July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 9 October 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18361009-TC-JSM-01; CL 9:69-71.


Chelsea, London, 9th October, 1836—

My dear Mill,

Friend Grant1 has taken the trouble to bring me this sheet of Paper ready-folded, with the request that I would write a few words on it: he is “sure it will gratify you.” Not to deprive you of even the chance of being gratified; at lowest, not to detain Grant's Supplement any longer, I scribble as requested. I had not forgotten your own kind invitation as to writing: but there was almost no chance, at least till you formally challenged me by example and a Letter of your own, of my profiting by it. For these many months I have absolutely ceased corresponding with all persons; two only excepted: my Mother and my travelling Brother; to each of whom I write, and that with difficulty, a mere domestic Bulletin some once in the month. What, in the present state of circumstances, known to you better than to most, could I write or say? Pauca verba, Corporal Nym's Maxim,2 is the best. Where there is nothing to be made of speaking, let a man hold his peace; wait in silence what the dim Imbroglio will shape itself to. Surely to something good! Better days are coming for us all. In the meanwhile, accept with your old friendliness, this present quasi-mute sign of vitality and remembrance; and consider it as a speech intended to be spoken.

There has fallen out almost nothing new with me since you went. I have been as sickly as heretofore; have sprawled along in my course of work as heretofore. With very poor progress, yet still with progress. I have my Girondins not far from their Arrest and Calvados; nay not very far from their Guillotine and the Caves of Saint-Emilion.3 After which there are but some three brief Chapters, which must not in all exceed sixty pages! Then vivat [long may he live]! On the whole I am sick of the Girondins. To confess a truth, I find them extremely like our present set of respectable Radical members. There is the same cold clean-washed patronising talk about “the masses” (a word, expressive of a thing, which I greatly hate); the same Formalism, hidebound Pedantry, superficiality, narrowness, barrenness. I find that the Mountain4 was perfectly under the necessity of flinging such a set of men to the Devil; whither also I doubt not our set will go, tho' I hope in a milder manner, our motion not being of that so extremely rapid kind.— In a word, I have engaged to begin Printing on or before Newyearsday; and can hope to have my hands washed of the thing some time in the Month of March. O that day when I send you back your Books with thanks and the Three Volumes among them,—it will be a day to be marked with chalk, whatever the morrow of it prove!

Another piece of very minute literary news will give you pleasure: that they are going to print that Diamond Necklace; which accordingly if the humour still hold you may have a stroke at in the way of reviewing!5 Fraser whom I saw the other day finds now that it will suit him very well &c; and means to have it promulgated in that elegant vehicle of his, some time between this and March.6 He himself is to judge when; Cavaignac, who was reading the thing, engaged to give it to him this day; with a blessing. Fraser made another very singular proposal; which I declined: that of publishing the whole Revolution Book in successive slips in his Magazine.— I believe there has not been since the subsidence of Deucalion's Deluge7 any quagmire and mud-slough of Despond of such curious properties, accidents antecedents and consequents, as this of British Literature at the date we now write. Which therefore let us quit altogether for the present,—mindful of Corporal Nym.

My Brother went away about a fortnight after you; and my wife returned some three days after he was gone. She had fared miserably ill in Scotland, and worse than ever; but has notwithstanding reaped very considerable benefit from the journey; and grown better a great deal since her return. It is thus with journeys; especially flights out of London. There is a violent disruption of the old courses and habits; which may even prove aggravating while it lasts; but, once over, it is found to have reposed the worn organs, perhaps dissipated altogether many an old distress; and on the whole yielded benefit. This I think will also be the way with you. None but your last Letter speaks of much present improvement: but at worst of all, we will still hope in home when it comes to that. Avoid painful thoughts and cares; know the virtue of idleness, for it really is a virtue, which some want. For the rest, never be discouraged by pain: you do not yet know what a fund of Life there is in one; what long corrosions one can stand, and not be worn thro' with them; nay be worn purer and clearer by them, and see them one day as indispensable blessings!— While on this subject of your travel, I ask myself whether it were still impossible that Brother John & you might meet? To him it would give real pleasure. The nearest I know of his motions, is that not improbably he will pass near you somewhere, on the way from Geneva to Marseille towards Italy. His present Address is “Countess of Clare's, Hôtel des Bergues, à Genêve”; which I suppose would carry a Letter even after him, if so were he chanced to intersect you anywhere.

Poor Grant will get almost no good of this sheet;—it will teach him to play such tricks again! However, I must end, lest I provoke him utterly.8 There are some news; but almost none worth writing. I met three of your Sisters in Piccadilly one day last week, in a pouring rain: there was Miss Mill and the one like Miss Mill, and my little Latinist who was surveying Polydorus at Mitcham.9 All was well in your household; the new habitation in Kensington Square doing very well, of which I got the Number.— John Sterling is at a place called Belsito near Bourdeaux, a beautiful residence and neighbourhood; where as I hear yesterday, he seems now to give up thoughts of Madeira for the winter: a thing I am very glad of. Mrs Austin you doubtless have heard of; perhaps even seen. She must be at Malta [I] think: Lewis10 came athwart me once again, before their departure; a very solid, estimable [kind] of man. Taylor is going to write new tragedies.— Enough, Enough! Pardon me my dear Grant.— Adieu my dear Mill! Write if you will have me write. Come soon back to us and well. Writing or not writing accept my friendliest wishes and blessing.11

T. Carlyle.