October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


TC TO LADY HARRIET BARING ; 4 November 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18451104-TC-LHB-01; CL 20: 41-42


Chelsea, 4 Novr 1845—

Dear Lady,—We are much concerned for this sad affair of poor Lady Ashburton's illness; the more so as I think she is a little liable to that complaint; and it is one which, in its ulterior developments, is by no means to be trifled with. Certainly it will be very fit that all Guests depart as soon as possible, that there be complete composure in her neighbourhood. Sea air, Bay House; quietness itself, which is perhaps equal to all the rest; there should be no delay in your recourse to all these!—

As for us we have fog daily and nightly; attended of late with poisonous damp-frost, and east-wind, seasoning our bad atmosphere with a taste of all the London chimnies, your friend Montefiore's1 among the rest,—a very despicable atmosphere indeed! Colds do not rapidly mend in these circumstances; my voice has still a considerably metallic character, and the poor wife continues to cough a little; however we do not retrograde; we decide to be well in a few days, human nature is bent on being well. Most days for a couple of hours about Noon the poor Sun does struggle into visibility; announces to us, in a very distressed manner, “I am shining elsewhere; out of this abominable Brewer's-Vat, and its exhalations and its fermentations; there are bright things, if you were out of this!” — We will make but one journey of it, to Alverstoke direct; we are anxious enough to be upon the road as soon as possible! To go afterwards to The Grange, once or more than once, when or how the parties there and the escort thither judge best, will be a real pleasure to us. I will see the Bookseller today; I will write to you tomorrow or next day, specifying with what exactness there may be the horoscope of our times. “The middle of the month” was the man's last prediction,2 and they are busy still with a miserable Portrait of Cromwell: but today I will see more definitely what can be done and what cannot.

To call at the London Library: no, it is not too much trouble; singular to say, it is not half trouble enough! I will announce the Lady Harriet as a Subscriber there; it will be worth two guineas a year to her at any rate: but with regard to new books at present I am sorry to predict that there is next to no chance. At any time, I understand there is a great scramble for such, and the rule with our old heavy Librarian3 (a very lazy heavy man) is “Serve the loudest;—take my life, but do not disturb my peace, ye beautiful people!”—for it is women always that are scrambling. So that I believe it is but an imperfect resource in that particular. Besides just at present they are shifting all their books to a new house (in St. James's Square),4 and the Library is absolutely shut till the end of this month. Nay you cannot be admitted for about a fortnight yet; not till some Committee have, for form's sake, seen the application, and said Yes.— I will try the man if, on my own footing, he can do anything (everybody's books are returned at present, lying wrapt up in bales) but I doubt the answer will be negative.

Who is Fléchier;5 what else can be tried to help you in this small but needful matter? Employ me, do, order me this way or that, it is all I am good for at present!— Is there among Lord Ashburton's books or yours any account of the Bayeux Tapestry? I am somewhat in quest of that lately for my own behoof too. William the Conqueror's Wife, while her Husband was conquering England, set about sewing the History of that affair; and there it actually yet is, tho' somewhat worn now; laid carefully up in the Cathedral of Bayeux in Normandy; an immense web of ancient sampler-work, divided into scenes and compartments, which used to go round the whole nave of the Cathedral, when exhibited on some Anniversary day:— one of the strangest Historical monuments that exist in this world, to my knowledge; and certainly one of the most interesting to all English persons! It has been engraved, with historical annotations, by more than one party; and I am on the trace of it; but I have not yet learned exactly who is the best and real authority in the matter. Would not that be a pretty book; the sewing of the ancient Queen and her maids,—brave Queen!6 —On the whole employ me, order me; see if I will not obey!

At present the hour is come; I must kiss your hand (ja wohl [yes indeed]!) and begone.

Your unprofitable servant— always,

T. Carlyle