TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 19 November 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18321119-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:258-263.
TC TO JOHN STUART MILL
Craigenputtoch, 19th Novr, 1832—
My Dear Mill,
A packet goes off for London tomorrow; in which a sheet for you is not to be forgotten. Your long Letter,1 which I found at Dumfries, one week after date (for the frank had been too late) stands admonishing me. You are now my main Voice from that Babel; and I would not have you many days silent,—any day were it possible.
The Parcel which brings you this is the Diderot mentioned last time: the able Editor seems to have established himself in your neighbourhood (Kensington),2 and is therefrom minded to illustrate Foreign Literature with more vigour than ever, and do business in the great Mother of Dead Dogs:3 heaven give him all success! For my own share, I find him a well-meaning, rather thick-headed, rude-bred mortal, who if you hold him tight does well enough; a sign he is of the Times; to me there where he sits and works almost a prodigy. His last Number is here; but I have read none of it, except the Essay which you said was Buller's,4 a rational, considerate sort of piece, wherein however as you well know the main mystery of the matter is never looked in the face. I am sorry to hear of poor Charles's health, and still more of his inapplication: a kindly, genial nature; clear, productive, with a rare union of decision and benignity; it is a thousand pities he should waste himself: yet nothing can be surer in this world of ours, than that he who will not struggle cannot conquer. Alas, it is a most tough obstructed wild-weltering world; wherein the stoutest swimmer is often carried far from his aim. Ernst ist das Leben;5 earnest enough! You cannot fight the battle in dressinggown and slippers; and yet there is nothing for you but to fight,—or sit there and be butchered by Destiny. ‘Nevertheless,’ as our Scotch Preachers say, ‘I hope better things, tho' I thus speak.’6
As for myself I have written nothing since you heard of me. I drove with my lady over into Annandale, by wild Lakes and water-courses, villages and farm-‘towns’ (Zaune, enclosures), all still, grave-looking, almost sad; a moving text for a wild moving homily, such as I perhaps too often preach to myself. Do but know that the word ae means river in the Anglo-Saxon speech; and find here a ‘Water of AE’ (by whose banks too your progenitors were born),7—the rushing of its stream carries you back into ancient Ages, into the ‘great and famous Nations of the Dead’; and all Existence, with its Death-Life, and never-resting, all-bearing, all-devouring TIME, seems no other than verily a Prophetic Dream.— On the whole, wish it or not, this wondrous World in its most natural aspects gets more and more of a supernatural character for me: that I now hold this pen is perhaps intrinsically as miraculous as if I should make the Sun. Everything is wonderful; et ce que j'admire le plus c'est de ME voir ici [what I wonder at most is to see myself here].
We returned home; but new distractions arose; some of them mournful enough. Of this sort was the Death-sickness and finally last week the Death of my Wife's Grandfather: we had both to go over, not for his sake only, but for his Daughter's, our Mother, who herself needed support. On Friday, I saw the old man depart peaceably—forever; always a sad and grandly stern sight, were it never so anticipated. Next Friday, he is to be laid in his grave; and so for him after four-score years the world is ended. He was a peculiar old man: impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer,8 or as we have it in Scotch, ‘as het [hot] as ginger, and as stieve [obstinate] as steel.’9 When one thinks how many men have lived, and have died, what is one man, what is this one man that asks the question!
But to leave these homiletic things; for the true precept is not Memento mori [Remember that you must die] but memento vivere [remember the living]. Intellectually speaking, you perceive, I have done almost nothing; not even read. For a day or two I occupied myself with the Life of one Thomasius, a German of the 17th century; of whom probably you have never or hardly heard; nor is it great pity: he is but a sort of German Toland, only weaker: the Biographer, one Luden,10 has since become notable as Historian of the (old) Germans; but was then in his spiritual nonage. A far richer subject that I happened, very incidentally to resume, was the History of our Church of Scotland. I know not if ever you inquired much into that matter: but I think it is one you would find well worth knowing. The materials are abundant, and easily accessible; your Father can doubtless point you out the whole path. Two Books the Scots Worthies and the Cloud of Witnesses, written, I believe, by some old Cameronian Peasant of the name of Howie,11 used to lie in every Scottish house or hut; a pair of true People's-Books; and truly worth more for the People than all that the Diffusion Societies will promulgate for a generation or two. It is not ten years since I, an enlightened sceptic, first deigned to look in them; but my reward was great: they are in fact most notable Books. My present guides were of a far inferior sort, M'Crie (with some Memoirs), and on Cruikshank, and [sic] old Calvinistic Dissenter with a History. I have got Knox too, and will by and by make a trial for Wodrow.12 The History of the Sctoch [sic] Presbyterian Church is noteworthy for this reason, that alone of all Protestant Churches it for some time was a real Church; had brought home in authentic symbols, to the bosoms of the lowest, that summary and concentration of whatever is highest in the Ideas of Man; the Idea unutterable in words; and opened thereby (in scientific strictness, it may be said) a free communication between Earth and the Heaven whence Earth had its being. The practices of Power against Revolt, in that remarkable Revolution (of which 1688 was but the falling of the curtain) are notable in another way,—namely a scientific and poetic. A true Scotchman can weep warm tears over these brave men (among the last true men of this Island), and execrates with a divino-diabolic indignation (immeasurable either way) the scandalous Debauchee, to whom in virtue of Plush and Parchment, and the name of King, such power over them was committed.—I really think I could like well to write a most immortal Book (in small octavo) on that matter. But, alas, there are no Books to be written now, unless you have an independent money capital,—which unluckily is not my case at present; and luckily perhaps, for who knows? I should add, in farther excuse of this zeal, that my good Wife is a Cameronian by birth; a lineal descendant of John Knox himself; and of two John Welshes (for the later of whom I am proud to observe always a double rogue-money is offered13); and therefore I say one of the best-born women in broad Scotland. Welsh, it ought to be added, lived within four miles of this house;14 and for aught I know may have preached on the Laird's Crag itself, where now nothing but ravens preach. You shall see all this when you come; and much more.
