October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 16 February 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320216-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:119-128.


4. Ampton Street, London, 16th Feby, 1832—

My Dear Brother,

I was gratified with your Letter of the 27th January, on Tuesday; and do not miss a post in answering it, the rather as there will be at any rate some disappointment about Mr Burrell's Books, Saunders & Otley whom I went and called upon directly, having, as they said, “declined the order.” Happily the Packets still sail, and of them we can take advantage.1 My Letters, it appears, had all reached you but one:2 an unhappy one, conveying tidings which would knell solemnly against your heart, that our dear Father was no more. This last mournful Letter I wrote I think on the 25th of January; gave it to Jeffrey, to be by him forwarded thro' the Foreign Office, as the Post had so often baulked me: and, as he did actually send it thither, probably enough it may be already in your hands. Lest new delays may have occurred, I repeat that doleful message, which was all it contained. Let me add too that the stroke was merciful every way; our dear Father had scarcely any sickness; died like a just man, as he had lived; and left nothing but holy remembrances behind him. For myself, so soon as the news reached me (on the 24th; the event had occurred on the morning of Sunday the 22nd) I shut myself up from all business or worldly intrusion; and spent the remainder of the time till after the Funeral in solemn converse with the Departed: and, indeed, can now say that these days were the only Sabbath I have had since I came hither: pure, holy days, in which the Earth with its vanities seemed to lie under my feet, and the purified spirit of the Dead seem[ed] almost to live again in me, and thro' Time I could see glimmerings of Eternity. If this, my dear Brother, is your first intimation of the event, I must again grieve for you; but will also bid you meet your grief in the spirit of meekness, and religious submission; we poor mortals have no other armour. I wrote copiously twice to our Mother: a Letter has since come (only the other day) full of composure and peace: the survivors, our Mother in particular, are all well; and knit the closer for this breach among them: Jamie, it seems, as I had partly advised him, makes worship regularly in the household; Alick had promised to do the like in his: John of Cockermouth3 parted from them at Burnfoot, exhorting them with affectionate tears in his eyes to live all united as they had heretofore done, and mindful and worthy of the true man whose name they bore. Thus has the scene in mild solemnity closed.— When the news first reached me, I sat silent some minutes, the word “τελοσ [The end]!” pealing mournfully thro' my heart; till at length tears and sobs gave me relief. Death has long been hourly present with me; I have long learned to look upon it as properly the beginning of Life: its dark curtain grows more and more transparent; the Departed I think are only hidden, they are still here: both they and we, as I often repeat, “are with God.”— I wrote down, in my Notebook, all that I could remember as remarkable about my Father;4 his Life grew wonderfully clear to me, almost like the first stage of my own; I had great peace and satisfaction in thinking of him. Let us, in our wider sphere, live worthy of a Father so true and brave: hope too that in some inscrutable way an Eternal Reunion is appointed us, for “with God nothing is impossible”;5 at all events that “He will do all things well”: therein lies the anchorage that cannot prove deceitful.— And now let us live for the Living.6

