April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES ; 18 June 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440618-TC-EOT-01; CL 18: 72-74


Sir,—In your observations in yesterday's Times on the late disgraceful affair of Mr. Mazzini's letters and the Secretary of State, you mention that Mr. Mazzini is entirely unknown to you, entirely indifferent to you; and add, very justly, that if he were the most contemptible of mankind, it would not affect your argument on the subject.

It may tend to throw farther light on this matter if I now certify you, which I in some sort feel called upon to do, that Mr. Mazzini is not unknown to various competent persons in this country; and that he is very far indeed from being contemptible—none farther, or very few of living men. I have had the honour to know Mr. Mazzini for a series of years; and, whatever I may think of his practical insight and skill in worldly affairs, I can with great freedom testify to all men that he, if I have ever seen one such, is a man of genius and virtue, a man of sterling veracity, humanity, and nobleness of mind, one of those rare men, numerable unfortunately but as units in this world, who are worthy to be called martyr-souls; who, in silence, piously in their daily life, understand and practise what is meant by that. Of Italian democracies and young Italy's sorrows, of extraneous Austrian Emperors in Milan, or poor old chimerical Popes in Bologna, I know nothing, and desire to know nothing;1 but this other thing I do know, and can here declare publicly to be a fact, which fact all of us that have occasion to comment on Mr. Mazzini and his affairs may do well to take along with us, as a thing leading towards new clearness, and not towards new additional darkness, regarding him and them.

Whether the extraneous Austrian Emperor and miserable old chimera of a Pope shall maintain themselves in Italy, or be obliged to decamp from Italy, is not a question in the least vital to Englishmen.2 But it is a question vital to us that sealed letters in an English post-office be, as we all fancied they were, respected as things sacred; that opening of men's letters, a practice near of kin to picking men's pockets, and to other still viler and far fataler forms of scoundrelism, be not resorted to in England, except in cases of the very last extremity. When some new Gunpowder Plot3 may be in the wind, some double-dyed high treason, or imminent national wreck not avoidable otherwise, then let us open letters: not till then. To all Austrian Kaisers and such like, in their time of trouble, let us answer, as our fathers from of old have answered:—Not by such means is help here for you. Such means, allied to picking of pockets and viler forms of scoundrelism, are not permitted in this country for your behoof. The right hon. Secretary does himself detest such, and even is afraid to employ them. He dare not: it would be dangerous for him! All British men that might chance to come in view of such a transaction, would incline to spurn it, and trample on it, and indignantly ask him, what he meant by it!4

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


Chelsea, June 18.