October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 12 August 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340812-TC-RWE-01; CL 7:262-267.


5. Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 12th August, / 1834—

My Dear Sir,

Some two weeks ago I received your kind gift from Fraser.1 To say that it was welcome would be saying little: is it not as a voice of affectionate remembrance, coming from beyond the Ocean waters, first decisively announcing for me that a whole New Continent exists, that I too have part and lot there! “Not till we can think that here and there one is thinking of us, one is loving us, does this waste Earth become a peopled Garden.”2 Among the figures I can recollect as visiting our Nithsdale Hermitage, all like Apparitions now, bringing with them airs from Heaven or else blasts from the other region, there is perhaps not one of a more undoubtedly supernal character than yourself: so pure and still, with intents so charitable; and then vanishing too so soon into the azure Inane, as an Apparition should! Never has your Address in my Notebook met my eye but with a friendly influence. Judge if I am glad to know that there, in Infinite Space, you still hold by me.

I have read in both your Books, at leisure times; and now nearly finished the smaller one. He is a faithful thinker that Swedenborgian Druggist of yours, with really deep ideas, who makes me too pause and think, were it only to consider what manner of man he must be, and what manner of thing, after all, Swedenborgianism must be.3 “Thro' the smallest window, look well and you can look out into the Infinite.”4 Webster also I can recognise: a sufficient, effectual man; whom one must wish well to, and prophecy well of. The sound of him is nowise poetic-rhythmic; it is clear, one-toned, you might say metallic, yet distinct, significant not without melody. In his face above all I discern that “indignation,” which if it do not make “verses,”5 makes useful way in the world—the higher such a man rises the better pleased I shall be. And so here, looking over the water, let me repeat once more what I believe is already dimly the sentiment of all Englishmen, Cisoceanic and Transoceanic, that we and you are not two countries, and cannot for the life of us be; but only two parishes of one country, with such wholesome parish hospitalities, and dirty temporary parish feuds, as we see; both of which brave parishes vivant! vivant! [let them live on!] And among the glories of both be Yankee-doodle-doo, and the Felling of the Western Forest, proudly remembered; and for the rest, by way of parish-constable, let each cheerfully take such George Washington or George Guelph6 as it can get, and bless Heaven! I am weary of hearing it said, “we love the Americans,” “we wish well” &c &c: what in God's name should we do else?

You thank me for Teufelsdröckh: how much more ought I to thank you for your hearty, genuine tho' extravagant acknowledgement of it! Blessed is the voice that amid dispiritment stupidity and contradiction proclaims to us: Euge [well done]! Nothing ever was more ungenial than the soil that poor Teufelsdröckhish seedcorn has been thrown on here; none cries, Good speed to it; the sorriest nettle or hemlock seed, one would think, had been more welcome. For indeed our British periodical critics, and especially the public of Fraser's Magazine (which I believe I have now done with) exceed all speech; require not even contempt, only oblivion. Poor Teufelsdröckh! Creature of mischance, miscalculation, and thousandfold obstruction! Here nevertheless he is, as you see; has struggled across the Stygian marshes, and now, as a stitched Pamphlet “for Friends,” cannot be burnt, or lost—before his time. I send you one copy for your own behoof; three others you yourself can perhaps find fit readers for: as you spoke in the plural number, I thought there might be three; more would rather surprise me. From the British side of the water, I have met simply one intelligent response; clear, true, tho' almost enthusiastic as your own: my British Friend too is utterly a stranger, whose very name I know not, who did not print, but only write and to an unknown third party. Shall I say then: “In the mouth of two witnesses”?7 In any case, God be thanked, I am done with it; can wash my hands of it, and send it forth; sure that the Devil will get his full share of it, and not a whit more, clutch as he may. But as for you, my Transoceanic Brothers, read this earnestly, for it was earnestly meant and written, and contains no voluntary falsehood of mine. For the rest if you dislike it, say that I wrote it four years ago, and could not now so write it, and on the whole (as Fritz the Only8 said) “will do better another time.”—9 With regard to style and so forth, what you call your “saucy” objections are not only most intelligible to me, but welcome and instructive.10 You say well that I take up that attitude because I have no known public, am alone under the Heavens, speaking into friendly or unfriendly Space; add only that I will not defend such attitude, that I call it questionable, tentative, and only the best that I in these mad times could conveniently hit upon. For you are to know, my view is that now at last we have lived to see all manner of Poeties and Rhetorics and Sermonics, and one may say generally all manner of Pulpits for addressing mankind from, as good as broken and abolished: alas, yes; if you have any earnest meaning, which demands to be not only listened to, but believed and done, you cannot (at least I cannot) utter it there, but the sound sticks in my throat, as when a Solemnity were felt to have become a Mummery; and so one leaves the pasteboard coulisses, and three Unities, and Blair[']s Lectures,11 quite behind; and feels only that there is nothing sacred, then, but the Speech of Man to believing Men! This, come what will, was, is and forever must be sacred; and will one day doubtless anew environ itself with fit Modes, with Solemnities that are not Mummeries. Meanwhile, however, is it not pitiable? For tho' Teufelsdröckh exclaims: “Pulpit! Canst thou not make a pulpit, by simply inverting the nearest tub”;12 yet alas he does not sufficiently reflect that it is still only a tub, that the most inspired utterance will come from it, inconceivable, misconceivable to the million; questionable (not of ascertained significance) even to the few. Pity us therefore; and with your just shake of the head join a sympathetic even a hopeful smile. Since I saw you, I have been trying, am still trying, other methods, and shall surely get nearer the truth, as I honestly strive for it. Meanwhile I know no method of much consequence, except that of believing, of being sincere: from Homer and the Bible down to the poorest Burns's Song I find no other Art that promises to be perennial.

