October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO SARAH AUSTIN; 13 June 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330613-TC-SA-01; CL 6:e5.


Craigenputtock, / June 13 1833

My Dear Mrs. Austin,

A hurried word is all I can send you in return for your kind, good letter, which spoke to us, as all your letters do, like the voice of a Friend. Many things remind us of you; to my Wife I believe you are literally the best of all womankind; neither for me is there any figure in that huge city whom I can remember with purer satisfaction. This, if it be a comfort to you in your brave life-fight, is a quite genuine one. Continue to bear yourself like a brave, true woman, and know always that friendly eyes and hearts are upon you. On my own side, too, I will say that the interest you take in my poor, small and so sorely hampered toils is a great encouragement, a great increase of strength to me. It is something surely that the words out of my heart speak sometimes into such a heart, and find response there; that you find them not utterly vain, and my little Life a kind of Reality and no Chimaera. Could I one day so much as resemble that Portrait you possess of me, and persist in calling like! But alas! alas! However we will be content; alle Frauen, says Jean Paul, sind geborne Dichterinnen [all Women are born Poetesses],1 bless them for it, most of all when their art comes our own way!

Your Falk, which has long been expected, will prove a most welcome present; the extracts I see in the Newspapers whet my curiosity. I might have had the original in Edinburgh; but waited for your English with the Notes.2

We have heard often of your purpose to leave England, a thing sad to think of, to hear confirmed as near at hand.3 Yet how shall one gainsay it? Your view of the case is most probably just and accurate; your resolution on it the best. Let us not add lead to the bravely buoyant; rather than think of you as lost, I will lay schemes how we may cross the Channel ourselves, and pass some winter beside you! Were that not a scheme? After all, more unlikely things have come to pass.4 We shall see; we shall hope, and to the last keep hoping. Der Mensch, says F. Schlegel almost pathetically, in dieser Erde ist eigentlich auf Hoffnung gestellt [man on this Earth is essentially inclined to Hope];5 this is called the Place of Hope.6 Will you then, in that case, undertake to “do the hoping” for us all?

My own course is utterly dubious at this moment; the signs of the times are quite despicable in England, nothing but a hollow, barren, jarring of Radicalism and Toryism for unmeasured periods, likely enough to issue in confusion and broken crowns; in which struggle I as one feel hitherto no call to spend or be spent. Alas! it is but a sowing of the wind, a reaping of the whirlwind.7 The stern destiny and duty of this and the next generation; for which duty, however, there is enough and more than enough volunteering to do. Meanwhile Literature, one's sole craft and staff of life, lies broken in abeyance; what room for music amid the braying of innumerable jackasses, the howling of innumerable hyaenas whetting the tooth to eat them up? Alas for it! it is a sick disjointed time; neither shall we ever mend it; at best let us hope to mend ourselves. I declare I sometimes think of throwing down the Pen altogether as a worthless weapon; and leading out a Colony of these poor starving Drudges to the waste places of their old Mother Earth, when for the sweat of their brow bread will rise for them; it were perhaps the worthiest service that at this moment could be rendered our old world to throw open for it the doors of the New. Thither must they come at last, “bursts of eloquence”8 will do nothing; men are starving and will try many things before they die. But poor I, ach Gott! I am no Hengist or Alaric;9 only a writer of Articles in bad prose; stick to thy last, O Tutor; the Pen is not worthless, it is omnipotent to those who have Faith. “Cast thy bread upon the waters, thou shalt find it after many days.”10 And so we look into this waste fermenting Chaos without shuddering; and trust to find our way through it better or worse.

In any case, fail not to tell us what you decide on, consider us as deeply interested in whatever befalls you. On the whole I have still a hope that somehow you will both [not] go; at least not till we have met again.

The Faust, second part,11 had reached Edinburgh before I left; I read it there with such interest as you may fancy. Several years ago I had occasion to study Helena,12 and particularly noted that Chorus you mention. I consider the whole Play now completed as a thing wide, wide before me, and deep; into which I have not seen half way. Some new scenes bear traces of feebleness, many are very beautiful; happily the Plan, the noble Idea, can be deciphered there, not feeble or old, but young for ever.

Charles Buller is the Free-carrier of this letter; pray tell me of him and his, for he never writes. And now, dear Friend, Gott befohlen [God be with you]! My wife joins me in all kind salutations to Lucykin13 and to Mr. A. and you.

Ever your affectionate, /

T. Carlyle.