The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JAMES MACKENZIE ; 16 January 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520116-TC-JAMA-01; CL 27: 14-16


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea / 16 jany 1852—

My dear Sir,

Yesternight, two or three days after your kind Note of announcement, the Book itself arrived, all safe and right: for which I send you, in the meanwhile, many thanks and acknowledg[m]ents.1 I know not what the Post-Office people could have meant by “3 /”: sixpence a pound is their rate for Books, wrapt as Books, in these days; and this volume weighs under 3 lb. However, we shall see, when once I have got it read, and am ready to return it: for the present, it is all right,—no time lost, as I was, and am still to be for a while, fully occupied otherwise.

The Book, I fear, is very dark; light about the veritable living William Wallace not to be expected from it, more than sunbeams are from cucumbers! This “Stevenson” who edits gives me a cold shudder: a poor man already known to me, of plausible but imbecil quality, fatal as a guide in such enterprises.2 Alas, imbecil editing abounds in all such things;—and the general empire of stupidity (“not to be conquered by the very gods,” says Schiller)3 presses hard upon “Heroes” and some other persons! However, as a pious Scotchman I will faithfully try, were my hands once free; one grudges much to surrender such a Fact as Wallace to the Nightmares,—bad luck to them and their ministering Agents in this world!

I dined with Erskine on Saturday last, and had a few hours of old Scotch and human interests; a pleasant variety in this vortex of things. Poor Mrs Paterson is very weakly and unwell, but not now considered to be in danger; which is a happy improvement from what was. Erskine himself is certainly, as you say, one of the gentlest and friendliest clear souls that ever lived under the Sun: a truly piousman, whose reverence for God extends itself as brotherly regard to all that God has made,—true loyal respect for whatsoever good quality, under whatever obstructions and conditions, is to be found in any man or thing. I am never weary of admiring his tolerance for myself in particular; and often think he ought to excommunicate me,—tho' he does not, nor will, I believe. Long life to so excellent a brother man!—

We have infinite continual rumours here, on the political side, foreign and domestic, for such as care to listen to them. Some are even for an invasion by the French before long. I have not yet taken to practice with the long rifle, for my own part;4 and indeed imagine, on the whole, that if the French did come over, they might not get back again so easily,—which fact, visible to themselves too, will probably discourage them from trying. The state of France itself appears to be unenviable enough, in the meanwhile: soldiers fast “demoralizing,” rolling drunk about the streets, insolently elbowing the passengers (so says a letter of this morning); and already several “thousands,” many without trial of any kind, on their road to the Tropical swamps.5 But on the whole, what could be expected? France is caught suddenly as in a universal rat-trap; and, I must say, the rat-catcher seems worthy of the job and of his rats! Unless France have far more wisdom in it than one sees of late years, it seems galloping towards destruction. But let us hope nevertheless.

I did call once at Doune Terrace, and hope, some time to do it again.— The Book shall be well taken care of.— Yours sincerely

T. Carlyle