July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 5 November 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18361105-TC-RWE-01; CL 9:80-85.


Chelsea, London, 5th November, 1836—

My dear Friend,

You are very good to write to me, in my silence, in the mood you must be in.1 My silence you may well judge is not forgetfulness; it is a forced silence; which this kind Letter unforces into words. I write the day after your Letter comes, lest the morrow bring forth something new to hinder me.

What a bereavement, my Friend, is this that had overtaken you! Such a Brother,2 with such a Life opening round him, like a blooming garden where he was to labour and gather, all vanished suddenly like frostwork, and hidden from your eye! It is a loss, a sore loss; which God had appointed you. I do not tell you not to mourn: I mourn with you; and could wish all mourners the spirit you have, in this sorrow. O I know it well. Often enough in this noisy Inanity of a Vision where we still linger, I say to myself, Perhaps thy Buried ones are not far from thee, are with thee; they are in Eternity, which is a NOW and HERE! And yet Nature will have her right; Memory would feel desecrated if she could forget. Many times, in the crowded din of the Living, some sight, some feature of a face will recal to you the Loved Face; and in these turmoiling streets you see the little silent Church yard, the green grave that lies then so silent,—inexpressibly wae. O, perhaps we shall all meet YONDER, and the tears be wiped from all eyes. One thing is no Perhaps: surely we shall all meet, if it be the Will of the Maker of us. If it be not His Will,—then is it not better so? Silence,—since in these days we have no Speech! Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, in any day.—

You inquire so earnestly about my welfare; hold open still the hospitable door for me.3 Truly Concord, which I have sought out on the Map, seems worthy of its name: no dissonance comes to me from that side; but grief itself has acquired a harmony: in joy or grief a voice says to me, Behold there is one that loves thee; in thy loneliness, in thy darkness[,] see how a hospitable candle shines from far over seas, how a friendly heart watches! It is very good, and precious for me.

As for my health, be under no apprehension. I am always sick; I am sicker and worse, in body and mind, a little, for the present; but it has no deep significance: it is weariness merely; and now by the bounty of Heaven, I am as it were within sight of land. In two months more, this unblessed Book will be finished; at Newyearday we begin printing: before the end of March, the thing is out, and I am a free man! Few happinesses I have ever known will equal that, as it seems to me. And yet I ought not to call the poor Book unblessed: no, it has girdled me round like a panoply these two years; kept me invulnerable, indifferent, to innumerable things. The poorest man in London has perhaps been one of the freest: the roaring press of gigs and gigmen, with their gold blazonry and fierce gig-wheels have little incommoded him; they going their way, he going his.— As for the results of the Book, I can rationally promise myself, on the economical, pecuniary or otherwise worldly side, simply zero. It is a Book contradicting all rules of Formulism, that have not a Reality within them, which so few have;—testifying, the more quietly the worse, internecine war with Quacks high and low. My good Brother, who was with me out of Italy in summer, declared himself shocked, and almost terrorstruck: “Jack,” I answered, “innumerable men give their lives cheerfully to defend Falsehoods and Half-Falsehoods; why should not one writer give his life cheerfully to say, in plain Scotch-English, in the hearing of God and man, To me they seem false and half-false? At all events, thou seest, I cannot help it. It is the nature of the beast.” So that, on the whole, I suppose there is no more unpromotable unappointable man now living in England than I. Literature also, the miscellaneous place of refuge, seems done here, unless you will take the Devil's wages for it; which one does not incline to do. A disjectum membrum [scattered member];4 cut off from relations with men? verily so; and now forty years of age; and extremely dyspeptical: a hopeless-looking man. Yet full of what I call desperate-hope! One does verily stand on the Earth, a Star-dome encompassing one; seemingly accoutred and enlisted and sent to battle, with rations good, indifferent or bad,—what can one do but in the name of Odin, Tuiskone [Tuisco],5 Hertha, Horsa, and all Saxon and Hebrew Gods, fight it out?— This survey is thy idle talk.

