CARLYLE, MAURICE, STERLING and STRACHEY. Correspondence of the religious and philosophical writer Edward Strachey (later third Baronet) of Sutton Court, near Bristol, nineteenth century
Lot 35
Sold for £ 2,250 (US$ 3,136) inc. premium

Lot Details
Correspondence of the religious and philosophical writer Edward Strachey (later third Baronet) of Sutton Court, near Bristol, comprising a series of twelve autograph letters to him by his erstwhile tutor Canon F.D. Maurice, discussing inter alia Thomas Carlyle, his Moral Philosophy, education and kindred subjects (nearly 40 pages, 1837-1848); series of over 20 autograph letters (many running to nine or thirteen quarto pages) by Strachey to his maternal aunt Clementina, Lady Louis, in a large part concerning their mutual friends Maurice and John Sterling, but also discussing subjects such as Carlyle (and Sartor Resartus), Pusey, Coleridge, the Tracts for the Times, Chartist riots, the benefits and uses of the new Penny Post, and, at some length, education (late early 1830s or early 1840s); series of nine autograph letters by Strachey to the publisher and close friend of Maurice’s, Samuel Clark, discussing publications of the day and ordering books; plus other material, including cards written by Maurice’s children during his final illness; letters by Jane Strachey; a coach maker’s bill for Chichester Fortescue, Lord Carlingford (1882), and run of empty envelopes, mostly addressed to Lady Strachey of Sutton Court, some care of Chichester Fortescue, some dust-staining etc., but overall in good condition, 4to and 8vo, mostly late 1830s to early 1840s


  • 'TRUE HERO-WORSHIP IS NOT THE WORSHIP OF COLERIDGE, OR CARLYLE' – an important collection of letters reflecting the intellectual ferment surrounding Carlyle, Maurice and Sterling during the late 1830s and early 1840s. Edward Strachey (1812-1901), the pivotal figure of the collection, was the eldest son of Edward and Jane Strachey (see the notice of him by Bernard M. G. Reardon in the ODNB). Edward senior worked at the India Office and was friends with James Mill and his son John Stuart, and with his wife was an early supporter of Thomas Carlyle. The younger Edward suffered ill-health which prevented him following his father to the India Office, spending most of 1836 instead at Guy's Hospital studying philosophy under F.D. Maurice, to whom he had obtained an introduction through his mother's friend John Sterling. Maurice and Strachey remained friends, and the present collection – which appears to derive from several discreet if inter-related sources – was drawn upon by Maurice's son in The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice (1884), where he quotes not only his father's letters, but those from Strachey to his aunt Lady Louis. Perhaps the best-known of the Maurice letters is the one written during the lead-up to the delivery of Carlyle's Lectures on Heroes: "As to Carlyle I do not know – I will think it over again, but I fear I must not go out of my way to pay him compliments. There is no need of it, for his fame is most rampant & Men are beginning to talk & cant after him in all directions. Sewell I hear denounces him in his lectures & Whewell is very indignant & believes he is doing the greatest mischief, Hare has much the same opinion – so that I shall grieve friends & perhaps only encourage what has need to be repressed/ I am far from thinking, it can be sufficient except by sympathy & by the present acknowledgment of Carlyles great merits. Therefore I object to Sewell Whewell & Hare. But I believe there is no need to bring him into notice – that he attracts as much as is good for him or the world -- & that the best for both is where he comes naturally in one's way to see kindly & honestly what one thinks of him" (5 April 1840).

    Strachey himself was a gifted letter-writer, even though he cast himself in the role of follower rather than leader, telling his aunt: "I do not pretend to any originality being well aware that I have none. And I hereby disclaim all such pretensions for all time past, present, & future... There are very few real men of genius, and I would rather be any thing than a sham one" (30 August 1839). While he was clearly fascinated by Carlyle, he shared many of Maurice's misgivings, writing to Samuel Clark: "Your account of Carlyle is very interesting. I quite agree with you and Caliban [the translator and Hegelian, J.H. Sterling] about him. How constantly in all his discoveries in humanity he comes to that praise point at which all expedients, machinations, & partial lights fail, and where there is no medium between right day in the Church or utter darkness and despair out of it! And it is melancholy to see how he tries to bring in power – mere arbitrary and despotic will – to a act on the will of man, because he sees that on the regulation of the will every thing ultimately depends, and he knows not of the perfect law of liberty which rules in the will" (27 November 1838). But there are perhaps more references in these letters to Sterling than anyone; it had been he after all who had introduced Strachey to Maurice, as he had Maurice to Carlyle; and Strachey's letters to his aunt are full of bulletins on their ailing friend and the spiritual agonies he was undergoing : "the excitement and eagerness which he exhibits in argument is too painful to witness. If he would try Christianity it would do a great deal more to enable him to face and contend with his lot in life, which is doubtless hard anyhow, than his Goethian philosophy can, or at least does... I hope he may before long find that the true hero-worship is not the worship of Coleridge, or Carlyle, but of Jesus Christ" (9 October 1839).
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  1. Simon Roberts
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
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