HumanitiesWeb.org - Thomas Carlyle - A hero dwells within
HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
WelcomeHistoryLiteratureArtMusicPhilosophyResourcesHelp
Periods Alphabetically Nationality Topics Glossary
pixel

Carlyle
Index
Biography
Selected Works
Quotations
According To...
Suggested Reading
Chronology

Search

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc
FEEDBACK

(C)1998-2013
All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
26 June, 2013

Thomas Carlyle
The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1834-1872, Vol. I



"To my friend I write a letter, and from him I receive a letter.
It is a spiritual gift, worthy of him to give, and of me to
receive."--Emerson
 
"What the writer did actually mean, the thing he then thought of,
the thing he then was."--Carlyle
EDITORIAL NOTE

The trust of editing the following Correspondence, committed to me several years since by the writers, has been of easy fulfilment. The whole Correspondence, so far as it is known to exist, is here printed, with the exception of a few notes of introduction, and one or two essentially duplicate letters. I cannot but hope that some of the letters now missing may hereafter come to light.

In printing, a dash has been substituted here and there for a proper name, and some passages, mostly relating to details of business transactions, have been omitted. These omissions are distinctly designated. The punctuation and orthography of the original letters have been in the main exactly followed. I have thought best to print much concerning dealings with publishers, as illustrative of the material conditions of literature during the middle of the century, as well as of the relations of the two friends. The notes in the two volumes are mine.

My best thanks and those of the readers of this Correspondence are due to Mr. Moncure D. Conway, for his energetic and successful effort to recover some of Emerson's early letters which had fallen into strange hands.

--Charles Eliot Norton

Cambridge, Massachusetts
January 29, 1883

---------

NOTE TO REVISED EDITION

The hope that some of the letters missing from it when this correspondence was first published might come to light, has been fulfilled by the recovery of thirteen letters of Carlyle, and of four of Emerson. Besides these, the rough drafts of one or two of Emerson's letters, of which the copies sent have gone astray, have been found. Comparatively few gaps in the Correspondence remain to be filled.

The letters and drafts of letters now first printed are those numbered as follows:--
Vol. I.
   XXXVI.  Carlyle
   XLI.    Emerson
   XLII.   Carlyle
   XLVI.    "
   XLVII.   "
   LXVIII.  "

Vol. II.
   C.     Emerson
   CIV.   Carlyle
   CV.       "
   CVI.      "
   CVII.     "
   CVIII.    "
   CIX.      "
   CXII.     "
   CXVI.     "
   CXLIX.  Emerson
   CLII.     "
   CLXV.     "
   CLXXXVI.  "
Emerson's letter of 1 May, 1859 (CLXIV.), of which only fragments were printed in the former edition, is now printed complete, and the extract from his Diary accompanying it appears in the form in which it seems to have been sent to Carlyle.

--C.E.N.

December 31, 1884



At the beginning of his "English Traits," Mr. Emerson, writing of his visit to England in 1833, when he was thirty years old, says that it was mainly the attraction of three or four writers, of whom Carlyle was one, that had led him to Europe. Carlyle's name was not then generally known, and it illustrates Emerson's mental attitude that he should have thus early recognized his genius, and felt sympathy with it.

The decade from 1820 to 1830 was a period of unusual dulness in English thought and imagination. All the great literary reputations belonged to the beginning of the century, Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, had said their say. The intellectual life of the new generation had not yet found expression. But toward the end of this time a series of articles, mostly on German literature, appearing in the Edinburgh and in the Foreign Quarterly Review, an essay on Burns, another on Voltaire, still more a paper entitled "Characteristics," displayed the hand of a master, and a spirit in full sympathy with the hitherto unexpressed tendencies and aspirations of its time, and capable of giving them expression. Here was a writer whose convictions were based upon principles, and whose words stood for realities. His power was slowly acknowledged. As yet Carlyle had received hardly a token of recognition from his contemporaries.