But now quitting theoretics, let me explain, what you long to know, how it is that I date from London. Yes, my friend, it is even so: Craigenputtoch now stands solitary in the wilderness, with none but an old woman13 and foolish grouse-destroyers in it; and we for the last ten weeks, after a fierce universal disruption, are here with our household-gods. Censure not; I came to London for the best of all reasons: To seek bread and work. So it literally stands; and so do I literally stand with the hugest gloomiest Future before me, which in all sane moments I goodhumouredly defy. A strange element this; and I as good as an Alien in it. I care not for Radicalism, for Toryism, for Church, Tithes or the “Confusion” of useful knowledge:14 much as I can speak and hear, I am alone, alone. My brave Father, now victorious from his toil, was wont to pray in evening worship: “Might we say, We are not alone, for God is with us!” Amen! Amen!

I brought a Ms. with me of another curious sort; entitled the Diamond Necklace: perhaps it will be printed soon, as an Article or even as a separate Booklet; a queer production, which you shall see. Finally I am busy constantly studying with my whole might for a Book on the French Revolution. It is part of my creed that the only Poetry is History, could we tell it right. This truth (if it prove one) I have not yet got to the limitations of; and shall in no way except by trying it in practice. The story of the Necklace was the first attempt at an experiment.

My sheet is nearly done; and I have still to complain of you for telling me nothing of yourself except that you are in the Country. Believe that I want to know much and all. My Wife too remembers you with unmixed friendliness; bids me send you her kindest wishes. Understand too that your old Bed stands in a new room here, and the old welcome at the door. Surely we shall see you in London one day. Or who knows but Mahomet may go to the Mountain? It occasionally rises like a mad prophetic dream in me that I might end in the Western Woods!

From Germany I get Letters, Messages and even visits; but now no tidings, no influences, of moment. Goethe's Posthumous Works are all published; and Radicalism (poor hungry, yet inevitable Radicalism!) is the order of the day. The like, and even more, from France[.] Gustave d'Eichthal (did you hear?) has gone over to Greece, and become some kind of Manager under King Otho.15

Continue to love me, you and my other friends; and as Packets sail so swiftly let me know it frequently. All good be with you!

Most faithfully, /

T. Carlyle.

Coleridge, as you doubtless hear, is gone. How great a Possibility, how small a realized Result! They are delivering Orations about him, and emitting other kinds of Froth, ut mos est [as is customary]. What hurt can it do?

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