This essay prints two previously unpublished letters from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Thomas Carlyle and contextualizes them against the background of the transatlantic collaboration between the two writers, shedding new light on their exchange of books and manuscripts between Boston and London during the second third of the nineteenth century.
AS a young pastor at Boston's Second Church, Ralph Waldo Emerson in the early 1830s was an avid reader of British periodicals. He was especially taken with the essays about German literary culture that an anonymous writer was publishing in the Edinburgh Review. After reading one of these in the fall of 1832, he expressed his deep admiration for “my Germanick new-light writer[,] whoever he be.”1 Emerson would soon learn that the name of the author in question was that of the Scot Thomas Carlyle. When he set out on a tour of Europe later the same year, it was one of his avowed aims to meet the mysterious stranger. The encounter took place and a friendship quickly ensued that would shape Emerson's and Carlyle's lives and professional careers as they were maturing into two of the nineteenth century's most influential Anglophone men of letters.2 With an ocean separating them, that friendship was mostly conducted through an extensive exchange of letters. With some fluctuations in frequency and intensity, the two writers maintained a correspondence that spanned almost four decades (1834–1873). Like many nineteenth-century authors, Emerson and Carlyle were avid writers not only of books but also of letters. When their mutual friend, Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton, collected their correspondence for posthumous publication in 1883, it took two substantial volumes to gather the more than 170 known letters.3 Norton himself prepared a supplementary volume of newly located letters a few years later and the definitive critical edition, prepared by Joseph Slater and published in 1964, contained additional material.4
This article prints two previously unpublished letters from Emerson to Carlyle—one from the early 1840s, the other from the early 1850s.5 These items provide further evidence of the private and professional proximity between the two writers during the heyday of their careers. The correspondence became especially voluminous from the late 1830s onwards, when Emerson and Carlyle were united not only by a friendship but also by an international business partnership that centered around the publication of their writings on both sides of the Atlantic. The two had begun to exchange their published writings early on, and sending books across the ocean soon became an invitation to think about opportunities for new editions abroad. Prefaced by Emerson, Carlyle's novel Sartor Resartus had seen its first commercial success as a book in New England in 1836. This was followed by American editions of practically all of his subsequent writings. Until the mid-1840s, it was Emerson who took care of negotiating publishing contracts with Boston firms such as James Munroe and Company and Little and Brown along with distributing copies and transferring the money these endeavors had yielded to Carlyle in London.
The major editorial project that Emerson pursued during these years was a collection of the periodical essays he had admired since a decade before. The four-volume Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, issued by his own publisher Munroe between 1838 and 1839, marked the first time that Carlyle's fugitive pieces were put between the covers of a comprehensive edition. The success of the American venture soon inspired Carlyle's London publisher James Fraser to prepare an English edition based on the American, expanded with the most recent pieces and running to five volumes. Extended projects such as these involved complex business transactions with publishers, printers, bankers, and suppliers. With accounting quickly becoming a challenge, Emerson and Carlyle realized that they were out of their depth when it came to the commercial aspects of transatlantic publishing. Emerson at one point entreated Carlyle to “revise all my figures, as I am a hopeless blunderer” (April 25, 1839, Correspondence, 229). When a new account from Munroe had arrived, he confessed his confusion at the intricacies of double-entry bookkeeping:
Last evening came to me the promised account drawn up by Munroe's clerk Chapman. I have studied it with more zeal than success. An Account seems an ingenious way of burying facts: it asks wit equal to his who hid them to find them. I am far as yet from being master of this statement, yet as I have promised it so long, I will send it now, & study a copy of it at my leisure. (April 21, 1840, Correspondence, 268)
Carlyle on his part similarly complained that “one of the insupportabilities of Bookseller Accounts” was “that nobody but a wizard or regular adept in such matters, can tell where the last line, and final net result of the whole accursed babblement, is to be found!” (November 17, 1843, Correspondence, 352) Emerson recommended professional help and advised Carlyle to seek the assistance of his publisher Fraser. If Munroe's accounts were indecipherable hieroglyphics, Carlyle had “magicians of your own who can give spell for spell, & read his incantations backward” (February 28, 1841, Correspondence, 291).
Carlyle followed this advice but eventually grew uncomfortable with implicitly insinuating that Emerson or his American publishers were trying to deceive him. In his letter of December 9, 1840—the message to which the first of the two letters printed here forms a reply—he shows himself weary of facts and figures and responds with characteristic sarcasm to the business of transatlantic accounting:
As to the bibliopolic accounts, my Friend!—we will trust them with a faith known only in the purer ages of Roman Catholicism,—when Papacy had indeed become a Dubiety, but was not yet a Quackery and Falsehood, was a thing as true as it could manage to be! That really may be the fact of this too. In any case what signifies it much? Money were still useful; but it is not now so indispensable. Booksellers by their knavery or their fidelity cannot kill us or cure us. Of the truth of Waldo Emerson's heart to me, there is, God be thanked for it, no doubt at all. (Correspondence, 285–86)
Carlyle here juxtaposes a “bibliopolic” economy of accuracy—and its attendant business ethos—with an economy of friendship that similarly relies on sincerity but is prepared to advance trust in a relationship that does not depend on constant review and verification. Emerson, however, continued to treat the accounts and their clerical authors as suspicious entities and went on encouraging Carlyle to attend to the kind of details for whose correctness he himself could not safely vouch.