Your last Letter seemed to me the best I had ever got from you; perhaps among the best I had ever got from any one. There is so much heartiness and earnestness; the image of a mind honestly deeply labouring, in a healthy and genuine position towards Nature and Men. Continue in that right mood, strive unweariedly, and all that is yet wanting will be given you. I rejoice from the heart to see that the good augury I have always made and uttered of you is pointing decisively towards fulfilment. Go on, and prosper! Klarheit, Reinheit; “im Ganzen, Guten, wahren resolut zu leben” [Clarity, purity; “to live resolutely a whole, good, and true life”]:7 this is all that man wants on Earth; ever as of old “the one thing needful.” Well do I understand, my dear Brother, those thoughts of yours on the Pincian Hill:8 they tore my inward man in pieces for long years, and literally wellnigh put an end to my life; till by Heaven's great grace, I got the victory over them, nay changed them into precious everlasting possessions. I wish you could have read my Book at this time; for it turns precisely (in its way) on these very matters: in the Paper “Characteristics” also some of my lastest [sic] experiences and insights are recorded; these I still hope you will soon see. Meanwhile be not for a moment discouraged, for the victory is certain, if you desire it honestly: neither imagine that it is by forgetting such high questions that you are to have them answered. Unless one is an animal they cannot be forgotten. This also, however, is true, that Logic will never resolve such things; the instinct of Logic is to say No. Remember always that the deepest Truth, the truest of all, is actually “unspeakable,” cannot be argued of, dwells far below the region of articulate demonstration; it must be felt by trial and indubitable direct experience, then is it known once and forever. I wish I could have speech of you from time to time: perhaps I might disentangle some things for you: yet after all, the victory must be gained by oneself: “Dir auch gelingt es Dich durchzuarbeiten [You are also succeeding in working your way through].” I will here only mention a practical maxim or two which I have found of chief advantage, and can desire you to meditate upon intensely till they have acquired meaning for meaning they have in very deed, as you will find more and more. First I would have you know this: “Doubt of any sort can only be removed by Action.” But what to act on? you cry. I answer again in the words of Goethe: “Do the Duty which liest nearest”; Do it (not merely pretend to have done it); the next Duty will already have become clear to thee.9 There is great truth here; in fact it is my opinion that he who (by whatever means) has once seen into the infinite nature of Duty, has seen all that costs difficulty: the universe has then become a Temple for him, and the Divinity and all the divine things thereof will infallibly become revealed. To the same purpose is this saying: die hohe Bedeutung des Entsagens [the sublime meaning of renunciation]. Once understand Entsagen [renunciation], then Life eigentlich beginnt [actually begins].10 You may also meditate on these words: “the divine depth of Sorrow”; “the Sanctuary of Sorrow”:11 to me they have been full of significance.— But on the whole, dear Brother, study to clear your heart from all selfish Desire, that Freewill may arise and reign absolute in you; true vision lies in thy heart, it is by this that the eye sees, or forever only fancies that it sees. “Do the Duty” that lies there, clear, at hand!— I must not spend your whole sheet in preaching, and will add only this other precept, which I find more important every day I live: Avoid all idle, untrue Talk, as you would the Pestilence! It is the curse and all-deforming, all-choking Leprosy of these days.—— As for your medical relation I can see nothing in it but what is hopeful, praise-worthy. Here as everywhere, “do your Duty,” meekly, bravely: be actually and in heart zealous to help the help-needing and to all appearance excellent person that looks to you for help, and assuredly you will help her. Is not genuine sympathy already the best help?12 For health of mind, I have the clearest belief that there is none, except in this, which I have even now been inculcating on you: Action; religious Action. If the mind is cultivated, and cannot take in Religion by the old vehicle, a new one must be striven after—in this point of view, German Literature is quite priceless: I never cease to thank Heaven for such men as Richter, Schiller, Goethe; the latter especially was my Evangelist; his works if you study them with true earnestness are as the dayspring visiting us in the dark Night. Perhaps Lady Clare may profit much by them: only keep away all Dilettantism[;] sweep it out of being, this is no world for it, this is no Revelation of a world for it. Among Goethe's admirers here I find no one possessed of almost the smallest feeling of what lies in him: they have eyes but see not,13 hearts but understand not; as indeed the whole world almost has. “Let them go their way; do thou go thine.” I have now done.—

