October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 16 June 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320616-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:173-176.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, / 16th June 1832—

My dear Mill,

Late at night, in the middle of a sleeping household, and of silent moors, I write you this poorest of Notes, to thank you heartily for your Letter,1 and if possible induce you to write very soon again. You must not balance debit and credit too strictly with me, in that matter; at least not now, while I am in one of my chaotic states, and have lost all faculty of doing anything. Several days ago, I set about seriously commencing another Essay on Goethe, which in evil hour I had undertaken for the Foreign Quarterly Editor; and now is the sad season of dubitation and dislocation when the woodenheaded must sit biting his pen, and see nothing before him but the nakedness of the land. However, I have grown in some measure used to these desperate conjunctures, and know that in one way or another light must and will be struck out; and the waste imbroglio of trivialities weave itself into a web, were it only of three-hal[f]penny calico. It is one of my superstitions never to turn back when you have begun: otherwise this time I should be tempted. Alas, I feel as if both here and almost everywhere else, I were all in the wrong; still weltering among barren metaphysical coils; running painfully along many a radius, but never yet reaching the true centre of it all. Vita brevis, ars longa! [Life is short, art long!]2 Nevertheless, let us, as was said, march on, and complain no more about it.

Your approval of that Paper on Johnson, credible as it was to me on your word, gratified me more than a Stoic philosopher should be willing to confess. Very precious to me is such testimony. Tho' a thousand voices cry out, ‘It is clever, let us praise it’; this is still nothing or very little; only a shade more than if they cried, ‘It is stupid, let us blame it.’ But if one sincere voice say deliberately, ‘It is true, let me do it’; this is much; it is the highest encouragement that man can give to man. So I will fancy you one of my Scholars and Teachers, and rejoice in this relation, and hope from it.

Your news too amused me and interested me. The poor Saint-Simonians!3 Figure Duveyrier, with waiter's apron, emptying slop-pails,—for the salvation of a world. But so it is: many must try, before one can succeed: what too are we but trials; seekers, smoothing the way for others, who likewise will not wholly find? The men are to be honoured and loved in this, that they have dared to be men, as they could, tho' the GIG4 should break altogether down with them, and nothing remain for it but bare soles. Such a feat is too hard for above one in ten thousand; yet for all except very fortunate men, it is the first condition of true worth. As to the Saint-Simonian sect, it seems nearly sure to die with the existing “Father of Humanity”;5 but in his hands it may hold together, and do much indirect good. While “the Fancy” remain in England unwhipt and without hemp-mallets in their hands,6 let the St. Simonians remain unlaughed at.

You act the good Samaritan's part in visiting Glen. Whether any effectual help can be afforded him I must admit with you to be uncertain: but it is said, while there is life there is hope. So intense, diseased a feeling of Self I have seen in no sane man; never such faculties of head and heart utterly lamed, and cancelling one another. I love poor Glen, and pity him much: dark days are in store for him, go how it may. And he is alone! Bear with him to the last; suffer much, and be kind,—as Charity is.7 For myself I am not sure but he is bette[r away f]rom me. What I had to tell him, he heard, and hav[ing heard it,]8 let us now see whether he will do it, or try to do it.

The Paper is done, and my Wife's frank will hold no more, tho' there were multitudes of things to say.— I recognised you with much satisfaction in last Examiner, in the Notice of Bentham. Brave Bentham! All week I have thought of that Dissecting-table with a feeling of solemnity.9 “A Character is a completely fashioned Will.”10

There is room for nothing more, but that I remain

Always affectionately, /

T. Carlyle

Your Corn Law Rhymes were sent off to Edinr (for the Longmans) nearly three weeks ago. From Napier I yet hear nothing, and incline to fancy my Radicalism has brought him to a Stillstand: be you also silent.— Along with the Rhymes, my Wife sent her Novels, which she had read with interest. It were unpardonable (tho' she is long since asleep) not to send you her kind regards: she speaks of no one oftener, or with truer regard.— Will you thank Mrs Austin for the little Note, which I wished only to have been longer: also tell me (as I hope you can) that she has got well. Charles Buller was to write; but, as his heart must reproachfully tell him, has never done it.— Write all manner of news; write everything; above all write soon, and largely. And so again good night.

Surely Fonblanque is going on at a brisk pace. “The present agreeable family” (of Guelfs) are greatly obliged to him; their “King's Theatre,” no less.11 He continues in great favour with my Mother.

I have not seen Tait's Magazine except No I, which was very shallow and sandy. No. II I will get in Dumfries; and hope it may be better. About sending Books more next time.