April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING ; 28 April 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440428-TC-TSS-01; CL 18: 27-28


Chelsea, 28 April, 1844—

My dear Spedding,

I am very glad to hear the sound of your friendly voice again,—or to see this image of it, transmitted me by the aid of Cadmus and Rowland Hill.1 I live mostly in a great solitude in this great noisy Babel, most sounds and voices in it passing by me as the mere song of the “Autumn wind among brown leaves.”

What prospect I have of coming to the North? I am afraid no certain one at present; I have got deep into the abysmal quagmires, and must try to deliver myself a little, before I can go anywhither! Last year I wandered about for three months or more, and returned home sicklier and stupider than ever; in fact, these short escapes into the free air, seem only to derange me out of the known routine of my dust element,—to which, like the salamander to his fire, one gradually gets accustomed: I believe it would take me two years of country to do me any real good. My nearest duty is clearly to get my hands washed of this unspeakable Cromwell concern; and then, if any haven open, to run as for life. I am very sick, feel worse in health this summer than I ever did; but on the whole there is no help for me in running away. I believe I ought to get a horse, and perhaps shall; but this also requires more effort than I have disposable for that side of my affairs at present. I must get done with this accursed Task of mine, and deliver myself from the Torpedos! No subject in this world, I believe, is a more unmanageable one. The heroic Age of England, verily such, and treated hitherto with a depth of stupidity that even England elsewhere cannot try to parallel. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the Prophets!2— In fact, that is the last time practical men in this country ever did attempt heartily to go upon the fact that they had an Eternity lying before them; an Infinite Splendour and Terror (what they called an Almighty Just God) encircling this little Life-islet of theirs:—it is most grand to see; and men cannot otherwise, I think, lead their life in a manlike manner at all, but must lead it in a more or less beastlike manner, and end in Peels, Russells, tin Champions of England,3 and the other phenomena too well known to us! My intolerance against the shovelhatted quacks who succeeded poor Oliver, and hung his body on the gallows, and danced round it saying “Aha, aha! Glory to Nell Gwynn and the new improved Defender!”4—is difficult to repress within just limits. I believe no Book will ever be made of this unfortunate thing; but some way or other I must be rid of it, or die of torpor and despair. Coroner's verdict: Died by the visitation of Human Stupidity (his own and that of two preceding centuries) in almost all its forms!

Poor Peel! He is actually getting into the waters; his boat, rocking, will not lie steady in the ooze any more; and God alone knows where the other shore of the voyage may be!5 The thought of it often fills me with a real terror. We shall need an awful scourging, I doubt, before we awaken fairly again,—awaken or die!

God bless you, dear Spedding.

Your affectionate

T. Carlyle

Is there no hope of you up here. The Baconian philosopher6 spoke of some chance there was when you went to Liverpool with your Boy.7 Kindest regards to Mrs. Spedding.8