He was living solitary, poor, independent, in "desperate hope," at Craigenputtock. On August 24,1833, he makes entry in his Journal as follows: "I am left here the solitariest, stranded, most helpless creature that I have been for many years..... Nobody asks me to work at articles. The thing I want to write is quite other than an article... In all times there is a word which spoken to men; to the actual generation of men, would thrill their inmost soul. But the way to find that word? The way to speak it when found?" The next entry in his Journal shows that Carlyle had found the word. It is the name "Ralph Waldo Emerson," the record of Emerson's unexpected visit. "I shall never forget the visitor," wrote Mrs. Carlyle, long afterwards, "who years ago, in the Desert, descended on us, out of the clouds as it were, and made one day there look like enchantment for us, and left me weeping that it was only one day."

At the time of this memorable visit Emerson was morally not less solitary than Carlyle; he was still less known; his name had been unheard by his host in the desert. But his voice was soon to become also the voice of a leader. With temperaments sharply contrasted, with traditions, inheritances, and circumstances radically different, with views of life and of the universe widely at variance, the souls of these two young men were yet in sympathy, for their characters were based upon the same foundation of principle. In their independence and their sincerity they were alike; they were united in their faith in spiritual truth, and their reverence for it. Their modes of thought of expression were not merely dissimilar, but divergent, and yet, though parted by an ever widening cleft of difference, they knew, as Carlyle said, that beneath it "the rock-strata, miles deep, united again, and their two souls were at one"

Two days after Emerson's visit Carlyle wrote to his mother:--

"Three little happinesses have befallen us: first, a piano-tuner, procured for five shillings and sixpence, has been here, entirely reforming the piano, so that I can hear a little music now, which does me no little good. Secondly, Major Irving, of Gribton, who used at this season of the year to live and shoot at Craigenvey, came in one day to us, and after some clatter offered us a rent of five pounds for the right to shoot here, and even tabled the cash that moment, and would not pocket it again. Money easilier won never sat in my pocket; money for delivering us from a great nuisance, for now I will tell every gunner applicant, 'I cannot, sir; it is let.' Our third happiness was the arrival of a certain young unknown friend, named Emerson, from Boston, in the United States, who turned aside so far from his British, French, and Italian travels to see me here! He had an introduction from Mill, and a Frenchman (Baron d'Eichthal's nephew) whom John knew at Rome. Of course we could do no other than welcome him; the rather as he seemed to be one of the most lovable creatures in himself we had ever looked on. He stayed till next day with us, and talked and heard talk to his heart's content, and left us all really sad to part with him. Jane says it is the first journey since Noah's Deluge undertaken to Craigenputtock for such a purpose. In any case, we had a cheerful day from it, and ought to be thankful."

On the next Sunday, a week after his visit, Emerson wrote the following account of it to his friend, Mr. Alexander Ireland.

"I found him one of the most simple and frank of men, and became acquainted with him at once. We walked over several miles of hills, and talked upon all the great questions that interest us most. The comfort of meeting a man is that he speaks sincerely; that he feels himself to be so rich, that he is above the meanness of pretending to knowledge which he has not, and Carlyle does not pretend to have solved the great problems, but rather to be an observer of their solution as it goes forward in the world. I asked him at what religious development the concluding passage in his piece in the Edinburgh Review upon German literature (say five years ago), and some passages in the piece called 'Characteristics,' pointed. He replied that he was not competent to state even to himself,--he waited rather to see. My own feeling was that I had met with men of far less power who had got greater insight into religious truth. He is, as you might guess from his papers, the most catholic of philosophers; he forgives and loves everybody, and wishes each to struggle on in his own place and arrive at his own ends. But his respect for eminent men, or rather his scale of eminence, is about the reverse of the popular scale. Scott, Mackintosh, Jeffrey, Gibbon,--even Bacon, --are no heroes of his; stranger yet, he hardly admires Socrates, the glory of the Greek world; but Burns, and Samuel Johnson, and Mirabeau, he said interested him, and I suppose whoever else has given himself with all his heart to a leading instinct, and has not calculated too much. But I cannot think of sketching even his opinions, or repeating his conversations here. I will cheerfully do it when you visit me here in America. He talks finely, seems to love the broad Scotch, and I loved him very much at once. I am afraid he finds his entire solitude tedious, but I could not help congratulating him upon his treasure in his wife, and I hope he will not leave the moors; 't is so much better for a man of letters to nurse himself in seclusion than to be filed down to the common level by the compliances and imitations of city society." *
* Ralph Waldo Emerson. Recollections of his Visits to England By Alexander Ireland. London, 1882, p. 58.
Twenty-three years later, in his "English Traits," Emerson once more describes his visit, and tells of his impressions of Carlyle.

