August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO SAMUEL BROWN ; 9 March 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440309-TC-SB-01; CL 17: 298-300


Chelsea, 9 March, 1844—

My dear Sir,

Thanks for the news you send of yourself; interesting as all news of you are. I had already read your Public Letter, in Aird's Newspaper; 1 and found the step you had taken praiseworthy, and the manner of it right and dignified. You are now, at any rate, free of a huge embarrassment; master of yourself again,—of whatever more. Nobody knows whether the loss, as it is called, is not a real gain to you;—nay we do know very well that it is a gain, that all things to the wise man are a gain. Hold on your way, and leave their ‘Chair’ standing there: it appears you you2 were not made for it, but for another thing, on this occasion.

The magnitude of your Chemical Enterprises is manifest enough to me; is but too manifest. I fear you run a risk of being torn to pieces with that business, joined to the babbling and buzzing of so many idle persons hovering round you while in death-wrestle with it. Gently, gently; do not wrestle so! At all events, study to shut your ears wholly to the babble and bustle above-said,—to be altogether deaf to it as to a thing idle, not to say mad and mad-making. What can man do for a man? Almost nothing so handsome, in these hollow days, as leave him altogether alone; shut their idle jaws, and go about their own affairs, leaving him to his. Truly of many a man at the end of his course, you will say, Kind was the world that would yield thee no promotion; that went on its way, and left thee to the rigorous and most blessed promotions and monitions of the Eternal Heavens in place of the Edinburgh Public!— Dante, could his prayers, and his tears, and bloody sweat of the soul have availed anything,—had been Mayor of Florence, with some kind of red or blue silk cloak on him; and no Divina Commedia had come to light.3 It is so with one and all of us who are any real thing whatever, and not a mere semblance got together for transitory commercial purposes.

All this does not alarm me for you; but the fire in your own heart almost does. Let it not master you, quench it down to the verge of extinction rather; at whatever cost be you master of it. Speak not of making good your discovery or of dying: Oh no! You will seek honestly for it, and that shall suffice. The Scripture says, “Seekest thou great things, seek them not”;4 no truer text was ever written in any Bible. On the whole, let me wish you from my heart God's Guidance; and say, as the sum of all these advices, Festina lente [Hasten slowly]. Do but keep living and healthy, we shall hear of you time enough!

Thanks too for your Edinburgh news: it is rare that anybody presents to me a glimpse of the old City such as I can wish to lay hold of. A strange old City for me;—impressive as I think Hades itself could hardly now contrive to be! The Professor is surely wise to hold by water:5 I have loved much in him long, and heartily wish him all good. Of Jeffrey it is very certain you will never make much on the theological side;—yet he is a right melodious luminous being, whom no wigs or blue-and-yellow covers6 could altogether hide as under a bushel!

With many kind wishes and regards, and good auguries and encouragements / Yours always truly / T. Carlyle