TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 1 April 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400401-TC-RWE-01; CL 12: 91-94
TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Chelsea, London, 1 April, 1840—
My dear Emerson,
A Letter has been due to you from me, if not by palpable law of reciprocity, yet by other law and right, for some week or two.1 I meant to write so soon as Fraser and I had got a settlement effected. The travelling Sumner2 being about to return into your neighbourhood, I gladly accept his offer to take a message to you[.] I wish I had anything beyond a dull Letter to send! But unless as my Wife suggests, I go and get you a D'Orsay Portrait of myself, I see not what there is! Do you read German or not? I now and then fall in with a curious German volume, not perhaps so easily accessible in the Western world. Tell me. Or do you ever mean to learn it? I decidedly wish you would.3— As to the D'Orsay Portrait, it is a real curiosity: Count D'Orsay the emperor of European Dandies pourtraying the Prophet of spiritual Sansculottism! He came rolling down hither one day, many months ago, in his sun-chariot, to the bedazzlement of all bystanders; found me in dusty grey-plaid dressing-gown, grim as the spirit of Presbyterianism (my Wife said), and contrived to get along well enough with me. I found him a man worth talking to, once and away; a man of decided natural gifts, every utterance of his containing in it a wild caricature likeness of some object or other; a dashing man, who might, some twenty years sooner born, have become one of Bonaparte's Marshals, and is, alas,—Count D'Orsay! The Portrait he dashed off in some twenty minutes (I was dining there, to meet Landor); we have not chanced to meet together since, and I refuse to undergo any more eight-o'clock dinners for such an object.— Now if I do not send you the Portrait, after all?4
Fraser's account of the Miscellanies stood legibly extended over large spaces of paper, and was in several senses amazing to look upon. I trouble you only with the result. Two hundred and forty-eight copies5 (for there were some one or two “imperfect”): all these he had sold, at 2 guineas each; and sold swiftly, for I recollect in December or perhaps November he told me he was “holding back,” not to run entirely out. Well, of the £500 and odds so realized for these Books, the portion that belonged to me was £239,—the £261 had been the expense of handing the ware over the counter, and drawing in the coin for it! “Rules of the Trade”;—it is a Trade, one would surmise, in which the Devil has a large interest. However, not to spend an instant, polluting one's eyesight with that side of it, let me feel joyfully, with thanks to Heaven and America, that I do receive such a sum in the shape of wages, by decidedly the noblest method in which wages could come to a man. Without friendship, without Ralph Waldo Emerson, there had been no sixpence of that money here. Thanks and again thanks. This Earth is not an unmingled ball of Mud, after all. Sunbeams visit it;—mud and sunbeams are the stuff it has from of old consisted of.— I hasten away from the Ledger, with the mere good-news that James is altogether content with the “progress” of all these Books, including even the well-abused Chartism Book. We are just in the point of finishing our English reprint of the Miscellanies; of which I hope to send you a copy before long.
And now why do not you write to me? Your Lectures must be done long ago.6 Or are you perhaps writing a Book? I shall be right glad to hear of that; and withal to hear that you do not hurry yourself, but strive with deliberate energy to produce what to you is best. Certainly, I think, a right Book does lie in the man! It is to be remembered also always that the true value is determined by what we do not write! There is nothing truer than that now all but forgotten truth; it is eternally true. He whom it concerns can consider it.— You have doubtless seen Milnes's review of you. I know not that you will find it to strike direct upon the secret of Emerson, to hit the nail on the head, anywhere at all; I rather think not. But it is gently, not unlovingly done;—and lays the first plank of a kind of pulpit for you here and throughout all Saxondom: a thing rather to be thankful for. It on the whole surpassed my expectations. Milnes tells me he is sending you a copy and a Note, by Sumner. He is really a pretty little robin-redbreast of a man.
You asked me about Landor and Heraud. Before my paper entirely vanish, let me put down a word about them. Heraud is a loquacious scribacious little man, of middle age, of parboiled greasy aspect, whom Leigh Hunt describes as “wavering in the most astonishing manner between being Something and Nothing.” To me he is chiefly remarkable as being still with his entirely enormous vanity and very small stock of faculty,—out of Bedlam. He picked up a notion or two from Coleridge many years ago; and has ever since been rattling them in his head, like peas in an empty bladder, and calling on the world to “List the music of the spheres.” He escaped assassination, as I calculate, chiefly by being the cheerfullest, best-natured little creature extant. You cannot kill him, he laughs so sof[t]ly, even when he is like killing you. John Mill said: “I forgive him freely for interpreting the universe, now when I find he cannot pronounce the h's.” Really, this is no caricature; you have not seen the match of Heraud in your days. I mentioned to him once that Novalis had said, “The highest problem of Authorship is the writing of a Bible.”7—“That is precisely what I am doing!” answered the aspiring, unaspirating.— Of Landor I have not got much benefit either. We met first, some four years ago, on Cheyne Walk here: a tall broad burly man, with grey hair, and large fierce-rolling eyes; of the most restless impetuous vivacity not to be held in by the most perfect breeding,—expressing itself in high-coloured superlatives, indeed in reckless exaggeration, now and then in a dry sharp laugh not of sport but of mockery; a wild man, whom no extent of culture had been able to tame! His intellectual faculty seemed to me to be weak in proportion to his violence of temper: the judgement he gives about anything is more apt to be wrong than right,—as the inward whirlwind shows him this side or the other of the object; and sides of an object are all that he sees. He is not an original man; in most cases, one but sighs over the spectacle of commonplace torn to rags. I find him painful as a writer; like a soul ever promising to take wing into the AEther, yet never doing it, ever splashing webfooted in the terrene mud, and only splashing the worse the more he strives! Two new tragedies of his that I read lately are the fatallest stuff I have seen for long: not an ingot; ah no, a distracted coil of wire-drawings saleable in no market.8 Poor Landor has left his Wife (who is said to be fool) in Italy, with his children, who would not quit her; but it seems he has honestly surrendered all his money to her except a bare annuity for furnished lodgings;9 and now lives at Bath, a solitary sexagenarian, in that manner. He visits London in May; but says always it would kill him soon: alas, I can well believe that! They say he has a kind heart; nor does it seem unlikely: a perfectly honest heart, free and fearless, dwelling amid such hallucinations, excitations, tempestuous confusions, I can see he has. Enough of him! Me he likes well enough, more thanks to him; but two hours of such speech as his leave me giddy and undone. I have seen some other Lions, and Lion's-providers; but consider them as worthless species.——— When will you write, then? Consider my frightful outlook with a Course of Lectures to give “On Heroes and Hero-worship”—from Odin to Robt Burns! My Wife salutes you all. Good be in the Concord Household!—Yours ever,