As for us here, we are making ready as fast as may be for getting home. The events in Annandale, as well as Jane's health (rather improving still, yet nowise right) induce us to resolve on going direct home by Liverpool: I will go to Edinburgh afterwards myself. If you write after the middle of March, it will be safer to direct to Craigenputtoch[.] We are about hiring a servant (thro' Mrs Welsh) to be ready for us on the first of April. We shall go to Annan and Scotsbrig first. Craigenph we understand to be deserted by Alick and his wife ere this; and Betty Smeal to be keeping it for us. Alick a[nd] Jenny had got some apartment in the Catlinns house, and were going thither at Candlemas. The Farm lies contiguous to Sloda-Hill (which you and I know); the manager of it is one of the Hillside Stewarts, the Proprietor “an old Lady”: this is all I have yet learned about it. Robert Clow is engaged as ploughman: I expect every day to hear from Alick, and have expected for some time. At Scotsbrig, I should have mentioned, all worldly concerns had been settled above a year before; and so occasioned no difficulty.— The thing that chiefly occupies me at present is the writing of a Paper on Johnson: it is mostly on paper, but confused; it is of the extemporaneous sort you have so often recommended: I mean to offer it to Fraser, having first written it not as he likes, but as I like. One has no other resource. Lytton Bulwer (whom I have never met yet) is a Dandy, and his Publishers are Knaves, nearly ruined too:14 Fraser's people, with the single exception of William Fraser, are wretched half-men little better, and even less esteemed, than Dandies; Fraser himself honest tho' wooden, perhaps the worthiest creature in the Trade here. So this is the way I have adjusted myself: I say, will you on your Dog's carrion-cart take this “Article” of mine, and sell it unchanged? With the Carrion-cart itself I have and can have no personal concern. For Fraser I am partly bound as to this piece on Johnson: Bulwer if he want anything on similar terms, and I feel unoccupied, he shall have it; otherwise not.

He is Editor; and trumpeted abroad as such in a disgusting way. With Teufel I have done nothing more; and see not what I can, Trade being still utterly stagnant. Indeed, my theory begins to be that Bookselling is by and by to work itself into a quite new form, and is at present in the agonies of death-birth, as so much else is. If I see meet, I may perhaps slit up poor Dreck into Articles for Tait of Edinburgh, who is actually about getting out a radical Magazine15 and sounds vehement note of preparation. Poor Tait! he knows not what he does. For the present I have employment enough and to spare; even independent of Lardner (with whom I have not yet signed, but am ready to do so, and indifferent whether or not) the whole summer is full. Napier seems to be on the best terms with me; has not altered a single letter of my last piece, and wholly behaves well. Even if neither Fraser nor Bulwer will take my Johnson (some £30 worth) I can carry it home with me, and still do.— As to the “Characteristics,” it has prospered better than I could have expected, and goes not without a response from various quarters: I have a separate copy of it here for you; and if the Foreign Office will take such a weight, mean to despatch it soon. William Fraser has power there, and volunteers for your sake and mine. I may mention finally a rather foolish thing: poor James Fraser came hither some two weeks ago to ask me if I would “sit to his Artist”:16 after humming and ha'ing sufficient, I have been there, and am drawn, in foolish attitude (leaning on elbow, it was of his choosing), at full length, and as I thought with little or no resemblance: except in the hair, coat, and boots. (Do you ever go among the Roman Artists? Is Thorwaldsen17 there? I saw a Book the other night “Meo Paccata,” full of genial figures by one Pinelli;18 Rome was farther brought near to me by the München Lithographs of one Gail.19 the Forum and the Tiber Bridge I still see; the former a sort of wondrous “cabbage-close.”) My attitude towards literary London is almost exactly what I could wish: great respect, even love from some few; much matter of thought given me for instruction and high edification by the very baseness and ignorance of the many. I have never seen Fonblanque again (for he is still lame), but have had messages, and mean to go one day: he is among the best, if not the very best of the set. W. Fraser with his wife has come to town, and seems growing in strength: a good creature, were he not so unpunctual. I dined at Magazine Fraser[']s some five weeks ago: saw Lockhart, Galt, Cunningham, Hogg: G. has since sent me a Book (new, and worth little)[;] he is a broad gawsie Greenock man, old-growing, loveable with pity: L. a dandiacal not without force, but barren and unfruitful; Hogg utterly a singing Goose, whom also I pitied and loved. The conversation was about the basest I ever assisted in. The Scotch here afterwards got up a brutish thing by way of “Burns's Dinner,” which has since been called the “Hogg Dinner”; to the number of 500: famished Gluttony, Quackery and Stupidity were the elements of the work, which has been laughed at much. Enough now of “Literary Life.”— To Goethe I am in debt, and have been since before you left us: I will write before I leave. Crabbe Robinson has found me out with copious anecdotes of him, and indeed of all things: he is last from Rome, very communicative, and strangely respectful.— The Montagues live far from us: both Jane and the noble Lady seem to have seen each other, and found that an interview once in the six weeks was enough. I have been there some thrice since you went: Procter regards me as a proud Mystic; I him (mostly) as a worn-out Dud: so we walk on separate roads. The other Montagues are mostly mere simulacra, and not edifying ones. Peace be to all such.20— Enough, however, my dear Brother, for this day: I will add a word or two tomorrow before post time. I may mention only that Mrs Austin is Jane's chief friend: they are to have a whole day of it (at Southbank) next week. Of male favourites Mill stands at the top: Jeffrey from his levity a good deal lower; yet he is ever kind, and pleasant to see hopping round one. Here pause. Till we meet!


