The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO WILLIAM HANNA ; 31 October 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501031-TC-WH-01; CL 25: 268-269


Chelsea, 31 Octr, 1850—

My dear Sir,

Will you, at this late date, accept my hearty acknowledgements for that Second Volume,1 your kind Gift to me; which was received with a welcome far out of proportion to this apparent negligence. The Book reached me in Annandale, where I was at the time of its appearance; I read it there with deliberate pleasure, under the silent September sunshine, generally with nothing but the sky over my head. I had to leave it (not yet recovered) in those parts, to my Mother and a wide circle of interested readers: ever since, I have been wandering to and fro, abhorrent of pen and ink; and do not till now acquit myself of a very simple and pleasant duty, not to speak of others that were less so in that kind!—

This Second Volume seemed to me decidedly more attractive reading than the First: the narrative acquires greater compactness; the scene is more populous, stirring,—perhaps too an active influence was, I myself had occasionally been a spectator of the things recorded. All is right skilfully managed; few Books of modern Biography half or tenth-part as well! A cheerful candid temper, the perpetual exercise of ingenuity and insight, perfects the smoothness of the Picture; and amid the multifarious details, now in full light now in chiaroscuro, the Image of the Man comes out more and more recogniseable, as each new feature is added to it. A Third Volume, which perhaps will be as difficult as either of the others, will well complete our panorama of a Life-history, on this scale you have adopted. About the size of the scale I occasionally hear some difference of opinion; one desiring a smaller, still more condensed scale of narrative; another urging that the scale in such cases is usually exorbitantly bigger: but about the Likeness there can only be one opinion among judges; and that surely is the grand and indispensable, and one essential merit of the Painter.

For my own sake and that of many readers,—to say nothing of the poor Writer's sake, who may perhaps have his own wishes in it, too!—I heartily wish you had done with your Third Volume, in the same honourable fashion. And so with many thanks and regards, I remain always,

My dear Sir, / Your's sincerely

T. Carlyle