August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO CHARLES REDWOOD ; 17 September 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420917-TC-CR-01; CL 15: 87-89


Chelsea, 15 [17] Septr, 1842—

My dear Sir,

Thanks for your kind Gift, sent, like an Angel's, in beneficent silence! The peaches were pronounced to be of admirable quality; the three Books on Bristol contained the amplest response to all reasonable curiosity; the big one, Seyer's,1 most part of which I have read, is really a valuable work, and gives one incidental glimpses into many a curious thing. Pray instruct me how I may return it, with its two fellows, now that I have sucked the heart of them out. Or shall they lie here till you yourself come to fetch them?

I should have written sooner, but there was a chance, or shadow of a chance, that we might come to Clifton, to a Friend's house2 there, this autumn; and till that had finally vanished, as it now has, I was unwilling to write. Cardiff, we knew, lay near, across the water, and a Friend near Cardiff: but all has grown distant again; we find that there has been enough of rambling for the present season.

My Wife went into Suffolk some five weeks ago; I also about a fortnight ago, to fetch her home. We only returned the night before last. The green country and clear autumn skies were, as all country and skies at all times are, very grateful to me. I made a run too, on horseback, over into Cambridgeshire and Hunts, in search of footsteps of Oliver Cromwell. God's Earth, which Oliver among others walked over, is still verily there; but the traces of Oliver on it are worn very faint indeed. Many of the people never heard of his name; with the remainder he has dwindled mostly into a Fable, and even a dull owlish Fable,—for the English are no great hands in the Mythologic line! Yet I had ample scope for emotions and reflexions; and, riding in hot weather one of the worst horses ever saddled, I had fatigue enough. In Ely City, in an open unfrequented region close by the Cathedral, I sat down under the stars on Farmer Cromwell's veritable horse block; a huge stone, at the corner of his house and the gate of the stables, which still lies there: the house itself is now uninhabited these two years, and likely soon to be a ruin. It was very strange to me to sit smoking there, amid the shadows and gas-lights, with the white tombstones on this hand, and living street-lamps on that; and think of all that had come and gone, with such a loud noise once, into such a silence now! Heroic Olivers march on, out of mortal hearing; still faster, chimeric Peels and Pitts,—not out of divine or diabolic hearing: “Silent rest over us the Stars, and under us the Graves.”3 Between these two great SILENCES how dignified should all human noises and activities feel themselves!—

On returning, one of the notablest things I found was a proposal from the Proprietor of the Atlas Newspaper4 to give a Hundred Pounds by way of Prize for the best Essay on the present condition of the Working Classes and best remedy &c; in which he requests me to be one of the judges and suggest two others! I wonder a little at the man; fight shy of his judgeship, recommend three others judges. But at all events, it is a strange symptom of the times, this Prize-Essay; and indicates truly a new stage in that great business.

We hope to see you when you come again to town; almost any evening we are likely to be at home. Good be with you and your good Mother! I remain always, with many thanks,

Very truly yours /

T. Carlyle