January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 27 June 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350627-TC-RWE-01; CL 8:155-159.


Chelsea, London, 27th June, 1835—

My Dear Friend,

Your very kind Letter1 has been in my hand, these four weeks; the subject of much meditation, which has not yet cleared itself into anything like a definite practical issue. Indeed, the conditions of the case are still not wholly before me: for if the American side of it, thanks to your perspicuous minuteness, is now tolerably plain, the European side continues dubious, too dim for a decision. So much in my own position here is vague, not to be measured; then there is a Brother, coming home to me from Italy, almost daily expected now; whose ulterior resolutions cannot but be influential on mine; for we are Brothers in the old good sense, and have one heart and one interest and object, and even one purse; and Jack is a good man, for whom I daily thank Heaven, as for one of its principal mercies. He is Travelling Physician to the Countess of Clare; well entreated by her and hers; but I think, weary of that inane element of “the English Abroad,” and as good as determined to have done with it; to seek work (he sees not well how), if possible, with wages; but even almost without, or with the lowest endurable, if need be. Work and wages: the two prime necessities of man! It is pity they should ever be disjoined; yet of the two if one must, in this mad Earth, be dispensed with, it is really wise to say at all hazards, Be it the wages then. This Brother (if the Heavens have been kind to me) must be in Paris one of these days; then here speedily; and “the House must resolve itself into a Committee”—of ways and means.— Add to all this that I myself have been and am one of the stupidest living men; in one of my vacant interlunar2 conditions; unfit for deciding on anything: were I to give you my actual view of this case, it were a view such as Satan had from the pavilion of the Anarch old. Alas, it is all too like Chaos: confusion of dense and rare: I also know what it is to drop plumb, fluttering my pennons vain,3—for a series of weeks!

One point only is clear: that you, my Friend, are very friendly to me; that New England is as much my country and home as Old England. Very singular and very pleasant it is to me to feel as if I had a house of my own in that far country: so many leagues and geographical degrees of wild-weltering “unfruitful brine”;4 and then the hospitable hearth and the smiles of brethren awaiting one there! What with railways, steamships, printing-presses, it has surely become a most monstrous “tissue” this life of ours; if evil and confusion on the one Hemisphere, then good and order in the other, a man knows not how: and so it rustles forth, immeasurable, from “that roaring Loom of Time,”5—miraculous ever as of old!— To Ralph Waldo Emerson, however, and those that love me as he, be thanks always; and a sure place in the sanctuary of the mind. Long shall we remember that Autumn Sunday6 that landed him (out of Infinite Space) on the Craigenputtoch wilderness, not to leave us as he found us. My Wife says, whatever I decide on, I cannot thank you too heartily;—which really is very sound doctrine. I write to tell you so much; and that you shall hear from me again when there is more to tell.

It does seem next to certain to me that I could preach a very considerable quantity of things from that Boston Pulpit, such as it is,—were I once fairly started. If so, what an unspeakable relief were it too! Of the whole mountain of miseries one grumbles at in this life, the central and parent one, as I often say, is that you cannot utter yourself. The poor soul sits struggling, impatient, longing vehemently out towards all corners of the Universe, and cannot get its hest delivered, not even so far as the voice might do it. Imprisoned, enchanted, like the Arabian Price with half his body marble:7 it is really bad work. Then comes bodily sickness; to act and react, and double the imbroglio[.] Till at last, I suppose; one does rise, like Eliphaz the Temanite; states that his inner man is bursting (as if filled with carbonic acid and new wine); that by the favour of Heaven he will speak a word or two.8 Would it were come so far,—if it be ever to come!

