1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO EDWARD EVERETT; 22 December 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541222-TC-EE-01; CL 29: 219-221


Chelsea, London, 22 decr, 1854—

Dear Mr Everett,

Your Letter has arrived a day or two ago; one of the pleasantest things that has fallen in my way of late; and worthy to shine as a luminous point in this dark Hollow of the Year, which no Yule-Logs can now make very cheerful to me. I had inferred that the delay was Lawrence's;1 who has many virtues, but not that of promptitude, or rapidity in getting done with business. Indeed it is the good man's worst fault, this that I could call want of rapidity; his chief defect both as man and Artist;—and I hope you will cure him of it in your rapid Country, where, it would appear, he has some thought of continuing, so very kind (for which I too have debts both in New-York and Massachusetts) has his reception been.

Now, however, all is right with this matter of the old Tithe-Book; and I am heartily pleased to find that it so pleases you, and is to have such honours as you indicate. A poor half-foolish and yet partly very serious and worthy old object has been recovered from its vague wanderings over Cosmos and Chaos, and at length helped into its right place in the Creation: for which small mercy let us be thankful;—and wish only that, in bigger cases (of which in Nature there are so many, and of such a tragical sort), the same perfect service could always be done! Alas, alas!—

Today I am in considerable haste; but would not lose a post in answering you about the Letter you speak of. I quite forget what was in the Letter in question; but do not doubt it would be some transcript of my then feelings about the matter on hand,—part of the truth, therefore, and I hope not of the untruth, in regard to it:—and I will very willingly commit it altogether to your friendly discretion to make whatever use of it you find to be reasonable and feasible. And so we will say, Long life to Franklin's memory! and add our little shout to that of the Bostoners in inaugurating their monument for him. “Long life to the memory of all brave men”;—to which prayer, if we could add only, “Speedy death to the memory of all who were not so,” it would be a comprehensive petition, and of salutary tendencies, in the epoch of Barnum and Hudson!—

I have still a determination to buy John Cotton,2 if he ever turn up again. But he never has, since you last heard, when he was prematurely snatched away from me. Either his works must be becoming scarce; or perhaps (which is likelier) the Theological class of Old-Book Sellers are beginning to know their man, and do not send Catalogues as formerly. It is very possible I may never meet with Cotton more: but if I do, there shall certainly be a bid man. He was a man of real intelligence, I believe: but it is sad to think how obsolete all human intelligences (or very nearly all) grow, in a short course of generations. The human species drifts quite away from their old latitudes and coasts; and cannot bear the most intelligent talk on the aquatic or terrestrial phenomena that were visible there:—only the stars, certain stars and constellations (so to speak) continue visible thro' long ages, and are still a present object, for some few.—Cotton's memorial is properly the newer BOSTON: that he carried some echo of poor old St. Botolph (who little expected it in those Lincolnshire Fens)3 across the Atlantic, on those surprising terms: this is the smallest but by far the most immortal of the actions of Cotton.— But I must cease, I must cease.

It gives me great satisfaction to figure you as safe out of the tempests of public life;4 restored to yourself and your books and thoughts, in an agreeable country retreat, after so many years of hard work. The late Dr Chalmers used to say The seventh decade of a man's life ought to be of Sabbatic character;5 devoted to rest and meditation. Poor Chalmers, in his own case, experienced quite the opposite fate; his “seventh decade” having produced Free Church, and more noise than he had ever known before.6 But the wish is pious and natural; and one rejoices to see it fulfilled for a good man. I myself am but a few years younger, and certainly in point of ill-health you are not my superior: I too long towards the still waters with my whole soul; but there is small chance of my ever managing that change! I am involved in inextricable dusty confusions here, as if I were still young, and able to vanquish them: chaotic “German Dryasdust,” Frederick of Prussia, and I know [not]7 what; which really (with other allies they have) are like the sons of Zeruiah “too strong for me,”8 and threaten to be my end one day. However, we must try, we must try!—

Miss Delia Bacon, whom I think you know a little, has been for about a year past in St Alban's (the great Verulam Bacon's place); writing, out of her own brain, the demonstration that Shakspeare did not write Shakspeare's Plays: which seems to me a rather lamentable case! She is now back in Town here; but I have not got so far as her place, nor has she come hither,—being a very delicate, indeed painfully shy Lady, tho' of evident worth, talent, and well liked in this house.— Emerson never writes to me, or not once in many months, the sinful man; please give him my regards if he ever come athwart you.— I had much to say about America, England and the world; but must suppress it all,—unless you will write again, some time before long, and again set me going? I beg you to believe me at all times,—Yours most sincerely T. Carlyle