April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO THOMAS BALLANTYNE ; 26 September 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480926-TC-TB-01; CL 23: 121-122


The Grange, Alresford, Hants.26 September 1848—

Dear Ballantyne,

I know not what little tiff this is that has arisen between Espinasse and you; but I wish much it would handsomely blow over, and leave all of you soon in the simple state of as you were! Reflecting in the enclosed little Note which reached me this morning, I decide that one of the usefullest things I could in the first place attempt in regard to it, would be to try if haply the matter could not be quashed, and people who are certainly good friends, and who are probably of real service to one another, be prevented from flying asunder on slight cause.

This controversy I know well enough to be perpetual and universal between Editor and contributor;1 no law can settle it; the best wisdom can do no better than suppress it from time to time. On Espinasse's side I will counsel patience, everywhere needful in human affairs; on your side, I would say, that tho' an Editor can never wholly abandon his right to superintend, which will mean an occasional right to alter, or at least to remonstrate and propose alterations, yet it is in general wise, when as in this case you have got a really consciencious, accurate and painstaking contributor, to be sparing in the exercise of the right, and to put up with various unessential things, rather than forcibly break in to amend them. You have perhaps but a faint idea how much it distresses and disheartens such a man as I describe; nay lames him in the practice of his art, and tends to put his “conscience” especially into painful abeyance: “what is the use of me?” his Literary conscience says: “better for us all that I went to sleep!” When a man has a literary conscience,—which I do believe is a very rare case,—this result is a most sad one to bring about; hurtful not to him only, as you may well perceive. In fact I think a serious sincere man cannot very well write if he have the perpetual fear of correction before his eyes; and if I were the master of such a one, I should certainly endeavour to leave him (within very wide limits) his own director, and to let him feel that he was so, and responsible accordingly.

Forgive me if I interfere unduly with your affairs. If the case be that you perceive, after due trial, that Espinasse is no longer worth his wages to the Examiner, then all is said, and I have not a word to object. But if it be not so, and this is but a transitory embarrassment of detail, then it will be a service to both parties if I can get it ended within the safe limits.2 Of the fact, how it may stand, I know nothing at all, and you alone can know.

All help that I can give Espinasse in other courses of enterprise I have of course to promise him; but I will advise him first of all that a reconciliation with you, if any ground he feels feasible were offered, would seem to me by far the desirablest course. With kind regards to Ireland, to whom indeed as much as to you these remarks address themselves3—in great haste— Yours always truly T. Carlyle

We have been here, with country friends, near a month, and are not to be in Chelsea, I imagine, for some ten days yet.