October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 13 June 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330613-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:400-405.


Craigenputtoch, 13th June, 1833—

My Dear Mill,

We had been here, in the midst of sunshine, greenness, and the deepest quiet, for some ten days, when your long-expected Letter1 arrived as you calculated. I might have answered you sooner, for I have seldom been idler: but indeed that holiday stillness which descended on me when the dull and small and despicable discords of Edinburgh once lay behind, and I saw myself again dropped among the moors, was a thing so grateful to me, so wholesome-looking too, and withal so unusual, I could not find in my heart to interrupt it. You would smile if you saw my late employments; I myself could either weep or smile, but prefer to do the latter. This day again I was about rolling off for Annandale, to carry down my Mother who is visiting us here, and in hope to meet with my Brother or hear of him: but it proved a wet morning; so you have me for better or worse, and I shall the sooner have you. Imitate me in anything you like so to honour me in; only not in my delays to write, when I fall into that sin.

You do well, and needfully, to vindicate your rights of ME-hood, having well admitted so many rights of THOU-hood.2 Every given man, if he be a man at all, looks at the world from a position in several respects his own peculiar one: let him look at it faithfully from thence, note faithfully and believe heartily what he sees there. It will not contradict his as faithful brother's view, but in the end complete it and harmonize with it. “Each man is the supplement of all other men”: this is a saying worthy of entire acceptation. It was no secret to me that you and I differed over a whole half-universe of things, for indeed I think we stood at opposite sides of it: nevertheless I will by no means fancy with you that we are moving from each other, but quite contrariwise. On the whole however when two men are agreed in recognising one another's common recognition of the infinite nature of Truth, there is the beginning of all profitable communion between them; and nothing is more interesting thenceforth than the friendly conflict of their differences. Hesitate not, I pray you, neither in this August nor at any other time, to show me the whole breadth and figure of your dissent; God knows I need guidance, both as to my own state and that of others, very much, and then it is hardly once in the twelvemonth that one hears the smallest true monition, any word of criticism worthy of aught other than instantaneous oblivion. About you I will not prophecy here; meanwhile I have my own anticipations, and in any conceivable case must watch you with deep interest.

Perhaps you are very wise in that self-seclusion you practice, in spirit-sickness of such a sort; yet also perhaps not.3 There is inconceivable virtue in Silence, yet often also in wise communing of man with man. If you know any heart that can understand you, that has suffered the like of what you suffer, to that heart speak; the very act of such speaking brings assuagement, almost healing. I prescribe not as physician; but warn you that if you hide yourself in August, it will be very difficult to find an excuse that can pass here. For the rest I may say, for your comfort, that such relapses as yours appears to be are of common nay I believe of universal occurrence among the Faithful: on the blessed day of “Conversion” (this is still the only name I can give it) one's path seems thenceforward all plain and clear; nevertheless it proves nowise so; but a battle, of various fortune, to the last, wherein all the victory we look for is the heart to fight on. Thus too in the physical world, what is all walking (or advancing), as the Mechanicians tell us but “a succession of falls”?4 Will you understand me if I say there is still no Book in the whole world where I find the Spiritual Warfare of Man tenth-part so faithfully delineated, so cheeringly too, and instructively when once you have got to read it, as in the Jewish Book, well named the Book of Books? I protest, it is even so. In fine then I bid you go on unflinchingly, not resting till your “Doubting-Castle” Prison5 is burst asunder; love the Truth, and the Truth now as heretofore will make you free.6

