April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JOHN STORES SMITH; 14 October 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18481014-TC-JSS-01; CL 23: 131-132


Chelsea, 14 Octr, 1848—

Dear Sir,

Your Book on Mirabeau was long ago duly delivered me;1 and I read up and down in it, good part of the whole; but it was borrowed away from me before I could finish, and has never yet come back;—which must serve as the excuse for my delay in acknowledging your kindness in that matter. If I may support my own imperfect ju[d]gement2 of the work by that of intelligent friends, whose opportunity has been more complete, I may, in returning thanks for kindness to myself, congratulate you on having produced a really creditable Book, worthy in its own place, and giving promise of still better. A reverence for genius in your fellow man, which, if well understood, means all kinds of manful wrath in them; in yourself a sincerity, fidelity, and piety of nature, which are rare at present: these, with the proved disposition to cultivate them, are a superior endowment for a young man. I can bid you persevere with all strenuousness; grudging no labour or endurance to perfect, according to best ability, what gifts are in you: encumbrances, foreign dross, and entanglements will (thro' valiant effort on your part) work themselves off more and more completely; the battle is severe, but the victory too is worth something!

For the rest if a man really has a ray of immortal Intelligence in him (as indeed all men have if they durst know it), I do not think he need be in haste to write Books with it just now;—perhaps he may discover that the real end of Intelligence in man is not a “word,” nor a thought nor book, but an “action” (as the old Sages have it, and alas, as the new have it not),3 and that only till action is denied him, which is but rarely the case, can his best function be the writing of mere books! In short, let there be no theory in your next Book, if I may advise you, nor any disappointment however the preliminaries may prolong themselves: the longer the roasting, and the hotter the furnace, the better always and purer is the metal! Perhaps too you will next try some English subject? Best of all, I think, if some Lancashire one,—such as you yourself have seen, and experienced and conquered, and can speak a wise word on! There is no region in the universe more abundant in huge things as yet unspoken, and which deserve and earnestly demand speaking!— With many kind wishes and regards

Yours very truly / T. Carlyle. 4