The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 18 August 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410818-TC-RWE-01; CL 13: 217-219


Newby, Annan, Scotland, 18 Augt, 1841—

My dear Emerson,

Two days ago your Letter,1 direct from Liverpool, reached me here; only fifteen days after date on the other side of the Ocean: one of the swiftest messengers that have yet come from you. Steamers have been known to come, they say, in nine days. By and by we shall visibly be, what I always say we virtually are, members of neighbouring Parishes; paying continual visits to one another. What is to hinder huge London from being to universal Saxondom what small Mycale was to the Tribes of Greece,—a place to hold your Παν-Ιωνἱον [Panionia] in?2 A meeting of All the English ought to be as good as one of All the Ionians;—and as Homeric “equal ships”3 are to Bristol Steamers, so, or somewhat so, may New York and New Holland be to Ephesus and Crete, with their distances, relations, and etceteras!— Few things on this Earth look to me greater than the Future of that Family of men.—

It is some two months since I got into this region; my Wife followed me with her maid and equipments some five weeks ago. Newington Lodge,4 when I came to inspect it with eyes, proved to be too rough an undertaking: upholsterers, expense and confusion—the Cynic5 snarled, “Give me a whole Tub rather! I want nothing but shelter from the elements, and to be let alone of all men.” After a little groping, this little furnished Cottage, close by the beach of the Solway Frith, was got hold of: here we have been, in absolute seclusion, for a month,—no company but the corn-fields and the everlasting sands and brine; mountains, and thousand-voiced memories on all hands, sending their regards to one, from the distance. Daily (sometimes even nightly!) I have swashed about in the sea; I have been perfectly idle, at least inarticulate; I fancy I feel myself considerably sounder of body and of mind. Deeply do I agree with you in the great unfathomable meaning of a colloquy with the dumb Ocean, with the dumb Earth, and their eloquence! A Legislator would prescribe some weeks of this annually as a religious duty for all mortals, if he could. A Legislator will prescribe it for himself, since he can! You too have been at Nantasket;6 my Friend, this great rough purple sea-flood that roars under my little garret-window here, this too comes from Nantasket and farther,—swung hitherward by the Moon and the Sun.— It cannot be said that I feel “happy” here, which means joyful;—as far as possible from that. The Cave of Trophonius7 could not be grimmer for one, than this old Land of Graves. But it is a sadness worth any hundred “happinesses.” N'en parlons plus [Let us not speak of it further]. By the way, have you ever clearly remarked withal what a despicable function “view-hunting” is.8 Analogous to “philanthropy,” “pleasures of virtue” &c, &c. I for my part, in these singular cricumstances, often find an honestly ugly country the preferable one. Black eternal peat-bog, or these waste-howling sands with mews and sea-gulls: you meet at least no Cockney to exclaim, “How charming it is!”—

One of the last things I did in London was to pocket Bookseller Brown's £38: a very honest-looking man, that Brown; whom I was sorry I could not manage to welcome better. You asked in that Letter about some other item of business,—Munro's or Brown's Account to acknowledge?—something or other that I was to do: I only remember vaguely that it seemed to me I had as good as done it.9 Your Letter is not here now, but at Chelsea.

Three sheets of the Essays lay waiting me at my Mother's, for correction; needing as good as none. The type and shape is the same a[s that] of late Lectures on Heroes. Robson the Printer, who is a very punctual intelligent man, a scholar withal, undertook to be himself the Corrector of the other sheets: I hope you will find them “exactly conformable to the text, minus mere typographical blunders and the more salient American spellings (labor for labour &c).”10 The Book is perhaps just getting itself subscribed in these very days. It should have been out before now: but poor Fraser is in the country, dangerously ill, which perhaps retards it a little; and the season, at any rate, is at the very dullest. By the first conveyance I will send a certain Lady11 two copies of it. Little danger but the Edition will sell; Fraser knows his own Trade well enough, and is as much a “desperado” as poor Attila Schmelzle was!12 Poor James, I wish he were well again; but really at times I am very anxious about him.— The Book will sell; will be liked and disliked. Harriet Martineau, whom I saw in passing hitherward, writes with her accustomed enthusiasm about it.13 Richard Milnes too is very warm. John Sterling scolds and kisses it (as the manner of the man is), and concludes by inquiring, whether there is any procurable likeness of Emerson? Emerson himself can answer. There ought to be.

—Good Heavens! Here came my Wife, all in tears, pointing out to me a poor Ship, just tumbled over on a sandbank on the Cumberland Coast; men still said to be alive on it,—a Belfast Steamer doing all it can to get in contact with it!14 Moments are precious (say the people on the beach), the flood runs ten miles an hour. Thank God, the Steamer's boat is out: “eleven men,” says a person with a glass, “are saved: it is an American timber-ship, coming up without a Pilot.” And now,—in ten minutes more—there lies the melancholy mass alone among the waters, wreck-boats all hastening towards it, like birds of prey; the poor Canadians all up and away towards Annan.— What an end of my Letter; which nevertheless must end! Adieu, dear Emerson. Address to Chelsea next ti[me.] I can say no more. Yours Ever— T.C.