empson's acknowledgement that Faust was a wonderful Poem, and Lord Leveson Gower a Windbag: only he led h[im] far too gently over the coals; he should have roasted him there, and made him not Leveson but a cinder.2 It is positively the nearest approach we can make to sacrilege in these days for a vain young man not knowing his right hand from his left to take an inspired work, like this of Goethe's, and mangle it into such an unspeakable hash. Let it either be overlooked; or punished by Auto da fe.

I once proposed to Mr Jeffrey to make a sort of sally on Fashionable Novels: but he misunderstood me; thought I meant to criticise them; and so the matter dropt for the time. The Pelham-and-Devereux manufacture is a sort of thing which ought to be extinguished in British Literature;3 at least, some once in the half century, a British reviewer ought to rise up and declare it extinguishable, and prophecy its extinction. But I fear my zeal has somewhat cooled; and perhaps the better method of attack were not to batter but to undermine. The English Aristocracy have as much need of instruction as Swing himself.4

A far finer Essay were a faithful, loving, and yet critical and in part condemnatory delineation of Jeremy Bentham5 and his place and working in this section of the world's History. Bentham will not be put down by Logic, and should not be put down, for we need him greatly as a Back-woods-man: neither can reconciliation be effected till the one party understands and is just to the other. Bentham is a Denyer, he denies with a loud and universally convincing voice: his fault is that he can affirm nothing, except that money is pleasant in the purse and food in the stomach, and that by this simplest of all Beliefs he can reorganise Society. He can shatter it in pieces; no thanks to him, for its old fastenings are quite rotten: but he cannot reorganise it; this is work for quite others than he.— Such an Essay on Bentham, however, were a great task for anyone; for me a very great one, and perhaps rather out of my road.

My Brother speaks of preparing some little Paper or other to submit to you. Should this take effect, I dare promise that you will look at the performance, and even report that it will not do, or that it will do; but shall farther beg you to understand with all distinctness that you need stand on no ceremony; that I should never see the Paper, except in print, and above all, in matters of that kind, can have no friend and no enemy. However, John's resolutions are no decrees of fate: perhaps such a contingency may never arrive.

This Parcel of Books I trouble you with, to save carriage; the rather as they are borrowed. A porter can carry them over; the Letter can go by the Penny Post.

Hoping to hear from you by and by, / I remain, / My Dear Sir, / Faithfully Your's

Thomas Carlyle.