"From Edinburgh I went to the Highlands. On my return I came from Glasgow to Dumfries, and being intent on delivering a letter which I had brought from Rome, inquired for Craigenputtock. It was a farm in Nithsdale, in the parish of Dunscore, sixteen miles distant. No public coach passed near it, so I took a private carriage from the inn. I found the house amid desolate heathery hills, where the lonely scholar nourished his mighty heart. Carlyle was a man from his youth, an author who did not need to hide from his readers, and as absolute a man of the world, unknown and exiled on that hill-farm, as if holding on his own terms what is best in London. He was tall and gaunt, with a cliff-like brow, self-possessed and holding his extraordinary powers of conversation in easy command; clinging to his northern accent with evident relish; full of lively anecdote, and with a streaming humor which floated everything he looked upon. His talk, playfully exalting the most familiar objects, put the companion at once into an acquaintance with his Lars and Lemurs, and it was very pleasant to learn what was predestined to be a pretty mythology. Few were the objects and lonely the man, 'not a person to speak to within sixteen miles, except the minister of Dunscore'; so that books inevitably made his topics.

"He had names of his own for all the matters familiar to his discourse. Blackwood's was the 'sand magazine'; Fraser's nearer approach to possibility of life was the 'mud magazine'; a piece of road near by that marked some failed enterprise was 'the grave of the last sixpence.' When too much praise of any genius annoyed him, he professed hugely to admire the talent shown by his pig. He had spent much time and contrivance in confining the poor beast to one enclosure in his Pen; but pig, by great strokes of judgment, had found out how to let a board down, and had foiled him. For all that, he still thought man the most plastic little fellow in the planet, and he liked Nero's death, Qualis artifex pereo! better than most history. He worships a man that will manifest any truth to him. At one time he had inquired and read a good deal about America. Landor's principle was mere rebellion, and that, he feared, was the American principle. The best thing he knew of that country was, that in it a man can have meat for his labor. He had read in Stewart's book, that when he inquired in a New York hotel for the Boots, he had been shown across the street, and had found Mungo in his own house dining on roast turkey.

"We talked of books. Plato he does not read, and he disparaged Socrates; and, when pressed, persisted in making Mirabeau a hero. Gibbon he called the splendid bridge from the old world to the new. His own reading had been multifarious. Tristram Shandy was one of his first books after Robinson Crusoe and Robertson's America, an early favorite. Rousseau's Confessions had discovered to him that he was not a dunce; and it was now ten years since he had learned German, by the advice of a man who told him he would find in that language what he wanted.

"He took despairing or satirical views of literature at this moment; recounted the incredible sums paid in one year by the great booksellers for puffing. Hence it comes that no newspaper is trusted now, no books are bought, and the booksellers are on the eve of bankruptcy.

"He still returned to English pauperism, the crowded country, the selfish abdication by public men of all that public persons should perform. 'Government should direct poor men what to do. Poor Irish folk come wandering over these moors; my dame makes it a rule to give to every son of Adam bread to eat, and supplies his wants to the next house. But here are thousands of acres which might give them all meat, and nobody to bid these poor Irish go to the moor and till it. They burned the stacks, and so found a way to force the rich people to attend to them.'

