The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO CHARLES KINGSLEY ; 31 October 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501031-TC-CK-01; CL 25: 267-268


Chelsea, 31 Octr, 1850—

My dear Sir,

It is now a good many weeks that I have been your debtor for a Book, which in various senses was very welcome to me. Alton Locke arrived in Annandale, by post, from my Wife, early in September; and was swiftly read by me, under the bright sunshine, by the sound of rushing brooks and other rural accompaniments: I believe the Book is still doing duty in those parts; for I had to leave it behind me on loan, to satisfy the public demand. Forgive me that I have not, even by a word, thanked you for this favour. Continual shifting and moving ever since, not under the best omens, has hindered me from writing almost on any subject or to any person.

Apart from your treatment of my own poor self, on which subject let me not venture to speak at all, I found plenty to like and be grateful for in the Book. Abundance, nay exuberance of generous zeal, headlong impetuosity of determination towards the manful side on all manner of questions; snatches of excellent poetic description, occasional sunbursts of noble insight; everywhere a certain wild intensity, which holds the reader fast as by a spell: these surely are good qualities, and pregnant omens, in a man of your seniority in the regiment! At the same time, I am to say, the Book is definable as crude, by no manner of means the best we expect of you,—if you will resolutely temper your fire. But to make the malt sweet, the fire should and must be slow: so says the Proverb;1 and now, as before, I include all duties for you under that one!— Saunders Mackaye, my invaluable countryman in this Book, is nearly perfect: indeed I greatly wonder how you did contrive to manage him; his very dialect is as if a native had done it, and the whole existence of the rugged old hero is a wonderfully splendid and coherent piece of Scotch bravura.2 In both of your women, too, I find some grand poetic features; but neither of them is worked out into the Daughter of the Sun she might have been;—indeed nothing is worked out anywhere in comparison with Saunders; and the impression is, of a fervid creation still left half-chaotic. That is my literary verdict, both the black of it and the white.

Of the grand social and moral questions we will say nothing whatever at present: any time within the next two centuries, it is like, there will be enough to say about them! On the whole you will have to persist; like a cannon-ball that is shot, you will have to go to your mark whatever that be.— I stipulate farther that you come and see me when you are at Chelsea; and that you pay no attention at all to the foolish clamour of reviewers, whether laudatory or condemnatory.3

Yours with true wishes /

T. Carlyle