January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


TC TO ALEXANDER J. SCOTT ; 6 August 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590806-TC-AJS-01; CL 35: 161-162


Auchtertool House, Auchtertool Kirkcaldy, 6 Augt, 1859

Dear Scott,

Your Letter reached me two days ago, in the agony of a flitting operation (over from Aberdour quarter to this new locality); and I could not command as much deliberation as to answer it, till now.

I am by no means surprised you should eagerly wish to quit Manchester, your vocation now being what it is there, and the “Owen College,”1 under such pilotage,2 unalterable by all your efforts, having got into the shallows inevitable in that case. I ardently wish you were well away, and completely rid of such an enterprize.

They say founding a new magazine3 is a work of terrible difficulty, and especially almost always of unexpected expense to the finance parties;—I have no doubt there is labour abundant, and contradiction do (whh is the sorest kind of labour) for any one that faithfully grapples with editing such a thing! I do not personally know your Publishers4 at all, and have heard very little of them either, tho’ that little was on the favourable hand; if you can better inform yourself on that hand, I need not say how important that will be. Advice of my own in regard to any point of the matter, much more as to the great Yes-or-No question, I am totally unable to give:—it seems to me rather you will, with your eyes open to the risks and questionabilities, probably decide “Yes”; and I am by no means prepared to forbid, if you put it to me. In the tussle and scuffle there are generous elements too; and perhaps it will force you to strike out your limbs fairly at last, like a man thrown into the sea and swimming for life (“all real human action is like swimming,” says Goethe; “an element threatening to swallow you; whh you buffet frankly, and find that it will bear you along”):5—if this be the result produced, I shall say it is simply what you have wanted (to my notion) for these 20 years last past.

As to my own “Contributing,” there could be no vehicle suitabler to me,—had I once anything to contribute!6 But my life is, as it were, hemmed in and bounded by the frightfullest of insoluble Enterprises; and till that be ended (if it don't first end me, as often seems to me likely) I am simply Nemo [nobody] in Literature, and nothing but zero can come of me to you or another. That is the sad fact.— Decide wisely: God grant that!

T. Carlyle