The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 1 August 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220801-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:154-155.


3. Moray-street, Thursday [ca. 1 August 1822]]—

My dear Friend,

Unless some one has anticipated me in regard to this “Voice from St Helena,” I calculate on furnishing you with some amusement, by introducing you to the sound of it. O'Meara's work presents your favourite under somewhat of a new aspect: it has increased my respect for Napoleon, and my indignation against his Boje.1 Since the days of Prometheus vinctus, I recollect of no spectacle more moving and sublime, than that of this great man in his dreary prison-house; given over to the very scum of the species to be tormented by every sort of indignity, which the heart most revolts against;—captive, sick, despised, forsaken;—yet rising above it all, by the stern force of his own unconquerable spirit, and hurling back on his mean oppressors the ignominy they strove to load him with. I declare I could almost love the man. His native sense of honesty, the rude genuine strength of his intellect, his lively fancy, his sardonic humour must have rendered him a most original and interesting companion; he might have been among the first writers of his age, if he had not chosen to be the very first conqueror of any age. Nor is this gigantic character without his touches of human affection—his simple attachments, his little tastes and kindly predilections—which enhance the respect of meaner mortals by uniting it with their love. I do not even believe him to have been a very wicked man; I rather— But it is needless to keep you from the book itself with this palabra. Send me word if you would like to see the second volume; which in the affirmative case you shall have, so soon as Mrs Buller has done with it. This lady likes Napoleon even better than you do; made a pilgrimage to his grave, stole sprigs of willow from it, &c; and called him the greatest of men in the presence of Mr Croker himself.2 I am sorry however that I cannot bring her to a right sense of Byron's merit; she affirms that none admire that nobleman, so much as boarding-school girls and young men under twenty—which she reckons a sure sign of his being partly a charlatan.

I have some doggrel translations &c which I meant to send; but they are not fit to be seen by you—perhaps never will. When shall I get your productions? I have no right to be impatient but these three weeks have seemed very long.

I am not happy at present; and for the best of all reasons, I stand very low in my own esteem. Something must be done, if I would not sink into a mere driveller. For the last three years I have lived as under an accursed spell—how wretched, how vainly so, I need not say. If nothing even now is to come of it, then I had better have been any thing than what I am. But talking is superfluous: I only beg for a little respite, before you mark me down forever, as an unhappy dunce, distinguished from other dunces only by the height of my aims and the clamour of my pretensions.

—Will you not write to me soon? It were a kind act. I am always,

Your affectionate friend, /

Thomas Carlyle—