The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO MARY RICH ; 10 December 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381210-TC-MRI-01; CL 10: 236-238


Chelsea, 10th December, 1838—

Dear Mrs Rich,

Here is your brave Admiral's letter,1 and many thanks for the sight of it. The Admiral's story hangs well together; his style, apart from all other considerations, is that of blunt sailor-like sincerity and perfect veracity. I have a decided persuasion that here is the true narration after all; that the Vengeur sank in this and no other manner, and that the French account of her sinking is no other, in all probability, than a cunningly devised fable of Barrère's [sic],2 whom Mercier characterises as “the greatest liar in France.”3 Unless other evidence be adduced, I shall feel obliged to cancel the business in a new Edition,4 and hold it up to the world as a magnificent Fiction,—worthy of the Opera Tragique, but unfit for use elsewhere.5

It is always good to destroy a Falsehood whenever one finds it. Admiral Griffiths bids fair to have the happiness of putting a final extinguisher on this. Whether the French will take down their Modèle du Vengeur from its peg in the Pantheon, and own that it was all wind, we do not know:6 but as for me my belief is all shaken, and without new evidence I will have no farther hand in it.

I have spoken of the business to Cavaignac and an Editor of the National Newspaper:7 I wish them to submit the matter openly to France, and ask: “Have you any counter-evidence then, or have you none?” a thing which they, as truth-lovers, have expressed willingness to do. The former Letter in the Sun Newspaper does not seem to have come into view in France, the National Editor heard of it from me for the first time. I will get it copied for him; I have already copied this second Letter (tho' without “My Aunt's” name,8 of course) and will let him have study of it. On Thursday night I am to see him and Cavaignac again.

And now what I wish you to ascertain for me is whether Admiral Griffiths would have any objection to have this second letter faithfully translated, and published too (in my name, as a thing I have been allowed to see), entire or what part of it is thought needful, in the French Newspapers? I can see no objection; but nothing shall be done in that way, till we have express leave. Nay I believe the already published Letter will suffice; tho' this second one confirms and elucidates it. They would of course treat this as a private letter; and probably give only passages of it by way of comment to the other.— — Having given new currency to the Fiction (which I read in boyhood in an English Book, and have since read in all places, and never till now saw authentically contradicted),9 I am anxious to see it extirpated, and even to be in at the death. Let me know therefore as soon as you can ascertain, whether there is leave or not.10——— If you have any opportunity I will beg you to thank Admiral Griffiths in my name, and offer him my best respects.

I did not find you at Clifton Terrace; but I will try again. I saw “Snow”11 at the upper window, and have discovered your topography. Pray remember us in all friendliness to your Sister and Mr Wedgwood,12 whom we count on seeing soon. Your Brother13 was here this afternoon, and is to go it seems by a new Steamer: may it be luckier than the last.14

I remain always, / Dear Mrs Rich, / Yours affectionately

T. Carlyle.