1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO ÉMILE MONTÉGUT; 5 January 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540105-TC-EM-01; CL 29: 5-6


Chelsea, London, 5 jany, / 1854—

My dear Sir,

You are very kind and serviceable to me; and I seem culpably ungrateful in late weeks. But it is seeming only; alas, I have too valid an excuse. I was in the country when your second Note came; then I was called into Scotland, on the saddest errand,—to attend the death-bed of a dear and excellent Mother; to scenes from which I am just returned, and the impression of which can never be abolished while I live.— I had given orders to have your Parcel called for at Barthès and Lowell's; this was done, and the Books and Letter lay safe;1 but it was only yesterday that I could first open them. I will not lose a post in quieting your anxieties; but say at once that everything is come, and came duly; that no money was charged; and in short, that you have acquitted yourself of this charitable function with complete success so far. Many thanks to you, and regrets that a speedier acknowledgement was denied me.

I last night read, in the Révue, what M. Loménie has said about Beaumarchais;2 and was interested not only in his magnificent Voltaire operations, but in what I learned of his American performances and sufferings, of his grandiose Commercial enterprises,—and generally in the character of the man, more than I had been before.3 A shining specimen of the French genius in that kind; a beautiful gallant kind of soul,4—but contrasted with others more successful in the race of life, in a noticeable way, too; like the running of the Hare against that of the Tortoise; not the swiftest that gains! I design to get the back Nos of the Révue, and read from the beginning of that Sketch of Beaumarchais. A perfect life of B. would be, next to one of Voltaire, among the finest enterprises in French Literature at present: but very difficult to do “properly,”—a very Homer might put forth his genius in doing it “properly”: here indeed is again a Ulysses if there were a Homer.

The Châtelet's Letters I mean to read this evening: I will take care of the Book for you, and return it by some opportunity when read.5 I feel considerably interested in the Lady; and will not think ill of her if I can help it.6 Last autumn, as you heard, I went thro' many a volume of Voltaire again: never man had such power of the tongue before or since; a brave man too after his sort, and of aristocratic nature: I found he rose in my esteem instead of falling.— If these other Letters of du Châtelet (by Mme Collet) are anywhere in the Révue,7 you have only to indicate; I can get any No here. Yours always / T. Carlyle