October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 22 February 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330222-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:328-333.


18. Carlton Street, 22nd Feby, 1833—

My Dear Mill,

This morning, which forms a sort of pause in certain small scriptory proceedings of mine, I devote of right to you. I might have written weeks ago, indeed, so far as occupation went; for nothing could be more ineffectual, languid, than my style of working (as I called it): however, a sounder sort of excuse remains for me in the grievance of ill health. For above two months, more especially since I came hither, a pitiful sneaking sort of catarrh has hung about me, strangely laming all my movements; these last few days, I am better again; but still in this, as in many other respects, must reconcile myself to grave impediments. “They are soon done,” our Scotch Proverb says, “who never dought [were able, could]” (dowed, taugten). But again the French say: Il faut se ranger [it is necessary to settle down to business]. So without more Sanchoism,1 let us even get under way.

I really wish you would write to me oftener. Besides the comfortable, available intelligence your Letters bring, there is a most wholesome feeling of Communion comes over me, in your neighbourhood; the agreeable memento: Thou art not alone, then! Alas, it is a most solitary world; from Dan to Beersheba2 you walk, and find nothing but masks, a real Man is now almost as rare as a God has always been. One is ready to faint by the way, in that inane hubbub (under which too lies Darkness and Death!); one longs for speech; and there is but the (subternatural) cackling and sniggering “of imps in hellish wassail,”3 of harpies at their foul feed (the grand passion being HUNGER), intent only to reave [talk irresponsibly] and eat. Of all such my soul is exceeding sick; at times, even to loathing. In truth, it is oftenest a very Temptation of St Anthony4 with me; the inanimate Furniture of this Earth gets a ghastly ludicro-terrific vitality, the clothed Bipeds are mostly spectral,—and the Devil is at the bottom of it all. How pleasant the voice of a brother Eremite, a flesh-and-blood Reality (in better heart and health than yourself), at sound of whom the Devil and his works duck down into the Inane! Write to me, I pray you, with more and more heartiness; shew me your feelings as well as thoughts; and let us in all ways, while so much is permitted us, help one another as we can. “What is cheerfuller than Light?” says some one: “Speech,” is the answer. Speech, however; not Cackle.

I cannot call myself disappointed in regard to Edinburgh, for it corresponds with my forecastings; yet I experience the pain and partial surprise of witnessing in detail the outline, vague and distant, fill itself up into palpable reality near at hand. It is a City this in which as little Wholeness exists as anywhere else. Sufficient Hodmen, here and there, we have; no Builder in any, even the smallest kind, can I yet meet with. Two thousand “completed Bunglers,” on the other hand, I will raise you in one day. The poor people cannot help it; neither can I; may God help them. For myself I am best pleased when I sit silent, which alas I can too seldom do; my utterances fall like red-hot aërolithes, or bursting bombs into the peaceful tea-garden of their existence, and they look upon me with astonishment and an incipient shudder. Alas, the thin film that in these days divides all Bunglers from the everlasting Pool; and yet they still bungle,—tho' some of them now (what really is a progress) not without misgivings. On the whole I will predict that in this country, as in France, the movement, political and other, will proceed from the Capital. No Benthamite, or Islamite, or other even false Believer, exists here that I see: inummerable [sic] respectable Whigs, that know not the right hand from the left, and desire of all things to eat their pudding in peace; numerous distressed, partially distracted Conservatives (they too are numerous in the washed classes); a small forlorn hope of half-rabid Cobbett Radicals, like the condemned vanguard of the Crusades led on by “Walter the Pennyless”:5 this is our condition in respect of Politics, whereby you may judge of us in others. Besides as respects Economics, Edinburgh, on the great highway towards RUIN, seems to me full fifty years behind London; tho' here too the progress appears constant; and indeed, within the last three years (this partly by accident), almost astonishing: in this enviable posteriority itself, lies the surest vis inertiae [tendency to remain inactive]. We shall be quite quiet therefore (till others stir); and lament the decay of Law-practice (sunk last year to one half, as is said, this year to one third); and see the poor subsist on half-food, now and then die of starvation; and execrate O'Connel, author of the whole storm (as Mother Carey's chicken is, with sailors);6 and equalize the Church livings, and give the Reform Bill a fair trial. Well and good.— Meanwhile we have this to say of Edinburgh, that it feeds and clothes itself and produces young children enough; and so keeps alive, if it do nothing else; and stands ready for a better day, should such dawn on it.

