TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 8 February 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390208-TC-RWE-01; CL 11: 21-26
TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Chelsea, 8th Feby, 1839—
My dear Friend,
Your welcome little Letter, with the astonishing inclosure, arrived safe four days ago;1 right welcome, as all your Letters are, and bringing as these usually do the best news I get here. The miraculous draught2 of Paper I have just sent to a sure hand in Liverpool, there to lie till in due time it have ripened into a crop of a hundred gold sovereigns! On this subject, which gives room for so many thoughts, there is little that can be said, that were not an impertinence more or less. The matter grows serious to me, enjoins me to be silent and reflect. I will say at any rate, there never came money into my hands I was so proud of; the promise of a blessing looks from the face of it; nay it will be twice blessed. So I will ejaculate, with the Arabs, “Allah akbar [God is great]!” and walk silent by the shore of the many-sounding3 Babel-tumult, meditating on much. Thanks to the mysterious all-bounteous Guide of men, and to you my true Brother, far over the sea!— For the rest, I shewed Fraser this Nehemiah document;4 and said I hoped he would blush very deep;—which indeed the poor creature did, till I was absolutely sorry for him.
But now first as to this question, what I mean?5 You must know poor Fraser, a punctual but most pusillanimous mortal, has been talking louder and louder lately of a “second edition” here; whereupon, as labour-wages are not higher here than with you, and printing-work, if well bargained for, ought to be about the same price, it struck me that, as in the case of the Miscellanies, so here inversely the supply of both the New and the Old England might be profitably combined. Whether aught can come of this, now that it is got close upon us, I yet know not. Fraser has only 75 copies left; but when these will be done, his prophecy comprehends not—“surely within the year!” For the present I have set him to ascertain, and will otherwise ascertain for myself, what the exact cost of stereotyping the Book were, in the same letter and style as yours; it is not so much more than printing, they tell me: I should then have done with it forever and a day. You on your side, and we on ours might have as many copies as were wanted for all time coming. This is, in these very days, under inquisition; but there are many points to be settled before the issue. I have not yet succeeded in finding a Bookseller of any fitness, but am waiting for one always. And even had I found such a one, I mean an energetic Seller that would sell on other terms than forty per cent for his trouble, it were still a question whether one ought to venture on such a speculation: “quitting the old highways,” as I say, “in indignation at the excessive tolls, with hope that you will arrive cheaper in the steeple-chase way!” It is clear however that said highways are of the corduroy sort, said tolls an anomaly that must be remedied soon; and also that in all England there is no Book in a likelier case to adventure it with than this same,—which did not sell at all for two months, as I hear, which all Booksellers got terrified for, and which has crept along mainly by its own gravitation ever since. We will consider well, we shall see. You can understand that such a thing, for your market too, is in agitation; if any pirate step in before us in the meanwhile, we cannot help it.
Thanks again for your swift attention to the Miscellanies;6 poor Fraser is in great haste to see them; hoping for his forty-per-cent division of the spoil. If you have not yet got to the very end with your printing, I will add a few errata; if they come too late, never mind; they are of small moment: Diamond Necklace (page 24, of the separate Copy; of the Magazine I know not what page) delete the Note about “the Palais Royal Garden” at the bottom of the page;—I think I have since discovered that the date of that is wrong, and it can be dispensed with there. Walter Scott, p. 296 I pointed out one error already, a line to be deleted; p. 300, just after “beatified ghost-condition” occurs a short sentence “Let it be so”: that is an editorial superfactation, pray delete that: again; p. 335 last line but one, rondo (in the Note about Giotto) instead of tondo (it was t, and the editorial broadhoof changed it into r): p. 343, just before the extract from Scott's Diary, “a hint (from Byron's Ravenna),” read “on hint.”7— I will not add a word more; but leave myself with my faithful correctors, to whom be all furtherance. Out upon it! my paper once more is all but done, and not a syllable of sense said.———
