The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 1 August 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400801-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 209-212


Chelsea, Saturday / 1 Augt, 1840—

My dear Brother,

Yesterday I despatched for you a Letter which had just arrived from Miss Elliot.1 I wrote to her that it was off; that an answer took about a week to come. A short Note of yours arrived just the day after I had sent off my last letter; but as this contained a reply to the question you put, I did not write again. I was very busy, as I had explained; working at my Fourth Lecture; which I finished three days ago. Having now determined on a plan of operations, I send you word about it. A Letter from Alick arrived very lately; pleasantly written, and reporting all to be well in that quarter.

Cavaignac does not go with me on any tour: the humour had passed in the interim; I am not very sorry. After great scheming, it is at last settled that I set out tomorrow morning,—for the Bullers's at Leatherhead. I have got a Macintosh, a valise (borrowed from Sterling), a Walker's Map of Surrey. I shall spend perhaps a couple of days, in the Buller neighbourhood, about Leith Hill, Guil[d]ford &c So far is made out.2 I mean to spend a week in all; but the rest of it is uncertain. I have written to Julius Hare (the Revd) who once before invited me, to Herstmonceux near Battel [sic] in Sussex, that if he is at home I will come now. His answer or no-answer at Leatherhead on Monday will decide. If not to him I shall ride somewhither else; towards the sea, I think, to have a dip there at least The weather is now bright. A week of the green country anywhere will do me good.

Furthermore, as a finale of the riding concern, I have written to W. Marshal that I wish him to accept the present of my Mare and furniture; as I am now minded to have done with it. This will be much the handsomest way of getting to be a Pedes [walker] again. If he decline, I must sell the creature: James Fraser last night was speaking about buying her. One way or other we shall be loose. I find six-and twenty shillings a week decidedly more that I can afford for such a benefit.

Lastly, as finish of the whole, I think I shall return with strength enough to complete my two last Lectures at a heat, before the middle of September, indeed perhaps about the end of August. I shall then be ready for a run into Scotland by steam or otherwise, if the weather and circumstances look promising. I may fly off to America if I like! Before that time, moreover, your course will be in some measure determined.— Thus then is it to stand.

My Lectures seem to myself absolutely worth nothing at all. They looked ill as delivered; but wanting all the unction of personal sincerity expressed by voice and face, they look entirely dull and tame on paper. Whether they should be printed straightway will remain a question. There is small temptation as to cash. Poor James dare not risk any money; will go at half-profits, not otherwise! Indeed, as I mentioned to him, it is very curious to reflect that after all this blaring of “popularity” &c &c, the entire sum of cash I have yet got from him amounts to the munificent bou[n]ty of one hundred pounds sterling and odd! By American friends I have had not far from four hundred pounds: the Miscellanies (sold here, prepared there) amount to some £240,—even allowing James and the Booksellers £260 for their sublime function in the business! It is a concern worth noting; not worth talking about, for we cannot help it. Neither need we. Happily I am not likely to be in want of cash for any time visible yet. Much cash, I feel often, would do me no good. To buy Books, and without any anxiety keep a horse, were perhaps almost all the benefit of wealth for me here. With an independent stock of money I should indeed not continue here. But it sometimes strikes me of late that before long I shall be spoiled for any other place; and obliged to continue, money or no money. On the whole, I begin to grow more and more quiescent. The rule of heeding no hearsay of others, but minding more and more exclusively what I do like or dislike, which is really important for me or not for me,—shews many things in a new light. If I could have held by this rule from the first, several sad mistakes had been avoided. Alas, how can the whole world help one? The whole world had perhaps better never mind one. It may do its uttermost for a man, and leave him altogether poor, insolvent, and only seeming to be rich! I find in the British Empire astonishingly little that it would do me essential benefit to have. I sit in a sort of mournful inexpugnable acquiescence, and look at the green and the paved world; really not very covetous of anything connected with the one or with the other. I hope a New Book is ripening in me; there were the only blessedness; that too a very painful one!

Lytton Bulwer is said to have fallen very unwell; some affect to consider that he is in danger of life: he went to Cheltenham some time ago.3 It will be a rather tragical fate for this poor Bulwer, I think, in the one case or the other. He is certain before many years to be universally found out and proclaimed as a piece of pinchbeck: how sad when one's youth is all done, to have then one's evil days, decline of glories, falling off of friends or sycophants, general detection as a quack,—beginning!

Charles Buller, they say, aims towards India and a lucrative Judgeship there; meaning to quit politics for five or six years! His Mother, who has been in town for a day or two, but returns today, is very disconsolate at the course things have taken; Lord Durham having now died,4 it seems all up: she meditates going to Madeira next winter bag and baggage! Not that there is much additional gone wrong with her health; but “England and the English” are quite disconsolatory to her. Old Buller is very deaf and grey. I called last night on them: Gibbon Wakefield was there. I had seen Gibbon once before; he is the unlucky Theseus who attempted long since to steal Ariadne Turner, the young Chancery Ward; and, not prospering, had to lie in gaol,—and either rot, or become a political philosopher. He chose the latter; is head of the New Zealand and various other schemes: really a remarkable man.5 Ugly, fat; altogether without eyebrows, and with a pair of small crocodile eyes of sharp blue colour, much overlapped with their fat lids,—the face of him, sitting on its great thick neck, with its dirty snub nose, mouth silent yet half-open, expressive of lazy insolence, lazy violence, coarseness, strength and sensuality, is one of the most unloveable faces! But the man is of polite manners; taciturn-emphatic in speech; a fellow of infinite shift, decision, cunning: a kind of Mirabeau with the animal intellect only. I could heave [sic] learned something from him. But you cannot handle pitch and have your fingers clean! He has great practical sense; yet is of those fools who have said in their heart, There is no God!6 The greatest fools of all.

Will you have a Letter here about this day week; waiting my return? Perhaps I may write half a word on the journey. Adieu! Yours ever

T. Carlyle