TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 18 April 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330418-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:368-374.
TC TO JOHN STUART MILL
4. Great King-Street, 18th April, 1833—
My Dear Mill,
Tho' but in poor writing-order today, I may as well send you a word; another day, if my unhappy head ache less, my time may be scantier. Your Letter1 tho' rather speedier and not slower than usual, had been long looked for: there is still nothing here resembling you that I can fall in with; often it seems to me as if all men had eng[ag]ed to one another that sincere speech should cease and determine, and henceforth nothing but a hollow jargon without significance, arising in no belief and producing none, should form the utterance of man to man. It is a miserable mockery; a thing one's heart gets sick of even to nausea. But what is the remedy? This only: Do thou thyself then speak ever the more truly; ever with the greater abhorrence avoid that same hollow jargoning, as a thing at once ridiculous and (looking at its consequences) lamentable and detestable.2 I have a hundred matters to talk over with you; more than whole paper-quires would hold, had I whole weeks to write them in. Let me still calculate with certainty that we shall meet face to face in August; in the middle of the wild moors there will be scope enough, and neither tongue need be tied. Glory to God! there are still here and there on the Earth some articulate-speaking mortals; the highest, mysterious Gift, that of Language (for “Man is properly an incarnated Word”3) has not yet utterly dissipated itself into inane chattering and cawing; there is still Communion for man with man. So let us wait; and do not you disappoint me.
Those long fits of depression4 are a thing too well known to myself: indeed, with me they have stretched themselves into long continuous years, and, but for what we call happy accidents, what we might more piously call kind Orderings of Providence, would have ere now brought me down to final Desperation. They originate very variously; the Physical and the Spiritual playing into one another's hand in the most mysterious way. But in any case they have, as you say, their blessed fruits. For what, if we consider it, is any Suffering be it of what sort soever? A Disorder, as is well said; an extraneous thing which We (our free will and force) are summoned to triumph over, and make into an Order. Thus in all spiritual maladies, the sole cure is: Bestir thyself manlike; valiantly give battle to the enemy and defy him; in so doing thou hast already conquered. “Evil is but a Nightmare” says Jean Paul, “move yourself against it, it is already gone.”5 But, indeed, so old is the phenomenon with me, I have now grown to look upon Pain as almost the necessary precursor to new Light; as if Thought were a thing that really needed to be travailled with before it could be born; and the Minerva sprang from the head only amid fire and after the frightfullest megrims. Often therefore like you, in lucid moments, I say to myself: Be still, rejoice even; thou will be all the wiser for this! Poor Leigh Hunt, I remember, once said, he knew a man of true thought to have been a man of sorrows, by this alone that his thought was true. The Frenchman remarked of Goethe's Picture: Voilà un homme qui a eu beaucoup de chagrins [There is a man who has had many troubles] (Goethe says, it should have been “that has struggled toughly”): a still higher instance, the highest of all, on this head, will at once suggest itself.— As for poor me, if my increase of wisdom is to be in fair ratio to my late disquietude, I shall have made a rich venture of it this winter: it is among the saddest (from ill health outward and inward) I have known for long.
But now to quit speculation. The Book-parcel, which you as my merciful provider have got together for me, still lies at Fraser's: he wrote to me a week ago to that effect: I directed him to send it hither with his first-of-May Packet, at which time it will still find me, and be in good season. Doubt not, your Thoughts on Poetry and Art will deserve my fullest attention: what I make of it you shall honestly hear. Alas, in these days, all light Sportfulness, and melodious Art, has fled away from us, far away; not in Poetry, but only if so might be in Prophecy, in stern Old-Hebrew Denunciation, can one speak of the accursed Realities that now, and for generations, lie round us, and weigh heavy on us! But we will not enter on this. Speaking of Fraser, let me not forget a second time to answer you that the writer of that Byron6 (according to my guess) is no disciple of mine, but of Coleridge's: one Heraud, who lives at Tottenham, and looks better on Paper than otherwise; a meritorious creature nevertheless, who from the depths of some Law-Stationer's shop could contrive to appropriate an Idea or two (even in Coleridge's sense), and now reechoes them, in long continuance,—I fear, as from unfurnished chambers. Poor Heraud, if you could by any means economically forward him (which is not likely, for he seems to have bibliopolic vent, and is a kind of Torykin) were worth your acquaintance; but hardly otherwise. As for De Quincey7 I have not seen him this winter; and no man, except Bailiffs, it appears, has for the last eighteen months: he is said to be in the uttermost, unaidable embarrassment; bankrupt in purse, and as nearly as possible in mind. I used to like him well, as one of the prettiest Talkers I ever heard; of great, indeed of diseased acuteness, not without depth, of a fine sense too, but of no breadth, no justness; weak, diffuse, supersensitive; on the whole, a perverted, ineffectual man. Some Papers of his on the Roman Caesars in Blackwood8 are the last I know of him: Teufelsdreck might well pause in amazement to find Nero and Commodus there treated as having “something sacred” still,—in virtue of their purple clothes. Dequincey [sic] is one of the most irreclaimable Tories now extant; despising Poverty with a complete contempt; and himself, alas, poorer than ever Job was, who at worst never got gazetted. The Conservatives here, I think, are wholly in a very fretful, tremulous condition: Wilson himself, tho' he loves me, would evidently rather not meet me; I have seen him only once, and perhaps we shall hardly meet again. There is no man in the Island who has so wasted himself: a mass of Power standing on no basis; drifted about by every breath; lamed into the despicablest Weakness. Pity enough! Yet Nature is infinitely rich: the two eggs one eats at breakfast could have filled the whole world with winged creatures; and they are swallowed at one meal, and no damage done. So too with geniuses; a Thousand can be spent ephem[erally;] if one get to maturity we shall be content.