Those Books came about a week before we left Edinburgh; were bundled off unopened to this Hermitage; and are now read, I think, every word of them. Is it of any importance that they be sent immediately? I believe I ought to admit that I have as good as done with them; yet some vague thought of turning them to farther advantage still lingers in me. A great result lies in these so intensely interesting Narratives; and might, had one the faculty, be drawn out of them: this were what I should call the highest kind of writing, far higher than any Fiction even of the Shakspeare sort. For my own share I declare I now enjoy no other Poem than the dim, shadowy, as yet only possible Poem, that hovers for me in every seen Reality. There is much here; of which I know not the limitations, the worth or unworth; meanwhile the feeling cleaves to me these many months, and seems decidedly to grow in me. Whereby at least you as my Book-provider may judge accurately of my actual taste in Books: I simply love all Books that offer me the Experience of any man or men, that give me any fraction of the History of men; on this side nothing can be more Catholic than my taste: but in return all Speculation is apt to be intolerable to me, except in two cases; where it is of the very highest sort; or where, as itself a historical document, I find it interesting for the sake of its interesting author. I doubt you will find intolerance here; but really how can I help it? I have wandered thro' long dreary years in endless mazes of Speculation till my whole heart was sick; and hung sorites on sorites; and ended ever in Inanity: till at length the whole business was happily swept to the right and the left, and I found with amazement that the thing I wanted was not Telescopes and Optical Diagrams but Eyes and things to see with them. In any case, by all means, send me that Poor Laws Book;7 adding to it, as your kind use is, all things you have within reach that point the same way.—— The St Simonian Trial was better than any Drama I had read for years; that whole business, with d'Eichthal's Letter,8 and the vieille serviette [old napkin] about his ears in the Fauxbourg St. Antoine: all is at once a chimera and a truth. Poor Gustave! I love him better than I ever did, as he is seen there; neither will I ever despair of his fortunes outward or inward, when all these crudities (for him the nearest possible approach to food) have been happily removed far from him—part to the larder (if you will forgive the figure), part to a much uglier place. But on the whole is not the French character, as shewn in these last two generations, in their Revolutions first and second, a very barren, very lean one? Never was a nation worse prepared with individual strength or light of any kind for a bursting asunder of all old bounds and habits; the old Sansculottes had only the strength to kill and to die: and then these new figures, with their Bankrupt Projector of a God-Man, and all this of the femme libre [free woman], and their inability to speak till she appear (and vote, by ballot or otherwise)—did the world often witness the like? I declare it is deeply interesting, yet lamentable exceedingly.— I have read Levasseur,9 as I said; but learned little from him: Thiers has most of it, in better state, already. The man Levasseur seems but a quite common Radical, and it is fatal to the Mémoires that properly they are not his. But those of the Prisons,10 it was there that I could “sup full of horrors,” and manifoldly interest and instruct myself. If you have anything more in any measure resembling them (tho' of “horrors” I had perhaps more than enough) I shall be very thankful for it. Madame Roland is but dim in me; her French Memoirs I never saw, and the Translation many years ago; pray send the former if you have them.11 And so, enough of Books.

However I have still to thank you for that Essay on Endowments;12 the Author of which I at once guess; as my Mother too does, far as it seems to lie out of her way: she and I approve of every word of it; she even carries down one of the copies to a certain Parish Parson a great stickler for the other side.— Doubt not also that I carefully read your little Essay on Art.13 It is an honest considerate Essay: I do not properly dissent from anything in it; I would only add much to it. That characteristic you fix on is worthy of noting; I find in it indeed a kind of relationship with that old Unconsciousness which as Goethe hinted to me is an element in most great things: however I do not figure it as the great characteristic. Would I could help you forward! But no man is less versed in logical Defining than I of late years; and perhaps one may doubt whether Poetry is a thing that Science can define. As for me I am accustomed to see some remains of meaning in that vulgarest of all notions that Poetry is Rhyme; and like almost better than any other form of speech to say to myself that Poetry is not poetical if it be not Musical; if it be not in thought, as in word, Music. This is not good in Logic, but it helps me a little to know at least myself what I mean. As for the Germans (or rather the Kanteans with Schiller at their head) they seem to insist much on this as the grand criterion of Poetry, of Kunst [art] in any kind: that there be an Unendlichkeit (Infinitude) in it. To me this at first had next to no meaning; but year after year it has got more: do you also try it, and I predict for you the like. There are great depths in that matter, which is well worth thought. We shall speak of it in August.

Did my Brother find you? His last Letter said you were not at the India House, that day he called: but he would try again. I am very anxious to see him, and what has become of him these last two years: I believe they have been decisive for him.— Alas, here is the end!— Ever affectionately Your's

T. Carlyle.

I am very sorry to hear from Mrs Austin their purpose to remove to Germany; yet what can one advise? A.'s is a hard case. Of Politics it would astonish you to find how little recollection I have there; me it quite gratifies. Fight they who esteem it an infinite Cause; there are plenty of such. The news of the Lord's Majority itself hardly dwelt half a minute with me, tho' the Tory Informant looked wonders.14

Alas! alas! I have a stern tale to tell you of poor Glenn [sic]. He is in Scotland; but in the saddest of all human states without crime. His Disease is deep, bodily and mental; whether without hope, or with it, and with what kind of it I will tell you when my own inquiries (thro' obscure enough courses) have yielded. O Heaven! I cannot get the poor fellow out of my thoughts. What is it that we complain of!

Do not say that a man's power of working is “infinitesimally small”; properly it is infinitely great, and goes thro' all Eternity: to himself it is so, and to his Maker. For the rest, the Earth itself, with all its Mankind, is undoubtedly but a mote.15

Junius Redivivus16 is an effectual kind of fellow, of good Radical stuff; drives the nail home; sees not what it will split in its course. Do you yet know any more about him?

This Document
Right arrow Similar letters
Right arrow Alert me to new volumes
Right arrow Add to My Carlyle Folder
Right arrow Download to citation manager
Right arrow Purchase a volume of the print edition
Right arrowSubject terms: