January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO GUSTAVE D'EICHTHAL; 9 August 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300809-TC-GE-01; CL 5:134-139.


Craigenputtoch, near Dumfries, Scotland, 9 August, 1830.

My Dear Sir,

Some three weeks ago, a packet of Books arrived here, accompanied with a Letter addressed A l'Auteur de l'Article intitulé, Caractère de notre Epoque, the whole perfectly uninjured, the Books complete according to the List sent with them.1 Being actually the writer of that Paper, headed Signs of the Times, in the Edinburgh Review, there referred to, I cannot but cheerfully accept this present: by what route it came hither I shall perhaps learn by and by.

Allow me to express, to yourself and the Saint-Simonian Society,2 my friendly acknowledgments for the interest you take in my inquiries; my true satisfaction that these views of mine find some acceptance with you. Here too, in favour of that same Material and Mechanical Disposition of our age, against which so much is objected, be it thankfully admitted and considered that, by means of it and of its physical triumphs, the thoughts of a solitary man, which he casts forth silently into the stream of things, can travel onward over seas to distant Capitals; and in due time, bring him back, to his remote Scottish granite-mountains, a brotherly response.

Pursuant to your directions, I have looked over these Writings, with such leisure and composure as I could command; well purposing to investigate the matter farther, as I have opportunity. The announcement you make is wonderful enough: but I have long since learned that the Wonderful is not always the False; that it is a good rule ‘to look at the Wonderful with one's own eyes.’ Could I have fancied, in 1825, that among the Palais-Royals and Cafés et deux Billards of your gay City, there was an Apostolic Society, cherishing within it a New Religion, endeavouring, with philosophic insight, earnestly and with considerate zeal, to propagate the same, one of my first attempts would have been to obtain some personal Knowledge of you.

In these Books of your Society, which for most part were new to me, I find little or nothing to dissent from: the spirit at least meets my entire sympathy—the opinions also are often such as I, in my own dialect, have been accustomed to cherish, and more or less clearly enunciate. That the last century was a period of Denial, of Irreligion and Destruction; to which a new period of Affirmation, of Religion, must succeed, if Society is to be reconstituted, or even to continue in existence: this with its thousand corollaries is a proposition for which the thinking minds of all nations are prepared. No less true is it that as Religion is the only bond and life of societies, so the only real Government were a Hierarchy: nay either a Hierarchy or Heresiarchy it now is, and must ever be; our real Governors in this age are, not the Capets and Guelfs, but Pope Voltaire, Bishop Hume, Bishop Smith, Archdeacon Helvetius, and the like, with their thousand Newspaper Curates; to whom all Kings and Premiers and Field-Marshals are but the sacristans and pew-openers,—hired, indeed, at a quite mad rate of wages, and doing their work ill.3

These prospects and interests of society I find set forth in your Works, in logical sequence and coherence, with precision, clear illustration, and the emphasis of a noble zeal. The more curious am I to understand how, in your minds, Scientific insight has transformed itself into Religion; or in what sense, not of exaggerated metaphor, men of cultivated talent, strong power of thought, and far above all superstitition and deception, use these extraordinary words: Dieu est revenu à la France en Saint-Simon, et la France annoncera au monde le Dieu nouveau [God has returned to France in Saint-Simon, and France will announce the new God to the world]. On which most important of all points I yet await instruction. For, let not loving Disciples take it amiss of a stranger to their Doctrine and their Master, in these writings of Saint-Simon himself, even in the Nouveau Christianisme,4 I find indeed an ardent, all-hoping temper, a keen, far-glancing, yet often, as seems to me, hasty and flighty, vision; surely nothing of a Divine Character; no Inspiration, save what every man of genius, who has once seen Truth, and with his whole heart embraced it, may be equally said to feel; none, indeed, but what several of his Disciples manifest in a still more unquestionable form. Doubt not, therefore, but the Book wherein you are to unfold your Religious principles, will be specially welcome here: the whole history and actual constitution of your Society, its aspects internal and external, its numbers, its political and economical relations, its whole manner of being and acting, are questions of unusual interest for me.

Neither let my friendly Critic in the Organisateur5 fancy that my distrust of Committees goes the length of an aversion to Associations founded on Religion, which indeed is the only genuine and permanent basis of all Association. Nay I have long felt that only in Union could Religion properly exist; that this deep, mystic, immeasurable Sympathy, which man has with man, is the true element of Religion; that indeed the Communion of Saints, spoken of in the Creed, is no delusion, but the highest fact of our destiny.

That, for the present, there is no public Religion we have only to open our eyes, and see. That there will and must be a Religion no man, who feels the unimpaired, fresh-created soul of a man within him, will doubt: for the same Omnipotence, which we call God, is still round us and in us, and nothing that man did or was has he become unable again to do and to be. A Faith, such as dwells in all devout hearts, teaches us that man, in these times, is not blinded but only benighted; that if he has long walked by the light of Mere Conflagrations, amid the sound of falling Cities, and now stands weeping amid ashes and desolation, the new dayspring will again visit him, ‘these ashes are the soil of future herbage, and of richer harvests.’— ‘But as yet,’ says Jean Paul, a deep, prophetic thinker, probably well known to you, ‘But as yet struggles the twelfth hour of the Night; spectres uproar; the dead walk; the living dream.— Thou, Eternal Providence wilt cause the day to dawn.’6

That you are on the right direction I know; for you are animated by that high martyr, apostolic spirit which was never altogether wrong: that you are on the right path I shall rejoice to find, and shall still hope till the contrary has been made plain to me. And so, heartily wishing you good speed, nay in my own place and way, striving to work together with you, I remain,

My Dear Sir, / Your and your Society's friend and servant /

Thomas Carlyle—

My address is: Thomas Carlyle Esqr Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, Scotland. The London Foreign Booksellers Black, Young and Young sometimes communicate with me; also Treuttel & Würz, who have an establishment in Paris.—

—I hear today that your foolish old King7 has come to England: between the Nations, who now begin to understand each other, there will be no War;—let us hope, never more!— With the Duke of Orleans,8 if that arrangement prove final, you may prosper all the better.— In any case, your task, if genuine, is not for a day or a generation, but for the whole Future.—

Some clearer insight into my views, Moral and Religious, which as originating from almost the opposite point of vision, yet curiously corresponding, your Society might find it interesting to compare with their own, is to be had in an Article entitled Voltaire, No. 6 of the Foreign Review; in Novalis, No. 7 of the same Periodical, and Goethe No. 3. The Foreign Review, which has now merged in the Foreign Quarterly Review, professed to be sold by Galignani, by Arthur Bertrand, &c at Paris; but may probably enough be unknown there, as indeed for most part it deserves to be.—