October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 18 April 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340418-TC-JSM-01; CL 7:133-135.


Craigenputtoch, 18th April, 1834.

My Dear Mill,

You have heard nothing of me for more weeks than usual;1 and probably guess the reason. Having the near and nearer prospect of meeting you face to face, and discussing with boundless convenience the much that lies between us, I say to myself, Indolence eagerly assenting: Why write? These weighty matters, treated on little scraps of paper, were but mistreated: let them lie over till we can speak and answer! This little Note, then, comes chiefly as a memento of my continued being and goodwill; above all of my continued, unsated, insatiable appetite to hear from you. Thus prudent kitchenmaids, when the Pump will not act otherwise, pour in a little quart of water, and expect confidently to get gallons. May it prove so!

In fact, my Friend, I feel as if it were rather questionable to meddle at all with these Beliefs of yours; as if my influence, granting that I had much, might rather unsettle and perplex than forward and strengthen. You are already happily not closed in, which I trust you will never be, yet compacted and adjusted into vigorous healthful growth, and go on your way with firm footing and cheerful heart: this, as I take it, is all that any kind of world-theory can do for any man. As you grow farther, and the new want arises, then will the new light be in season; properly for the first time, at once desirable and possible. However, as there is no spiritual secret between us, I promise you while we live together the amplest insight into my whole way of thought; you shall look till you tire into my inward household, and see the strange farrago of broken pots and Achilles' shields, of lumber-heaps and scattered pearl-grains I keep there; and shall wonder at it, I doubt not; and even profit by it, as one man always does by earnest sympathy with another; as I myself hope to do by you in return. You shall also instruct me about innumerable things in London which it deeply concerns me to be no longer ignorant of; and so I beg of you before hand to speak with all freedom of utterance, as I shall listen with the understanding heart; and let us stand by one another in mutual help, in thankfulness and tolerance, giving and forgiving, while the Fates will so allow it. Quod bonum faustum felixque fortunatum sit!2

I have not written a word these many months; I feel as if it were the impossiblest thing to put pen to paper in this mood. You will find me altered and altering; my world widens but grows also more unmanageable. Oh an altogether unfathomable world! Fearful and wonderful; that is all I can freely express of it. Nevertheless, one is never wretched with the feeling of growth in him; you feel as if some time or other the day of utterance must come, and the world meanwhile might go which way soever it would not but go; the rather as its bounties, beyond food and clothes, were a thing you could more and more see into the meaning of. In some few years we shall be in Eternity; naked and bare before the Eternal: there is no fact in Heaven or Earth more indubitable than this! Believe it then; and work patiently in welldoing.

I have read great quantities of Books; I fear, with more capacity of throat than power of digestion. In fact, there is so little worth attempting to digest. “Froth and coagulated water,” the hungry soul swallows them and is not fed.— By the bye, have your Books lost their flavour of whisky yet? I hope and pray, the whisky was not spilled on them, but only imparted its odour not its substance!3 I remember I rather liked, not Arthur Coningsby, yet the Author of it,4 and meant to ask you who he was. Bulwer's England and the English5 has little in it to hate, and here and there the feeblest dilution of a “Tenuity” that one might almost love. The astonishing thing is the contrast of the man and his enterprise:

Weightiest of harrows, what horse shall ply it?

Cheeriest of sparrows meanwhile will try it.6

But the reading worth all other readings continues to be my Homer. Glorious old Book, which one would save, next after the Bible, from a universal conflagration of Books! I will talk to you about this till your head ring with it, as my own does.

Mrs Austin has probably told you of her heroic search after a house for us, and how we are to be her and your neighbours; in Kensington. It is well done. We grieve heartily at poor Mr A.'s afflictions; a really sad case! “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.”7— Those Notes on the Newspapers would be a dainty for me, could I get them.8 I see you often of late in the Examiner, at first, and at second hand; for I know everything of yours, as soon as I read the first line. It has a face on it of distinctness, of sincerity and solidity, which too well distinguishes it in these days.— The French Quartos on the Collier will be worth the money you mention to a Collector of such works, for there is many a curious ephemeron there; manuscript, engraved and printed:9 these are not in my way.

When shall I have a Letter then? Gehab' Dich wohl [Farewell]!

T. Carlyle