The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN KENYON ; 24 October 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18391024-TC-JK-01; CL 11: 210-211


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, / 24 October, 1839.

My dear Sir,

Will you excuse me for having so long delayed to answer by the smallest note of hand the kind gift of your “Rhymed Plea.”1 It had come to me in a time of hurry; I have been in Scotland since, and much occupied: I could not till now have answered, except by a vague and altogether empty acknowledgement that the Book had been delivered me.

Pray accept my thanks; and, if that can do anything for you, my sincere agreement in the spirit that animates you, my clear recognition of an honest purpose, of a valuable talent in you. It is saying much, if you knew my habits, that I have read great part of your Book tho' in rhyme; that I mean to read it all, and with attention. Rhyme, of late years, is a thing I have felt myself obliged more and more to avoid. Speech of any kind ought to be the authentic impression of the thought that had been in the heart of a man. Rhymed speech, Poetry, ought to be the musical expression of what had been so vividly there as to grow musical, to become song, and oblige the man to sing it! Such is my creed; what my practice, in these years in this region, may have been, you yourself understand! One cannot do with speech that is the impression of Nothing; with rhymed speech that has the additional incumbrance of dislocating the grammar of the thing; hiding the no-meaning in a perplexed wrapping of jingle. As true song of thought is the delight of man's soul; so false song is the horror of a man; the thing that makes a Hogarth's “enraged musician” of him!2 I have more than once read all the Notes of so-called “Poems”; keeping the Poems themselves at a safe distance from me.— I fear you think me very perverse; but the thing I say will explain what compliment I meant you by the mere fact of reading. My haste at this moment is great; and I have written too much and too little for any but a candid man's interpretation.

Believe always that, in prose or even in verse (for Pope's Didactics are something too),3 I shall be happy to meet you again; that if our paths ever chanced to intersect, it would give me pleasure to know you better; that known or unknown I wish you heartily good speed;—and am,

My dear Sir, / Yours with thanks

T. Carlyle