The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 12 January 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410112-TC-JOST-01; CL 13: 15-16


Chelsea, 12 jany, 1841—

Dear Sterling,

The one good thing I did yesterday,—swallowed, we may fear, by the mass of mischief one is daily sure to do,—was the hunting out of a Strafford's Trial for you; which feat, after a considerable chace, apparently growing desperate now for that day, I did at last accomplish at Bohn's in Henrietta Street.1 The old black Tome was to be delivered at your Father's last night.2 The price, 15/, seemed high; but Bohn refused to abate a doit. The Book is usually sold as the 8th volume of Rushworth, on which account they are shyer of parting with it separately.3 The Strafford Papers, which you already have, seemed yesterday a little commoner.4 Faustum sit [Good luck]! I wish you well through with the great Wentworth Tragedy.5 I have looked many times at that man; but except his stern mournful face and stooping gait, there is nothing that would become nightly alive with me. He is dead, and his Cause: yet might perhaps be recalled to existence,—if one had fire enough in one's belly!6

Browning's Strafford I have never seen, nor shall see.7 The man himself is not without good faculty; but dwells in an element of CharlesLamb-ism, British-Museum Classicality and other Cockney encumbrance; out of which, not without a great effort, he will perhaps contrive to struggle.

We rejoice to hear of your health; to see the date Clifton.8 Do not be too liberal with yourself. This weather, snow-slush to the very zenith, cannot be altogether good for you. Above all, do not work too hard. For your Work's sake even, if for no other, remember always “Slow fire does make sweet malt.”9— Will not some chance bring you hither, the first locomotion you undertake? One may at least “heave the wish,”10 as I once heard a Scotch Preacher say!

My Wife has read your verses;11 undertakes to tell you her opinion of them before long. My Brother was here for the greater part of these last two weeks: he is back to Ryde12 again; he speaks of hearing from you now and then.

Thanks for your offer of the old Sermons. Human fortitude is not equal to the perusal of them; but perhaps here and there some date, temporary sentiment or other seizable trait might disclose itself on turning them over: if you have any conveyance, and no use for the stuff at all, I will take a look of it some time. My intellectual faculty is nearly extinguished by the excess of stupidity in these Commonwealth Books. Literally so. Clarendon himself is a most monotonous, drowsy-headed “great man,” moving like Milton's Sin in a frightful coil of Formulisms, and worse.13 The Eikon Basilike,14 had it not belonged to Cambridge Library, I would have burnt: God preserve me from ever again reading such a despicable piece of Phariseeism, nay of Quack Phariseeism, for the thing is palpably in every line of it an imposture! May alone and Hobbes, of all these people, seem to one to have any eyes.15 Ah me, what shall I do?— Cease writing at present, for one thing!

Yours ever affectionately /

T. Carlyle