candlestick

January-September 1856


The Collected Letters, Volume 31


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TC TO COVENTRY PATMORE ; 9 August 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560809-TC-CP-01; CL 31: 164


TC TO COVENTRY PATMORE

Gill, 9 Augt, 1856—

My dear Sir,

I am sorry, but not much surprised, to hear of the bad commercial success of your Poem.1 The Public of Readers, now that everybody has taken to read, and whosoever has twopence in his pocket to pay into a Circulating Library, whether he have any fraction of wit in his head or not, is a sovereign Rhadamanthus of Books for the time being, has become more astonishing than ever! Probably there never was such a Plebs [Populace] before, entitled to hold up its thumb with vivat [let him live] or pereat [let him die] to the poor fencers in the Literary Ring.— The only remedy is, not to mind them; to set one's face against them like a flint:2 for they cannot kill one, after all, tho' they think they do it; one has to say, “Dull impious canaille [common herd], it was not for you that I wrote; not to please you that I was brandishing what weapons the gods gave me!” Patience too, in this world, is a very necessary element of victory.

It is certain, if there is any perennial Running Brook, were it the smallest rill coming from the eternal fountains, whole Atlantic Oceans of froth will not be able to cover it up forever; said rill will, one day, be seen running under the light of the sun, said froth having altogether vanished no man knows whither. That is the Law of Nature, in spite of all blusterings of any Plebs or Devil; and we must silently trust in that.

Unhappily the Reviewer too is generally in the exact ratio of the Readers; a dark blockhead with braggartism superadded; properly the supreme blockhead of blockheads, being a vocal one withal, and conscious of being wise. Him also we must leave to his fate: an inevitable phenomenon (“like people, like priest”)3 , yet a transitory one he too.

You need not doubt but I shall be ready, of my own accord, to recommend this Book by all opportunities for what I privately perceive it to be. I am considering also whether there is not some exceptional reviewer, whom I might endeavour to interest in it, with some hope of profit; shall perhaps hit on such a one by and by: unhappily my connexion with that guild of craftsmen is almost null (or less) this long while. You may depend upon it I will neglect no good occasion.— Recommending perseverance in the mean time and at all times; and what the Scotch call “a stout heart to a steep hill,”4 I remain always

Yours very sincerely /

T. Carlyle