January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN BOWRING; 8 February 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310208-TC-JOBO-01; CL 5:227-228.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 8th Feby, 1831—

Dear Sir,

About a year ago, Mr Tait,1 Bookseller in Edinburgh, was at pains to inform me that my name had the honour of being known to you; that you were not disinclined, should occasion offer, to have some literary communication with me.

The Westminster Review is one of the few Periodicals which I make an effort to see; the talent, learning, and intrepid, decisive spirit of that Journal are clear to me, as they are to the world. With not a few grounds of dissent I discern there one quality which ought to cover a multitude of errors, and is in these days among the rarest: namely, a total, uncompromising contempt of Cant and Dilettantism, in all shapes; a resolution to speak the Truth so far as it is seen into and can be spoken; a feeling that the Truth is infinitely precious and alone worthy of being spoken. This to my view is the first condition of all worth in journal or in man; and the sure root of more and more worth: indeed what I call the ‘errors’ of the Westminster Review are rather shortcomings than errors. For yourself also, give me leave to say that your character is known to me from private as well as public sources; neither am I without sense for merit of that kind. On all which grounds, as I informed your Edinburgh Agent, my good-will fully corresponds with your own; and it would give me real pleasure should some closer relation spring up between us.

Now it chances, at this time, that I could furnish you with a little Essay on the Nibelungen Lied, calculated for English readers; on which subject there has been some curiosity excited among us, and little or no intelligible information given.2 In my mind also are various other topics, of considerably more importance, for which it strikes me, the Westminster Review might be among the fittest vehicles. May I request you therefore to say by your earliest convenience whether that Paper on the Nibelungen would be likely to prove of any service to you, whether such likelihood is worth the trouble of copying it and sending it? What farther is to follow will by and by determine itself.

Meanwhile believe me always, / Dear Sir, / Faithfully your's,

Thomas Carlyle