January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 2 March 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360302-TC-JSM-01; CL 8:316-318.


Chelsea 2nd March 1836—

My Dear Mill,

I am really almost sorry for you with this Necklace; and begin to wish I had not troubled you with it at present. The On-dira [what people will say], I fear, let the thing be published as it will, is like to be multiform, uncertain, little to the point: of a hundred readers, even that have felt there was some stuff in it, ninety and nine will call it singular extravagant in form; if some ten of these have a kind of inward misgiving, a feeling that the form after all perhaps came from within, and was what it best could be, and only contradicted Blair's Lectures1 and use-and-wont because it could not help it,—I shall reckon it much. And then the new complexity of its appearing in such a vehicle. I try greatly to put myself in your place; but cannot, with any effect towards due counsel, succeed in that. My plan I find hitherto in all cases had been a kind of desperate exclusive dependance on the substance of the thing to be judged of; leaving all its accidents to settle their own account as they could and would. If the thing comes out from the right place, I say to myself, it will go to the right place. It is a simple plan this, but perhaps a kind of desperate one. If I stood environed with responsibilities &c &c, who knows but I might see good to modify it not a little? My own habit is to read everything that has any reality of interest in it without asking questions; pardoning indeed all things, but the want of this which is unpardonable.

On the whole however I seem to see pretty well that unless this Singularity can be presented standing on its own legs, and telling its own story with calm face, we shall never make much of it. To try to squeeze it into the shape of a review-article, as such go, would be but a kind of deception; more offensive to a right radical taste than an open sin were. You might write a preface (tho' I question whether it would profit), you might append Notes, modifications, Sauerteig [leaven]2 and the rest of it: but the thing, it seems to me, cannot be altered from its present shape without becoming a quodlibet [pedantic disputation] of which no one (not even myself now) can give account. Fancy the matter standing like an Epicier [grocer];3 calmly beginning, and going on, as if there were nothing wrong: it presupposes a great change in the form and character of the Periodical, a questionable extension of its objects, a throwing down of its limits; a thing questionable, but not a thing stupid or false.

For the rest I care nothing about phrases, provided the meaning or a better one be expressed: I doubt meanwhile whether the gig4 could be weeded out without detriment, but it might be expounded with effort enough in a note on first using it. On the other hand (tho' my Wife agrees in your opinion) it still seems to me, Cagliostro's sermon5 ought to stand; that the cutting of it off were a shearing of a man's skirts away, and leaving him in the most incomplete state.— Does all this throw any light whatever on the course you have to take? It makes the question for you simpler: will the inevitable wonder over this thing do good or do ill? Will those who cry, what an extravagant mountebank; or those who say inwardly, What will he say next? let us hear him,—be the more numerous?

In conclusion, my dear Mill, let me remind you that my private interest in this thing is quite small; nay God knows whether in the long run it is not nothing. Secondly that if by any chance you decided affirmatively and thereby did yourself a mischief, it would fly in the teeth of my best purpose too (the only portion of my purpose worth attending to), and be to me of all persons the most disagreeable.

So I leave it with you, therefore. My pen is scratchy, and my head and my heart tonight; and I can say nothing other or clear; being indeed in a very puny dispirited way—till I grow better again.

Did Landolphe6 get the English Translation back from Fraser? If it is likely to prove of the smallest value to him otherwise my wife makes him welcome to it.7 I rejoice that the poor fellow can get to Switzerland, and quit the beggarliest of all employments that men follow under this Sun.

Can you within the next few weeks send me back the Louvet?8 I shall not need it for a month.— I have not put pen to paper since friday last; and did it with small effect then. God be merciful to me! I surely ought to be in some other Planet than this.

Believe me ever / Yours heartily /

T. Carlyle—