Emerson's previously unpublished letter of January 31, 1841 shows the two writers at the height of what Carlyle at a later point in the correspondence called their “Transatlantic Bibliopoly” (April 30, 1860, Correspondence, 531). The vexations of bookkeeping notwithstanding, the success of the Boston editions of Carlyle's Sartor Resartus,The French Revolution (1838), and the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays was practically calling for further engagement. While still struggling to come to terms with the accounts for the previous books, Carlyle and Emerson were already making plans for an American edition of Carlyle's most recent work—a book that was not even printed in England yet. Carlyle had delivered a series of six lectures “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in Human History” at London's Portman Square in May 1840 and over the course of the following four months expanded his material into a book-length account of the subject. When he wrote in December that the “Hero-Lectures lie still in Manuscript,” Emerson felt encouragement was needed (Correspondence, 286). Before this could be offered, however, there was other business to attend to. The letter opens with Emerson confirming the receipt of Fraser's London edition of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays. It continues with further details about the sales of the Boston edition of the collection and with Emerson's apologies for the fact that they had not yet yielded a profit.6
Concord, 31 January, 1841.7
My dear friend,
I have your letter & my wife has your books.8 The steamer which sails tomorrow shall not go without carrying so much news to you, if no more. The beauty of the books quite dazzles my eyes, & makes me despair of our American arts for a quarter or a half century to come. Our types, paper, and ink, are all much inferior to yours, and a good printer told me the other day, that he could not by any pains or expense make a fac-simile of a London page;—unless he imported his materials. I wish the disparity might end with the book, & did not extend to the contents. And yet who cares about the geography of the word? or what is far or near in thought but that which I cannot understand, and that which I can? These books drew my eye speedily into some passages of old acquaintance, & others which I had never seen,9 and cheered me as ever with the old probity & wit. I would most gladly hear some honest confessions of your study walls; I think they would say, “There is a great deal of work in this tenant of ours and though he prates of sickness, his bones are iron.”
I judge by what you say of the accounts, that they surprised you also.10 You do not say whether you showed them to your skilful Fraser, who saw the former. If you have not, I entreat you to have them compared, & all papers hereafter of the same kind, for I am no party to their manufacture, and never understand them. I carried my papers immediately in receiving your letter to Nichols, (of J. Munroe, & Co.)11 & begged him to go over again the whole account with care & let me have it for the return of the Acadia.12 The man protested his confidence in the correctness of his former statement, would cheerfully reëxamine it, but thought he should not be able to do so before the sailing of the ship, because of long accounts he was himself preparing to send to Green13 by the same day. Yesterday his new account did not come, & so the Acadia must go without. Little & Brown are also preparing their account for 1 January, but have not yet sent it me. These shall come together by the next steamship.14
I gave Nichols a “Dial,” No. 3,15 with your name thereon. I suppose he will send it to John Green. It contains an old lecture of mine on Art, written five years ago.16 I hope presently to send you a little volume of Essays, which are now in press.17 I grew ashamed of printing nothing, here where nothing is printed, & plunged at last into this little enterprise, which in reasonable moments already gives me mortification.18 But I shall clear my drawers of quires of blotted paper,—that is a great bribe—and will begin a new book.
I cannot understand why you should wait a day to print the new lectures: if Pusey thrives & his Tracts, the keener the interest in your iconoclasm.19 We have our antiquarian party too, in religion & politics, yet I do not think we can quite match this last ecclesiastical sally of your people. My wife resolves to write her own thanks this time.20 Remember me affectionately to yours. Jane Tuckerman21 in letters which I saw, draws fair & happy portraits of her, but the traveller herself I have not yet seen. May Truth & Eloquence speed the “life of Cromwell”,22 and Love & Peace keep the life of Carlyle!
