July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 8 December 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18371208-TC-RWE-01; CL 9:359-362.


Chelsea, London, 8th December, 1837—

My dear Emerson,

How long it is since you last heard of me I do not very accurately know; but it is too long.1 A very long, ugly, inert and unproductive chapter of my own history seems to have past since then. Whenever I delay writing, be sure matters go not well with me; and do you in that case write to me were it again and over again,—unweariable in pity.2

I did go to Scotland, for almost three months; leaving my Wife here with her Mother. The poor Wife had fallen so weak that she gave me real terror in the spring time, and made the Doctor look very grave indeed: she continued too weak for travelling: I was worn out as I had never in my life been. So on the longest day of June, I got back to my Mother's cottage; threw myself down, I may say, into what we may call the “frightfullest magnetic sleep,”3 and lay there avoiding the intercourse of men. Most wearisome had their gabble become; almost unearthly. But indeed all was unearthly in that humour. The gushing of my native brooks, the sough of the old solitary woods, the great roar of old native Solway (billowing fresh out of your Atlantic, drawn by the Moon): all this was a kind of unearthly music to me; I cannot tell you how unearthly.4 It did not bring me to rest; yet towards rest I do think: at all events, the time had come when I behoved to quit again. I have been here since September: evidently another little “chapter” or paragraph, not altogether inert, is getting forward. But I must not speak of these things. How can I speak of them on a miserable scrap of blue paper?5 Looking into your kind eyes with my eyes, I could speak: not here. Pity me, my friend, my brother; yet hope well of me: if I can (in all senses) rightly hold my peace, I think much will yet be well with me. SILENCE is the great thing I worship at present; almost the sole tenant of my Pantheon. Let a man know rightly how to hold his peace. I have to repeat to myself, “Silence is of Eternity.”6— Ah me, I think how I could rejoice to quit these jawing discords and jargonings of Babel; and go far, far away! I do believe if I had the smallest competence of money to get “food and warmth” with, I would shake the mud of London from my feet, and go and bury myself in some green place, and never print any syllable more. Perhaps it is better as it is.

But quitting this, we will actually speak (under favour of “Silence”) one very small thing; a pleasant piece of news. There is a man here called John Sterling (Reverend John of the Church of England too), whom I love better than anybody I have met with, since a certain sky-messenger alighted to me at Craigenputtoch, and vanished in the Blue again.7. This Sterling has written; but what is far better he has lived, he is alive. Across several unsuitable wrappages, of Church-of-Englandism and others, my heart loves the man. He is one, and the best of a small class extant here, who nigh drowning in a black wreck of Infidelity (lighted up by some glare of Radicalism only, now growing dim too) and about to perish, saved themselves into a Coleridgian Shovel hattedness,—or determination to preach, to preach peace; were it only the spent echo of a peace once preached. He is still only about thirty; young; and I think will shed the shovel-hat yet perhaps. Do you ever read Blackwood? This John Sterling is the “New Contributor” whom Wilson makes such a rout about, in the November and prior month: “Crystals from a Cavern” &c,—which it is well worth your while to see.8 Well, and what then, cry you?— Why then, this John Sterling has fallen overhead in love with a certain Waldo Emerson; that is all. He saw the little book Nature9 lying here; and, across a whole silva silvarum [dense forest] of prejudices, discerned what was in it; took it to his heart,—and indeed into his pocket, and has carried it off to Madeira with him; whither unhappily (tho' now with good hope and expectation) the Doctors have ordered him. This is the small piece of pleasant news, that two sky-messengers (such they were both of them to me) have met and recognised each other; and by God's blessing there shall one day be a trio of us: call you that nothing?

And so now by a direct transition I am got to the “Oration.”10 My friend! you know not what you have done for me there. It was long decades of years that I had heard nothing but the infinite jangling and jabbering and inarticulate twittering and screeching, and my soul had sunk down sorrowful, and said there is no articulate speaking then any more, and those art solitary among stranger-creatures! and lo, out of the West, comes a clear utterance, clearly recognisable as a m[an's] voice, and I have a kinsman and brother: God be thanked for it! I could [have] wept to read that speech; the clear high melody of it went tingling thro' my heart; I said to my wife “There, woman!” She read; and returned, and charges me to return for answer, “that there had been nothing met with like it since Schiller went silent.” My brave Emerson! And all this has been lying silent, quite tranquil in him, these seven years, and the “vociferous platitude”11 dinning his ears on all sides, and he quietly answering no word; and a whole world of Thought has silently built itself in these calm depths, and the day being come, says quite softly, as if it were a common thing, “Yes, I am here too.”12— Miss Martineau tells me, “some say it is inspired, some say it is mad.” Exactly so; no say could be suitabler. But for you, my dear friend, I say and pray heartily: May God grant you strength, for you have a fearful work to do! Fearful I call it; and yet it is great, and the greatest. O for God's sake keep yourself still quiet. Do not hasten to write; you cannot be too slow about it. Give no ear to any man's praise or censure; know that that is not it: on the one side is as Heaven if you have strength to keep silent, and climb unseen; yet on the other side, yawning always at one's right-hand and one's left, is the frightfullest Abyss and Pandimonium! See Fenimore Cooper,—poor Cooper, he is down in it; and had a climbing faculty too.13 Be steady, be quiet, be in no haste; and God speed you well! My space is done.

And so adieu, for this time. You must write soon again. My copy of the Oration has never come: how is this?14 I could dispose of a dozen well.—— They say I am to lecture again in Spring, Ay de mi! The “Book” is babbled about sufficiently in several dialects. Fraser wants to print my scattered Reviews and Articles; a pregnant sign. Teufelsdröckh to precede. The man “screamed” once at the name of it in a very musical manner. He shall not print a line, unless he give me money for it more or less. I have had enough of printing for one while,—thrown into “magnetic sleep” by it!Farewell my brother.— T. Carlyle.

O. Rich,15 it seems, is in Spain. His representative assured me, some weeks since, that the Account was now sent.— There is an Article on Sir W. Scott: shocking; invitissimâ Minervâ [without inspiration]!

Miss Martineau charges me to send kind remembrances to you and your lady: her words were kinder than I have room for here.— Can you not, in defect or delay of Letter, send me a Massachusetts Newspaper? I think it costs little or almost nothing now; and I shall know your hand.