August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO C. G. DUFFY; 1 March 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470301-TC-CGD-01; CL 21:166-169.


Chelsea, 1 March, 1847—

Dear Duffy,

Here is a Paper which has come to me today from the writer of it, a very worthy acquaintance of mine; which, as a small memorial of me for the moment, a small drop of oil on huge waters of bitterness and tumult, I send you to read.1 Forster is a young wealthy manufacturer, who migrated some years ago from Devonshire or Cornwall to Yorkshire for taking up that trade; and was recommended to me by John Sterling: I have ever since liked him very well. A Quaker, or rather the son of Quakers, for he himself has little to do with what is obsolete; a most cheery, frank-hearted, courageous, clear-sighted young fellow:—the Quakers, some months ago, made a special Subscription for Ireland, and decided, like prudent people, on seeing with their own eyes their money laid out. Forster's father and self were of the Deputation for that end, or, for aught I know were the sole Deputation; and this is the Report they have given in. Read it, I say; and enjoy five minutes of a Sabbath-feeling,—not too frequent with any of us in these times.

It is long since I heard anything direct from you; nay in the Nation itself I now find but little of you; only here and there, in some genial, honest, patient human word (as in the Paper on Emigration, last week2) do I trace your hand, and with all my heart wish it speed. The aspect of Ireland is beyond words at present! The most thoughtless here is struck into momentary silence in looking at it; the wisest among us cannot guess what the end of these things is to be. For it is not Ireland alone: starving Ireland will become starving Scotland and starving England in a little while: if this despicable root will but continue dead, we may at least all say that we have changed our sordid chronic pestilential atrophy into a swift fierce crisis of death or the beginning of cure; and all “revolutions” are but small to this,—if the Potatoe will but stay away! Your Irish Governing Class are now actually brought to the bar; arraigned before Heaven and Earth or mis-governing this Ireland; and no Lord John Russell or “Irish Party” in Palaceyard, and no man or combination of men can save them from their sentence, To govern it better or to disappear and die.3 The sins of the fathers fall heavy on the children,4 if after ten generations:—surely, I think, of all the trades in the world that of Irish landlord at this moment is the frightfullest: the Skibbereen Peasant dies at once in a few days;5 but his Landlord will have to perish by inches, thro' long years of disgusting tumult, dark violence, and infatuation under yet undeveloped forms; and him, if God take not pity on him, nobody else will pity! Either this, it seems to me, is inevitable for the Irish Landlord, or else a degree of manfulness and generous wisdom such as one hardly dares to hope from him,—from him, or from those about him. It is really a tremendous epoch we have come to, if the Potatoes will not return! And then, as I said, our Scotch Landlords,6 and then also our English, come in their turn to the bar,—not much less guilty, if much more fortunate;—and they also will have a ravelled account to settle! But England and they are fortunate in this, that we have already another Aristocracy (that of Wealth, nay in some measure that of Wisdom, Piety, Courage),—an Aristocracy, not at all of the “chimerical” or “do-nothing” sort, tho' not yet recognised in the Herald's Books,7 or elsewhere well; but an Aristocracy which does actually guide and govern the people, to such extent at least as that they do not by wholesale die of hunger. That you in Ireland, except in some fractions of Ulster, altogether want this, and have nothing but Landlords, seems to me the fearful peculiarity of Ireland. To relieve Ireland from this; to at least render Ireland habitable for Capitalists, if not for Heroes; to invite Capital, and Industrial Governors and Guidance (from Lancashire, from Scotland, from the Moon, or from the Ring of Saturn): what other salvation can one see for Ireland? The8 end and aim of all true patriotism is surely thitherward at present! Alas! you must tell Mitchel that I read with ever greater pain those wild articles of his, which, so much do I love in them otherwise, often make me very sad.9 Daniel O'Connell, poor old man, now nearly done with his noisy unveracities, has played a sad part in this earth! All Ireland cries out, “You have saved us.” But the fact is very far otherwise. Good Heavens! when I think what pestilent distraction, leading direct to revolt and grape-shot, and yet unsounded depths of misery he has cast into all young heroic hearts of Ireland, I could wish the man never had been born!10 Mitchel may depend on it, it is not repeal from England, but repeal from the Devil, that will save Ireland. England, too, I can very honestly tell him, is heartily desirous of “Repeal,” would welcome repeal with both hands if England did not see that repeal had been forbidden by the laws of Nature, and could in the least believe in repeal! Ireland, I think, cannot lift anchor and sail away with itself. We are married to Ireland by the ground—plan of this world—a thick—skinned labouring man to a drunken ill—tongued wife, and dreadful family quarrels have ensued! Mitchel I reckon to be a noble, chivalrous fellow, full of talent and manful temper of every kind. In fact, I love him very much, and must infinitely regret to see the like of him enveloped in such poor delusions, partisanships, and narrow violences, very unworthy of him. “Young Ireland,” furthermore, ought to understand that it is to them that the sense and veracity of England looks mainly for help in11 a better administering of Ireland; to them (and not to the O'Connel party who are well seen for what they are), to them in spite of all their violence, for it is believed that there are among them true men. This I can testify as a fact on rather good evidence. Adieu, dear Duffy: I meant but a word, and here is an Essay! Ever yours,

T. Carlyle

The Chapmans were to send you a Book they had been reprinting of mine:12 I suppose it arrived safe.— Read the Tablet of yesterday; and forgive the Editor for some nonsense that now and then falls from him: this is sense. These poor priests in Cloyne; weeks ago when I read the report of their meeting, I said to myself, “Thank God for it. This is the first rational utterance of the human voice I have yet heard in that wide howl of misery and Folly which makes the heart sick!”13 May all the Priests in Ireland, with one accord, do the like; and all true Irishmen join with them!— Adieu—