In the tide of the time I dream of reform & manual labor & seriously mean to dig hard in my acre this coming spring & summer. My Simeon Stylite Bronson Alcott23 will perhaps come & work with me. I will tell you nothing of my friends whom you do not know, and yet idealistic as perhaps my habits too much are, these are very much to me.24
By the time Carlyle received this letter, the manuscript of what would become On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History was already in the typesetting stage. He was optimistic that “Emerson in America” would “directly” reprint the book from the advance proofsheets Carlyle promised to send him.25 The London edition was printed by the beginning of March and entered for copyright protection in mid-June.26 Emerson was negotiating with Munroe for the terms of an American edition when it emerged that before the last installment of the sheets managed to arrive in Boston, New York publisher Daniel Appleton had got hold of a copy of Fraser's London edition and was set on reprinting the book himself.27 When his unauthorized edition appeared, Emerson and Carlyle agreed not to pursue the idea of issuing their own Boston On Heroes.28 Where Carlyle, once he had seen Appleton's cheap edition, complained that it was “printed altogether scandalously,” Emerson was in turn humbled by the high quality of London print products (Correspondence, 303). The above letter illustrates the extent to which mid-century American writers realized that as far as print was concerned, they were living in a “developing country” that was having a hard time competing against the quality and experience represented by traditional British printing and book manufacturing.29 Although Emerson hoped that “the disparity might end with the book, & did not extend to the contents,” he was after all more hesitant to publish than Carlyle. It was in almost apologetic terms that he mentioned that he was completing work on a book of his own. Emerson had reason enough to be anxious about Carlyle's verdict, since the Scot had practically dissuaded him from publishing (or, at least, from rushing into print):
[A]re you perhaps writing a Book? I shall be right glad to hear of that; and withal to hear that you do not hurry yourself, but strive with deliberate energy to produce what in you is best. Certainly, I think, a right Book does lie in the man! It is to be remembered also always that the true value is determined by what we do not write! (April 1, 1840, Correspondence, 264)
Sending new books of his own at the rate of roughly one per year, Carlyle was clearly less concerned about his own speed of production. Both he and Emerson gradually became aware that transatlantic “bibliopolic” imbalances surfaced not simply on an abstract general level (in terms of differences in production quality or quality of content) but also in their own business cooperation. When Emerson's Essays appeared with Munroe in March 1841, Carlyle returned Emerson's favors and repaid part of his transatlantic debt through helping to see the book reprinted in London with his own publisher Fraser and with a preface by himself.30
Since competition through unauthorized reprinting was growing stronger and the accounts ever more complex to manage, the thriving transatlantic reprint arrangement that Emerson and Carlyle had pursued since the late 1830s gradually petered out in the mid-1840s. Along with this came a cooling-off of the friendship occasioned at least in part by political differences of opinion that were becoming increasingly harder to overlook. Carlyle's On Heroes and his writings on Cromwell left a rather different kind of impression on Emerson than the essays from the Edinburgh Review that he had admired earlier. When Emerson returned to Britain for a lecture tour in 1847–1848, he met Carlyle a number of times, but the atmosphere of the encounters differed markedly from the amicable tone of the earlier correspondence.31 Letters were exchanged less frequently. When they were, their purpose was often no longer the communication of business details or an exchange of thoughts on their own writing but the recommendation of friends and acquaintances. Alcott had visited Carlyle in 1842 with a letter of introduction from Emerson and the difference between Transcendentalist idealism and Carlyle's worship of power had made itself felt already at that point.32
Another guest at Carlyle's home in Chelsea was Margaret Fuller, who had traveled to Europe as the foreign correspondent of the New York Tribune. During her 1846 stay in England, she met Carlyle and his wife several times.33 It was in London that she also encountered Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872), a friend of the Carlyles.34 Fuller eventually settled in Italy, where she witnessed the revolutions of 1848 as well as the short-lived Roman Republic. Emerson asked Carlyle to help Fuller find a British publisher for her history of the Italian revolution,35 but such plans came to a halt upon Fuller's tragic death in a shipwreck during her return to the United States in July 1850. The manuscript apparently perished with her, but Fuller's American friends were making preparations for the posthumous publication of other texts. Emerson wrote to Carlyle a year after Fuller's death that he was working on “a sort of memoir” of her and requested his help in soliciting material from her former acquaintances in Europe, Mazzini among them.36 The two-volume Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, co-written and co-edited by Emerson in collaboration with James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing, appeared in early 1852, but shortly after its publication Emerson learned from Fuller's family that other manuscripts had surfaced in Europe. The Fullers had stumbled across a notice in the London Athenæum which stated that Fuller had “left in the hands of a friend in London a sealed packet, containing, it is understood, the journals which she kept during her stay in England”:
Margaret Fuller […] contemplated at that time a return to England at no very distant date;—and the deposit of these papers was accompanied by an injunction that the packet should then be restored with unbroken seal into her own hands. No provision was of course made for death:—and here we believe the lady in possession feels herself in a difficulty, out of which she does not clearly see her way. The papers are likely to be of great interest,—and were doubtless intended for publication; but the writer had peremptorily reserved the right of revision to herself, and forbidden the breaking of the seals, on a supposition which fate has now made impossible.37
On April 14, 1852, Emerson asked Carlyle for assistance in retrieving Fuller's manuscripts (Correspondence, 475–76). The “friend” in question was Margaret Gillies (1803–1887), a painter and watercolorist acquainted with Fuller during her time in London.38
Carlyle was quick to act. After receiving Emerson's letter, on April 30, he wrote to John Stuart Mill to enquire about the address of Gillies, who he knew was acquainted with Mill and his partner Harriet Taylor (Carlyle Collected Letters, 27:98–99). Having found out where to reach her, on May 3, he wrote to Gillies, forwarding the message from Fuller's mother that Emerson had sent him and expressing his desire to help in the “pious enterprise” of saving the manuscripts and handing them over to the family (Carlyle Collected Letters, 27:103). Four days later, he sent Emerson a note from Gillies and was hoping to be able soon to dispatch “the ipsissimum corpus of the packet in question” to America (Correspondence, 477). In another letter written a week later, Carlyle provided a detailed account of his negotiations with Gillies and her sister about releasing “the Margaret-Fuller Packet of Papers” (Correspondence, 479). The sisters, behaving like “Priestesses towards a sacred relic,” had been set on destroying the manuscript unseen, following Fuller's original request to deliver the papers to no one but herself (Correspondence, 480). Carlyle was nevertheless successful in his attempt to convince the Gillieses to turn the manuscripts over to Fuller's family. The papers, Carlyle surmised, were “probably of little or no moment” but should nevertheless “be examined a little in order to annihilate the ‘ghost’ of them” (Correspondence, 481). In the following letter, here published for the first time in its entirety,39 Emerson expresses his gratitude to Carlyle for his intervention in the affair. He goes on to celebrate their transatlantic friendship in terms that contrast with the lack of intensity that by the early 1850s characterized their correspondence.