In the midst of all this, I for my own small share must feel as if I had got into strange latitudes, and could not for these many months take any sure Lunar. The sneaking catarrh, as you may well judge, is no help to me. In truth, I am very considerably bewildered; few landmarks in the Earth, yet, God be thanked, some stars still shining in the Heavens: I can only say with the old Hebrew, in my own diale[c]t, “Still trust in God, for Him to praise good cause I yet shall have”: so stood it in my Father's Psalm-Book;7 pity for me if so much stand not also in mine! On the whole, in this wondrous condition of all things, Literary, Moral, Economical, there is need of courage, of insight; which may the bounteous Heaven, withholding what else it will, supply according to our need. On one point, I am getting clearness: that it is not good for me to stay much longer in the Nithsdale Peat-desert. I will leave Craigenputtoch, before very long: but where I shall settle; here, in London, or where, is as dark as may be. Poverty and a certain deep feeling of self-dependence (often named Pride, but I hope misnamed) complicate the matter much. We shall see. “My son, before all thy gettings, get understanding”:8 now as ever, this is verily the one thing needful. For the present, I think of waiting without much motion till my Brother the Doctor return from Italy; perhaps his place and mode of settlement may help to determine mine. John loves me with a brother's love; is a man of strong faculty, of the truest heart: it is really one of my best joys of late to discern clearly that he too is fixing himself on the everlasting adamant, and may front this Devil's-chaos beside me, also like a man. In thes[e] scandalous days, such a brother is a Treasure: alas, unless Nature have accidentally given it you, where shall you seek for Friendship? I often wonder over the love of Brothers, over the boundless capacity man has for Loving: why has this long-continued Baseness, Halfness and Hollowness so encircled him with cowardly distrusts that he dare not love!— You shall see John, were he once home; I imagine, some relation may spring up between you: at lowest, you will learn to respect each other.

But now I must answer you on the matter of these Books, while I have yet Paper. You will do me a real kindness, I think, by sending all of your French Mémoires9 that touch on the points specified: no part of that Collection seems to exist here; nothing but scattered fragments after Petitot's series10 ends. The Cent-et-un11 I can get; not certainly so the Neuilly.12 I retain my whole interest for that matter, and am gleaning here as I can. A series of Revolution Portraits (engravings) which I dug out lately,13 gave me great satisfaction: under each head stands, in a miniature compartment, the main scene he figured in; it is a valuable work, if genuine. Mirabeau's ugliness14 is now a kind of truth for me; Danton suffered dreadfully, on physiognomic survey; alas, his energy looks too like that of some Game Chicken or Dutch Sam, true heroism never dwelt in such a tabernacle. I fear Thiers has quite misled me.15 Lafayette16 looks puppyish; Robespierre17 like a narrow, exasperated, exacerbated Methodist Precentor (in fact, I think the man was a kind of Atheistico-Theist-Saint); Camille Desmoulins18 is full of spirit, talent, half-blackguard gaiety, one of those Blackguards, among whom poor Burns said he had found the only men worth loving.19 My favourite face of all is the noble Roman one of Condorcet:20 a lofty soul looks out there (tho' perhaps an unbelieving soul); energy grown listless; deep sadness, tedium, veiled over with stoical disdain. Tell me if these heads are reckoned genuine: the Book is in folio, and bears date, I think, Paris, 1810; nearer description I cannot give you.

Junius Redivivus, except in the Examiner, has not come in my way; on your recommendation, I shall be glad to make acquaintance with him.21 I have seen some of Miss Martineau's Books; and reckon your account of her quite verisimilar. She is a surprising young Lady; but has got far too soon to a conclusion and maturity: her Tales are no Artist pictures, and cannot anywise be; but good Twopenny Book coloured Prints22 whereby catachumens, if they like, may learn the Alphabet. I hope she will not stop there: the very Saint Simonians could still teach her much. She and her Tales are surely a sign of this Country and Time. Her works will do great good; the acme of the Laissez-faire system, a crisis which the sooner brings cure.— The day is now up and bright; it is fit to walk, as well as make hay, while the sun shines. You must soon write: what should hinder a young able fellow in the heart of a Reformed Parliamentary Metropolis to write twice for my once? You really ought to consider.— Do you see anything of Glen? I fear you have given him up as a weariness, which really he almost is: do not wholly give him up; while there is life there is hope.— Forget not the Saint-Simonian Books; I am quite glad to hear that d'Eichthal has bid the Father of Humanity good day.23— Of the Reformed Parliament I study to take as little heed as possible; its performance hitherto has not disappointed me: O for a few Members “worth electing”! But, patience; these are coming.— Our love to South-Bank.24 My Dame sends you a message so flowery that I cannot take upon [me to re]port it.— Wishing and trusting all good

T. Carlyle.—

What is become of Detrosier? I saw a new Secretary's name in that Union: poor Rowland struggling upwards out of mephitic air, is far from indifferent to me.25— Send or take this Letter26 to Glen.

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