Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VIII
HENRY LARKIN IS TURNED FROM LITERATURE (1852)

MORE than a year after receiving the letter from Carlyle of 29.12.50,1 Henry Larkin wrote again and incidentally revealed without intending it that he meant to take to writing. "Again by return of post," he tells us,2"I received as kind a letter as one man ever wrote to another. And that letter finally decided for me that literature was not a possibility to which I could ever look, without some far more urgent call than any I had yet been conscious of."

The letter was typical, and is still worth reading.--

'CHELSEA,

29th March, 1852.

DEAR SIR,--

'Your letter is very kind and good; and I know very well, by old experience of my own, what it means. In a world so full of contradiction and confusion I may honestly accept your loyal feeling towards me with thanks and satisfaction; and to yourself also it signifies much that you have such feelings, and have found some course for them, in days like ours. Persist in that disposition, whatever hindrances occur, so long as you can.

'If I have ever taught you any truth, let me offer or reiterate this one advice about it, That you be earnest, without delay, to do it; and not at all earnest to say it, but rather careful not to say it, till the irresistible necessity arrive. If such necessity never arrive, then understand that you are all the richer; you have the thing still circulating in your blood and life, and have not thrown it out of you, it or any part of it, by speech. This is truer than perhaps you think at present; you will see it better by and by. Of all the devouring Molochs to which souls "pass through fire," and are burnt, too truly, into phantasmal

____________________
1
Book XIX, Chap. III.
2
Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle, A Ten Years' Reminiscence, by Henry Larkin , Brit. Quart. Review, July, 1881, pp. 28-84, and for the letter, pp. 31-2.

-399-

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