October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 18 July 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330718-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:411-415.


Craigenputtoch, 18th July, 1833—

My Dear Mill,

The worst news in your Letter1 is that of the problematic state your visit still seems to be in; you indeed are better than your former word; but my Brother (who expresses himself much taken with you) had led us to suppose that the matter was as good as fixed.2 Of you certainly one can ask nothing more; we shall pray only that circumstances may prove favourable, or that your resolution may be great to vanquish them. Come, I say, and let us get fairly acquainted with you; we shall make more progress face to face amid these solitudes than by the present hampered method in three years. You are worth getting acquainted with, I think; and as for me you know that at bottom I am a very inoffensive sort of fellow, with whom if you gain little, you have not to fear losing much. “Under false pretences” at least, I imagine neither of us will work.

Without appraising, still more without depreciating your theory about the uses of Logic and your own peculiar vocation that way,3 I can heartily rejoice to see you go forward, as I do, with more and more assurance and emphasis in setting forth by the fittest manner whatsoever conviction is in you. A man's theory is valuable simply as it facilitates his practice; neither is there any other way of correcting it where wrong but by practice alone; for indeed till we have tried and done, we can never know what power there lies in us to do: our Actions are the kind of mirror in which we first see ourselves. Add to this that seldom indeed are we without wish sufficient to attempt whatsoever we could perform; that such wish is properly the dim instinct (often so falsely interpreted) of our ability,—I see you err, if at all, on the safe defective side, and so bid you confidently hold on while it will endure with you.

There was the strangest old Schoolman (in a new Body only forty years old) at Edinr last winter, with whom I had long conferences once or twice about his Logic, such as, in a higher strain, I could willingly renew with you; but not here;—nor perhaps anywhere were it of moment. My similitude was always: Who is he with a pair of stout legs that cannot walk, whether he anatomically know the mechanism of the muscles or not? The grand difficulty, I think, with us all is to see somewhat, to believe somewhat; a quite mystic operation, to which Logic helps little; to which, proclaim what laws of vision you will, nothing but an eye will be of service. Neither, as I apprehend, can a believing man by one means or other readily fail to utter intelligibly his belief, and so infect others with it (for at bottom it figures itself to me as a kind of divine infection, to which Logic—properly the art of Words—is at best a Conductor); at all events he can translate it into Conduct, and that is a thing which he that runs will read.4 Most of this, you see, straggles hither and thither, and falls harmless over your head: thus I fulfil my first intention, of both letting you alone, and indicating where I myself am.

As to that of producing an effect and so forth, let me not startle if I say that I could never get any good of such calculations, or almost any. Who can calculate his effect? You remember I used to speak of William Burns, the Poet's Father;5 and paradoxically yet not without truth declare him, the poorest of day-drudges, yet a brave a true man, to have been the most important (effectuallest) British person living in his time. Let us consider this, what degree of truth there is in it; and pause amazed over the continual impenetrable mysteriousness of Nature, the Transcendency there is in all her ways! Every Act, every Word, I say often, is a seed-grain cast into all Time,6 into all Space, to work there, perhaps to grow there—forever. This is no figure of speech; it is a scientific fact without hyperbole in it. What light then have I about the effects produced by me; what light of estimate can I have? The thing that is given me to do, or to speak, that my inward Daemon as the old times called it, commands of me, that I cannot forbear doing or speaking, that thing let me do and speak. Be the issues of it, or no-issues of it, left to Higher Powers, whose eye commands Immensity and Eternity, and can judge such matters. For me, as good Luther said, Hier steh' ich, ich kann n[icht] anders; Gott hilf mir! Amen! [“Here stand I; I can do no other; God assist me! Amen!”]7—— To a less candid man, all this [would of] necessity require modifications enough; but you, in your clear just way, will [not] accuse me of running out blindfold, knocking down passengers, and breaking my own head against posts or “Paddington Omnibii”;8 and will supply all that is wanted. Fundamentally it is an image of my Creed in that matter.

Shame on me for so much beating of the wind, when I meant to walk the firm Earth, and be exclusively autobiographical! One of my reasons for wishing you here, tho' among the smallest, is a sort of wish to question you about Paris, in its practical, economical and all other aspects: we have a kind of purpose to see it, to settle in it for a while (say next year), and see Books and Men there. France is the great scene of Practice; man is or has been actually thrown bare there; has burst his withe-manacles in some measure; and demonically or angelically works and demeans himself like a very Sampson. All that to a nearly exclusive lover of Realities, were well worth seeing, worth laying to heart. John returns to Italy in little more than a month; a new engagement for two years. Till after his expected return, at least not at present, I form no settled resolution: this place, with a little company, so very pleasant, does ill, very ill for me, without it; I must struggle to exchange it—yet for a better. Meanwhile spiritually too I told you I was at a kind of pause, or crisis; by God's blessing too I have no instant need to write aught in that humour; so I sit pretty quietly till the chaos lay itself, and the new road (for road there is for one in every case) grow plainer a little.— Teufelsdröckh under the as whimsical title of Sartor Resartus, is to come out piecemeal in Fraser's Magazine: I am heartily glad to get my hands washed of the thing; which I now look upon not without a tincture of abhorrence: nevertheless what is written may stand written; I did it as I could. You shall have a copy, and any friends of yours you may think it will profit. A half-mad production of mine9 (with some attempt at half-method in it) you may see in this July and in the August Number of that too blackguard Periodical; wherein, however, there breathes a kind of mad morbid Life, perhaps a shade less hateful to one than the calm dry bones that smile on you their Death's-head smile in most others. Alas, alas! that one cannot spurn both and all of them down far enough—to the Devil almost; and go on far apart from them! Patience, however.

Now write your longest perfectly Biographical and Autobiographical Letter; no not perfectly so; but any way yourself like it, not forgetting these elements. Who is Grote,10 my frequent benefactor? I mean rather What is he, spiritually and individually; for I know him to be a Banker, and man of character, and see occasionally that he is a man of talent and decision. Is Miss Martineau gone? Fonblanque, Buller, Fox, Junius, the Tories, Radicals, Whigs even, all the world is interesting to me. God bless you!

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript:]

My kind remembrance—as usual left out

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