July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 18 July 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370718-TC-JSM-01; CL 9:255-258.


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, 18th July 1837—

My Dear Mill,

An obliging Neighbour had, on failure of the Simpkin-and-Marshal conveyance,1 sent me up your Review2 from Annan: on Friday last the Copy intended for me, with your Letter in it, got to hand, by way of Edinburgh. My Wife says, “He did not send it to me, the careless wretch”;—but seems nevertheless to have made good amends, in an oblique way. Indisputably the careless wretch has gratified all friends of mine.

No man, I think, need wish to be better reviewed. You have said openly of my poor Book what I durst not myself dream of it, but should have liked to dream had I dared. It is a courageous Article; carries its right to speak on the face of it; and speaks so. Innumerable dissonant small-deer of Newspaper columns must feel the wind struck out of them thereby, and keep silence or change their note. What good a Criticism can do to a Book may be considered as done. To a Book or to an Author: for I have literally not read any other Criticism at all, and even heard little of them; and consider myself well off indeed. Jane reports to me of Heraud3 quite as you do, “a shrill sound of Glory to Heraud in the Highest” which forced her to break down in the middle without likelihood of resuming. He is to me, that poor Heraud, one of the disagreeablest mortals going. Related somehow to whatsoever is highest, but only as a hateful parody of it: as an Ape is related to a Man. Such products also Nature has felt bound to evolve. And yet withal it is a most kindly product; full of hope (sure “to rise again on sunday”), of sociality, loquacity and a kind of happiness: were it not so, it had ere this been trait-waistcoated hard and fast in St Luke's. Let us leave him dedicating Epics to the Creator,4 at “A-Highgate” or elsewhere; dead on friday, but sure to rise again on sunday.5— On the whole I find it to be a very sad thing this of writing Books. I can very well understand how old Clergymen and such like, as I have known them, after working for forty years at some Commentary on the Revelations, have finished it, and then in few weeks gone mad, and died. As for me, I do not mean to do that; but, on the whole, I find no health except in driving the useless rubbish and all that is said of it as much as possible out of my head. Half a dozen reviews like yours even would tend to do me incalculable mischief: I should have to say, as the Dumfries Weaver did when they made him Deacon of the Weavers, and drank his health, “Gentlemen, consider that I am still but a man.” If one knew where on Earth or under it there was Rest to be had,—O Rest, Rest!—one would fly thither and stay there.

I like the rest of this Review Number tolerably well. Bulwer does what he can;6 in the right direction; and, as you said, “more than one expects.” There is nothing absolutely false or bad that one falls in with in any of the Articles. Buller on the Pickwick business surprised me by speaking of Smollett; I fear that is loose speaking, but I have sent for the Pickwick on the faith of it, and will see.7 An intelligent kind of youth in Dumfries expressed his amazement that “this Review,” as he reverently named it, had taken notice of Pickwick at all. I wish you would get Sterling to do something, if you could find the fit thing. This is not right Radicalism yet; tho' indeed what in the world is right! There is no right Radical in the company if it be not yourself, and perhaps still more myself. “Je ne trouve que moi qui aie toujours raison; faut avouer, ma chère [I never find anyone but myself who is always right; one has to say so, my dear],” said the Duchess de la Ferté,8 “personne que moi [no one but me]!” Occasionally-erroneous Radicalism, like other things, must struggle on. By the bye, does not Fonblanque too seem to have culminated? I find no free fighter for the truth in him, so much as a soldado [soldier] for the Durham-and-Melbourne Concern.9 Has he got what he could carry, then? Every man has his limits: Hitherto shalt thou come; so much of evil and of good fortune shalt thou stand unlamed, but no more! As the Scotch Preachers say: “I hope better things, tho' I thus speak.”

It gives me real satisfaction to learn that you will publish a Book.10 It seems impossible that you should publish on any subject however artificial without illustrating innumerable things that are natural and perennial; of interest to all sincere men. In writing a Book you will get far more of your general mind uttered than in a series of Articles of equal length. I will read your Treatise on Logic with an attentive expectation which no other man's could give me; nor all other men's on a matter I am growing so estranged from. If we had a week's time to talk, there were much to be said of Logic between us! I call it the “Art of telling other men what you believe[.”] Whether our Aristotle fashion of it, is, in any province except Euclid's Geometry, the best or even the good method: herein I suspect we should have many things to argue. But in the meanwhile write, I say earnestly; write, print, and let me read. To get thoroughly master of a subject; or even, if it so prove (as with me and French Revolution perhaps), to deliver oneself altogether from it, there is no plan like writing a Book on it. At any rate, what rule has one except to write on the thing he knows about, has somewhat to say about?11

I can give you no account of my doings here; for in very truth they are a Do-nothing. I lounge about the green places, look at the waving of the trees, the gushing of the clear burns; myself the placidest, saddest of men. Nothing more ghost-like, I fancy, dwells on the Earth at present. It is a sadness not the painfullest yet I do think the deepest I have ever known in the world. Yet I feel it to be healthy, the natural return to a kind of health. In time and Silence surely I shall grow better. All speech, if it be not the voice of the Solway tide-waves or of these summer winds, is more or less an offence to me. I could say with Job: Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends!12 Or better it might be: Have patience with me, have patience with me.

My dear Mill, this is not worth twopence this Letter, and I have not a frank in this time of dissolution. Put up with it, I pray you; in hope of improved times. The Good Heavens will be merciful to me. Take my thanks, hearty as they well may be, for all the good I have got of you first and last. Pity me, farewell, and love me. Yours ever

T. Carlyle.