The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 11 April 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400411-TC-JOST-01; CL 12: 102-103


Chelsea, 11 April, 1840—

My dear Sterling,

In the present vigorous state of the Penny Postage it does often seem to me a blameable anomaly that we should speak to one another so very seldom on paper. The date of your Letter is at a most wasteful distance from that of the preceding one.1 The blame is half mine, you say? Perhaps so, perhaps not; but alas how does that help us either way! Alas, the noise of this insanity of an existence in London City is like to tear me in shreads at any rate; oftenest I can undertake to do nothing whatever but try to hold my peace and keep alive in the middle of it all! Is it not a pity, meanwhile, that the few articulate voices of our Planet were so widely scattered, at Falmouth and elsewhere; that the smoke of the torment of this my Cockney-Tophet went up in such wise; alas, that our old Planet generally were such a mad old business—?— One other thing only I shall complain of: the dreadful hand you write; mysterious as Odin's runes; as if one were listening to a loved voice passionately thro' the jangle of marrow-bones and cleavers!

Your mood in writing of that Letter is too well known to one other man, my friend! Take comfort: nothing so sinister lies in it; the creative virtue acts in that manner too,—in black whirlwinds and snow and thunder storms, before green worlds and bright summer suns disclose themselves. I fancy that the end of all this, one day or another, one year or another, will be a beautiful Book; much nearer contenting you than anything you have yet done. Believe it. We think the fruitful Earth is doing nothing, if we do not see yellow wheat on the surface, and men busy reaping the same. We are fools. The worthy Earth was never idle at all; was busiest of all, when the foolish husbandman, passing by, said that she lay wasting, rotting, an idly unprofitable thing. Festina lente [Make haste slowly] is a word I would write over Sterling's door-posts, and the lente in double roman capitals.

My own winter and spring have passed,—I cannot tell you how; I could break forth into excommunicating to tell you how! Proof-sheets, foolish visits, foolish books,—not many even of these. N'en parlons pas [Let's not speak of it].— And now next week comes out a Prospectus of Lectures to my mind at present one of the fearfullest enterprises man ever engaged in. “On Heroes, Hero-worship and the Heroic”—from Odin down to Robert Burns! Literally so. But you shall have the Prospectus itself next week; suspend your wonder till then.

For above a month past I have had a horse, and been diligently wellnigh daily using it. The world gets green again, the heaven blue again; I feel, often and often, had I but Sterling here!—

The Westminster Review has come into the hands of Cole and Hickson;2 to be conducted on new principles! What words are adequate? No words.

My Wife has been poorly during all this east wind; is getting better now; busy, this day, making marmalade; sends you and yours many kind salutations. Blessings with you always, my dear Friend!

T. Carlyle (in great haste)