July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 13 February 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370213-TC-RWE-01; CL 9:138-141.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, / 13th February, 1837.

My dear Emerson,

You had promise of a Letter to be despatched you about Newyear's-day; which promise I was myself in a condition to fulfil at the time set, but delayed it, owing to delays of Printers and certain “Articles” that were to go with it. Six weeks have not yet entirely brought up these laggard animals: however, I will delay no longer for them. Nay it seems the Articles, were they never so ready, cannot go with the Letter; but must fare round by Liverpool or Portsmouth, in a separate conveyance. We will leave them to the bounty of Time.

Your little Book and the copy of Teufelsdröckh came safely; soon after I had written. The Teufelsdröckh I instantaneously despatched to Hamburg, to a Scottish Merchant there, to whom there is an allusion in the Book;1 who used to be my Speditor [shipping agent] (one of the politest extant tho' totally a stranger) in my missions and packages to and from Weimar. The other, former Copy, more specially yours, had already been, as I think I told you, delivered out of durance; and got itself placed in the Bookshelf, as the Teufelsdröck. George Ripley tells me, you are printing another edition;2 much good may it do you! There is now also a kind of whisper and whimper rising here about printing one. I said to myself once, when Bookseller Fraser shrieked so loud at a certain message you sent him,3 “Perhaps after all they will print this poor rag of a thing into a Book, after I am dead it may be,—if so seem good to them. Either way!— As it is, we leave the poor orphan to its destiny; all the more cheerfully. Ripley says farther he has sent me a critique of it by a better hand than the North American: I expect it, but have not got it yet. The North American seems to say that he too sent me one. It never came to hand, nor any hint of it,—except I think once before thro' you. It was not at all an unfriendly review; but had an opacity of matter-of-fact in it that filled one with amazement.4 Since the Irish Bishop who said “there were some things in Gulliver, on which he for one would keep his belief suspended,”5—nothing equal to it, on that side, has come athwart me. However, he has made out that Teufelsdröckh is, in all human probability, a fictitious character; which is always something, for an Inquirer into Truth.— Will you, finally, thank Friend Ripley in my name, till I have time to write to him and thank him.

Your little azure-coloured Nature gave me true satisfaction. I read it, and then lent it about to all my acquaintance that had a sense for such things; from whom a similar verdict always came back. You say it is the first chapter of something greater. I call it rather the Foundation and Ground-plan on which you may build whatsoever of great and true has been given you to build. It is the true Apocalypse this when the “Open Secret”6 becomes revealed to a man. I rejoice much in the glad serenity of soul with which you look out on this wondrous Dwelling-place of yours and mine;—with an ear for the for the [sic] “Ewigen Melodien,”7 which pipe in the winds round us, and utter themselves forth in all sounds and sights and things: not to be written down by gamut-machinery;8 but which all right writing is a kind of attempt to write down. You will see what the years will bring you. It is not one of your smallest qualities in my mind, that you can wait so quietly and let the years do their hest. He that cannot keep himself quiet is of a morbid nature; and the thing he yields us will be like him in that, whatever else it be.— Miss Martineau (for I have seen her since I wrote) tells me you are “the only man in America,” who has quietly set himself down on a competency to follow his own path, and do the work his own Will prescribes for him. Pity that you were the only one! But be one, nevertheless; be the first, and there will come a second and a third. It is a poor Country where all men are sold to Mammon, and can make nothing but Railways and Bursts of Parliamentary Eloquence!9 And yet your New England here too has the upper hand of our Old England, of our Old Europe: we too are sold to Mammon, soul, body and spirit; but (mark that, I pray you, with double pity) Mammon will not pay us,—we are “Two Million three hundred thousand in Ireland that have not potatoes enough”! I declare, in History I find nothing more tragical. I find also that it will alter; that for me as one it has altered. Me Mammon will PAY or not as he finds convenient; buy me he will not.— In fine, I say, sit still at Concord, with such spirit as you are of: under the blessed skyey influences, with an open sense,10 with the great Book of Existence open round you: we shall see whether you too get something blessed to read us from it.

The Paper is declining fast, and all is yet speculation. Along with these two “Articles” (to be sent by Liverpool; there are two of them, D. Necklace and Mirabeau), you will very probably get some stray Proofsheet—of the unutterable French Revolution! It is actually at Press; two Printers working at separate Volumes of it,—tho' still too slo[w.] In not many weeks, my hands will be washed of it! You, I hope, can have litt[le con]ception of the feeling with which I wrote the last word of it, one night in early January, when the clock was striking ten, and our frugal Scotch supper coming in! I did not cry; nor I did not pray: but could have done both. No such spell shall get itself fixed on me for some while to come! A beggarly Distortion; that will please no mortal, not even myself; of which I know not whether the fire were not after all the due place! And yet I ought not to say so: there is a great blessing in a man's doing what he utterly can, in the case he is in. Perhaps great quantities of dross are burnt out of me by this calcination I have had; perhaps I shall be far quieter and healthier of mind and body than I have ever been since boyhood. The world, tho' no man had ever less empire in it, seems to me a thing lying under my feet; a mean imbroglio, which I never more shall fear, or court, or disturb myself with: welcome and welcome to go wholly its own way; I wholly clear for going mine.11— Thro' the summer months I am, somewhere or other, to rest myself, in the deepest possible sleep. The residue is vague as the wind,—unheeded as the wind. Some way, it will turn out that a poor well-meaning Son of Adam has bread growing for him too, better or worse: any way; or even no way, if that be it,—I shall be content. There is a scheme here among Friends for my Lecturing in a thing they call Royal Institution; but it will not do there, I think. The instant two or three are gathered together under any terms, who want to learn something I can teach them,—then, we will, most readily, as Burns says, “loose our tinkler jaw”;12 but not I think till then; were the Institution even Imperial. America has faded considerably into the background of late: indeed, to say truth, whenever I think of myself in America, it is as in the Back Woods, with a rifle in my hand; God's sky over my head, and this accursed Lazarhouse of quacks and blockheads, and sin and misery, (now near ahead) lying all behind me forever more. A thing, you see, which is and can be at bottom but a day-dream! To rest thro the summer: that is my only fixed wisdom; a resolution taken; only the place where uncertain.— What a pity this poor sheet is done! I had innumerable things to tell you about people whom I have seen, about books,—Miss Harriet Martineau, Mrs Butler, Southey; Influenza, Parliament, Literature and the Life of Man—the whole of which must lie over till next time. Write to me; do not forget me. My Wife, who is sitting by me, in very poor health (this long while) sends “kindest remembrances”—“compliments” she expressly does not send. Good be with you always, my dear Friend!

T. Carlyle—

We send our felicitation to the Mother and little Boy; which latter you had better tell us the name of.13