July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN STERLING; 3 October 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18361003-TC-JOST-01; CL 9:65-68.


Chelsea, London, 3d October, 1836—

My dear Sterling,

Yesterday at Knightsbridge your good Mother chanced to mention that a Parcel was about setting out for you; which, I calculate today, may carry Letters; may carry one Letter, or slight Line from me among the rest. You are to understand that, in the present half-desperate posture of my affairs and humours, I have, for a while back, fallen into the literally total abandonment of Letter-writing; finding Silence the suitablest: I write to nobody whatever, except once in the three weeks some word or two to my Mother; once in the month another word or two to my Brother. Consider any writing to you therefore as a proof that you also are of the kindred;—which I hope you esteem an honour, of its sort.

The news we get of you are vague; much seems still dubious even for the nearest future. I grudge that you should quit your beautifully civilized Belsito for a dull savage Land of Timber (Materies,1 Madiera); but if the Doctors say it, why then we must submit. Meanwhile, they say you are jaunting about pretty pleasantly; which ought to content us for the time. You have been at Lilbourne, and looked doubtless into the caves of Saint-Emilion;2 where I likewise often am, in fancy,—with these cursed Girondins of mine! Next year, if it please the upper Powers, why should not I come and see you face to face there, once more;3 a knapsack on my back, a strong oakstick in my hand; this Earth with its greenness belonging to me as well as to another? By the bye, the oak-stick shall be the one you gave; so much is settled: I have got a sufficient ferule for it, some days ago, not without difficulty, and fitted on the same with my own hand and ingenuity: I propose to walk with it, as long as it will hold together; and to think often of a certain beautiful little episode in my poor Life-Epos, which has not many such in it.4 Episode it has been; Fate cannot hinder it from having been: a kinder Power may make it more yet, if such seem the best method. I was remarking to Jane the other morning, that with Sterling I had unfortunately lost what was the flower of all that London had for me. But let there be no grumbling, no hypochondria: silent, cheerful of heart, wait what the Hours will bring.

John from whom I have a Letter5 (dated Geneva) this morning, sends the friendliest inquiries after you; charges me to inform him what you resolve upon for the winter. He says one of the secret reasons that determined him, perhaps more than he was aware of, to go back to Rome, was the hope of having Sterling there. I can readily believe it: people go upon strange reasons; our Doctor is one of the strangest of men.

No Review or Article Mirabeau comes with this Parcel; which omission, or seeming omission, was the point principally I had to explain by scrawling today. The Article Mirabeau, after fretting me I think four several times with unwelcome interruptions, of Proofsheet, Ms. Copy &c &c all in hot haste, turns out to be “too long for the present No”; wherefore the unfortunate Able Editors omit it. Not till January therefore can you hope to behold this remarkable Production. As the French Advocate said, when the Judges ordered him into arrest: “I begin to be weary of the treatment I experience here.”6

The Revolution History goes on about as ill as anybody could wish. I am really quite out of order; owing partly perhaps to this frightful splashing weather: I sit down to write, there is not an idea discernible in the head of me; one dull cloud of pain and stupidity; it is only with an effort like swimming for life that I get begun to think at all. Nevertheless the thing does go on; and shall by God's blessing go on till it is ended, or I am ended: other blessedness one cannot hope from it. My habitual conviction about the work is that it ought to be burnt, that it will never be worth a farthing to any man or woman. Yet I do not burn it: I go floundering along; hoping that the heavy hand of this Enchantment shall be got loosened from me (for it is really like a spell), and I be free, were [it on]ly with a possession, beyond that of freedom remaining now for me. Forward therefo[re.]

Mill, they say, writes from Nice: he is not going into Italy, owing to Cholera and quarantine: his health is a little, and but a little improved; Mrs Taylor it is whispered is with him, or near him. Is it not very strange, this pining away into desiccation and nonentity, of our poor Mill, if it be so, as his friends all say, that this Charmer is the cause of it? I have not seen any riddle of human life which I could so ill form a theory of. They are innocent, says Charity; they are guilty, says Scandal: then why in the name of wonder are they dying broken-hearted? One thing only is painfully clear to me, that poor Mill is in a bad way[.] Alas, tho' he speaks not, perhaps his tragedy is more tragical than that of any of us: this very item that he does not speak, that he never could speak, but was to sit imprisoned as in thick ribbed ice, voiceless, uncommunicating, is it not the most tragical circumstance of all?

I saw Taylor7 lately; very grave, and happy enough. He is devising new Dramas. He could not fancy why you were not delighted to be free from business,—as he himself would be; for a time at least. It is the way with us all.— the Wilsons are at Tunbridge; the Bullers are in Switzerland. I have not seen Maurice. Your worthy Mother looks ten years younger for her trip to the Netherlands: I think you will rejoice to have this under my hand. The Head of the House is also well; dashing along, in the old erratic manner, with the old impetuosity and velocity; on the whole, with a healthy vitality, which it does one good to look on. I grow to honour health of mind beyond all things in the world; health of body, which is generally the near relative of it, only a degree less. My dear Friend, let us both get well! I do hold it in my own case, a kind of disgrace and crime to be sick: is it not Nature herself with her great voice that says to me: Fool, seest thou not that thou art astray; not in the right road there (tho' all the world gabbling recommend it), but in the wrong one? Were the Book done, I will see into it.— The sheet is done, my dear Sterling; and not the Book. Too suddenly! I beg a kind remembrance to Mrs Sterling; to the young Lady you permitted me to call “Anne Barton,”8 who I suppose is in Ireland.— Think of me with tolerance; as of a sinful man who righteously loves you. Adieu! T. Carlyle.

My Wife is out walking, and does not know of this; otherwise her kind word had been here. She is not well; and yet not worse than you have been used to see her, far better than while in Scotland.

I read an interesting little Book in two Volumes: Gespräche mit Goethe [Conversations with Goethe] by Eckermann:9 did I mention it in the other Letter? It is very curious to see the Welt-Dichter [World Poet] conditioned down into the Weimar Burgher and Staatsrath [citizen and city councilman]. Many of his measurements, of things and persons, I found utterly erroneous, his footrule meanwhile a very correct one. In place and work, he and I part wider every day.10 Vivat [Long may he live] still!