January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 23 February 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430223-TC-JOST-01; CL 16: 56-57


Chelsea, 23 feby, 1843—

Dear Sterling,

Blessings on your pen once more! You have given us a terrible fright, and must not make any fresh “experiments” of that nature! We are right glad to see your hand again; to understand that you are steadily tho' slowly getting built together again. Possess your soul in patience there: it is actually a better “progress” a thousand times than you are aware of! I cannot get you to understand this of SILENCE; but the Fates, I hope will,—for it is of the highest moment to you. Festina lente [Make haste slowly],—O Heavens there is a thousand times more in Silence than that: “Self-Annihilation, the beginning of all good and wisdom,”1 this is in it among other things. The gods have somewhat in store for you,—if you will not spill it! Be quiet, I say, and thankful to the gods.

No man was lately busier, and few sicklier, than I now am. Work is not possible for me except in a redhot element, which roasts the life out of me. I have still three weeks of the ugliest labour; and shall be fit for the hospital then.

This thing I am upon is a volume to be called “Past and Present”: it is moral, political, historical &c;—a most questionable, redhot, indignant thing: for my heart is sick to look at the things now going on in this England; and two millions of men sitting in Poor-Law Bastilles2 seem to ask of every English soul, “Hast thou no word to say for us?” On the whole, I am heartily sorry for myself,—sorry that, I could not help writing such words, and had none better to write.— Whether any Cromwell or what lies in the rear of this? The Fates know.

It was John Sterling, I think, that first told me my nature was Political; it is strange enough how, beyond expectation, that oracle is verifying itself.3

If you lay within distance of me, what better could I do than run into the Spring sunshine and your neighbourhood, were this horrid load of hodwork off my shoulders! But you are two hundred miles away; and my vehement speeches would do you no good at present.

I have seen nobody, except in glimpses, these several months. Today I am going over the river, to crawl about in the Lethe Flats of Battersea,4 if nothing better. Your Brother called yesterday; complaining of slight cold; otherwise brisk, hardy, victorious as ever.5

Adieu, dear Sterling. Be quiet, I say; thankful to Heaven,—and mindful as often as you can of ME!

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle