October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


TC TO THOMAS ERSKINE ; 11 July 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460711-TC-TE-01; CL 20: 226-227


Chelsea: July 11, 1846.

The second edition of ‘Cromwell’ which has kept me sunk all spring and summer in a very ignoble kind of labour, is now off my hands for ever. The lively interest the people have taken in that heavy book—the numbers that read, and in some good measure understand something of it; all this is really surprising to me. I take it as one other symptom of the rapidly deepening seriousness of the public mind, which certainly has call enough to be serious at present. The conviction, too, among all persons of much moment seems to be pretty unanimous, that this is actually the history of Oliver; that the former histories of him have been extraordinary mistakes— very fallacious histories—as of a man walking about for two centuries in a universal masked ball (of hypocrites and their hypocrisies spoken and done), with a mask upon him, this man, which no cunningest artist could get off. They tried it now this way, now that: still the mask was felt to remain: the mask would not come off. At length a lucky thought strikes us. This man is in his natural face. That is the mask of this one! Of all which I am heartily glad. In fact, it often strikes me as the fellest virulence of all the misery that lies upon us in these distracted generations, this blackest form of incredulity we have all fallen into, that great men, too, were paltry shuffling Jesuits, as we ourselves are, and meant nothing true in their work, or mainly meant lies and hunger in their work, even as we ourselves do. There will never be anything but an enchanted world, till that baleful phantasm of the pit be chased thither again, and very sternly bidden abide there. Alas! alas! It often seems to me as if poor Loyola and that world Jesuitry of which he is the sacrament and symbol,1 was the blackest, most godless spot in the whole history of Adam's posterity: a solemn wedding together in God's high name of truth and falsehood—as if the two were now one flesh and could not subsist apart—whereby, as some one now says, we are all become Jesuits, and the falsity of them has, as it were, obtained its apotheosis and is henceforth a consecrated falsity.

My wife went off a few days ago to Lancashire. She had been in a very weakly way ever since our summer heats came on, had much need of quiet and fresh air … I, too, am tattered and fretted into great sorrow of heart; but that is partly the nature of the beast, I believe—that will be difficult to cure in this world.