August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO JOSEPH ORMROD ; 8 October 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421008-TC-JO-01; CL 15: 120-121


Chelsea, London, 8 October, 1842—

Dear Sir,

Three Numbers of your Boon's-Lick Farmer, and the Letter you write me on the 10th of May last from the uttermost West, are lying safe this morning in my Letter-box.1 We have a much improved “universal Penny-post” in England, since you quitted us; Postmen, like miraculous unseen messengers, dropping-in news on us, thro' the slits in our doors, from far and near: indeed all Post-offices, with their written missives faithfully threading their way over desarts, over oceans, thro' crowded cities, confused nations,—are among the mira-miracle, something withal in your figure, position, and way of adcles of our modern world! There is something in this individual dress, that induces me to do what, alas, is seldom in my power in such cases: send a written word of answer.

I respect much the history you give me: that of a manful Worker valiantly cutting a way for himself, valiantly struggling on, to the place and work where you now find yourself. Properly there is but one man, as I often say, who is worthy of respect in this world: he that can work at something. The old Monks had a proverb, “Laborare est orare, To work is to pray”; the meaning of which goes far deeper than they perhaps were aware of. He that works well and nobly, not as a slave for mere money-hire, but as a man withal and in the spirit of a man, he, if any, is in real communication with his Unseen Author, making a perpetual pious appeal to the Invisible Powers of this Universe,—which respond to him, if he is faithful. You cannot raise wheat, if you have no virtue, no heroism at all: how much less teach men, conquer men, teach or conquer yourself!

I bid you therefore heartily, Go on and prosper. There is in your Paper a rugged practical veracity which ought to be approved of. The thing you yourself have found true, continue to tell all other men that it is actually true: who has a better right to “tell” anything than such a man? Standing by that text, you cannot but do good. Exactly in proportion as you stand by it, will be the real good you do:—the imaginary momentary “good” you do, which the vulgar call “success” &c &c, is of small moment in comparison.

And so from the heart of crowded London I send you back your greeting into the Solitudes of the West; and, in great haste, but with all cordiality, bid you Good-Speed.

Thomas Carlyle

Along with your message comes, this morning, a copy of the Edinburgh Witness Newspaper;2 which also, since Chance so orders it, I transmit to you. See there what unfathomable confusions, fast ripening to what fearful issues one knows not, you have left far behind you [in] your birthland; and are now safe from,—if liable, alas, to oth[ers.] The rugged veracious furrow-field, and original unadultered sky spread over it: this after all is not the worst of things, but among the better or best.