Concord, 2 June, 1852.
My dear Friend,
You are the best & most beneficent of all the immortal mortals. It could not be credited. I must leave all, & write a history of the pelican Carlyle that taps his veins to feed the poor.40 Blessings on the wise head! May it never ache again! Blessings on the great heart—oft belied—that can divert all its tide to the first beggar. But I never dreamed of inflicting such tasks on you, much-enduring pains-inviting man! I fancied it only needed you should give a sure41 direction to Mrs Fuller's billet, &, of course, I was willing such direction should be an autograph that would add wings to its flight anywhere on British ground,—“written with the vermilion pencil”42; but I did not mean to betray you into a negociation. I did not once think of the official Mr Bentley,43 to whom, of course, I ought to have written: and unluckily our publishers44did, and were putting up Richard Fuller,45 in an evil tone,46 to write, through Bentley, a “professional” letter to the lady,—sure to wound,—and she so good & loyal, as you have rightly described her. I hate,—that Margaret should, through her representatives or shadows, chide & agitate now that her bones lie tranquilly under the sea. But though I grieve to have it laid on you, yet I can hardly regret that this costly service, in her own very spirit, should be paid to her. The Eumenidean dragons47 hunted her life, but she loved much, served much, & much aspired, and should have, it seems, if no “stones” of Ariadne's crown up yonder “sparkling clere”,48 yet as now “poetis funera ducentibus”,—as I read long ago of Spenser, in Camden's Britannia.49 And here, too, have come, in the new steamer, Landor's verses, in the “Examiner”.50 Margaret is to be consoled for shipwreck, for many a shipwreck. She had so much reverence & love for Landor, that I do not know, but at any moment in her natural life, she would have sunk in the sea, for an ode from him, & now, this most propitious cake is offered to her manes.51
The loss of the notes of the Brownings & of Mazzini, which you confirm, astonishes me.52
Mrs Fuller is very sensible of your tender kindness in this matter. She is writing to Miss Gillies, and, as I anticipated, only to urge her claim to these sad relics.
You make me happy with your loving thoughts & meanings toward me. I have always thanked the good star which made us early neighbors, in some sort, in time & space. And the beam is twice warmed by your vigorous goodwill, which has steadily kept clear kind eyes on me. And it is good to be born in good air & outlook, and, not less, with a civilization, that is, with one poet still living in the world. O yes, and I feel all the solemnity & vital cheer of the benefit. If only the mountains of water & of land, & the steeper mountains of blighted & apathized moods, would permit a word to pass, now & then! It is very fine in you, & a superfluity of goodness, to tax yourself with all the incompatibilities.
Is it your fault that you are armed & inspired for high trusts? I like that Thor should make comets & thunder, as well as Iduna apples, & Heimdal his rainbow bridge;53 and you are so strict a realist that you may use what weapons you will & hold the forked Furies in your leash.54 It is not your fault that you do a hero's work in unheroic times, nor do we love you less, if we cannot help you in it. Pity me, o strong man! I am of a puny constitution, half made up, &, as I from childhood knew, not a poet, but a lover of poetry & Poets, & merely serving as writer, &c, in this empty America, before & pending the arrival of the Poets. You must not misconstrue my silences, but thank me for them all, as a true homage to your diligence, which I love to guard.55 Yet I cannot resist your appeals, &, if you wish letters, you shall have them, though I should have little to tell.56
I do not know but I shall keep this letter back, until Mrs Fuller's is ready. For I think to send that to you, as you are already in,—but I entreat you send no more billets to Miss G.
Carlyle noted the receipt of this message—“a very kind Letter from Emerson”—in late June.57 Margaret Gillies had finally agreed to commit Fuller's manuscript to the care of her family in America, and Carlyle sent it to Emerson with the help of the latter's London publisher John Chapman (Correspondence, 482–83). The “Packet of Papers” arrived in Emerson's hands in late August, but the correspondence contains no further information about the content and subsequent fate of the manuscript.58 After the practical challenge of arranging for the safe return of Fuller's papers had briefly drawn Emerson and Carlyle closer together, their transatlantic correspondence once again began to falter, mutual declarations of friendship notwithstanding. It seems that their epistolary exchange thrived best when practical business needed to be attended to, whether in the form of arranging transatlantic editions, deciphering publishers’ accounts, or conducting diplomatic negotiations. When Norton's edition of the correspondence appeared in print, Emerson's friend Frederic Henry Hedge was “disappointed” to find in the letters only a negligible “amount of purely intellectual commerce,” compared to “so much” in them that was “of merely secular interest.”59 Yet it is precisely this “secular” dimension of the letters—new ones as well as old ones—that can prove an invaluable source if we seek to learn more about the social and material networks through which Emerson and Carlyle built and sustained their careers as transatlantic writers.
