January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


TC TO HARRIET TAYLOR ; 13 July 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420713-TC-HTA-01; CL 14: 220-222


Chelsea, 13 july, 1842—

My dear Mrs Taylor,

What you ask of me is very flattering; and seemed so small a matter, in regard to “trouble” or the like, that I could not but at once accede to your request when Mr Taylor came, that same evening,1 to enforce it and receive my answer.

During these two days, however, there have various doubts arisen in me; and on the whole a serious, practical question, which I now anew submit to your decision, Whether you really ought not to appoint another to that trust;2 whether I myself, in justice to all interests, ought not still to decline it!

The fact is, you have not among all your friends any person, possessed of common sense and arrived at years of discretion, who is so totally unacquainted with every form of what is called Business; nor, I think, unlikelier now ever to become acquainted with it. For example, were the matter (as Mr Taylor assured me this present one could at the utmost only be) that of seeing certain monies properly invested in stock, I should not of myself in the least know when it was “properly” done, but must depend altogether on the judgement of others. Money generally is one of my enemies,—whom I never look at except on compulsion, and then with the strangest art of oblivion: if you will believe me, I do not at this moment (nor at any moment, except for some half hour after I have looked and rummaged among paper bundles) know, within fractions equal to a fourth or a third of the whole, how much money I myself have,—easy as that were to count! I understand only that I have “money enough for a while to come”; and so think no more of it, can think no more of it. Judge whether you would like your dear children's interests in such a hand! Truly I am myself a mere child in regard to all that; besides being every way a kind of hermit, gymnosophist, monk, or whatever my name may be, growing yearly more and more secluded from all worldly things, more and more indifferent to them, heartily indifferent to them all. This is the real fact.

Of my trustworthiness to do what I undertake, and of my true readiness to serve you in a much larger matter, I will not raise any doubt. But it is inconceivable that in your circle of friends there should not be many persons who combine these qualities with some knowledge of practical affairs,—one of whom therefore, and not I, is actually the fittest and ought to be appointed. On the whole, my dear friend, I will invite you to reexamine the matter, and appoint another!— If there be any real necessity why I in particular should creep out of my snail-shell into so unknown a department of things, doubt not I will readily creep out, and do my best when out; but if not, I pray you, for your sake and my own, let me continue to lodge there!—

Mr Taylor seemed to say, it would be, at any rate, about a fortnight before the Papers were ready. I will request you to bid him pause for a day or two. I have a notion to come out to Walton,3 and speak with you of this matter. Could not I walk from Richmond to your house, and back again in time, some day,—say Saturday or Monday next? You are at home; alas, you are too sure to be at home!4

Believe me always,

My dear Mrs Taylor, / Yours with true regard /

T. Carlyle