January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JAMES FRASER; 7 March 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350307-TC-JFR-01; CL 8:66-70.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 7th March 1835—

My Dear Sir,

The miserablest accident (as we name such things) of my whole life has just befallen me; almost the only accident of any magnitude I had ever to complain of. I learned last night that my whole First Volume, by the silliest oversight and mistake (not on my part or my wife's), had been destroyed, except some three or four bits of leaves; and so the labour of five steadfast enough months had vanished irrecoverably; worse than if it had never been! I can be angry with no one; for they that were concerned in it have a far deeper sorrow than mine: it is purely the hand of Providence; and, by the blessing of Providence, I must struggle to take it as such,—in which case (as I trust you too understand) it would not be loss but gain.1

That first volume (which pleased me better than anything I had ever done) cannot be written anew, for the spirit that animated it is past: but another first volume I will try, and shall make it, if not better or equal, all that I can. This only is clear to me: that I can write a Book on the French Revolution; and that, if I am spared long enough alive I will do it. Your Announcement2 (which several persons were just yesterday congratulating me on the hopeful look of) need not therefore be repeated for some months again? I suppose this; but it is you that are to judge and decide about that; with the knowledge that I, tooth and nail, am standing to the enterprise, and advancing daily, were it but at snail's pace, as fast as is in me, to the fulfilment of it. I think the whole Book (if the Unseen Powers be propitious to me) may be ready against next publishing season; not the October time, but the one which succeeds that. It may, as I said and do believe, be for good yet to us all.

Under these circumstances will you put out your hand, and help me in some little things. In the first place, do not mention the mischance to any one: it would give great pain to some whom I love were it ever talked of; and could do no good. In the second place you must get me a Biographie Universelle;3 for like a bold gambler, having lost this throw, I am determined to increase the stakes, before throwing again. Let the Biog. Universelle therefore be bought, since I can get it no otherwise and have often felt the want of having it close by: you, by your knowledge of second-hand Booksellers &c will get it far cheaper than I can; let it be a bound copy or half-bound (easy to turn the leaves of); I care not for any other property:—except indeed, which I think is not the case, there be more than one Edition; you would then of course ascertain which was best, and take that.— In the third place, pray try to get me more paper that were perfectly suitable: I was at one Hodge's4 (I think) in Drury Lane, where there was large choice and much cheaper but that too did not wholly answer. I inclose you a sheet the last of my old Dumfries stock (on which Sartor was written): both in size and texture (ink-taking &c) and every way, it is the best kind: if you could get it completely matched, I could take a ream or so. It were better however (indeed indispensably prudent) to send me a sheet first by way of specimen. Do not especially forget to return me the inclosed sheet; which you see has indications on it.— Finally the sooner these two things can be done for me, it will be the kinder.

Your Boy at this moment has entered with the pretty-looking Prospectuses!5 They make one sad to look upon them. Nevertheless, by God's blessing, they shall not be wholly useless one day, if not this day.

Now observe what I have spoken, and in what spirit towards you I speak it: the spirit of one who has faith in you not as a Tradesman only but as a man.

I hope to hear from you early in the week. Do not pity me; forward me rather as a runner that tho' tripped down, will not lie there, but rise and run again.

Always faithfully Yours, /

T. Carlyle.—