For tho' we go to Edinr together, you cannot avoid taking this place in your way, and staying here till you satisfy yourself about it. Unadulterated Bogtrotters are to be seen in these parts (for everywhere under the sky there is something special); waste moors, as old as Noah: you shall ride the very road, where Burns gallopping against the stormy weather composed Bruce's Address.15— But alas it is very long till then; and much must be waited for, and much may alter.
I saw your notice of the Doctrinaires,16 and recognised it before the Letter came; I have seen one other that I think of since: but last week the Examiner again forgot to come, for the first time these many weeks. I am to write to my Provider: if no explanation, above all if no improvement follow, we must try your man, or some other method.— Fraser the Bookseller informs me that he has received from you and forwarded by Simpkin & Marshall ‘a large packet of Books’; they will come in the first week of December. Have Napier's Books ever arrived? I am quite ashamed (if it would do any good); for whether Napier's or Longman's be the blame, the debt must lie at my door. However, it is happy that you have not wanted them much.
I enclose you here a small Note for Leigh Hunt.17 If you like to make use of it as a note of introduction, send your card up with it; and it will serve for that end, for you are mentioned within. But my chief aim was to know that the little memento reached its destination, for I have sent one already, and got no tidings of it; and Hunt, worthy man, is of those unfortunate people whose address is often changing. Will you therefore ascertain (Moxon18 the Bookseller in Bond-Street, Bulwer, and many others can say) what Hunt's actual address is; and then either deliver this, or (correcting it if needful) send it by the Postman. You will find Hunt a most kindly, lively, clear-hearted creature, greatly to be sympathized with, to be honoured in many things and loved; with whom you will find no difficulty to get on the right footing, and act as the case will direct. Hunt is a special kind of man, a representative of London Art, and what it can do and bring forth at this Epoch; what was too contemptuously called the ‘Cockney School,’ for it is a sort of half-way-house to something better; and will one day be worth noting in British Literary History: Under this view too Hazzlitt [sic] is markworthy; his Examiner Biographer, as you say, does not get to the bottom of him, being indeed himself apparently still involved in the same element. That Telford however must be a rather vigorous person:19 if you know him, and could persuade him to write a hearty, most descriptive, that is to say altogether narrative Life of the poor Sophist, it were a good service: he was a man of such emphasis as should not be forgotten. One of the best Books I read last winter was a quite off-hand delineation of a German Literary Quack, of less moment than Hazlitt; one Müllner;20 a kind of Editorial Napoleon (in the worse [sic] sense of poor Napoleon), who built himself an Empire, and had taxes (wine enough to drink, cigars too of which he smoked über 5000 Stück jahrlich [over 5,000 per year]), and adulation and what not; which lasted while he lasted, and then—returned into the bosom of Nothing, whence it (miraculously enough) arose. Every man that means anything deserves that you should hear his meaning, and understand it. But on the whole, few Englishmen can make the smallest attempt at writing Biography: they are a poor mode-ridden and otherwise hag-ridden people; hunting after Respectability, in perpetual terror of missing it; and so write, as they do all other things, in a state of partial paralysis. Poor Hazzlitt [sic], I fear, will pass away without Biography.
This is a longer Letter than you ever wrote me: however, it too must end. You will write soon again. We do not go to Edinburgh for a mont[h] or so; what our address there will be is not yet known: we are for a small [furnish]ed house somewhere in the fieldward part of the Town, and will take a servant [and] many etceteras with us. Messrs Bell & Bradfute Booksellers Bankstreet will always know our whereabout. But you shall hear from me before then yourself. It is I chiefly, and not my Helpmate, I think, who form the moving power in this little Enterprize: she seems in secret to prefer the wilderness,—where if you saw our Stack of Peat and Coal fuel, you might fall dumb with astonishment. But what are the warmest fires; what is the securest whinstone stronghold? I long for the sound of human voices, were they only those of Edinburgh Dilettanti and Philosophes. Radicalism enough I can utter for myself, whenever I open my mouth; enough and to spare.
From the Lady Austin we still hear nothing; but give Falk the blame.— I shall be very glad to know Fox and all your friends that will let me, when I see London again. Thank Heaven, all men have become once more interesting to me; all, the very Dilettante sort, are ‘fearful and wonderful,’21 if one consider them well.— And so God bless you, my dear Mill; and good night for once!—