January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 29 August 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450829-TC-RWE-01; CL 19: 176-178


Chelsea, 29 August, 1845—

Dear Emerson,

Your Letter,1 which had been very long expected, has been in my hand above a month now; and still no answer sent to it. I thought of answering straightway; but the day went by, days went by;—and at length I decided to wait till my insupportable Burden (the “Stupidity of Two Centuries” as I call it, which is a heavy load for one man!) were rolled off my shoulders, and I could resume the habit of writing Letters, which has almost left me for many months. By the unspeakable blessing of Heaven that consummation has now arrived, about four days ago I wrote my last word on Cromwell's Letters and Speeches; and one of the earliest uses I make of my recovered freedom is to salute you again. The Book is nearly printed: two big volumes; about a half of it, I think, my own; the real utterances of the man Oliver Cromwell once more legible to earnest men. Legible really to an unexpected extent: for the Book took quite an unexpected figure in my hands; and is now a kind of Life of Oliver, the best that circumstances would permit me to do: whether either I or England shall be, in my time, fit for a better, remains submitted to the Destinies at present. I have tied up the whole Puritan Paper-Litter (considerable masses of it still unburnt) with tight strings, and hidden it at the bottom of my deepest repositories: there shall it, if Heaven please, lie dormant for a time and times.2 Such an element as I have been in, no human tongue can give account of. The disgust of my sould has been great; a really pious labour: worth very little when I have done it; but the best I could do; and that is quite enough. I feel the liveliest gratitude to the gods that I have got out of it alive. The Book is very dull, but it is actually legible: all the ingenious faculty I had, and ten times as much would have been useful there, has been employed in elucidation; in saying, and chiefly in forbearing to say,—in annihilating continents of brutal wreck and dung: Ach Gott!— But in fact you will see it by and by; and then form your own conclusions about it. They are going to publish it in October, I find: I tried hard to get you a complete copy of the Sheets by this Steamer; but it proves to be flatly impossible;—perhaps luckily; for I think you would have been bothering yourself with some new Bookseller negociation about it; and that, as Copyright and other matters now stand, is a thing I cannot recommend.— Enough of it now: only let all my silences and other shortcomings be explained thereby. I am now off for the North Country, for a snatch still at the small remnants of Summer, and a little free air and sunshine. I am really far from well, tho' I have been riding diligently for three months back, and doing what I could to help myself.

Very glad shall I be, my Friend, to have some new utterances from you either in verse or in prose! What you say about the vast imperfection of all modes of utterance is most true indeed.3 Let a man speak and sing, and do, and sputter and gesticulate as he may,—the meaning of him is most ineffectually shewn forth, poor fellow; rather indicated as if by straggling symbols, than spoken or visually expressed! Poor fellow! So the great rule is, That he have a good manful meaning, and then that he take what “mode of utterance” is honestly the readiest for him.— I wish you would take an American Hero, one whom you really love; and give us of a History of him,—make an artistic bronze statue (in good words) of his Life and him! I do indeed.— But speak of what you will, you are welcome to me. Once more I say, No other voice in this wide waste world seems to my sad ear to be speaking at all at present. The more is the pity for us.

I forbid you to plague yourself any farther with these Philadelphia or other Booksellers.4 If you could hinder them to promulgate any copy of that frightful picture by Lawrence, or indeed any picture at all, I had rather stand as a shadow than as a falsity in the minds of my American friends: but this too we are prepared to encounter.5

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Frontispiece, CL Volume 11

Lithograph by R. J. Lane, after a drawing by Count Alfred D'Orsay, 1839.

The lithograph is reproduced from the copy in the National Portrait Gallery, London. The whereabouts of the original drawing is unknown.

And as for the money of these men,—if they will pay it, good and welcome; if they will not pay it, let them keep it with what blessing there may be in it! I have your noble Offices in that and in other such matters already unforgettably sure to me; and, in real fact, that is almost exactly the whole of valuable that could exist for me in the affair. Adieu, dear Friend. Write to me again; I will write again at more leisure. Yours always.

T. Carlyle