The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO SIR JAMES STEPHEN ; 18 October 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531018-TC-SJS-01; CL 28: 293-294


Chelsea, 18 Octr, 1853—

Dear Sir James,

You are infinitely gentle, polite, and considerate, with your fellow creature;—and I altogether retract that unguarded phrase of mine; which indeed I had forgotten so soon as uttered; and which you now must do me the kindness to forget.1 It is certain I never could have meant more by it than that you agreed with me in recognising the divine and awful meaning of real religion, and the horrible condition into which that highest interest is reduced among us at present; that the soul of your “religion” was analagous to the soul of mine, however much their respective embodiments might differ.2 This is all I could have meant, or shall ever presume to mean on such a matter. And so again I say, Have the goodness to expunge the phrase and let it not stand upon the record at all.

You will find nothing of theological in that Life of Sterling, that I know of;3 only an emphatic assertion here and there (too emphatic such conviction can hardly be, tho' I own the assertion of it may be inconveniently so) that a man ought not to do Playactorisms before high Heaven, nor preach what he does not himself completely believe:—nor in fact, I grieve to say, will that poor rag of a Book (which was a votive offering rather than a bit of Literature) repay your perusal under any point of view,—except at a very idle time indeed! My “religious creed” is not stated there; nor, as you say, would it be easy to state;—and you must farther do me the justice to believe that it is not skepsis, or doubt, any more, for these last 30 years; but a certainty with me, for which I also am and ought to be forever thankful to the Maker of me.

And so we will not awaken “sleeping dog kennels” (whatever our friend the Archdeacon4 may advise); but will, if you please, meet soon again for another long walk sub dio [under the open skies], or long talk within four walls in a sitting posture; and indeed if you do not, about the end of the week, come down to us here, I design to go up to you yonder,—upon the principle of Mahomet's miracle,5 the only sound principle in these cases!—I can with great truth subscribe myself always,

Yours with great respect and goodwill

T. Carlyle