The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 8 December 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18391208-TC-RWE-01; CL 11: 226-229


Chelsea, London, 8 Decr, 1839—

My dear Emerson,

What a time since we have written to one another! Was it you that defalcated? Alas, I fear it was myself; I have had a feeling these nine or ten weeks that you were expecting to hear from me; that I absolutely could not write. Your kind gift of Fuller's Eckermann1 was handed in to our Hackney Coach, in Regent Street, as we wended homewards from the railway and Scotland, on perhaps the 8th of September last;2 a welcome memorial of distant friends and doings: nay perhaps there was a Letter two weeks prior to that:—I am a great sinner! But the truth is, I could not write; and now I can, and do it.

Our sojourn in Scotland was stagnant, sad; but tranquil, well let alone,—an indispensable blessing to a poor creature fretted to fiddlestrings, as I grow to be in this Babylon, take it as I will. We had eight weeks of desolate rain; with about eight days bright as diamonds intercalated in that black monotony of bad weather. The old Hills are the same; the old streams go gushing along as in past years, in past ages; but he that looks on them is no longer the same: and the old Friends, where are they? I walk silent thro' my old haunts in that country; sunk usually in inexpressible reflexions; in an immeasurable chaos of musings and mopings that cannot be reflected or articulated. The only work I had on hand was one that would not prosper with me: an Article for the Quarterly Review on the state of the working Classes here. The thoughts were familiar to me, old, many years old; but the utterance of them, in what spoken dialect to utter them! The Quarterly Review was not an eligible vehicle, and yet the eligiblest; of Whigs, abandoned to Dilettantism and withered sceptical conventionality, there was no hope at all; the London-and-Westminister Radicals, wedded to their Benthamee Formulas, and tremulous at their own shadows, expressly rejected my proposal many months ago: Tories alone remained; Tories I often think have more stuff in them in spite of their blindness than any other class we have;—Walter Scott's sympathy with his fellow creatures, what is it compared with Sydney Smith's, with a Poor Law Commissioner's! Well: this thing would not prosper with me in Scotland at all; nor here at all, where nevertheless I had to persist writing; writing and burning, and cursing my destiny, and then again writing. Finally the thing came out, as an Essay on Chartism; was shown to Lockhart, according to agreement; was praised by him, but was also found unsuitable by him; suitable to explode a whole fleet of Quarterlies into skyrockets in these times! And now Fraser publishes it himself, with some additions, as a little volume; and it will go forth in a week or two on its own footing; and England will see what she has to say to it, whether something or nothing; and one man, as usual, is right glad that he has nothing more to do with it. This is the reason why I could not write. I mean to send you the Proofsheets of this thing, to do with as you see cause; there will be but some five or six, I think. It is probable my New England brothers may approve some portions of it; may be curious to see it reprinted: you ought to say Yes or No in regard to that. I think I will send all the sheets together; or at farthest, at two times.

Fraser, when we returned hither, had already received his Miscellanies; had about despatched his 500 French Revolutions, ‘insured’ and so forth, consigned I suppose to your protection and the proper Bookseller's; probably they have got over from New York into your neighbourhood before now. Much good may they do you! The Miscellanies, with their variegated binding, proved to be in perfect order; and are now all sold; with much regret from poor James that we had not a thousand more of them! This thousand he now sets about providing, by his own industry, poor man; I am revising the American copy in these days; the Printer is to proceed forthwith. I admire the good Stearns Wheeler as I proceed; I write to him my thanks by this post, and send him by Kennet a copy of Goethe's Meister for symbol of acknowledgement.3 Another copy goes off for you, to the care of Little and Company. Fraser has got it out two weeks ago; a respectable enough book, now that the version is corrected somewhat. Tell me whether you dislike it less; what you do think of it? By the bye, have you not learned to read German now? I rather think you have. It is three months well spent, if ever months were, for a thinking Englishman of this age.— I hope Kennet will use more despatch than he sometimes does. Thank Heaven for these Boston Steamers they project! May the Nereids and Poseidon favour them! They will bring us a thousand miles nearer, at one step; by and by we shall be of one parish after all.

During Autumn I speculated often about a Hegira into New England this very year: but alas! my horror of Lecturing continues great; and what else is there for me to do there? These several years I have had no wish so pressing as to hold my peace. I begin again to feel some use in articulate speech; perhaps I shall one day have something that I want to utter even in your side of the water. We shall see. Patience, and shuffle the cards.— I saw no more of Webster; did not even learn well where he was; till lately I noticed in the Newspapers that he had gone hom[e a]gain. A certain Mr Brown (I think) brought me a letter from you, not long since; I forw[arded] him to Cambridge and Scotland: a modest inoffensive man. He said he had never personally met with Emerson.4 My Wife recalled to him the story of the Scotch Traveller on the top of Vesuvius: “Never saw so beautiful a scene in the world!”— “Nor I,” replied a stranger standing there, “except once; on the top of Dunmiot in the Ochil Hills in Scotland.”— “Good Heavens! That is a part of my Estate, and I was never there! I will go thither.”5 Yes, do!— We have seen no other Transoceanic that I remember. We expect your Book soon! We know the subject of your winter Lectures too;6 at least Miss Martineau thinks she does, and makes us think so. Heaven speed the work. Heaven send my good Emerson a good utterance, in all right ways, of the nobleness that dwells in him. He knows what silence means; let him know speech also, in its season: the two are like canvas and pigment, like darkness and light-image painted thereon; the one is essential to the other, not possible without the other.

Poor Miss Martineau is in Newcastle-on-Tyne this winter; sick, painfully not dangerously; with a surgical brother-in-law. Her meagre didacticalities afflict me no more; but also her blithe friendly presence cheers me no more.7 We wish she were back. This silence, I calculate, forced silence will do her much good. If I were a legislator, I would order every man, once a week or so, to lock his lips together, and utter no vocable at all for four-and-twenty hours: it would do him an immense benefit, poor fellow. Such racket, and cackle of mere hearsay and sincere-cant grows at last entirely deafening, enough to drive one mad;—like the voice of mere infinite rookeries answering your voice! Silence, Silence!— Sterling sent you a Letter from Clifton, which I set under way here, having added the address. He is not well again, the good Sterling; talks of Madeira this season again: but I hope otherwise. You of course read his sublime “article”? I tell him it was—a thing untellable!

Mr Southey has fallen, it seems, into a mournful condition: oblivion, mute hebetation, loss of all faculty. He suffered greatly, nursing his former wife in her insanity, for years till her relief by death; suffered, worked, and made no moan; the brunt of the task over, he sank into collapse in the hands of a new wife he had just wedded.8 What a lot for him; for her especially! The most excitable, but most methodic man I have ever seen. Τελος [End]! that is a word that awaits us all.— I have my Brother here at present; tho' talking of Lisbon with his Buccleuchs. My Wife seems better than of late winters. I actually had a Horse, nay actually have it, tho' it is gone to the country till the mud abate again! It did me perceptible good; I mean to try it farther. I am no longer so desperately poor as I have been for twelve years back: sentence of starvation or beggary seems revoked at last, a blessedness really very considerable. Thanks, thanks! We send a thousand regards to the two little ones, to the two Mothers.9 Valete nostrum memores [Farewell, remember us]. 10

T. Carlyle