"We went out to walk over long hills, and looked at Criffel, then without his cap, and down into Wordsworth's country. There we sat down and talked of the immortality of the soul. It was not Carlyle's fault that we talked on that topic, for he has the natural disinclination of every nimble spirit to bruise itself against walls, and did not like to place himself where no step can be taken. But he was honest and true, and cognizant of the subtile links that bind ages together, and saw how every event affects all the future. 'Christ died on the tree that built Dunscore kirk yonder: that brought you and me together. Time has only a relative existence.'

"He was already turning his eyes towards London with a scholar's appreciation. London is the heart of the world, he said, wonderful only from the mass of human beings. He liked the huge machine. Each keeps its own round. The baker's boy brings muffins to the window at a fixed hour every day, and that is all the Londoner knows or wishes to know on the subject. But it turned out good men. He named certain individuals, especially one man of letters, his friend, the best mind he knew, whom London had well served."

Such is the record of the beginnings of the friendship between Carlyle and Emerson. What place this friendship held in the lives of both, the following Correspondence shows.

I. Emerson to Carlyle
II. Carlyle to Emerson
III. Emerson to Carlyle *
IV. Carlyle to Emerson
V. Emerson to Carlyle
VI. Emerson to Carlyle
VII. Carlyle to Emerson
VIII. Carlyle to Emerson
IX. Emerson to Carlyle*
X. Emerson to Carlyle
XI. Carlyle to Emerson
XII. Emerson to Carlyle
XIII. Carlyle to Emerson
XIV. Carlyle to Emerson
XV. Emerson to Carlyle
XVI. Carlyle to Emerson
XVII. Emerson to Carlyle
XVIII. Emerson to Carlyle
XIX. Carlyle to Emerson
XX. Emerson to Carlyle
XXI. Emerson to Carlyle
XXII. Carlyle to Emerson
XXIII. Emerson to Carlyle*
XXIV. Carlyle to Emerson
XXV. Emerson to Carlyle
XXVI. Emerson to Carlyle
XXVII. Carlyle to Emerson
XXVIII. Emerson to Carlyle
XXIX. Carlyle to Emerson
XXX. Carlyle to Emerson
XXXI. Carlyle to Emerson
XXXII. Emerson to Carlyle
XXXIII. Carlyle to Emerson
XXXIV. Emerson to Carlyle*
XXXV. Emerson to Carlyle
XXXVI. Carlyle to Emerson
XXXVII. Carlyle to Emerson
XXXVIII. Emerson to Carlyle
XXXIX. Emerson to Carlyle
XL. Emerson to Carlyle
XLI. Emerson to Carlyle*
XLII. Carlyle to Emerson
XLIII. Carlyle to Emerson
XLIV. Emerson to Carlyle
XLV. Emerson to Carlyle
XLVI. Carlyle to Emerson
XLVII. Carlyle to Emerson
XLVIII. Emerson to Carlyle
XLIX. Carlyle to Emerson
L. Carlyle to Emerson
LI. Emerson to Carlyle*
LII. Carlyle to Emerson
LIII. Emerson to Carlyle
LIV. Emerson to Carlyle
LV. Carlyle to Emerson
LVI. Emerson to Carlyle
LVII. Carlyle to Emerson
LVIII. Emerson to Carlyle
LIX. Carlyle to Emerson
LX. Carlyle to Mrs. Emerson
LXI. Emerson to Carlyle
LXII. Emerson to Carlyle
LXIII. Carlyle to Emerson
LXIV. Carlyle to Emerson
LXV. Emerson to Carlyle
LXVI. Carlyle to Emerson
LXVII. Emerson to Carlyle
LXVIII. Carlyle to Emerson
LXIX. Emerson to Carlyle
LXX. Emerson to Carlyle
LXXI. Carlyle to Emerson
LXXII. Carlyle to Emerson
LXXIII. Emerson to Carlyle
LXXIV. Carlyle to Emerson
LXXV. Emerson to Carlyle
Personae

Terms Defined

Referenced Works