August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 17 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421117-TC-RWE-01; CL 15: 192-194


Chelsea, London, 17 Novr, 1842—

My dear Emerson,

Your Letter1 finds me here today; busied with many things, but not likely to be soon more at leisure; wherefore I may as well give myself the pleasure of answering it on the spot. The Fraser Bill by Brown and Little has come all right; the Dumfries Banker apprises me lately that he has got the cash into his hands. Pray do not pester yourself with these Bookseller unintelligibilities: I suppose their accounts are all reasonably correct, the cheating, such as it is, done according to rule: what signifies it at any rate? I am no longer in any vital want of money; alas, the want that presses far heavier on me is a want of faculty, a want of sense; and the feeling of that renders one comparatively very indifferent to money! I reflect many times that the wealth of the Indies, the fame of ten Shakespeares or ten Mahomets, would at bottom do me no good at all. Let us leave these poor slaves of the Ingot and slaves of the Lamp to their own courses,—within a certain extent of halter!

What you say of Alcott seems to me altogether just.2 He is a man who has got into the highest intellectual region,—if that be the Highest (tho' in that too there are many states), wherein a man can believe and discern for himself, without need of help from any other, and even in opposition to all others: but I consider him entirely unlikely to accomplish anything considerable, except some kind of crabbed, semi-perverse, tho' still manful existence of his own; which indeed is no despicable thing. His “more than prophetic egoism”—alas, yes! It is of such material that Thebaid Eremites, Sect-founders, and all manner of crossgrained fanatical monstrosities have fashioned themselves,—in very high, and in the highest regions, for that matter. Sect-founders withal are a class I do not like. No truly great man, from Jesus Christ downwards, as I often say, ever founded a Sect,—I mean wilfully intended founding one. What a view must a man have of this Universe, who thinks “he can swallow it all,” who is not doubly and trebly happy that he can keep it from swallowing him! On the whole, I sometimes hope we have now done with Fanatics and Agonistic Posture-makers in this poor world: it will be an immense improvement on the Past; and the “New Ideas,” as Alcott calls them, will prosper greatly the better on that account! The old gloomy Gothic Cathedrals were good; but the great blue Dome that hangs over all is better than any Cologne one.— On the whole, do not tell the good A[l]cott3 a word of all this; but let him love me as he can, and live on vegetables in peace; as I, living partly on vegetables, will continue to love him!

The best thing Alcot did when he staid among us was to circulate some copies of your Man the Reformer. I did not get a copy; I applied for one, so soon as I knew the right fountain; but Alcott, I think, was already gone. And now mark,—for this I think is a novelty, if you do not already know it: Certain Radicals have reprinted your Essay in Lancashire, and it is freely circulating there, and here, as a cheap pamphlet, with excellent acceptance so far as I discern. Various Newspaper reviews of it have come athwart me: all favourable, but all too shallow for sending to you. I myself consider it a truly excellent utterance; one of the best words you have ever spoken. Speak many more such. And whosoever will distort them into any “vegetable” or other crotchet,—let it be at his own peril; for the word itself is true; and will have to make itself a fact therefore; tho' not a distracted abortive fact, I hope! Words of that kind are not born into Facts in the seventh month; will if they see the light fullgrown (they and their adjuncts) in the second century; for old Time is a most deliberate breeder!— But to speak without figure, I have been very much delighted with the clearness, simplicity, quiet energy and veracity of this discourse; and also with the fact of its spontaneous appearance here among us. The prime mover of the Printing, I find, is one Thomas Ballantyne, editor of a Manchester Newspaper, a very good cheery little fellow, once a Paisley weaver, as he informs me,—a great admirer of all worthy things.— — My paper is so fast failing, let me tell you of the Writer on Loyola. He is a James Stephen, Head Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office,—that is to say, I believe, real governor of the British Colonies, so far as they have any governing. He is of Wilberforce's creed, of Wilberforce's kin;4 a man past middle age, yet still in full vigour; reckoned an enormous fellow for “despatch of business” &c, especially by Taylor (van Artevelde)5 and others who are with him or under him in Downing-Street: to me, tho' I like much in him, he has one heavy fault, He cannot, in speaking to you, let his head stand steady on his shoulders, but keeps it continually waggling,—as if seeking a yet better position for itself! In fact I regard the man as standing on the confines of Genius and Dilettantism,—a man of many really good qualities, and excellent at the despatch of business. There we will leave him.— A Mrs Lee of Brookline near you has made a pleasant book about Jean Paul, chiefly by excerpting. I am sorry to find Gunderode and Co6 a decided weariness!— Cromwell—Cromwell? Do not mention such a word, if you love me! And yet——— Farewell, my Friend, tonight!

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle

I will apprise Sterling before long:7 he is at Falmouth, and well; urging me much to start a Periodical here!

Gambardella promises to become a real Painter; there is a glow of real fire in the wild southern men: next to no articulate intellect or the like, but of inarticulate much, or I mistake. He has tried to paint me for you; but cannot, he says!