Sunday, May 03, 2009

RWE airs his nouns and verbs

On May 3, 1848, Emerson wrote this letter to his friend Alexander Ireland:
London, 142, Strand, 3rd May, 1848.        

— I have stayed in London a great while, yet have not quite finished my visit. I am going to Paris, I think, on Saturday, and mean to stay there but a short time, as it is decided, almost against me, that I shall read lectures here three weeks hence. Ah, if I knew what to call those lectures! they have grown from day to day and have not yet a name. But the indecision whilst I have been writing here, whether to read or not, and which I had once decided NO, has left me quite unable to send you any word to Manchester.* . . .

It will also be too late at Manchester for any of those private classes which hovered in your friendly imagination. Besides it is late in the year, and it will be high time for me to set my slow sail for the Capes of Massachusetts.

In my short and crowded days here I have given you no account of myself, yet I have found London rich and great, quite equal to its old fame. I have seen a large number of interesting persons, and I suppose the best things — the Parliament, Oxford, the British Museum, Kew Gardens, the Scientific Societies, the Clubhouses, the Theatres, and so forth. I attend Mr. Owen's lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons; Faraday, at the Royal Institution; Lyell, Sedgwick, Buckland, Forbes, I hear at the Geologic Society; and two nights ago I dined with the Antiquaries, and discussed Shakspeare with Mr. Collier. Dr. Carpenter has shown me his microscopes, Sir Henry Delabeche his geologic museum, and I have really owed many valuable hours to the scientific bodies. Now the Picture Galleries are open, and I have begun to see pictures and artists.

It is very easy to see that London would last an inquisitive man a good while, and find him in new studies, but the miscellany is distracting, and quiet countrymen will soon have enough of dining out and of shilling-shows. Yet I value all my new experience, and doubtless shall not wish it less when I am safe in my woods again. In Paris I shall remain three weeks to see the revolution, and to air my nouns and verbs. Mr. Bancroft, who has just returned, takes the most favourable views of their politics, and says the workmen have quite got through all schemes of asking Government to find them labour, repudiate the whole plan, &c.

By the last steamer I had no letters from home; if the letters of the due ship come to you, speed them to your ever obliged and grateful.

* Note: The correspondence of Thomas Carlyle gives background on the invitation to give lectures and its outcome.
London [ca. 11 April], 1848        

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned, being desirous of the gratification of hearing from you a course of Lectures in London, hereby unite in respectfully requesting you to comply with our wishes, (which we feel confident are participated in by a large number of persons), by appointing a time for the purpose, in order that the required arrangements may be made.

To Ralph Waldo Emerson, Esqr.



Chelsea, Thursday [13 April 1848] —         

Dear Forster, — I will certainly come on Tuesday,1 — unless this villainous little devil of a sore-throat (the development and outcome of much biliary misery in me) should spread beyond expectation. But indeed I have been in an unusually poor way of late, in regard to this poor clay house of mine, — God mend it! Or at least, Let me get my bit of work done in it, and then end it; which will amount to much the same! —

Why not get Dickens too? Emerson wishes much to see him; and I also, much oftener than falls to my lot.2 Mrs C. I compute will be here on Saturday Evg: on Sunday or afterwards, right glad to see you. . . .

And so adieu, — till Sunday or so!

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle

Footnotes from the editor of the Carlyle letters:

1. Emerson refused, 10 April, Forster's invitation to dine with him and TC on 13 April because he had a prior engagement “to dine with Mr Wedgwood, who also added the hope of Mr & Mrs Carlyle's company” (Rusk 4:52). Apparently TC's letter is in reply to a second invitation, for Tues., 18 April, so in the end Emerson dined with Forster alone (see TC to JF, [ca. 19 April]).

2. TC, Emerson, Dickens, and Forster dined together, 25 April; see DL 5:276. Emerson wrote to his wife, 4 May, that he found Dickens “cordial and sensible. Carlyle dined there also, and it seemed the habit of the set to pet Carlyle a great deal, and draw out the mountainous mirth. The pictures which such people together give one of what is really going forward in private & in public life, are inestimable” (Rusk 4:66). In his notebook Emerson wrote of the dinner and spelled out what was “really going forward”: “Forster, who has an obstreperous cordiality, received Carlyle with loud salutation, ‘My Prophet!’ Forster called Carlyle's passion, Musket-worship. There were only gentlemen present, & the conversation turned on the shameful lewdness of London streets at night. (Carlyle said, & the others agreed, that chastity for men was as good as given up in Europe.) ‘I hear it,’ he said, ‘I hear whoredom in the House of Commons. Disraeli betrays whoredom, & the whole H. of Commons universal incontinence, in every word they say.’ … C. & D. [said], that chastity in the male sex was as good as gone in our times; &, in England, was so rare, that they could name all the exceptions. Carlyle evidently believed that the same things were true in America” (Journals and Notebooks 10:550–51).

{source: Life Magazine files}

Some sources:

Ralph Waldo Emerson: his life, genius, and writings, a biographical sketch to which are added personal recollections of his visits to England extracts from unpublished letters and miscellaneous characteristic records, by Alexander Ireland (2nd ed, Kennikat Press, 1882).

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Recollections of His Visits to England in 1833, 1847-8, 1872-3, and Extracts from Unpublished Letters, by Alexander Ireland (Simpkin, Marshall, & co., 1882)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, His Life, Genius, And Writings; A Biographical Sketch; To Which Are Added Personal Recollections Of His Visits To England and Extracts From Unpublished Letters, by Alexander Ireland (London, Simpkin, Marshall, & Co. 1882)

Thomas Carlyle; the Collected Letters, Volume 23, edited by Ian M. Campbell et al (Duke University Press , 2009)

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