April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO JOHN STERLING ; 9 June 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440609-TC-JOST-01; CL 18: 61-62


Chelsea, 9 june, 1844—

My dear Sterling,

I hear almost daily of you, and think of you oftener than daily this long while, tho' I write nothing. Sometimes I have said to myself: “You should write. He knows your feeling, and it is something to him;—and in dark hours, now and then, such silence may seem doubtful to him.” Perhaps I should. But indeed all words of mine seemed little other than an impertinence in that solemn situation. Many of my thoughts continue silent, incapable of being written, on this as on other subjects! The longer I live, I think it grows the more so. My much-loved Friend— —I really can ‘write’ nothing! It all lies in these three words;—and these, if they are of any use to you, you are authorized to write in ineffaceable characters in your very heart.— —

Except, for some days during the darkest part of the crisis, I have never, in spite of all your own sad utterances, seriously feared that I was to lose you. Perhaps I am wrapping myself in mere cowardly delusions; preparing for myself, at a future day, a frightful awakening: but such is the fact. I have, in spite of all Doctors, a great confidence in your vitality of structure; the fibres of the man, tho' diseased, are those of a lion! My Brother too speaks always hopefully; says, he has seen men lying to all appearance at the verge of death in that disorder; pale, with their eyes and being all aglow in speechless still excitement; who nevertheless rose up again, and were well. He says, if you can live to five-and-forty,1 this disordered condition of the lungs will abate of itself. My constant hope is, that your last terrible crisis may be a warning to you, more impressive than any of the others were. They have all come, I think, out of some rash liberty; permitted to other men, but to you forbidden. You have in all things been too hot and hasty, my Friend,—in all things, that generous infirmity cleaves to you. Lay it aside; learn by these stern teachings, to recognise the adamantine limits that do bound you, as such do bound us all. Within these, if it please God, there is yet a most fruitful and noble existence in store for you.— “Let us be still,” as the Old Hebrews and Old Puritans used to say; “let us be still, and call on God.”2 There is yet no other wisdom, and will be none other, for the Son of Adam on this Earth.

I have been looking forward to the West wind, which we now have, as the best of all medicines for you. It seems you again were a little hasty; went out too rashly, and have got a little check. Canny, Canny [Careful, Careful]! as the Scotch say; Use as not abusing!— On the whole, you must get well again: you must fast get a little better again,—that I may come and see you. I will come certainly whenever I can hear conclusively that it will not be a mere burden to you, hurtful and not profitable3

All Spring and Summer hitherto I have for my own share, been abundantly miserable; plunging thro' Chaos, as I call it,—the Rushworth Dryasdust chaos; unable to find north or south in it, bottom or shore in it! Really, as I said, somewhere, it is “like walking hand in hand with mere Madness”;4 trying whether you shall make it sane, or it shall make you mad! No labour for the present is joyous but grievous.——— —– I have seen your Father, your Son and your Brother today; all well. Wir heissen euch HOFFEN! / Auf ewig [We bid you hope! Eternally], T. Carlyle