October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JAMES FRASER; 27 May 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330527-TC-JFR-01; CL 6:395-398.


Craigenputtoch, 27th May, 1833—

My Dear Sir,

On the Proofsheet of Cagliostro I marked an announcement that you would hear from me soon. I write to-day in more confusion than is desireable; but rather so than lose another half-week.

Most probably you recollect the Manuscript Book1 I had with me in London; and how during that Reform hurlyburly, which unluckily still continues and is like to continue, I failed to make any bargain about it. The Manuscript still lies in my drawer; and now after long deliberation I have determined to slit it up into stripes, and send it forth in the Periodical way; for which in any case it was perhaps better adapted. The pains I took with the composition of it, truly, were greater than even I might have thought necessary, had this been foreseen: but what then? Care of that sort is never altogether thrown away; far better too much than too little. I reckon that it will be easy for the Magazine Printer to save me some thirty or forty complete Copies, as he prints it; these can then be bound up and distributed among my Friends likely to profit thereby; and in the end of all we can reprint it into a Book proper, if that seem good. Your Magazine is the first I think of for this object; and I must have got a distinct negative from you before I go any farther. Listen to me, then, and judge.

The Book is at present named “Thoughts on Clothes; or Life and Opinions of Herr D. Teufelsdröckh D. U. J.”; but perhaps we might see right to alter the title a little;2 for the rest, some brief Introduction could fit it handsomely enough into its new destination: it is already divided into three “Books,” and farther into very short “Chapters,” capable in all ways of subdivision. Nay some tell me, what perhaps is true, that taking a few chapters at a time is really the profitablest way of reading it. There may be in all some Eight sheets of Fraser. It is put together in the fashion of a kind of Didactic Novel; but indeed properly like nothing yet extant. I used to characterize it briefly as a kind of “Satirical Extravaganza on Things in General”; it contains more of my opinions on Art, Politics, Religion, Heaven Earth and Air, than all the things I have yet written. The Creed promulgated on all these things, as you may judge, is mine, and firmly believed: for the rest, the main Actor in the business (“Editor of these sheets” as he often calls himself) assumes a kind of Conservative (tho' Antiquack) character; and would suit Fraser perhaps better than any other Magazine. The ultimate result, however, I need hardly premise, is a deep religious speculative-radicalism (so I call it for want of a better name), with which you are already well enough acquainted in me.

There are only five persons that have yet read this Manuscript: of whom two have expressed themselves (I mean convinced me that they are) considerably interested and gratified; two quite struck, “overwhelmed with astonishment and new hope” (this is the result I aimed at for souls worthy of hope); and one in secret discontented and displeased.3 William Fraser is a sixth reader, or rather half-reader; for I think he had only got half-way or so; and I never learned his opinion. With him, if you like, at this stage of the business you can consult freely about it. My own conjecture is that Teufelsdröckh, whenever published, will astonish most that read it, be wholly understood by very few; but to the astonishment of some will add touches of (almost the deepest) spiritual interest, with others quite the opposite feeling. I think I can practically prophecy that for some six or eight months (for it must be published without interruption), it would be apt at least to keep the eyes of the Public on you.

Such is all the description I can give you, in these limits: now what say you to it? Let me hear as soon as you can; for the time seems come to set these little bits of Doctrine forth; and, as I said, till your finale arrive, I can do nothing. Would you like to see the Ms. yourself? It can come, and return, by Coach for a few shillings, if you think of that: it will of course want the Introduction, and various other “O. Y.'s”4 that will perhaps be useful. I need not remind you that about shewing it to any third party (as I have learned by experience) there is a certain delicacy to be observed: I shall like to hear from you first. Write to me, therefore, with the same openness as I have done to you; we shall then soon see how it lies between us.

I think the last Fraser is among the best you have published for long. That Mirabeau man5 (whom I seem not to know) is worth looking after. Your Speculations on poor Dr Chalmers and Economics6 generally always seize half of the Truth, and far the better half: Chalmers and Company toil wearisomely with the other worse half, and make sad work of it.— Continue true, and I still predict good for you.

My Brother, I keep hoping, will one day ere long walk in upon you: he ought to be at Paris by this time, on his way homeward.

Edinburgh seems worn down into a sad state of Stupidity and Hunger: God help it! The airs are fresh here, the trees of the greenest; and my cabbages flourish as briskly as Dioclesian's.7

If you send any Books &c by Waugh, pray charge him strictly; his Clerk (as our Proverb says) “is not to ride the water on.”8 And now in great haste, Adieu! Believe me always,

My Dear Sir, / Most faithfully Your's, /

T. Carlyle.

Mr Mill's Book-Parcel quite safe: thank you for it.