July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO JOHN FORSTER ; 18 November 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18471118-TC-JF-01; CL 22: 160-161


Chelsea, 18 Novr, 1847—

Dear Forster,

You have written a charming Book;1 which will lie on many drawing room tables, and be read with pleasure, now and henceforth by many ingenuous human souls. An artistic Picture of the 18th Century, and a moral Discourse on it, both in one. The Picture crowded with bustling life, vivid figures, as “in skyblue coat and red waistcoat,” starting everywhere from the canvas; nothing can be more vivid, and as they say, “picturesque,”—which means, I suppose, the best merit in a Picture:—of the morality of the Discourse we must at least say that it is human (which is saying a good deal, in these times), that it is pious to the noble Dead, and tends all in the right direction. These are truths that I write to you: I have not, for a long while, read any English Book that pleased me so well.

And now for the objections,—really I have no objection; or none that can or could be remedied! The essential objection, I fancy, is, that you had not a better hero than poor Goldy; that you had not a higher virtue than good-nature, good-humour, and a certain Irish “keep never minding,”2 to celebrate and deify! Certainly poor Goldy is but a weak wire to string his century upon,—poor fellow, his contribution to it, that of painting one or two small Pictures de genre in a happy manner, which still hang pleasantly on our walls, was essentially not a great one. He built nothing, pulled down nothing; changed nothing in any way for the better or the worse; merely painted his dainty little Tableaux de genre [genre pictures], under thriftless imprudent insolvent circumstances; and generously left them to us, and went his unknown way. Poor Goldy—and yet you may say justly, What help? I could get no better hero in that century, no other that would suit my purpose! True enough, the blame is not essentially yours:—and it is beautiful withal to see, as you shew us, how one of Nature's own Gentlemen may live, and do some kind of work that is worthy of him, under the husk of a poor ragged Irish Slave (for such poor Goldy was); which also is a kind of Gospel! All this is “true for you”:3—and yet I say, mind the per-contra of it too, which is here urged; and take care of your Fourth and concluding Part;—and get done with it, and send me a copy!

More power to your elbow!

T. Carlyle

On Monday evening; soon after 6: black tea on the table,—with the usual trimmings.