October 1, 1832, The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. William H. Gilman et al., 16 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960–1982), 4:45 (hereafter cited as Journals).
For a concise overview of the relationship, see Sharon Gravett, “Emerson, Ralph Waldo,” in The Carlyle Encyclopedia, ed. Mark Cumming (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004), 145–49. For more extensive discussions, see Kenneth Marc Harris, Carlyle and Emerson: Their Long Debate (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), Benjamin Lease, Anglo-American Encounters: England and the Rise of American Literature (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 178–207, and Tim Sommer, Carlyle, Emerson and the Transatlantic Uses of Authority: Literature, Print, Performance (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming).
The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1834–1872, ed. Charles Eliot Norton, 2 vols. (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1883).
The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1834–1872: Supplementary Letters, ed. Charles Eliot Norton (Boston: Ticknor and Company, 1886); The Correspondence of Emerson and Carlyle, ed. Joseph Slater (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964) (hereafter cited as Correspondence). Slater's introduction remains the best overview of the biographical and epistolary dimension of the friendship. See Correspondence, 3–94; on the genesis of Norton's edition, see 64–72.
January 31, 1841 and June 2, 1852, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, Acc.7988 (printed here courtesy of the National Library of Scotland). The call number comprises four dozen miscellaneous letters of the Carlyle family. According to the finding aid, the National Library acquired the items in 1981. See http://manuscripts.nls.uk/repositories/2/resources/11338 (accessed January 9, 2020). I have silently emended two minor cancellations and insertions in the manuscript of the first letter.
On the accounts, see Emerson's letter of October 30, 1840, Correspondence, 282–85.
One of the three postmarks on the back of the sheet indicates that the letter arrived in Liverpool on February 15, before being forwarded to Carlyle's Chelsea home. Ralph L. Rusk conjectured the existence of this letter based on circumstantial evidence but could ascertain neither its precise date nor its content. The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Ralph L. Rusk and Eleanor M. Tilton, 10 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939, 1990–1995), 2:378 (hereafter cited as Letters).
On July 2, 1840, Carlyle wrote that he had dispatched a copy of Fraser's English Critical and Miscellaneous Essays via the Covent Garden bookseller Richard James Kennett, who was regularly corresponding with several Boston publishing houses (see Correspondence, 276). Since the five-volume set had not arrived in Concord after a reasonable amount of time, Carlyle eventually decided to send another copy by the January steamer, this time addressing the books to Emerson's wife. Kennett, it turned out, had failed to send the original volumes across the Atlantic and instead stored them in his shop. The bookseller had already proven unreliable the year before with another shipment comprising the second edition of Carlyle's translation of Johann Wolfgang Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and Travels and a copy of Carlyle's friend John Sterling's Poems (see Correspondence, 256–66). On Kennett, see Letters, 2:231 and James J. Barnes, Authors, Publishers and Politicians: The Quest for an Anglo-American Copyright Agreement 1815–1854 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 100.
Fraser's edition of the Essays comprised a handful of items not included in the Boston volumes. For a list of these additional texts, see Rodger L. Tarr, Thomas Carlyle: A Descriptive Bibliography (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1989), 76.
For Carlyle's ‘Catholic’ response to the documents, see his letter of December 9, 1840, cited above. In his letter of October 30 Emerson had confessed that his “rude ciphering based on the last Account of this kind” had resulted in “blunders” on his part: he had been too rash to promise money from the Boston Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, whose sales, though strong, were still some way from balancing the publisher's production costs, as the October account showed (Correspondence, 283). Emerson had already remarked on this paradox in his letter of April 21: “We prosper marvellously on paper, but the realized benefit loiters” (Correspondence, 268). On Emerson's initially labor-intensive but eventually profit-maximizing practice of having books published at his cost rather than transferring copyright to publishers, see Joel Myerson, “Ralph Waldo Emerson's Income from His Books,” in The Professions of Authorship: Essays in Honor of Matthew J. Bruccoli, ed. Richard Layman and Joel Myerson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 135–49 and David Dowling, “Publishers,” in Ralph Waldo Emerson in Context, ed. Wesley T. Mott (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 221–29.
George Nichols was “the clerical partner” of Emerson's Boston publisher James Munroe (Emerson to Carlyle, April 21, 1840, Correspondence, 268). Nichols had already prepared a summary account concerning the production and sales of the Boston edition of Carlyle's The French Revolution, published by Charles C. Little and James Brown on Christmas Day 1837 (with an 1838 imprint). A copy of the account (bMS Am 1280.235 ), in Emerson's hand, is kept at Houghton Library (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA).
It was “by this very Acadia” that Carlyle three weeks later sent the first installment of proofsheets for the On Heroes volume. Carlyle to Lydia Jackson Emerson, February 21, 1841, Correspondence, 290.