I read Roebuck's Education in Tait:9 Roebuck has a conviction, a true one, but alm[ost] hopelessly mechanical and narrow; a lean, perseverant, unappeaseable nature; reminds me somewhat of Robespierre: he wins respect from me but not love, almost the reverse. Buller, as you often say, is the only Radical of the smallest genius; I rejoice much to hear that he promises to give himself fair play: one day we shall hear more of him.10 Out of Parliament there is another, and but one that I know of: friend Fonblanque. Speed to him! Yet after all the contest, as I view it, is but a mean and meagre one. Democracy (like enough, without either Lords or King) at no great distance from us, as from all Europe; and then? It is very doubtful to me whether the best possible Reformed Parliament, made of the best possible men, could govern in our old world: nay is not Democracy and Reformed Parliament essentially the solemn declaration that there is no Government, that every man governs himself? In America they do beautifully without governing of any kind; for this peculiar reason, that all men can guide (or govern) themselves towards the Western Prairies. But, alas, for us who have no Prairies, where if we find not new Captains (the old sham-captains being justly bundled out) the mass of men must perish miserably, trodden under foot of each other! Unhappy age, to which this sad task of Revolution was appointed, and could not longer be delayed. As for myself I look forward to it with the sorrowfullest interest; round on it with dispiritment, with a powerless pity which really amounts to pain. “Bursts of parliamentary eloquence” and millions of living souls sinking hourly in all senses to the Devil. A committee of inquiry which must doom some hundreds more to a death by “cotton-fuz”; as certain and far crueller than if the Committee had shot them at once.11 Devil's drink (because it is of distilled barley) left untaxed, and bread and pottage taxed; in both cases, that the rent may rise.12 Bursts of parliamentary eloquence still going on, and Hell and Hunger still reaping their abundant harvest. Out upon it! One cannot look at it without a mixture of horror and contempt. I declare my prayer were that I could hide altogether from hearing of it; but that may not be.—— In these circumstances a gleam of hope rises on me from what you may reckon a strange quarter: James Stuart's Travels in America. I read the Book two days ago; a most stupid Book, as far as talent goes; but to me most cheerful. It reminds one again that there is still a corner in God's Earth where the men that will work can live; all men in that happy western climate are secure from Cold and Hunger, and defy the fear of them. Gloria in excelsis! The very shoeblack sits dining “on one of the fattest roasted geese we ever saw.”13 Here is something; a door of hope from our worst misery is here open. What too is America but a piece of England? These are our Brothers (and do no discredit to the house) let his Majesty in Council say to it what he likes. I venture also on a prediction: America may prove the safety-valve of England, of our old overcrowded Europe: farther unless some extensive far-reaching system of Emigration be organised, the result in few years must be a rebellion fearful to contemplate; the fierce implacable rebellion of Hunger and Ignorance against Wealth and Idleness, whose very imbecillity has become tyrannous, deadening and killing. This idea has long had deep hold of me; Stuart has blown upon it, and set it astir; perhaps it may not stop here.— Here however my scribbling must stop, tho' I had still whole volumes to tell. Write again soon, and give me another opportunity. Vale et me ama [Farewell and love me].
We do not leave Edinburgh till after the 3d or 4th of May. Your Thiers &c will be sent off before then; to the India House again, if you do not direct me otherwise. Nothing I trust will misgo this time.
I glanced into Alisons Book lying on a Table. He is an Ultra Tory, and therefore cannot understand the French Revolution; otherwise, they say, a man of considerable ability; his Margin bears marks of great inquiry (Thiers and the like I saw quoted almost every page), the man too was in France and published Travels: by all means review him, and in the widest vehicle you can get. It is a thing utterly unknown to the English and ought to be known. Speak of it what you know. If Alison prove stupid dismiss him the sooner, but tell your own story freely without fear or favour.14— Coningsby15 I will read if I can get it[.]
I have read three volumes of the Cent-et-un:16 your opinion of French Literature, and St.-Simonism is accurately mine, so far as I can form one. Duverrier [sic],17 I fear, is but a kind of Dilettante, as such millions are.