January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JOHN JOHNSTONE ; 4 June 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430604-TC-JJ-01; CL 16: 191


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea / 4 june, 1843—

My dear Sir,

“The British Authors Society,” I much fear, is little other than a devout imagination. My own knowledge of it, tho' I find my name circulating as seconder of motions &c, is about as good as none at all: I attended once for ten minutes, in a Tavern at Charing Cross,1 a company of some thirty very ugly men, not above three of whom were known to me; I did admit in a whisper, in answer to the “Hon. Secretary's” whisper, That thing Sir L. Bulwer2 said appeared to have reason in it;—and thereupon, little edified by the physiognomy of the business, I took my hat and glided away, without intention to return. Since that, about a month ago, I formally declined putting my name among the members,3 and have heard nothing of it farther.

My decided idea is that “Authors” will associate, and become a most stupendous Body Corporate, one day, and the Chief of all Bodies Corporate: but it will be, I think, as indeed I have written somewhere, “when they cease to be a Canaille”; not while they continue one, does it seem very possible! Hunt merely for pudding or praise, we have, like all animals of prey, to do it in a solitary manner. Solitude and hunting are two things that go together.— “Authors,” it seems to me, are somewhat difficult to lay hold of, and define, in these days: not all who talk with Printer's Types are Authors now! On the whole, I will not recommend my brave Mrs Johnstone to disturb herself with this affair, unless it assume some other aspect than the present one.4

We are very glad to exchange a salutation once more with you and her, tho' only on this “imagination.” I remember you both, with the liveliest distinctness, with the utmost good will; and always shall, I believe. My Wife joins heartily with me in all kind regards and wishes. “Success!— Courage, with or without success!”

Yours very sincerely /

T. Carlyle