January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


JWC TO JOHN STERLING ; 19 January 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420119-JWC-JOST-01; CL 14: 18-20


[19 jany 1842]1

My dear friend

I find myself engaged to write you a sort of business-letter, a thing which lies one would say, rather out of my sphere—but as I have not troubled you with many letters of late, you need not quarrel with the present; tho' on a subject as uncongenial to my tastes and habits, as it can possibly be to yours Mr “Hurdy-Gurdy”—

There is alive at present in God's Universe, and likely to live, a man—Forster by name—a barrister without practice—residing at No 58 Lincolns Inn fields—not unknown to Fame, as “the second worst critic of the age”; who has gained himself a tolerable footing in our house and hearts, by I cannot precisely say what merits— He is one of those people who go about, that one likes, in moderation, without feeling them to be worth the pains of a particular study. Latterly, Carlyle has not thought him “so very bad a critic”; for he finds him here and there taking up a notion of his own—“as if he understood it”—for my part I have always thought rather well of his judgement—for from the first he has displayed a most remarkable clearsightedness with respect to myself—thinking me little short of being as great a genius as my husband2— And you—by you also his character as a critic has deserved to be redeemed from contempt— for he it was who wrote the article in the Examiner in praise of “the Election.”3 Well—all this preamble was not essential to the understanding of what is to follow: but at least it will not help to darken it, which is as much as could be expected of a female writer

This man then, has been taking counsel with me, me of all people that could have been pitched upon! how to give new life to a dying Review—the Foreign4 namely— It has passed into the hands of new publishers Chapman and Hall active and moneyed men, who are intent on raising a corps of new worthy contributors who are somehow (I do not understand that part of it) to kill and devour the old Editor, a Dr Worthington,5 who has been for a long time “sitting on it as an Incubus”— What they are to do next, that they will arrange I suppose among themselves. Meanwhile of course they are to be handsomely paid for their pains.

Now in casting our eyes about for men of genius—fit to infuse new life into dead matter there naturally slid over my lips your name “John Sterling if the Review could but be helped by a fifty page article in rhyme”! “Why not in prose?” said Forster. “Ah! that is another question! to persuade him to write prose would not be so easy”— “At all events cried Forster with a burst of enthusiasm he can and shall and must be applied to”— And accordingly he took your address for that purpose. Having consulted with the publishers for whom he is acting gratuitously as Prime Minister, for the mere love of humanity and his own inward glory; he finds that it were the most promising way of setting about the thing to apply to you through some personal friend—and does me the honour of taking me for such—in which I hope he is not mistaken.

Today I have a letter from him from which I extract the most important paragraph (most important for the business in hand that is—for it contains besides an invitation to dinner with bright schemes of going to the play)

“Will you propose the article on Dante to Mazzini—and I want YOU to write and ask JOHN Sterling” (indication of celebrity) “to write an article for the next Foreign Quarterly: placing no restraint on his opinions in any way. If he will but consent to do anything he may be as radical as he was in his last contribution to conservatism;6—you have if your kindness will take it full authority from me!— This Dr Worthington, it appears is to be got rid of and speedily as possible. If these two articles are supplied it is supposed that they will go far towards knocking him on the head: a matter of much desirability. That done, Carlyle must help these active and excellent Publishers to a good man.7

Thackery proposes “(remember all this is strictly private—you who accuse me of blabbing)8 “offering to keep a hot kitchen (the grand Editorial requisite) on a thousand a year. To that there are one or two objections But he is going to write an article on France & Louis Philippe—which if he chooses to take pains, none could do better &c &c”9

So there you have my story! can you do anything with it?— Even if it were only for my private consolation, I should like to see some PROSE from you once more in this world—think and answer— There is written on the margin of the letter I have quoted “the articles as soon as possible”!! To which I answered if John Sterling does the thing at all to be sure he will do it fast— Carlyle bids me say that he is purposing to write to you in two days—

Remember me in all kindness to your wife—and believe me ever affectionately

yours “til deth” /

Jane Carlyle


I have your little florentine villa framed and hung up10—and I look at very often for its own beauty and your sake