This foggy Babylon tumbles along as it was wont; and, as for my particular case, uses me not worse but better than of old. Nay there are many in it that have a real friendliness for me. For example, the other night, a massive portmanteau of Books, sent according to my written list, from the Cambridge University Library, from certain friends there whom I have never seen; a gratifying arrival. For we have no Library here, from which we can borrow books home; and are only in these weeks striving to get one: think of that! The worst is the sore tear and wear of this huge roaring Niagara of things on such a poor excitable set of nerves as mine. The velocity of all things, of the very word you hear on the streets, is at railway rate: joy itself is unenjoyable, to be avoided like pain; there is no wish one has so pressing as for quiet. Ah me, I often swear I will be buried at least in free breezy Scotland, out of this insane hubbub, where Fate tethers me in life! If Fate always tether me;—but if ever the smallest competence of wordly means be mine, I [will] fly this whirlpool as I would the Lake of Malebolge,8 and only visit it now and then! Yet [perhaps] it is the proper place after all, seeing all places are improper: who knows? Meanwhile I [lead] a most dyspeptic solitary self-shrouded life; consuming, if possible in silence, my considerable daily allotment of pain; glad when any strength is left in me for working, which is the only use I can see in myself,—too rare a case of late. The ground of my existence is black as Death; too black, when all void too: but at times there paint themselves on it pictures of gold and rainbow and lightning; all the brighter for the black ground, I suppose. Withal I am very much of a fool.— Some people will have me write on Cromwell which I have been talking about. I do read on that and English subjects, finding that I know nothing and that nobody knows anything of that: but whether anything will come of it remains to be seen. Mill the Westminster friend is gone in bad health to the Continent, and has left a rude Aberdeen Longear [Ass], a great admirer of mine too, with whom I conjecture I cannot act at all: so good-bye to that. The wisest of all, I do believe, were that I bought my nag Yankee, and set to galloping about the elevated places here!
A certain Mr Coollidge (?),9 a Boston man of clear iron visage and character, came down to me the other day with Summer; he left a newspaper fragment, containing “the Socinian Pope's denunciation of Emerson.”10 The thing denounced had not then arrived, tho' often asked for at Kennet's;11 it did not arrive till yesterday, but had lain buried in bales of I know not what. We have read it only once, and are not yet at the bottom of it. Meanwhile, as I judge, the Socinian “tempest in a washbowl” is all according to nature, and will be profitable to you, not hurtful. A man is called to let his light shine before men;12 but he ought to understand better and better what medium it is thro', what retinas it falls on: wherefore look there. I find in this as in the two other Speeches13 that noblest self-assertion, and believing originality, which is like sacred fire, the beginning of whatsoever is to flame and work; and for young men especially one sees not what could be more vivifying. Speak therefore, while you feel called to do it, and when you feel called. But for yourself, my friend, I prophecy it will not do always, a faculty is in you for a sort of speech which is itself action, an artistic sort. You tell us with piercing emphasis that man's soul is great; shew us a great soul of a man, in some work symbolic of such: this is the seal of such a message, and you will feel by and by that you are called to this. I long to see some concrete Thing, some Event, Man's Life, American Forest, or piece of Creation, which this Emerson loves and wonders at, well Emersonised, depictured by Emerson, filled with the life of Emerson, and cast forth from him there to live by itself. If these Orations baulk me of this, how profitable soever they be for others, I will not love them.— And yet what am I saying? How do I know what is good for you, what authentically makes your own heart glad to work in it? I speak from without, the friendliest voice must speak from without; and a man's ultimate monition comes only from within. Forgive me, and love me, and write soon. A Dieu!
My Wife, very proud of your salutation, sends a sick return of greeting. After a winter of unusual strength, she took cold the other day, and coughs again; tho' she will not call it serious yet. One likes none of these things. She has a brisk heart and a stout, but too weak a frame for this rough life of mine. I will not get sad about it.—
One of the strangest things about these New England Orations is a fact I have heard but not yet seen, that a certain W. Gladstone, an Oxford crack scholar, Tory M.P. and devout Churchman of great talent and hope,14 has contrived to insert a piece of you (first Oratn it must be) in a work of his on “Church and State,” which makes some figure at present!15 I know him for a solid serious silent-minded man;16 but how with his Coleridge Shovel-hattism he has contrived to relate himself to you, there is the mystery. True men of all creeds, it would seem, are brothers—
To write soon!