April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG; 10 November 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18491110-TC-JN-01; CL 24: 286-287


Chelsea, 10 Novr, 1849—

Dear Sir,

Jane tells me you at one time thought of offering yourself to me as ‘Volunteer Secretary,’ by way of having a generous employment in this world!— How that may have been I know not; but if you really have leisure and heart for a little of that kind of work, then sure enough I at present stand much in need of such a service as that were on your part. A mass of embroiled papers written last year, and tied up in batches, which have been repeatedly on the edge of the fire, which I think is their ultimate just destination; but to which I grudge to commit them indiscriminately just yet, till a better search have been made whether there be not some fractions of incombustible perhaps in the melancholy imbroglio. The help of one like you might really be valuable in this small case. For there needs not only a Copyist, able and willing to decipher my blottings, and reduce them to clear legibility; but there needs also a man of decisive judgement and insight, who could completely appreciate what he read, know in some measure what might be worth something and what was clearly worth nothing, reduce the confused matter to heads, and thus help essentially to disentangle the living part of these Papers from the dead. Copyists I have had of the required kind, and could perhaps again get (tho' not without some trouble), but a Copying Editor, of that sort, I should in vain apply for by aid of money and the labour-market. In the meanwhile, to do the service myself, I find on repeated attempts, is difficult on many accounts;—and I suppose, will prove impossible, with the fire so near at hand. That is the real state of the matter; to which, if what my Wife reports was serious and not (as is more likely) jest, and if you have done with your Nottingham affairs, and are really free to volunteer for what you like, I thought I might as well call your attention in passing.

After all, I fear it is but one other cowardly instinctive-artifice on my part to shirk the real difficulty: for the truth is, I have got something to write again, in these times, an unwritten insupportable something, towards which these Papers were an attempt evidently futile as such;—and I suppose there will [be]1 no way of determining what to write and what to keep silent, or how at all to proceed in the matter, except—except, alas, getting into that dreadful paroxysm of clairvoyance which is usual to me in writing Books, but which I shudder to contemplate as inevitable again!

So that, on the whole, it is perhaps really no vital matter whether you say No to all this, or even say nothing, but let it all evaporate, as a cloud, into the vague blue, and matters take their course as if it had not been. You will forgive me, at any rate; and consider that this, at least this, is a thing strictly e secretis [private], not to be spoken of except to myself;—and, in fine, you will come and see us some evening so soon as convenience serves. Believe me always

Very sincerely yours /

T. Carlyle