The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JAMES GARTH MARSHALL ; 18 November 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411118-TC-JGM-01; CL 13: 297-299


Chelsea, 18 Novr, 1841—

Dear Marshall,

We had heard, with much sorrow and sympathy, of the sad event you allude to.1 It would have been too valid an excuse had you forgotten to write at all.

You enter largely into my hasty idea;2 and approve yourself, what I have understood you to be, a man ready to act,—to work, according to your opportunity, in whatsoever seems reasonable and feasible. Much is entrusted to a man in your place, in these times; and I rejoice always to know that there is one man who does not forget this. Were there a hundred such, a thousand such, were all the rich Workers of England alive to their duty, to their dignity, and real position such as God and Nature have now ordered it here,—the rich Idlers would sing another song shortly; a better time would be beginning for us all!

To the most of what you say about Christianity and Society I have nothing to answer at present but zealous approval. I can also discern, and do at all times discern, much good in such men as Drs Arnold and Whately;3 nay their Priestship too, which happily is no business of mine, but their own business, clearly enough announces itself to me as one of a most useful class of facts on the part of Nature,—the wise thrifty Mother, who wants no wasteful convulsive Suddennesses, but that all should if possible die quietly; and so gets good men persuaded to be Priests and some other things, under very strange circumstances! For the rest, I do not much think either of these two would be first-rate guns in a Periodical; though their talent there too might be turned to use. They have work elsewhere in abundance, if they are inclined to do it; another wing of the great broad harvest to labour in, and reap. On the whole I do not feel that I have much either of friendship or enmity to that great Fact of a Church, called the Church of England here and now: it is a Fact, which no prudent man addressing England will omit to take note of; even a great Fact,—tho' I apprehend too its bulk is very much greater than any real magnitude it has in these hard times of ours! It shall sail its own voyage for me. Alas, if I hated it much worse than I do, is it not perishing rapidly enough, much too rapidly perhaps, without help of mine?— In one thing I must dissent from you, that there should never in any case be Priest[s.] On the contrary, it is very deeply my conviction that wherever human souls do see the hidden things of God and worship them, there must and will be chosen interpreters of them,—priests, that is to say,—whom the world will pay a most just reverence to, and in all ways assist, honour and forward, if the world has any sense left in it for what is worthy of honour! A true Priest, of what men do verily believe and hold to as their soul's anchor, is the venerablest of all men under the sun. And accordingly, a Sham-Priest, again; or a convulsive, fanatic, would-be-true Priest, of what men at bottom do not any longer believe (what we can call believing) is not he precisely the lamentablest, fatallest,—the one you like best to get away from, and leave alone in his glory! For this reason, I get out of the way of Puseyism, more speedily than of most things; for there seems to me a trace of everlasting truth in it, embedded in deliration (considering what o'clock it now is): a very shocking spectacle! But enough of all that.

Well, certainly it will be a rather grave business, that of starting a Periodical. A thing difficult to succeed in; a thing that ought to be weighed well before it be entered on! There are some radiances of true thought, and valiant endeavour, now visible here and there among us; which it might be a great matter to unite into a light-beam: but it would be a most difficult thing. Ought I to try it, here where I stand? That is a question which has only flitted once or twice thro' my head as yet. It would have to be meditated with quite another gravity, did it ever come in a practical shape; and, alas, most probably the deliberate answer would be— What?—

For on the whole I have thoughts of my own to utter, which it is my great interest and work, the utmost I can do in God's world, to get uttered;—my own thoughts, howsoever other people's get themselves uttered and edited! Well, and here already I can do that,—not without a certain savage convenience; as of some Arab shiek4 in the wilderness, whose tent indeed is of rusty camel-skins, and poor and rude in all equipments and conveniences, but whose right-hand holds his own spear,—who reverences no “Grand Turk” however blustery;5 whose circle of desart is his own, and above him God only. Certainly I will not quit my camel-skin tent, without well considering of it. I had a rather stiffish fight for it hitherto, and did not get it for nothing! Praise to Allah!—

In short, dear Marshall, the thing to be done at present is to send me that Address,—leaving the long-eared Millocrat-Letters6 till better leisure or opportunity! I want to see the Address as soon as you can.

And so Good be with you today—and all days.

Yours very truly /

T. Carlyle