August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO CAROLINE FOX ; 15 January 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440115-TC-CF-01; CL 17: 242-243


CHELSEA, 15th January, 1844.


Your message is far from an intrusion; such a musical little voice coming out of the remote West, in these dull days, is not unwelcome to me, is rather apt to be too welcome! For undue praise is the poison of human souls: he that would live healthily, let him learn to go along entirely without praise. Sincere praises, coming in a musical voice in dull times, how is one to guard against them!

I like Verran's picture of himself somewhat better this time. It is good that he has got a wife; his manner of announcing that great fact, too, is very original! ‘Four cows, with plenty of grass, three slip pigs.’1 What are slip pigs? Pigs that have slipt or left their dam, and now feed on spoon-meat? All these things are good. On the whole, it was a benefit to lift this poor man out of the dark subterranean regions into the upper daylight, to the sight of the sky and green world. But it was not I mainly; no, it was another than I. The poor man, if well let alone, I think will now do well. Well let alone: it is an invaluable rule in many things,—apt to be miserably forgotten in the case of Grace Darlings and such like!2

By the by, ought not you, with your swift, neat pen, to draw up, on half a sheet of paper, an exact narrative of this man's act of heroism,—authentic, exact in every detail of it,—and reposit it in some safe place for a memorial of the same? There is no more genuine use that the art of writing can be turned to than the like of this. Think of it.3

I am about writing upon Oliver Cromwell,—still about it; for the thing will not stir from the spot, let me shove it never so desperately! It approaches the impossible, this task of mine, more nearly than any task I ever had. How awaken an oblivious world, incognizant of Cromwells, all incredulous of such; how resuscitate a Hero sunk under the disastrous wrecks of two such centuries as lie dead on him?

If I had a Fortunatus' hat, I would fly into deepest silence,—perhaps into green Cornwall towards the Land's End,4—to meditate this sad problem of mine, far from Babylon and its jarrings and its discords and ugly fog and mud, in sight of the mere earth and sea, and the sky with its stars. But I have not such a hat, there is none such going, one must learn to do without such.

Adieu, dear Miss Caroline. Salute your brother in my name,—your brother and sister,5 and all that have any remembrance of me. My wife, pretty well in health, sends you her kindest regards.— I remain, ever yours, most sincerely, T. CARLYLE.