July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 30 October 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18371030-TC-JSM-01; CL 9:337-338.


Chelsea, 30th October, 1837—

My dear Mill,

Mr Robertson1 and I have met twice or oftener: I find him a young man of sense and energy, good-natured, well-intentioned; I discern or augur much worth in him; I like especially the honest laugh he has. “Laughter,” says Teufelsdröckh, “is the cipher-key of the whole man.”2 Whatsoever in years or experience this Editor of yours may want, he is of course daily getting added.

He has sent me Scott long since, which I have attentively read; and seems very anxious that I should write upon it for next Number. It is a small enterprise; upon which, or rather upon the things involved in it and connected with it, I am now, according to agreement, to take your decision. For the question with me is not, Scott or no Scott? but, To review or not to review? As to which there were very many things I could say to you in fit mood and circumstance: here however I will restrict myself to the essential.

Doubtless I have often told you how the Editorial world found it convenient to deal with me some five or six years ago. Today, work, work in breathless superfluity; tomorrow, whistled down the wind,3 left to go and die if you like, you know not for what! It is one of the damnablest positions a man can find himself in. After some reflexion, I have resolved not to get into it again. I think I either ought to make some engagement of some permanence, we will say for a year; or not to intermeddle with the Periodical concern farther at all.

The thing I want to ask you therefore is, contrasting honestly in your mind my capabilities with the wants of your Enterprise, What is the utmost amount of employment (I mean money-amount, at so much per page, or otherwise reckoned on what principle you liked) your Review could afford me, say from this December 1837 till the same date of 1838? That is the first of all questions. If (which is very likely) you can promise nothing, this Article only, and the rest on peradventure,—then my decision must be also, at least till there come something pressing me for utterance thro' this vehicle more than another, nothing. At present nothing presses me, nor is like to do it. God knows how much has already sunk into the dreariest frozen quiescence for want of some right vehicle of utterance; much that might perhaps still be resuscitated were it encouraged; which in a little time more will not be capable even of that! On the whole I have got a good piece of my mind uttered; and ought now to look about me whether I cannot find something to live upon withal. Nay this, by the great mercy of Heaven, is not such a problem as it once was with me here.

If, on the other hand, you answer Something; and your maximum of wages will meet my minimum of necessities, then I will joyfully say Done, and set myself forthwith to perform, to see on what terms performance may be possible, may be useful and pleasant for all of us. I have that faith in Robertson and in his laugh that I think we could go on lovingly. My whole tendencies, you long since know, are analagous enough to your own. My depth of Radicalism goes on without abatement; my aversion to Benthamism, to all Formulism, and indeed I am sorry to add to many hollow Formalists, with their barren jangling, their bigotry, vanity and “vociferous platitude,” who call themselves Radicals, has sensibly increased on nearer acquaintance. Farther I should desire, indeed I should need, to have if not my own choice of subjects, yet something very l[ike] that; also I doubt if I could stand much editing! Yet withal I am not a wild Orson,4 but a tame reasonable man, who long above all things and aim henceforth to act not reasonably only but with a practical view.— There are difficulties;—which on the whole we will look at more straitly, and see how to conquer, when your decision shall say they need to be fronted.5

And now, my dear Mill, I will beg only one other thing of you: that you meditate this question not as my Friend but as the manager of your own Review; this with all freedom and singleness of view. It is really much the same to me how you decide. Important it will be this Yes or this No of yours; but whether the No will be good for me or the Yes will, I am content to leave to the Powers.

Believe me ever, / Yours heartily /

T. Carlyle