July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 10 August 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370810-TC-JSM-01; CL 9:275-277.


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, 10th August, 1837—

My dear Mill,

Your Letter,1 which I remember well, does almost indubitably exist, safe in some repository about Chelsea; but so far as I can see it will be impossible to get hold of it, at least for some four weeks. My Wife, who has charge of all these things, is just gone with the Sterlings to Malvern: I do not, till she write again, yet know her precise address; but I fear at any rate there would be little use in applying to her; for the thing will be locked up somewhere, in some involution of security penetrable only to herself. It is very unlucky. I remember you spoke of Carrel's air of sincerity, of his precise determinate character, of a certain mild tone of dogmatism noticeable in his manner (like me, you said); for the rest, how practical he was, exclusively devoted to his metier de journaliste, so unlike the speculative Cavaignac and other Frenchmen in this respect. On the whole you gave me pretty much the notion of him that his medal did when I looked at it long afterwards. I do not think there was very much more in your account than I have here given. I doubt it will be all that we can recover for the present.

Your Letter has just come to hand at this late hour of 11 p.m.; and as I am bound for Nithsdale tomorrow early, not to return for two days, I write you this in great haste, rather than write nothing for so long.

I rejoice to hear that the Book2 prospers according to your mind. Go on getrosten muthes [cheerfully]. We shall see where we differ as you say; and find, I doubt not, that there is a very broad ground of agreement between us if we go deep enough to seek it. I suspect our present difference is a partially accidental one, originating in a twist of my own. I am conscious of a kind of semi-unreasonable aversion to spectacles3 altogether, of a kind of practical unbelief in spectacles. Multiplied errors that had well nigh killed me (this is literal truth) got into my hand by spectacles; on dashing the spectacles off, I found that it was all false, and that I was still alive. On the other hand, hardly any truth that I set much store by has happened to come to me by way of spectacles. Hence my feeling that way in part. Nevertheless I know withal that there are or might be spectacles. I am curious to hear what you say they should be, and how one may help his eyesight with them; I will read you even with interest and profit.

The Times critique did get hither; it is a helpful friendly sort of thing. I cannot get the Book swept out of my head nearly so clean as I should wish. What good is now in it for me? But the Future is all so blank, really aimless (so far as this world goes) and as it were both hopeless and fearless, one turns into the Past and fractions of it cling to one. I look upon the curse of all curses that man bears in this world to be self-conceit: how often does one cry bitterly to be delivered from it; and yet it is ineradicable; cut it down [as] you will or as others will for you, it springs eternal. The mythus of Lucifer4 is one of the wisest ever conceived. Ach Gott!—

My Brother brings news from the village how there is a talk of Sir James Grahame's5 coming over to this County, Hope Johnstone (just elected amid hisses) resigning in his favour;6 how in that case Ewart of Liverpool7 will be started against him, and an immense explosion will take place. Poor Sir James has got himself beaten in Cumberland as well as heart could wish.8 He would have stout resistance here too: but we have no statesmen (estates-men) as Cumberland has; and Buccleugh's tenants are all at rack rent.9 Whether Ewart or Sir James be intrinsically the shabbier mortal one would not undertake to say. I will tell M'Diarmid tomorrow to propose Peyronet Thomson, I think.10 Sir James's defeat yielded me a perceptible pleasure; and yet now, poor fellow, I am almost sorry for him, so signal was it.

When I leave this solitude is not certain; but perhaps it will not be many weeks. I was thinking of Switzerland had my Brother been returning; however he now writes me that that is unlikely. I feel decidedly better, tho' sad as ever. A Letter from you especially a long thick-written Letter will be very gratifying if your time allow. Good night my dear Mill.—Yours always T. Carlyle.