The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO ROBERT LATTIMER; 20 September 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510920-TC-RL-01; CL 26: 179-180


Chelsea, London, 20 Septr 1851—

Dear Sir,

Unluckily I have just quitted your and my own Border Country; and, since last night, instead of being some 20 miles, am now 300 distant from you; so that any reasonable possibility of paying you a visit is at an end for the present. You need not doubt that your Institution has my best wishes, if those were good for anything; or that a much more serious service than this you now do me honour to ask would be a duty and a pleasure to me, could it really forward your intrinsic objects in proportion, or at all. But that is not the case in this instance; and, so in the meantime, I have nothing but friendly wishes and regrets to offer.1

After all, it is not by speaking visitors and transient strangers, however wise and well-disposed, that any benefit can be done you; it is only by the Wisdom daily present and busy among you that your Institution can be wisely guided and have good success: and I have remarked that the merely speaking figures, in such cases, yield little permanent help, and often even none, or less than none (if we compute it rightly); that the helper who will help steadfastly in silence, and with continuous loyalty exist himself by the silent methods, is the only profitable one in the long run. I hope there are many such among you; and that by degrees your Reading-room (furnished with good and wise Books, not with bad and foolish ones, which are worse than none) may become the rallying-point of all the sincere and serious-minded Workers in Carlisle, that they may try there with their best skill what can be achieved towards self-culture (the true aim of every human soul) by honest cooperation in this kind.2

Mechanics' Institutes3 and the like modern Establishments, where I have looked at them, seem to me to have died, or to be dying, very much because of their fatal belief in the efficacy of Platform Operations and the saving nature of Public Speaking; a frightful tho' a very common error in these times! An army that spends much of its strength in beating drums and sounding trumpets is not in a good way. Better march with steady heart and pace, and with a minimum of drumming!—

I wish you and your honest cooperators cordially well in this Enterprize;—and beg to subscribe myself, with thanks for the honour done me,

Yours very sincerely / T. Carlyle

Mr R. Lattimer, Secy &c