London publisher and bookseller John Green was, among other things, the English agent for The Dial. Theodore Parker called him “the Unitarian & Transcendental Bibliopole for all England” (quoted in Letters, 3:287n). On Green, see Robert J. Scholnick, “Boston and Beyond,” in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism, ed. Joel Myerson et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 497. In October 1840, Emerson had encouraged Carlyle to “send the new proof of the Lectures when they are in type to me by John Green 121 Newgate St (I believe); to the care of J. Munroe, & Co.,” explaining that Green “sends a box to Munroe by every steamer” (Correspondence, 283). Acting on his negative experience with having the London Critical and Miscellaneous Essays shipped to Concord, Carlyle decided that “not Kennett any more in this world, but Green ever henceforth is to be our Book Carrier” (December 9, 1840, Correspondence, 285).
Emerson forwarded the promised account by Nichols on February 28, and the money from the Little and Brown account on April 30, 1841 (Correspondence, 291–92).
Emerson had sent the previous issues of the journal and went on dispatching the following ones although Carlyle had already complained that “for me it is too ethereal, speculative, theoretic” (September 26, 1840, Correspondence 280).
“Thoughts on Art,” The Dial 1 (January 1841): 367–78, repr. as “Art” in Society and Solitude, ed. Ronald A. Bosco and Douglas Emory Wilson, vol. 7 of The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 18–29. As Bosco points out in his introduction to the volume, “the precise lecture genealog[y]” of the text remains “unclear” (xix).
Essays (Boston: James Munroe and Company, 1841). The “printing was completed on 11 March” and the book published on March 19 or 20. Joel Myerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Descriptive Bibliography (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press), 43.
On October 7, 1840, Emerson noted in his journal: “I have been writing with some pains Essays on various matters as a sort of apology to my country for my apparent idleness. But the poor work has looked poorer daily as I strove to end it” (Journals, 7:404).
In his most recent letter Carlyle had expressed his concern about the potential aftermath of publishing the “On Heroes” lectures, referring to the controversial Tracts for the Times (1833–1841), authored by members of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement, including Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800–1882): “To fly in the teeth of English Puseyism, and risk such shrill welcome as I am pretty sure of, is questionable.” Correspondence, 286.
Lydia (“Lidian”) Emerson wrote a letter on the same day as her husband, thanking Carlyle for the “beautiful gift” of the London books. The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, ed. Charles Richard Sanders et al., 47 vols. to date (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1970–), 13:41n (hereafter cited as Carlyle Collected Letters). The editors in this context provide the correct date of Emerson's letter but do not mention any of its content.
Emerson had provided Jane Frances Tuckerman (1821?–1856) with a letter of introduction to Carlyle's wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle, in April 1840 (see Correspondence, 270). The daughter of Boston merchant Gustavus Tuckerman, she was a pupil and correspondent of Margaret Fuller and assisted her with the publication of the Dial. See Letters, 2:212n121, Letters, 7:351n74, and The Letters of Margaret Fuller, ed. Robert N. Hudspeth, 6 vols. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983–1994), 1:265. Carlyle had written to Emerson half a year before that “the bright Miss Tuckermann [sic]” had indeed fallen “in love with” Jane Carlyle, but less so with himself, mainly because his “hard realism jarred upon her beautiful rosepink dreams” (July 2, 1840, Correspondence, 276).
Carlyle had been working on Oliver Cromwell, the puritan anti-royalist he admired, since 1838. His May 1840 lecture on Cromwell as an example of “The Hero as King” was published as the final part of the Heroes book. See Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History, ed. Michael K. Goldberg et al. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 169–208. In his letter of September 26, 1840, he wrote: “I am now over head and ears in Cromwellean Books; studying […] to see if it be possible to get any credible face to face acquaintance with our English Puritan period” (Correspondence, 278). The results of these researches were eventually published as the two-volume Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches: With Elucidations in November 1845—a book that, like Carlyle's other works, was soon reprinted in the United States. Emerson is here directly responding to the postscript of Carlyle's letter of December 9, which had ended on a despondent note: “I work still in Cromwellism; all but desperate of any feasible issue worth naming. I ‘enjoy bad health’ too,—considerably.” Correspondence, 288.
Simeon Stylites (390?–459), Syrian ascetic famous for spending the second half of his life atop a pillar. In a later letter to Sterling, Emerson—in a less jocose mood—would liken his friend Amos Bronson Alcott, “a large piece of spiritual New England,” to Plato and Plotinus (April 1, 1842, Letters, 7:496).
Emerson added this paragraph as a postscript on the outside of the folded sheet below Carlyle's Chelsea address.
Carlyle to his mother Margaret A. Carlyle, February 18, 1841, Carlyle Collected Letters, 13:38. Carlyle's optimism would prove justified. On March 30, Emerson wrote to his brother William that he had “received from Carlyle some sheets of his Six Lectures spoken last spring in London on Heroes & Hero Worship & which he is now printing & we will reprint” (Letters, 2:390).
