April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO WILLIAM STIRLING ; 28 July 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480728-TC-WS-01; CL 23: 82-84


Chelsea, 28 july, 1848—

Dear Stirling,

Wheresoever this Letter find you, let it say credibly, Valeas [Farewell].1 I have called twice at Clarges Street; and both times, found you absent, in distant opposite quarters.

Your sumptuous Book is in my hands; and, what is more surprising still, I have read it over, with good acceptance, and gratitude not undeserved. This from one so ignorant of Spanish and all kinds of Art, and even at times so ill-affected to “Art” in general, and to the twaddle it extensively occasions in these days, ought to seem considerable to you. But the truth is, I have got many curious glimpses of Spanish Existence in this Book of yours; strange direct glances into things foreign, things brave and beautiful, tho' wild to me, and gnarled by wonderful perversions; and for all such, as a brother mortal, of Kin to all mortals Spanish and other, I give you thanks accordingly. It is to be added that your style is perfect of its kind; lively, elegant, pleasantly flowing, spiced duly with mild mockery and other accepted condiments; furthermore that your work generally gives proof of long faithful research, of continuous labour, exactitude and clear methodic punctuality,—qualities and facts highly honourable to the Worker.

Murillo, Velasquez, Cano, Turberan, El Mudo, and that magnanimous Goya2 with the hat and the under-lip,—the Escorial, the Granja, that glimpse of Charles Fifth on the road to Tunis:3—for these and for many other things of the like I am and remain your debtor. On the other hand, it will not surprise you that many very many of the smaller fish in your net were not for my eating at all;—and in fact, I should say the one thing your Book wants (were such a thing possible now!) is that the dead of it could be separated from the living; even as I in reading of it, not without industry, contrived to do! Long lists of poor names that neither are nor ought to be familiar to the English reader,—what a pity these are not banished into Appendixes, Alphabetical Lists, or even suppressed altogether! I found enough of real metal in the Book to awaken, many a time, the wish that the dead ashes had been riddled out of it; that in some strong furnace-heat it had been fused into an ingot. Let us be thankful, however, that we have it such as it is;—as I doubt not you are that you have it not any longer, but we only henceforth. It is the chief comfort of a man in getting done with his Book, which has long hung on him like Christian's Body of Sin (according to Bunyan4), joy now that one sees it leap and bound down hill, never to trouble us any more!

One other thing I must say: I read this Book under perpetual protest on account of the subject. That a Scottish man of your high position and indisputable faculty should go to Spain and to Spanish Painting, or to any kind of “Painting” or Shadow-manufacture, for a subject, seems to me in these earnest days very sad. Not your blame; no, no, the world's blame, and all our blames; but sad not the less. Depend upon it, my friend, Scotland claims you, and your fine faculty and opportunity; Scotland has a right to you,—and will get you yet, if it please the gods! For you are yet young enough to learn, open-minded enough to turn; and by the blessing of Heaven, poor old Scotland may have her Count von Suhm too, or better, which she deserves as well as Denmark did, I apprehend?5 Excuse these freedoms: they are not occasioned by the want of regard. And come and see us, whenever that is possible.

Yours with many thanks & wishes /

T. Carlyle