As to the Book, I do say seriously that it is a wild savage ruleless very bad Book; which even you will not be able to like; much less any other man. Yet it contains strange things; sincerities drawn out of the heart of a man very strangely situated; reverent of nothing but what is reverable in all ages and places: so we will print it, and be done with it;—and try a new turn next time.— What I am to do, were the thing done, you see therefore, is most uncertain. How gladly would I run to Concord! And if I were there, be sure the do-nothing arrangement is the only conceivable one for me. That my sick existence subside again, this is the first condition; that quiet vision be re-stored me. It is frightful what an impatience I have got for many kinds of fellow-creatures. Their jargon really hurts me like the shrieking of inarticulate creatures that ought to articulate. There is no resource but to say: Brother, thou surely art not hateful; thou art loveable, at lowest pitiable;—alas, in any case, thou art dreadfully wearisome, unedifying: go thy ways, with my blessing. There are hardly three people among these two millions, whom I care much to exchange [words] with, in the humour I have[.] Nevertheless, at bottom, it is not my purpose to quit London finally, till I have as it were seen it out. In the very hugeness of the monstrous city, contradiction cancelling contradiction, one finds a sort of composure for oneself that is not to be met with elsewhere perhaps in the world: people tolerate you, were it only that they have not time to trouble themselves with you. Some individuals even love me here; there are one or two whom I have even learned to love,—tho', for the present, cross circumstances have snatched them out of my orbit again mostly. Wherefore, if you ask me, What I am to do? the answer is clear so far, “Rest myself a while”; and all farther is as dark as chaos. Now for resting, taking that by itself, my Brother who has gone back to Rome with some thoughts of settling as a Physician there, presses me to come thither, and rest in Rome. On the other hand, a certain John Sterling (the best man I have found in these regions) has been driven to Bourdeaux lately for his health; he will have it that I must come to him, and walk thro' the South of France to Dauphiné, Avignon and over the Alps next spring! Thirdly my Mother will have me return to Annandale, and lie quiet in her little habitation;—which I incline to think were the wisest course of all. And lastly from over the Atlantic comes my good Emerson's voice—we will settle nothing, except that all shall remain unsettled. Die Zukunft decket Schmerzen und Glücke [The future conceals sorrow and happiness].6

I ought to say however that about Newyearsday I will send you an Article on Mirabeau, which they have printed here (for a thing called the London Review7); and some kind of Note to escort it. I think Pamphlets travel as Letters in New England, provided you leave the ends of them open: if I be mistaken, pray instruct Messrs Barnard to refuse the thing, for it has small value. The Diamond Necklace is to be printed also, in Fraser; inconceivable hawking that poor Paper has had; till now Fraser takes it—for £50, not being able to get it for nothing. The Mirabeau was written at the passionate request of John Mill; and likewise for needful lucre. I think it is the first shilling of money I have earned by my craft these four years: where the money I have lived on has come from while I sat here scribbling gratis, amazes me to think; yet surely it has come (for I am still here), and Heaven only to thank for it,—which is a great fact. As for Mill's London Review (for he is quasi-editor), I do not recommend it to you. Hidebound Radicalism; a to me well nigh insupportable thing! Open it not: a breath as of Sahara, and the Infinite Sterile, comes from every page of it. A young Radical Baronet8 has laid out £3,000 on getting the world instructed in that manner: it is very curious to see.— Alas, the bottom of the sheet! Take my hurried but kindest thanks for the prospect of your second Teufelsdh: the first too is now in my possession; Brother John went to the Post-office, and worked it out for a ten shillings. It is a beautiful little Book; and a Preface to it such as no kindest friend could have improved.9 Thank my kind editor very heartily from me.

My wife was in Scotland in Summer, driven thither by ill health; she is stronger since her return, tho' not yet strong; she sends over to Concord her kindest wishes. If I fly to the Alps or the Ocean, her Mother & she must keep one another company, we think, till there be better news of me. You are to thank Dr Channing also for his valued gift.10 I read the Discourse, and other friends of his read it with great estimation: but the end of that black question lies beyond my ken. I suppose, as usual, Might and Right will have to make themselves synonymous in some way. CANST and SHALT if they are very well understood, mean the same thing under this Sun of ours.

Adieu my dear Emerson. Gehab' Dich wohl [Farewell]! Many affectionate regards to the Lady Wife: it is far within verge of Probabilities that I shall see her face, and eat of her bread, one day. But she must not get sick!11 it is a dreadful thing sickness; really a thing which I begin frequently to think criminal,—at least in myself[.] Nay, in myself it really is criminal; wherefore I determine to be well, one day.

Good be with you and yours!

T. Carlyle—

As to Goethe and your Friend:12 I know not anything out of G's own Works (which have many notices in them) that treats specially of those 10 years. Doubtless your Friend knows Jördens's Lexicon (which dates all the writings, for one thing), the Conservations Lexicon Supplement & such like.13 There is, an Essay by one Schubarth14 which has reputation; but it is critical and ethical mainly. The Letters to Zelter, the L. to Schiller,15 will do nothing for those years, but are essential to see. Perhaps in some late No of the Zeitgenossen16 there may be something? Blackguard Heine is worth very little;17 Mentzel18 is duller, decenter, not much wiser. A very curious Book is Eckermann's Conversations with G.—just published.—No room more!