candlestick

October 1831-September 1833


The Collected Letters, Volume 6


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TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 16 October 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18321016-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:237-242.


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL

Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 16th October, 1832—

My Dear Mill,

You must not estimate my eagerness to hear from you by my promptitude in replying:1 I live in a region barren of great events; grudge sometimes to let ‘the present agreeable Family’2 derive any Postage from my friends for small ones. Really this latter consideration is not without influence on me: I think, were I Member of a Reformed Parliament, there should no day pass but ten Good-morrows, sure of an unmixed reception, would depart from me; and, were it possible, fifteen come in. If I have any regret in the prospect of missing my Election, this is mainly it. In the actual case, moreover, before the projected time of your return from Cornwall had passed, I was over head and ears anew in Scribbling; a business that almost drives me distracted, at least that I cannot bear to interrupt. Late last night I finished;3 and now, you see, this morning I am with you.

Your Letter gave me insight into many very pleasant things, in your own faithful way. I beg you will by no means let me lose sight of London; least of all, of your circle therein; many things of value for me lie in it, which may yet become of more value. In London alone of all places in this country have I found some men (belonging to this century and not to a past one) who believed that Truth was Truth: of such men, how obstructed otherwise soever, all may be hoped, for they have attained the source of all. Considered as European Thinkers, our poor Utilitarians make the mournfullest figure: yet in this one fact, that they were the re-originators of any Belief among us, they stand far above all other Sects. Young minds too will not end where they began: under this point of view, you and certain of yours are of great interest for me; indeed, I may say, form the chief visible encouragement I have to proceed in this rather hazardous course of mine. And yet, hazardous? What hazard is there? While I have a whinstone stronghold here among the Peat-bogs, as much Potatoe-ground, and two arms to dig it with, as the natural man needs; and overhead the everlasting Heavenly Vault, and my SENDER there! There is no other way of it: jacta est alea [the die is cast], as Ulrich Hutten4 said;—or rather, as the old Ecclefechan Blacksmith once, in threatening circumstances, phrased it: “Then, we must just do the best we can for a living, Boy!” Poor old Smeal (that was his name): he toiled faithfully with hammer and anvil, till past ninety, that he might keep free, that he might not beg: he did so; and we—? Shame on us!—

But to get on with business. The Examiner has come in the most punctual manner, ever since the complaint I made you of it. We will let it alone therefore; at least, till it get wrong again. I think I have recognised little of you there lately: you do not always write in it then? Fonblanque, as you say, seems but indifferently at ease; my wonder is great how a man of his sharp faculties, keen genial nature, can go on (not to say gallop on) in that course, without bolting. Day after day he declares with cutting emphasis: “Man of office, this thing thou sayest and doest is not true: what art thou?”— “A Liar, and the truth is not in me,—and need not be sought out of me,” the Man of Office would have answered sufficiently for most; nevertheless our friend still asks. That a dull workhorse of an Editor should still ask, with ever new eagerness, is not wonderful; but that a Fonblanque should and can almost surprises me. Is it your prediction that he will abide to the last by Politics? One might regret it: he is of far too broad and generous spirit for that narrow service; which, out of England at this day, he would never have gone into. But here too perhaps: jacta est alea! Offer him my kind wishes and regards. I feel much sympathy and community with him: but for myself, am quite weary of Politics; and carefully avoid speaking of the subject (so far as I can); I never do speak of it, without emitting more or less of a sulphurous indignation improper for me, or for anyone. However, Each to his trade!

I have had some late Numbers of the Westminster Review: my chief conquest, I fear, was admiration renewed, at the ‘Completeness of Limited men.’5 No Westminster-Reviewer doubts but he is at the centre of the secret, com[m]anding free view of the Whole; and so he ‘rides pro[s]perously,’6 without variableness or misgiving. Ought it to be so? I sometimes think, Yes: let every man feel as if his function were the sole one, he will do it the better. You can perhaps tell me who that loud-spoken, firm-nerved, cut-and-sever Master of Logic-fence there, is, who writes much, often about Cornlaws and Poorlaws; and must have written (I fancy) that most limited-triumphant Disquisition on the poor Saint-Simonians.7— By the way, I owe you many thanks for your few sentences on that matter of their Trial, which I had elsewhere inquired after in vain.8 If you have any pamphlets, books, or even newspaper-leaves about it to lend me, I should still be glad of them. I sometimes even think of writing about it,—in some dialect or other; had I materials. Enfantin becomes quite intelligible to me from my knowledge of Edward Irving. The Enthusiast nowise excludes the Quack; nay rather (especially in such times as these) presupposes him. Do you know where Gustave d'Eichthal is? Or what Duverryer [sic: Duveyrier] makes of himself in prison? Which is their prison?