Friday morning.— I saw Irving yesternight, for the fourth time since you left us. He is still goodnatured and patient; but enveloped in the vain sound of the “Tongues”: I am glad to think that he will not go utterly mad (not madder than a Don Quixote was); but his intellect seems quietly settling into a superstitious caput mortuum; he has no longer any opinion to deliver worth listening to on any secular matter. The Chancellor can eject him, thus: It is provided by the original Deed of his Chapel that the worship there shall be that of the Established Church of Scotland: his Managers, I know, have already consulted Sugden;21 whether and how soon they may drive the question to extremities, is not to be guessed. Indeed, the whole matter is getting stale here, and is little heeded. I pity poor Irving, and cannot prophecy of him: his ‘Morning Watch’22 he gave me yesternight is simply the howling of a Bedlam.— Two St Simonians are here: G. d'Eichthal, and one Duverryer [Duveyrier]; meet with small countenance, & are to my mind, the greatest Babblers I have heard. D'Eichthal I think heartily sincere. The Sect, you may have heard, is split in two at Paris, between Enfantin & Bazard;23 the former being the more popular: several seem leaving both; the whole matter hastening towards its consummation “mit der Dummheit Kämpfen” &c— Owen also is “planting a grain of mustard seed”24 that is to be a world-truth: of what sort I know not, care not.

Tell me what is the proper full address: the present one you see is half Italian, half English: also inform me whether the Foreign Office or the Post is the better conveyance; I can in general commend either. If they will carry the Review Article, I shall consider that you are to be in Florence about the first of April, in Rome till then; and proceed accordingly— And now, dear John, Addio!— Your Brother— T. Carlyle.

They are passing Acts of Parliamt about Cholera; to feed the poor people &c &c: it is well.

The Reform Bill moves at a snail's pace; the people sick and heartless about it: the probability of an Explosion (one of these years) seems to me decidedly increasing. No new Peers are made; neither perhaps is it of any moment whether ever they be made. God guides it all: I have no other faith, or hope.—

I have seen Detrosier here: a gabbling brisk little body; fit for “Ewart's Shop”25 in Annan—for little higher, I doubt.

The Badamses are well, and regularly inquire after you: we see little of them, tho' Badams is said to be almost daily in town, working in the great Deep here, about the Mint & what not.— Arbuckle sends no tidings of himself from Liverpool; whence we infer that there is nothing comfortable to send. I agree with you about his false position at Livl.

The good Becker is not dead! The Newspaper informant has contradicted himself formally some three weeks ago, and Becker is well. I mean to write to him. We have Cholera here (within these two days) but are not alarmed at it.

Glen sen[d]s many kind regards to you, and often. He has very much the air of a Toll-werdenden [one who is about to go mad]. His whole mind is turned inwards; he knows nothing, sees nothing, but his own wild Self: a frightful I-ety [egotism], of which no man can have too little. Glen is disliked partly, and despaired of by all persons, but me. For the present he is doubtless, absurd enough.

Alick has paid your Dumfries Tailor, who was getting impatient, but had not applied to us, or that we knew of.

I write to Scotsbrig in 2 days.

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