January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO GUSTAVE D'EICHTHAL; 17 May 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310517-TC-GE-01; CL 5:276-280.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 17th May, 1831—

My Dear Sir,

Your Letter of the 27th April,1 which arrived here some days ago, demands my thanks, and a speedy answer. Memorials of your regard, in two successive packets of Saint-Simonian Publications, containing Organisateurs, the First Year of your Exposition, with other miscellaneous sheets, had already reached me: these I failed not to examine with attention. A new packet, of somewhat similar contents, is now announced as on its way from London: this also shall not want at least one considerate reader.2

To find myself in friendly relation towards men of intelligence and devout mind, with whom or with the like of whom alone is friendship and fellowship possible, cannot be other than gratifying. To see a little Brotherhood of such men, strong in Faith, uniting itself as a forlorn hope in the Good fight, and heroically, with such weapons and tactics as it has, making front against the boundless armaments of Evil,—this is a spectacle full of significance, perhaps of pathetic beauty, for all good men. Allow me also to remark, with pleasant surprise how it chances that I, who have here the honour to correspond with you on public grounds, am already privately connected with you; that my former Pupil, Charles Buller,3 is your personal acquaintance; nay, still stranger, that my Brother, whom you will see in London, was for a whole year the guest of your late worthy Uncle, the Baron von Eichthal, at Munich, of whom I too had some direct friendly knowledge. In all which relations, public and private, be welcome to me!

You require information of my actual position towards your Society, what I think of its Doctrines, Prospects, Procedure. On this subject it were fruitless to attempt explaining myself with any precision: for these many months I have glanced occasionally, or steadfastly looked, at the new Phenomenon, in a most composite mood; with approval, curiosity, anxiety; wherein wonder is still far more decided than clearness of judgement. To write the little that I know of you, and the much that I desire to know, would fill not one but many Letters.

I may say, with great sincerity, that my respect for your Brethren and Chiefs, personally considered, has not diminished but increased, on closer survey; that I discern in you men of clear intellectual insight, of decisive character, animated with a noble zeal which enlightens as well as inflames; men to whom, in any case, all generous hearts must feel a certain brotherhood. Farther, I may say that your speculative opinions, political, moral, philosophical, for most part carry their own evidence, and find hearty assent with me: often, indeed, I discern therein only a more decisive systematic exposition of what I had already gathered elsewhere. Especially important I reckon your delineations of our actual No-Society, of the Critical and the Organic alternation in man's history; your strongly emphatic precept of our duty towards the Poor; which, properly speaking, is but the old duty of Love, of Mercy towards the weak, whether weak by want of pecuniary or other means; and has been and must be the basis of all social Morality. Neither can it be doubted that your motto and maxim, To each according to his capacity, to each capacity according to its works,4 is the aim of all true social arrangements, which are the more perfect the nearer they approach thereto. In short, were the Saint-Simonian Doctrine stated as a mere Scientific Doctrine, or held out as the Prophecy of an Ultimate Perfection towards which Society must more and more approximate,—I could with few reservations subscribe to it, and heartily agree with you that it was the duty of all men, by whatever best means they had, to forward such a consummation. Nevertheless, in one quarter, lies a might chasm, the darkness of which is still to me quite void. You call yourselves a Church, and founders of a new Religion; which Religion, permit me to confess, I hitherto seek for in vain. Far be it from me to deny you a devout, self-annihilating feeling, a recognition of God in Nature, and in all the movements of Nature, especially in Man the chief object there. Neither would I lightly undertake to define what Religion is, or speak of what is properly unspeakable. But surely in all Religions hitherto recognized, one indispensable element, and the essence of the whole, was this: Some SYMBOL or Symbolic Representation, whereby the Divinity was sensibly manifested. The Symbol may be the rudest, as in a Scandinavian Idol, an African Mumbo-jumbo; or it may be the highest, and of infinite significance, as Jesus of Nazareth, and his Life, and his Biography, and what followed therefrom: In all cases, there must some Symbol offer itself to the worshipper; for hereby alone is Imagination, the true organ of the Infinite in man, brought to harmonize with Understanding the organ of the Finite. Such Symbol, or the vestige of such, I as yet nowhere find in your Doctrine: at best there is the Prophecy also of a Religion, but still no Religion. Or if our Symbol of God is henceforth to be his own great Universe, and our Gospel the acted History of Man, then to my view is such Religion ill named the Saint-Simonian; inasmuch as it has been the Religion of all Thinkers (tho' in a far-scattered Communion) for the last half century: of Goethe, for example; in a less distinct sort, of Schiller, of Lessing, Jacobi, Herder. Alas! Of such Religion the Liturgy is still all to make; the Homilies too lie scattered widely, as poor scraps and fragments, in the Froth-ocean of what we call Literature;—whence he were a wise man that could gather, and complete them.

Nay more, in regard to this matter, I am still doubtful whether you do prudently in merely Prophecying the blessed issue, Religious and Political (which seems to be your present enterprise), when perhaps you might far better forward it by other means[.] Why keep pointing out the fair Heavenly country, which many men in all nations have already descried; when persons of such faculty as some of your exhibit might aid in furnishing us wings to reach it with, which were the harder service?

You would mistake widely, did you impute these strictures to wilful blindness, to unfriendly indifference, to anything but honest doubt, grounded to I know not what extent on want of information. I have said to myself, and still repeat: Here too are men that know and feel thro' their whole soul the grand and almost forgotten truth, Man is still Man,5 and glory in it as they ought; with such I am heartily, if not Brother in Saint-Simon or any other mortal, yet Brother in God, by whose Inspiration they and I are made to understand. Better, in an age of steam-engines, that such a sublime and to us infinitely cheering Truth, were even misapplied than altogether unknown.

On which latter ground, were it on no other, I must wish you furtherance in England; and should rejoice much to meet you there, and confer with you face to face. Unhappily the state of my engagements, and even of my economical concerns, will not authorize a journey to London for that end. Nevertheless there is a clear remedy: cannot you come hither? Any one of three stage-coaches will bring you to Dumfries in six-and-thirty hours, two hours more will place you here, in our rocky solitudes; where kindest welcome, uninterrupted converse, and such shelter and cheer as suffices a Philosopher, lie sure for you. My Wife, who knows something of your Doctrines, and can speak a little in any of your three languages,6 cordially unites in this invitation; which pray consider as by far your best method of communicating with me. Hoping that this project of ours may take effect ere long, I for the present, with all good wishes for your Brethren and their cause, remain— Faithfully Your's / T. Carlyle.

P.S. England, should you visit it at present, you will find in a state of Electioneering fermentation, such as the oldest man has not before witnessed.7 Democracy has arisen, and will never lie down again, till it has got its rights: the poor blind monster for the present fancies that Liberty lies in the Elective Franchise; that ‘by knitting its chains into festoons it will be Free’!8 In our usual state we have three grand Sects busy among us: First the Christians, a class still strong and even worthy, far beyond what they are with you, or elsewhere; among these alone is there any vestige of Religion left us; Secondly the Whig Unbelievers whose principle is Dilettantism in all kinds; Thirdly the Radical or Utilitarian Unbelievers, for whom Soul is synonymous with Stomach; an honest class, of whom is hope.

The best method of transmitting Letters is directly hither. A Letter from Paris will reach the Dumfries Post-office, at a trifling cost, and with perfect safety, in some four or five days.