July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON; 1 June 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370601-TC-RWE-01; CL 9:218-221.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, / 1st June 1837—

My dear Friend,

A word must go to Concord in answer to your last kind word.1 It reached me that word of yours on the morning of a most unspeakable day; the day when I half dead with fret agitation and exasperation was to address extempore an audience of London quality people on the subject of German Literature!2 The heart's wish of me was that I might be left in deepest oblivion, wrapt in blankets and silence, not speaking, not spoken to, for a twelvemonth to come. My Printers had only let me go, out of their Treadmill, the day before. However, all that is over now; and I am still here alive to write to you, and hope for better days.

Almost a month ago there went a copy of a Book called French Revolution with your address on it over to Red-Lion Square, and thence, as old Rich3 declared himself now emeritus, back to one Kennet4 (I think) near Covent Garden; who professes to correspond with Hilliard & Company, Boston,5 and undertook the service. The Book is not gone yet, I understand; but Kennet engages that it shall leave Liverpool infallibly on the fifth of June. I wish you a happy reading of it therefore: it is the only copy of my sending that has crossed the water. Ill printed (there are many errors, one or two gross ones); ill written, ill thought! But in fine it is off my hands; that is a fact worth all others. As to its reception here or elsewhere, I anticipate nothing or little. Gabble, gabble, the astonishment of the dull public brain is likely to be considerable, and its ejaculations unedifying. We will let it go its way. Beat this thing, I say always, under thy dull hoofs, O dull Public; trample it and tumble it into all sinks and kennels; if thou canst kill it, kill it in God's name: if thou canst not kill it, why then thou wilt not.

By the bye speaking of dull Publics, I ought to say that I have seen a Review of myself in the Christian Examiner (I think that is it, of Boston); the author of which, if you know him, I desire you to thank on my part.6 For if a dull million is good, then withal a seeing unit or two is also good. This man images back a beautiful idealized Clothes-Philosopher, very satisfactory to look upon; in whose beatified features I did verily detect more similitude to what I myself meant to be than in any or all the other criticisms I have yet seen written of me. That a man see himself reflected from the soul of his brother man in this brotherly improved way: there surely is one of the most legitimate joys of existence. Friend Ripley took the trouble to send me the Review, in which I detected an Article of his own;7 then came also some Discourses of his much to be approved of, a Newspaper passage-of-fence with a Philistine of yours;8 and a set of Essays on Progress-of-the-species and such like9 by a man whom I grieved to see confusing himself with that. Progress of the species is a thing I can get no good of at all. These Books, which Miss Martineau has borrowed from me, did not arrive till three weeks ago or less. I pray you to thank Ripley for them very kindly; which at present I still have not time to do. He seems to me a good man, with good aims; with considerable natural health of mind, wherein all goodness is likely to grow better, all clearness to grow clearer. Miss Martineau laments that he does not fling himself, or not with the due impetuosity, into the Black Controversy; a thing lamentable in the extreme when one considers what a world this is, and how perfect it would be could Mungo once get his stupid case rectified, and eat his squash as a stupid Apprentice instead of a stupid Slave!

Miss Martineau's Book on America is out,10 here and with you. I have read it for the good Authoress's sake, whom I love much. She is one of the strangest phenomena to me. A genuine little Poetess, buckramed, swathed like a mummy, into Socinian and Political-Economy formulas; and yet verily alive in the inside of that! “God has given a Prophet to every People in its own speech,” say the Arabs.11 Even the English Unitarians were one day to have their Poet, and the best that could be said for them too was to be said. I admire this good lady's integrity, sincerity; her quick sharp discernment to the depth it goes: her love also is great; nay in fact it is too great[: the] host of illustrious obscure mortals whom she produces on you, of Preachers, Pamph[leteers,] Anti-slavers, Able Editors, and other Atlases bearing (unknown to us) the world on their shoulder, is absolutely more than enough. What they say to her Book here I do not well know. I fancy the general reception will be good, and even brilliant. I saw Mrs Butler12 last night, “in an ocean of blonde and broadcloth,” one of those oceans common at present. Ach Gott! They are not of Persons these soirees but of Cloth Figures.13

I mean to retreat into Scotland very soon, to repose myself as I intended. My Wife continues here with her Mother; here at least till the weather grow too hot, or a journey to join me seem otherwise advisable for her. She is gathering strength, but continues still weak enough. I rest myself “on the sunny side of hedges”14 in native Annandale, one of the obscurest regions; no man shall speak to me, I will speak to no man; but have dialogues yonder with the old dumb crags, of the most unfathomable sort. Once rested, I think of returning to London for another season. Several things are beginning which I ought to see end before taking up my staff again. In this enormous Chaos the very multitude of conflicting perversions produces something more like a calm than you can elsewhere meet with. Men let you alone, which is an immense thing: they do it even because they have no time to meddle with you. London, or else the Back-woods, of America, or Craigenputtoch! We shall see.

I still beg the comfort of hearing from you. I am sick of soul and body, but not incurable; the loving word of a Waldo Emerson is as balm to me, medicinal now more than ever. My Wife earnestly joins me in love to the Concord Household. May a blessing be in it, on one and all! I do nowise give up the idea of sojourning there one time yet. On the contrary, it seems almost certain that I shall. Good be with you.

Yours always, /

T. Carlyle