See Carlyle's letter to Sterling of March 2, Carlyle Collected Letters, 13:48 and Tarr, Thomas Carlyle: A Descriptive Bibliography, 88–91. On the history of the lectures and their subsequent migration into print, see the editorial introduction in Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History, xxviii–xxxiii.
See Munroe's letter to Emerson of March 28, 1841, bMS Am 1280 (2221), Houghton Library, and Correspondence, 292–303.
The book was not only printed by Appleton but also became available in periodical form in the New York market and beyond. As Emerson explained to Carlyle, “the New York newspapers print the book in chapters & you circulate for six cents per newspaper at the corners of all streets” (Correspondence, 293). Munroe's proposition, in the letter of March 28, to print the book at a higher retail price and at Emerson's own risk was hardly an attractive offer in such a market environment. On the aborted plans for a Boston edition of the book, see Tim Sommer, “Embedded Authorship: Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nineteenth-Century ‘Transatlantic Bibliopoly,’” Book History 24 (forthcoming 2021).
Sheila McVey, “Nineteenth-Century America: Publishing in a Developing Country,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 42, 1 (September 1975): 67–80. On Anglo-American print competition at mid-century, see Meredith L. McGill, American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834–1853 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003) and Jessica DeSpain, Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Reprinting and the Embodied Book (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014).
For details on this transatlantic edition, see Slater, “Introduction,” 24–25 and Sommer, Carlyle, Emerson and the Transatlantic Uses of Authority, chapter 4.
On the 1847–1848 reunion and its aftermath, see Fred Kaplan, Thomas Carlyle: A Biography (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 323–24, Robert D. Richardson, Emerson: The Mind on Fire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 444–45, and Daniel R. Koch, Ralph Waldo Emerson in Europe: Class, Race, and Revolution in the Making of an American Thinker (London: I. B. Tauris, 2012), 16–18, 84–85.
Emerson first mentioned Alcott's name to Carlyle in a letter of March 31, 1837, describing him as “one of the jewels we have to show you” (Correspondence, 163). Announcing Alcott's 1842 visit, Emerson was anxious to erase the effect his earlier satirical reference in the letter of January 31, 1841 might have had on Carlyle. He asked him to “forget what you have heard” and “permit this stranger when he arrives at your gate to make a new & primary impression” (March 31, 1842, Correspondence, 320). After he had received Alcott at his house in Chelsea twice, Carlyle nevertheless provided a devastating character sketch that was hearkening back at least in part to Emerson's characterization in the letter of January 1841. A “venerable Don Quixote” “all bent on saving the world by a return to acorns and the golden age,” Alcott appeared to Carlyle as “another Simon Stylites,” a fanatic of whose zeal he deeply disapproved (July 19, 1842, Correspondence, 326; see also the editorial notes to this letter in Carlyle Collected Letters, 14:230). Alcott in turn complained of his “desultory talk” with Carlyle, “a giant mastered by the spirit of his time.” The Letters of A. Bronson Alcott, ed. Richard L. Herrnstadt (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1969), 78.
Like Alcott's, Fuller's impression of Carlyle was a combination of awe and dislike, as is illustrated by a letter she wrote to Emerson from Paris on November 16, 1846 (see The Letters of Margaret Fuller, 4:245–50). On her encounters with Carlyle, see also Charles Capper, Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life. The Public Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 298–301.
On Carlyle and Mazzini, see Kaplan, Thomas Carlyle, 276–78; on Fuller's opinion of Mazzini, see Capper, Margaret Fuller, 302–3, 427–28. Fuller, Mazzini, and Carlyle met in London in November 1846, an occasion which neither Carlyle nor Fuller remembered as a success. See Carlyle's letter to his brother John of November 8 (Carlyle Collected Letters, 21:89) and Fuller's letter to Emerson of November 16, cited in note 33.
See Tim Sommer, “‘If It Were in My Power to Help You’: Victorian Literary Patronage in Four Unpublished Thomas Carlyle Letters,” Harvard Library Bulletin 27 (Fall 2016): 132–37.
Emerson to Carlyle, July 28, 1851 (Correspondence, 470). Emerson was asking Carlyle to forward a letter he wrote to Mazzini the following day, requesting “the communication of any information you my [sic] possess respecting her [Fuller's] life & labours, during her residence in Italy” (Letters, 8:284).
“Our Weekly Gossip,” The Athenæum 1270 (February 28, 1852): 254.
See Robert Edmund Graves, “Gillies, Margaret,” in Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, 63 vols. (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1885–1900), 21:368–69. On Fuller's acquaintance with Gillies, see The Letters of Margaret Fuller, 4:240–41 and Capper, Margaret Fuller, 296–97. On the recovery of the manuscript and Carlyle's involvement in it, see Kenneth J. Fielding's review of Charlotte Yeldham's Margaret Gillies RWS: Unitarian Painter of Mind and Emotion, 1803–1887 (Lewiston, ME: Edwin Mellen, 1997) in Carlyle Studies Annual 18 (1998): 198–99.
Charles Eliot Norton printed “an imperfect rough draft” of the letter after the appearance of the first edition of the Correspondence, dating it “May [?], 1852” (Supplementary Letters, 63; reprinted in Correspondence, 481–82). Norton's draft comprises material from paragraphs four and five of the letter and the two sentences about Landor, Browning, and Mazzini. A number of excerpts from the final version of the letter are included in Carlyle Collected Letters, 27:152–53n.
