August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO R. RICHMOND; 18 September 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460918-TC-RR-01; CL 21:50-51.


Chelsea, 18 Septr, 1846—

Dear Sir,

In Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, about two years ago or more, there was pointed out to me a Letter bearing my signature, and addressed to a young Student, in reply to precisely the same question as yours.1 The young Student had used the somewhat questionable freedom of printing this Letter: of which step whatever I might think, there was no doubt but the Letter (written I knew not and know not how, when, or to whom) was mine; and did express, at some length, and with tolerable exactness, my candid notion as to the matter inquired into. By a little exertion,—at the utmost by writing to Mr Chambers himself if you think it worth while,—I doubt not you may procure that Letter; and to that, for brevity's sake and to avoid repetitions, I will beg leave to refer you.

In general my decided advice is that you should read a great deal of “History”; that you should in all ways earnestly strive to make yourself acquainted with what does exist, or has existed, as fact in this Universe,—properly the one kind of knowledge worth a reasonable creature's attention, so far as I can see;—and should exercise a very vigilant eye indeed against all that of “Fiction,” “Poetry,” “Art,” “Fine Art” &c &c, as we have it in these days, which is threatening to become, or has already become, a very mournful cloud-continent and realm of balderdash to many of us! I mean here what I say; and perhaps you will understand it better when you have thought of it, and experimented on it, longer.

In conclusion, let me repeat to you that noble sentence of the Gospel, true in all noble pursuits of man: “He that seeketh findeth.”2 If he will seek,—Yes, forever Yes! But he must seek: he must not go stalking about with eyes open and soul shut, awake only in the stomach of him: that is not “seeking”; there is no “finding,” with never so many guide-posts, in a search like that. May a good Genius guide your young hopeful ingenuities, and nerve you with the strength of a man to turn them to account in due time. For the Night cometh!3

Believe me

Yours with many good wishes