TC TO SARAH AUSTIN; 21 January 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340121-TC-SA-01; CL 7:82-85.
TC TO SARAH AUSTIN
Craigenputtoch, 21st Jany, 1834—
Many thanks, my Dear Mrs Austin, for your kind messages and memorials: two Notes,1 thro' the Advocate; then the dainty little Book,2 with another Note; all of which have now arrived safe, the last only this day week. It is an allerliebstes Büchlein [a most delightful little book], graceful in spirit as in embodyment [sic] and decoration; and we all participate in Lucy's3 love of it; but fancy there will be children enough (of six feet high, and lower statures) in this “envy of surrounding nations” to ask: What does it prove, then? If I can do it any good, be sure I conscienciously shall: meanwhile my relation to Able Editors is of the loosest, my power and vote with any of them, I doubt, will go for little. The best is that it hardly makes any difference: I have learned lately, by various cheering symptoms, that British Reviewing had as good as died a natural death, and the Lie lied itself out; that the most harmonious diapason from the united throat of universal British Criticism would hardly pay its own expenses. Rejoice, my dear Friend, that you can now sit apart from that distracted gulph of abominations; and pray for those that must still swim for their life there.
We learned long ago thro Mill with the truest satisfaction what turn affairs had taken with you; that the Labourer, at length, was found worthy at least of some hire.4 The greater is now our regret and apprehension when Jeffrey informs us that Mr A's health again threatens to fail. Was ever anything so miserable! Let us hope far otherwise still: that, I declare, were really too grievous.
Your own health too, it seems, is bad; you have to complain of dispiritment, now when you have still need of all your strength. “Rise, noble Talbot; this is not a time to faint and sink: force faltering Nature by your strength of soul” &c5— Alas, it is so much easier said than done; and yet in Life one must often try to do it. For on the whole, my dear Heroine, there is no Rest for us in this world, which subsists by Toil. “Rest?” said the stern old Arnauld, “shall I not have all Eternity to rest in?”6
You speak playfully of coming hither to see us. Would it were in earnest! I think there were few faces welcomer here to all parties interested. If the Sun were north again, and the days bright, what if you should actually put it in practice! I do not think you ever in your Life saw such a Solitude as this: the everlasting skies and the everlasting moors; the hum of the world all mute as Death, so distant is it,—till Wednesday night arrive, and the Letters and Newspapers; and we find it is all going on as distractedly as ever. Come and see it and try it.
As for myself, I think I have arrived at a kind of pause in my History, so singular is the course of things without me and within me. I have written very little for a year; less than for any of the last seven. I stand as if earnestly looking out, in the most labyrinthic country, till I catch the right track again. A kind of Enfant Perdu [lost child], I believe, at any rate; yet who would so fain not perish and leave the breach unwon! We shall do our best. Meanwhile (for that too is needful):
And so if I live long, you may hear [from me fur]ther—for better or worse. I have a kind of thought that [I shall?] come and see London again; but when? Perhaps the sooner the better. In the mean time I read, in the most omnivorous way; am a stranger to that wretchedest state, emptiness of head. I still believe too that it is only want of Faith; our own wretched vanity, voracity, and general meanness of mind. One whose visage was more marred than that of any man; to whom our worst state were a throne and couch of down,—did not he say, “I have overcome the world”?8 Shame on us!— But I will preach no more tonight.
The Advocate writes of you in the highest terms of commendation:9 pray be good to him; for I doubt he is but miserable, tho' called lord, lord. My best hope of him is that he will quit that wretched cockpit (with its fighting for pure fightings sake) before it kill him. Me he cannot tolerate, as indeed what Whig can?10 Nevertheless I have an honest love for him, for much that is in him, at least was in him.
Write to us soon; my Wife says you still owe her a long Letter: there is so much we need to [letter torn] And so good night, dear Friend, and God be with you!— [Your affec]tionate,