The editors of Carlyle Collected Letters incorrectly print “have” instead of “leave” and “with” instead of “write” (27:152).
“Pure” (Carlyle Collected Letters, 27:152).
On “[t]he ‘red permit’ writ by the vermilion pencil of the [Chinese] emperor,” see October 13, 1837, Journals, 5:394. The expression also features in Emerson's poem “The Adirondacs,” Ralph Waldo Emerson Collected Poems and Translations, ed. Harold Bloom and Paul Kane (New York: Library of America, 1994), 155.
Richard Bentley (1794–1871), the London publisher of Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli.
Phillips, Sampson and Company published the Boston edition of the Memoirs.
Richard Frederick Fuller (1824–1869), one of Margaret Fuller's brothers.
“Hour,” Carlyle Collected Letters, 27:152.
Eumenides (Εὐμενίδες), “a name given to the Furies by the ancients, […] supposed to be the ministers of the vengeance of the gods.” Lemprière's Classical Dictionary of Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors, ed. F.A. Wright (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958), 234.
Bacchus gave Ariadne “a crown of seven stars, which, after her death, was made a constellation.” Lemprière's Classical Dictionary, 74.
At the age of sixteen, Emerson had copied a passage from the English Renaissance historian William Camden's (1551–1623) Annales Rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum Regnante Elizabetha (1607ff.) describing the death and funeral of Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599), who “was interred at Westminster […], his hearse being carried by poets” (“Westmonasterii […] inhumatus, Poetis funus ducentibus”). April 1820, Journals, 1:364.
English poet Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864) commemorated Fuller's death by celebrating her “glorious soul, / Renowned for strength of genius.” “On the Death of M. d'Ossoli and His Wife Margaret Fuller,” The Examiner 2310 (May 8, 1852): 294.
Emerson is alluding to a Hindu burial ritual in which “funeral cakes, consisting of balls or lumps of food mixed with clarified butter” are offered to the “paternal forefathers” and “maternal ancestors” of the deceased. H[enry] T[homas] Colebrooke, “On the Religious Ceremonies of the Hindus, and of the Bráhmens Especially,” in Miscellaneous Essays, 2 vols. (London: W. H. Allen, 1837), 1:184. Emerson was familiar with Colebrooke's translations and his anthropological research. See, for example, Journals, 9:291–92.
The reading in the draft version is “the notes of Browning and of Mazzini” (Correspondence, 482). In his letter of May 7, Carlyle had written that both Brownings had shared their reminiscences of Fuller and that he was at a loss to explain where their and Mazzini's messages had ended up (Correspondence, 478). As late as September 3, Emerson asked James Russell Lowell to enquire “1. To whom, & when, & how, did the Brownings address the Manuscript they sent to this country, on the subject of Margaret Fuller? and, 2. To whom & when & how did Mazzini write, on the same subject?” (Letters, 4:310) No further mention of these manuscripts is made in the correspondence.
Figures from Norse mythology, an affinity for which Carlyle had demonstrated in his lecture on Odin and “The Hero as Divinity” in the 1841 On Heroes. Associated with thunder and lightning, Thor is known for “perform[ing] cosmogonic acts”; the goddess Idun is the “[g]uardian of the apples of the gods”; and Heimdall resides at Himinbjörg, near Bilröst, the “rainbow bridge.” John Lindow, Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 303, 198, 174.
In the draft, Emerson writes: “your wrath and satire has all too much realism in it, than that we can flatter ourselves by disposing of you as partial and heated,” Correspondence, 482.
The draft has “defend” instead of “guard,” Correspondence, 482.
In his letter of May 7, Carlyle had reaffirmed his friendship and reprimanded Emerson for not writing more often: “it is indubitable I love you very well, and have long done, and mean to do. And on the whole you will have to rally yourself into some kind of Correspondence with me again.” Correspondence, 477.
Carlyle to his brother John A. Carlyle, June 25, 1852, Carlyle Collected Letters, 27:150.
Emerson had been anxious to see the papers. He wrote to Chapman on August 16, to shed light on the whereabouts of the packet (Letters, 4:304–5). Eleanor Tilton provides evidence for the assumption that he received the shipment on August 27 (Letters, 8:328). Capper mentions the events surrounding the return of the manuscript but does not state what exactly the manuscript contained or whether any of the material was published (Margaret Fuller, 514). In a letter of December 11, 1852, Emerson declined Richard Fuller's invitation “to take charge of Margarets [sic] papers” and “make them really publishable,” which Rusk suggests is a reference to a planned “edition of Margaret Fuller's writings,” Letters, 4:330, 329n229. This may possibly have referred to the English manuscripts, but just as well to the material later printed as the posthumous At Home and Abroad, or Things and Thoughts in America and Europe, ed. Arthur B. Fuller (Boston: Crosby, Nichols, and Company, 1856).
Hedge, “The Correspondence of Carlyle and Emerson,” Christian Register 62 (15 March 1883): 164.