Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Emerson to Carlyle
By Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
[The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1883.]
DEAR CARLYLE: Your friend brought me your letter now too many days ago. It contained heavy news of your household,yet such as in these our autumnal days we must await with what firmness we can. I hear with pain that your wife, whom I have only seen beaming goodness and intelligence, has suffered and suffers so severely. I recall my first visit to your house, when I pronounced you wise and fortunate in relations wherein best men are often neither wise nor fortunate. I had already heard rumors of her serious illness. Send me word, I pray you, that there is better health and hope. For the rest, the Colonna motto would fit your letter, Though sad, I am strong.
I had received in July, forwarded by Stanley, on his flight through Boston, the fourth Volume of Friedrich, and it was my best reading in the summer, and for weeks my only reading. One fact was paramount in all the good I drew from it, that whomsoever many years had used and worn, they had not yet broken any fibre of your force:a pure joy to me, who abhor the inroads which time makes on me and on my friends. To live too long is the capital misfortune, and I sometimes think, if we shall not parry it by better art of living, we shall learn to include in our morals some bolder control of the facts. I read once, that Jacobi declared that he had some thoughts whichif he should entertain themwould put him to death: and perhaps we have weapons in our intellectual armory that are to save us from disgrace and impertinent relation to the world we live in. But this book will excuse you from any unseemly haste to make up your accounts, nay, holds you to fulfil your career with all amplitude and calmness. I found joy and pride in it, and discerned a golden chain of continuity not often seen in the works of men, apprising me that one good head and great heart remained in England, immovable,superior to his own eccentricities and perversities,nay, wearing these, I can well believe, as a jaunty coat or red cockade to defy or mislead idlers, for the better securing his own peace, and the very ends which the idlers fancy he resists. Englands lease of power is good during his days.
I have in these last years lamented that you had not made the visit to America, which in earlier years you projected or favored. It would have made it impossible that your name should be cited for one moment on the side of the enemies of mankind. Ten days residence in this country would have made you the organ of the sanity of England and of Europe to us and to them, and have shown you the necessities and aspirations which struggle up in our Free States, which, as yet, have no organ to others, and are ill and unsteadily articulated here. In our to-days division of Republican and Democrat, it is certain that the American nationality lies in the Republican party (mixed and multiform though that party be); and I hold it not less certain, that, viewing all the nationalities of the world, the battle for humanity is, at this hour, in America. A few days here would show you the disgusting composition of the Party which within the Union resists the national action. Take from it the wild Irish element, imported in the last twenty-five years into this country, and led by Romish Priests, who sympathize, of course, with despotism, and you would bereave it of all its numerical strength. A man intelligent and virtuous is not to be found on that side. Ah! how gladly I would enlist you, with your thunderbolt, on our part! How gladly enlist the wise, thoughtful, efficient pens and voices of England! We want England and Europe to hold our people stanch to their best tendency. Are English of this day incapable of a great sentiment? Can they not leave cavilling at petty failures, and bad manners, and at the dunce part (always the largest part in human affairs), and leap to the suggestions and finger-pointings of the gods, which, above the understanding, feed the hopes and guide the wills of men? This war has been conducted over the heads of all the actors in it; and the foolish terrors, What shall we do with the negro? The entire black population is coming North to be fed, etc., have strangely ended in the fact that the black refuses to leave his climate; gets his living and the living of his employers there, as he has always done; is the natural ally and soldier of the Republic, in that climate; now takes the place of two hundred thousand white soldiers; and will be, as the conquest of the country proceeds, its garrison, till peace, without slavery, returns. Slave-holders in London have filled English ears with their wishes and perhaps beliefs; and our people, generals, and politicians have carried the like, at first, to the war, until corrected by irresistible experience. I shall always respect War hereafter. The cost of life, the dreary havoc of comfort and time, are overpaid by the Vistas it opens of Eternal Life, Eternal Law, reconstructing and uplifting Society,breaks up the old horizon, and we see through the rifts a wider. The dismal Malthus, the dismal DeBow, have had their night.
Our Census of 1860, and the War, are Poems, which will, in the next age, inspire a genius like your own. I hate to write you a newspaper, but, in these times, tis wonderful what sublime lessons I have once and again read on the Bulletin-boards in the streets. Everybody has been wrong in his guess, except good women, who never despair of an Ideal right .