Your promised Magazines were expected last Wednesday, at least partly; but did not come. The Cholera is at Dumfries, rather violent; and the people in a shocking panic, so that all communication is obstructed; and a parcel may still be there. We shall see tomorrow: happily the Disease is fast abating. The terror of the world at this Pestilence is such as if Death had never before been heard of. Nevertheless Death is not new; moreover, come when or how it will, it should find us at our work, and thinking mainly of our work.— Do not mind Tait even if you had it; there are enough of them in Dumfries; and, alas, they are hardly worth carrying even so far, not to speak of buying. What will become of Tait? He is white-puffing (for there is a white and a black sort); that seems to be his main stay at present; but by nature it cannot last. The Fox Periodical9 I shall be very glad to see: I cannot fish out your piece in the last Table of Contents; where indeed one has few data. I never could make much of Unitarians; from the great Channing10 downwards there is a certain mechanical metallic deadness at the heart of all of them; rhetorical clangour enough, but no fruit for me. Unluckily too they seem a sort of Half-men; which class of Nature's products one has the least patience with. But let us, in all conscience, look first! I know Fox only by his political Speeches; the lowest class of human compositions, and these very ill reported.

This thing of mine that I have been writing is a long Essay on Diderot; which you will see most probably in the Cochrane Review, this Number or next. It is a wearisome straggling affair; and to you will not communicate much; tho' readers enough may learn from it, if they will please to look. Cochrane informs me, with hair on end, that the general or rather universal opinion about the Goethe production was—unfavourable!11 Good Heaven! had not ‘the age of miracles’ ceased? I answer poor Cochrane as I can: the proper answer would have been a glass of brandy. In my own secret heart, I know that Paper to be not a stupid, yet a baddish one: the problem set before me was of the impossible kind; this was the approximation I could make to it. To elucidate that subject to English readers, at this point of time, lying beyond me, nothing remained but to coruscate round it with what fireworks one had; uttering in any case n[othing] but what seemed true, so far as it went.— You are very charitable in construing my hydra-hea[ded] method of publishing myself—thro' so many monstrous Periodicals all at once. Alas, it is that I have no better bethod [sic]; otherwise it were to be named a bad one. I had hoped that by and by I might get out of Periodicals altogether, and write Books: but the light I got in London last winter showed me that this was as good as over. My Editors of Periodicals are my Book-sellers, who (under certain new and singular conditions) purchase and publish my Books for me; a monstrous method, yet still a method. “Allah is Great” as the Arabs say: there is ever some resource left; and Meditation, like Murder, will out. A question often suggests itself, whether we shall never have our own Periodical Pulpit, and exclude the Philistine therefrom, above all, keep the Pew-opener (or Bibliopolist) in his place; and so preach nothing but the sound word? The Answer, however, comes not. Meanwhile: Speak! Preach! The Night Cometh.12 Where men are, there is an audience: “you may make a Pulpit by inverting any Tub”! To such strange shifts are we reduced. Ay de mi!13 Often I think, it were delightful could I have leave to sit wholly silent for some three years from this date, till I had got to the bottom of many things! But that too was not appointed: Let us on then, getrosten Muthes [be of good cheer]!

October Tirl-the-trees is busy here, has made the moor very savage. We are for Edinburgh in a six weeks or so; to see how the world wags there. Radicalism! Radicalism all! Another edition of Churchill's “Hunger, a Pastoral”!14 Nevertheless let us hear for ourselves how they manage it. I once loved Edinburgh, and still do not hate it. I hope some day you and I shall see it together.— Has Napier yet sent your Books? I am quite shocked to find the state of things; and dread, it is not yet rectified: I have found the man very remiss in other matters. Tell me, at all events, and I will poke him again.

My Dame begins to get surprised that Mrs Austin does not write. We keep hoping however that it is not distress of her own or husband's that prevents her. Is the Falck15 soon to be out? Were Falck a Boswell, there might be a Book. But Boswells are almost as rare as Johnsons.— You will now be quite master of Cornwall transactions: tell me if Charles Buller accounts himself sure of Liskard; what he is doing, meaning to do. A fine faculty is in my good Charlie; it were a thousand pities he should go to waste.16— I am but beginning to write; and my poor sheet, save it as I may, is done. If among your modern French Books you can spare me any that really illustrate the late condition of that country (under any of its aspects) they were highly welcome. Politics of course is one aspect; not for me the greatest, far from that; yet the easiest come at—thro' Books. Any tolerable History of the Revolution I could still read with interest. I am very curious about France. Indeed I thank Heaven I have still a boundless curiosity about all human things: it is only simulacra of things that I cannot away with. Unfortunately, however, I can get no knowledge! “White men know nothing”: in the original it stood “Black men,”17 but holds this way too.— Write to me the first moment you have; and be always sure of my affection. Vale et me ama [Farewell and love me]!

T. Carlyle

[Postscripts.:]

Encourage Glennus; rebuke Diabolus.— Could not Wilson18 have turned in hither as he came or went? He should have been welcome.

Now that I remember it, in the last Number of Fraser there is a Prophecy called The Tale by Goethe: if you know the original, and have guessed at it, the Commentary (which is mine, as well as the Translation) will interest you a little. I am all wonder at it. T. C.

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