The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JAMES DODDS ; 15 March 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410300-TC-JADO-01; CL 13: 58-59


London, 21 September [mid-March] 1841

My Dear Sir,— The truthful genial temper manifested in your letter cannot but increase the interest I felt in you. It will be good news in all time coming to learn that such a life as yours unfolds itself according to its promise, and becomes in some tolerable degree what it is capable of being. The problem is your own, to make or to mar; a great problem for you, as the like is for every man born into this world.

You have my entire sympathy in your denunciation of the “explosive” character. It is frequent in these times; and deplorable wherever met with. Explosions are ever wasteful, woeful; central fire should not explode itself, but lie silent, far down, at the centre, and make all good fruits grow. We cannot too often repeat to ourselves, “strength is seen not in spasms, but in stout bearing of burdens.”

You can take comfort in the meanwhile, if you need it, by the experience of all wise men, that a right heavy burden is precisely the thing wanted for a young strong man. Grievous to be borne; but bear it well; you will find it one day to have been verily blessed. “I would not for any money,” says the brave Jean Paul in his quaint way, “have had money in my youth.”1 He speaks a truth there, singular as it may seem to many.

By the way, do you read German? It would be well worth your while to learn it; and not impossible, not even difficult, even where you are, if you so resolved. These young obscure years ought to be incessantly employed in gaining knowledge of things worth knowing, especially of heroic human souls worth knowing; and you may believe me, the obscurer such years are, it is apt to be the better. Books are needed, but yet not many books; a few well read. An open, true, patient, and valiant soul is needed; that is the one thing needful.

I have no time here, in this immeasurable treadmill of a place, to answer letters. But you may take it for a new fact, that if you can, as you say, write without answer, your letters shall be altogether welcome! If at any time a definite service can be done by answering, doubt not I shall make time for it. I subscribe myself, in great haste, yours, with true wishes and hopes, T. CARLYLE