The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO LYDIA MARIA CHILD ; 30 May 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380530-TC-LMC-01; CL 10: 87-90


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London / 30th May 1838—

Dear Mrs Child,

You judged rightly that no man could be other than gratified with such a Letter and Gift as yours.1 It is always uncertain with me whether praise, never so sincere, does one good, or does not do one great mischief; but the pleasure of it admits of no doubt. Nay after all one must take the mixture of praise and dispraise such as this world confusedly offers, and make the best of it; and Nature herself gives us this rule: Love those that love thee, rejoice when any one loves thee, and count that sure gain, were there no other! That such—brave Fornarina [baker's wife]2 put my poor Book under her pillow, far off over the water;3 this is a thing I will decidedly be proud of; a sweet thing, to temper other things with that are bitter,—that are sent lest we get too proud.

Of your three faults to the F. Revolution I find the two last abundantly true; as a hundred others are, which you do not name but might.4 The one beauty of it to me is that I did with considerable honesty endeavour to make the best I could of it, and that now by God's great blessing I am rid of it, and never more in this world or the next shall it, like a Nessus' Shirt, lie burning the life out of me, but go forth and take its own lot, and live or die as it can. And so good speed to it whithersoever bound!—

Ah me, if I had wings or a wishing-carpet, I would go to many places, and surely to American England among the rest! There is always a thought in me of getting thither by mere sails or steam some day; but difficulties drive it always away into the vague again.5 If you had any quiet work for me, any work consistent with Silence! But writing, lecturing and all utterance of myself is a mere misery, to which nothing short of sheer Necessity can drive me at present. This is the fourth week that I am lecturing here; “finest audience in the world” &c &c: and this morning, for example, I started awake at three o'clock,—fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils! My comfort is that in about another week I shall have done, and got my lips closed, not to open again for a twelve month I think! Also in reference to “glory,” and sweet psalmodyings of that sort, I with much sincerity repeat this Scotch rhyme; which I beg you to learn Scotch enough to understand, for it is one of our most pertinent:

There was a Piper had a Cow,
And he had nought to give her;
He took his pipes and play'd a spring,
And bade the Cow consider.
The Cow consider'd wi hersel'
That mirth would ne'er fill her:
Gie me a pickle pease-strae,
And sell your wind for siller!6

—A most judicious animal; a most mistaken piper! It is the true Scotch of that French text, Gloire, donne-moi du pain.7 So I am obliged to lecture; and, like Pistol eating his leek, do it you know how.8 My bright Transoceanic Sisters that want to “see the face of Carlyle,” to him indeed your bright faces were blessedness, but his hard face—is better where it is!9— Will you however say to your Husband that I shall always regret not going to Miss Martineau's that night:10 it is punishment of my pusillanimity which scares me away from all noise, even from some noise that I know not to be inane, as from pestilence and poison.

Your Philothea has actually been read “with as much pleasure as” &c. My Wife read it some days ago; I finished the last pages of it this morning. I think you forbid me to give any opinion of it; or I should give one as bright as sunbeams on the one side, as black as Newcastle on the other. Really it is so. I admire, as at the very top of what I know in that kind, the faithful talent (a faithful and singular talent), and the noble spirit that reigns in it, an emanation of all that is high and pure in Christian womanhood; and then—and then—O why did you go to Athens of the Museums, not stay in Boston of the Realities, and clothe Philothea in flesh! This really is all; and I am impertinent to say it, for you will not believe me, yet it is true, and perhaps you will try to believe me. But in any case such a faculty must not lie asleep, and will not; I shall be very curious to see you again. “Stay at home,” there is no precept equal to that, in these days, for writing by or acting by.11

And now, my dear friend (for I write to you as if we had been acquainted since childhood), pray take in good part this headlong scrawl. Think no worse of me than if I had not written. Perhaps I shall see you one day still. Seen or not seen, may good always be with you.

Yours very sincerely /

T. Carlyle

If you see Emerson, pray say that his Copy of the Fr. Revolution is come (and much approved of),12 that the new copies of his Oration13 are not come, and are eagerly expected by more than me. I wrote to him since he wrote.14