On the whole I think the odds are that I shall some time or other get over to you; but that for this winter I ought not to go. My London expedition is not decided hitherto; I have begun various relations and arrangements, which it were questionable to cut short so soon. That beggarly Book, were there nothing else, hampers me every way. To fling it once for all into the fire were perhaps the best; yet I grudge to do that. To finish it, on the other hand, is denied me for the present, or even so much as to work at it. What am I to do? When my Brother arrives, we go all back to Scotland for some weeks: there, in seclusion, with such calmness as I can find or create, the plan for the winter must be settled. You shall hear from me then; let us hope, something more reasonable than I can write at present. For about a month, I have gone to and fro utterly idle: understand that, and I need explain no more. The wearied machine refused to be urged any farther; after long spasmodic struggling comes collapse. The burning of that wretched Manuscript has really been a sore business for me. Nevertheless that too shall clear itself, and prove a favour of the Upper Powers: tomorrow to fresh fields and pastures new!9 This monstrous London has taught me several things during the past year; for if its Wisdom be of the most uninstructive ever heard of by that name of wisdom, its Folly abounds with lessons,—which one ought to learn. I feel (with my burnt manuscript) as if defeated in this campaign; defeated, yet not altogether disgraced. As the great Fritz said, when the battle had gone against him: “Another time we will do better.”10

As to Literature, Politics, and the whole multiplex aspect of existence here, expect me not to say one word. We are a singular people, in a singular condition. Not many nights ago, in one of those phenomenal assemblages named routs, whither we had gone to see the countenance of O'Connel[l] and Company (the Tail was a Peacock's tail, with blonde-muslin women and heroic Parliamentary men), one of the company, a “distinguished female” (as we call them) informed my Wife that “O'Connel was the master-spirit of this age.”11 If so, then for what we have received let us be thankful,—and enjoy it without criticism.— It often painfully seems to me as if much were coming fast to a crisis here; as if the crown-wheel had given way, and the whole horologe were rushing rapidly down, down, to its end! Wreckage is swift; rebuilding is slow and distant. Happily another than we has charge of it.

My new American Friends have come, and gone. Barnard went off northward some [fort]night ago; furnished with such guidance and furtherance as I could give him. Professor Longfellow went about the same time; to Sweden, then to Berlin and Germany: we saw him twice or thrice and his ladies, with great pleasure; as one sees worthy souls from a far country, who cannot abide with you, who throw you a kind greeting as they pass.12 I inquired considerably about Concord and a certain man there; one of the fair pilgrims told me several comfortable things.— By the bye, how very good you are, in regard to this of Unitarianism! I declare I am ashamed of my intolerance:—and yet you have ceased to be a Teacher of theirs, have you not? I mean to address you this time by the secular title of Esquire; as if I liked you better so.13 But truly, in black clothes or in white, by this style or by that, the man himself can never be other than welcome to me. You will further allow me to fancy that you are now wedded; and offer our united congratulations and kindest good wishes to that new fair Friend of ours, whom one day we shall surely know more of,—if the Fates smile.14

My sheet is ending, and I must not burden you with double postage, for such stuff as this. By dint of some inquiry I have learnt the law of the American Letter-carrying; and I now mention it for our mutual benefit. There are from New York to London three packets monthly (on the 1st, on the 10th, on the 20th); the masters of these carry Letters gratis for all men; and put the same into the Post-Office; there are some pence charged on the score of “ship-letter” there; and after that, the regular postage of the Country, if the Letter has to go farther. I put this, for example, into a place called North & South American Coffeehouse in the City here, and pay two-pence for it, and it flies.15 Doubtless there is some similar receiving-house with its “leather bag” somewhere in New York, and fixed days (probably the same as our days) for emptying, or rather for typing and despatching said leather bag: if you deal with the London Packets (so long as I am here) in preference to the Liverpool ones, it will all be well. As for the next Letter (if you write as I hope you may before hearing from me again), pray direct it “Care of John Mill Esqr, India House, London”; and he will forward it directly, should I even be still absent in the North.— Now will you write; and pray write something about yourself. We both love you here, and send you all good prayers. Vale faveque [farewell and feel kindly]!— Yours ever, T. Carlyle.