TC TO LEIGH HUNT; 18 July 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330718-TC-JHLH-01; CL 6:415-419.
TC TO LEIGH HUNT
Craigenputtoch, 18th July, 1833—
My Dear Sir,
There seems no hope now of our good Thornton; so, these two Letters, memorials of what might have been and was so near being, must now go the road they came. We had still an expectation; for I wrote off, to the care of Inglis, the instant I had Thornton's Letter,1 who however I conclude was already gone. We are really vexed all of us; we think how happy your son could have been and we with him in these fine July days; my Brother here too to have doctored him, and nothing but the shine of wholesome skies, and the sound of green woods all round us. Thornton's Letter, so ingenuous so true and gentle looking, had not a little increased our interest. But what can we do? Pray only that the good youth may have got home to his own again, and feel his great misery (to me well known) assuaged a little. After such a misventure it looks foolish to say more about visits: I will only repeat however that I took you at your word in that kind imagination of your also having a house in Nithsdale; be it well understood then that so stands it.2 For the rest give our love and sympathy to Thornton, our prophecy that he will rise to be a Man and Painter, in spite of all hindrances; there looks thro' him that fair openness of soul which, besides its intrinsic price and pricelessness, I have ever found the surest presage of all other gifts.
And now, my dear Sir, let us beg a Letter from you, to knit up these ravelments; so much lies uncertain to us. That you labour, and continue thro' all weathers to labour, with such undying cheerfulness and hope, we rejoice to believe: but pray give assurance of it; let us sympathize with you if it is not so. I say we and us in all this matter; for my Wife and I are at one in it.
What you mention about the new Poetical subject might awaken one's curiosity; but perhaps you are of Goethe's mind (which I think a very good one) that if you blab in seeking hidden treasure, the spirits will rise, and whisk it (and oneself too) to the Devil. I can heartily give you joy of the mood you hint at; it is one I have fancied often enough, but never was at any time near to. Go on and prosper, were the times never so prosaic! There is an ear and a heart in man; if not in this man or in that man, yet in some man: let us forever have Faith in man.3 We are this morning reading your Rimini;4 with praise enough on all hands; with a clear feeling on my part if not of the Art yet of the Artist: sunny Italy with her Children of the Sun, all is so freely mirrorred [sic] there.
As for myself I am idle, all but a little reading; chiefly of French Revolution Mémoires, and such other Realities as I can come at. My Brother has all manner of things to say about Rome and Naples, even the poor old purple or rather Scarlet old woman of a Holy Father is worth looking at. To me Italy face to face were perhaps almost wearisome at present. Spiritually I feel myself in a kind of crisis; the best I can do is to stand still a little; my road will disclose itself again (let me hope, to still higher countries, pleasanter or not) by and by. I have found it generally so with me; from time to time I have a kind of sick moulting-season; but after that, new feather[s;] without great previous pain I never made any advancement.
Many thanks for your attentive perusal of my poor Diderot. A few such readers, and careful writing were worth while; that one such thinks me worth reading is encouragement. Pity that I were not with you to hear your whole Miserere over the Marriage-state; which I wholly agree with you is at present miserable enough.5 Nevertheless I would stand by my argument that the Covenant of Marriage m[ust] be perennial; nay that in a better state of society there will be other pere[nnial] Covenants between man and man, and the home-feeling of man in this world [of] his be all the kindlier for it. For instance, could two Friends, good men both, declare themselves Brothers, and by Law make themselves so! Alas, Friendship were again possible in this Earth; and not as at present only Dining-together. But as for the unfortunate-females and so forth, I declare I can see no remedy except in improvement of the individual: till people learn again what godlike meaning is in Duty and practice Self-denial which is the beginning of all, what can you do for them by Laws? All machinery of Laws will entangle itself in new confusion before it is well set up; because the hinges are naught; I mean the four Cardinal virtues are not there. Finally I will most heartily agree with you, nay I often vehemently assert the same myself that at whatever rate we value chastity, it is brutish and delirious to punish only the weaker for want of it. The fault I continue to declare is (in spite of all genealogy barbarisms) alike for both; and so indeed our worthy old Cutty Stool6 (which I reverence much even in its worm-eaten state) has always most honestly regarded it. Praise to the Cutty Stool, for its day, then! I pray only to Heaven that we had a new one—of better structure if you will;—but a new one, the principle that made the old one, this is to me the grand want of wants. Thus you see we could discourse most eloquent musical discords for a week, or year.
What of the Advocate now? It is months since we heard a syllable of him, except by the Newspapers. I fear he is vexed and worried; the people and their Editors are grunting at him not a little here and there: I wish he were well out of that scandalous Cockpit, and back again to Craigcrook.— Do not wait for Franks when none are convenient. Nothing is better worth its price (even taxed price) than a Letter of Yours. And so all Good with you and yours! My Wife joins with me in that prayer.— Ever affectionately
I expect some Tait's Magazines soon, and will ferret you out.