August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO WILLIAM BAXTER ; 22 October 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18431022-TC-WIBA-01; CL 17: 155-156


Chelsea, London, 22 Octr 1843.

Dear Sir,

I last night received your little volume of Poems dedicated to myself;1 and beg to acknowledge the same with many thanks. Your strenuous effort towards self-cultivation is an honourable fact; to which this little Book itself, as we glance thro' it, will bear honourable testimony. I will fearlessly bid you, Persist in that, slacken not in that,—for that, well understood, does in fact include the whole duty and profit of a man.

If you find encouragement to develope yourself in the way of Poetry, of course you will continue in that direction. Meanwhile, such is the temper of the present times, it may not be useless to remind you that, even if discouraged in that direction, there are others, a whole world of others, still open to you. A man who feels a heart and intellect stirring within him cannot want for objects to work upon. Nay he that in any province whatsoever makes the crooked straight, the disorderly methodic,—has not he too made music out of discord, has not he too sung and been a Poet, if not in word, then in act, which is still better, still more imperishable? For the finest verse is, after all, mortal, and dies one day, and is abolished; but the true act lasts thro' Eternity itself. We are commanded to be “fervent” (melodious) “in spirit”; but before all to be “diligent in business”:2 and to me the noblest of all Poetry is that which sings itself thro' a man's practical task in this world, and makes the general field of his life an orderly productive garden for him. On the whole, if the prosaic time do even forbid you in one path, you must try it in another, with unabated heart.

Wishing you all success,—and courage, patience clearness, openness of mind, which are the elements of all success,

I remain with many thanks

Yours very sincerely

T. Carlyle