April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO LORD CLARENDON ; 26 May 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480526-TC-LC-01; CL 23: 35-37


Chelsea, 26 May, 1848—

My Lord,

I know not whether I do a prudent or even a not impertinent act in offering for your perusal the inclosed Letter, unexpectedly received by me from a man who, to his own sorrow and that of all the world, has become of some importance in your sphere at present.

John Mitchell of the United Irishman called on me once at Chelsea, in the time of Smith O'Brien's foolish “coalhole” business;1 and, the autumn before last, I spent two days a good deal in his company at Dublin; from which opportunities of direct survey and communication, tho' except by public rumour he has been a stranger to me since, I gathered the lasting conviction,—and perhaps have mentioned it even to yourself (once at Alverstoke, on a snowy walk,2 in other circumstances than these),—that Mitchell, enveloped in such frightful aberrations, is nevertheless intrinsically a gifted, brave, and even noble minded young man; whom indeed it has now grown absolutely indispensable to silence; but who, had it not been for a certain windy “Liberator” and loud False-Prophet the baleful misleader of many,3 might have done his Country real service, and been a help, not a hindrance, to a noble minded Governor of Ireland. This unexpected Letter, indicating to the same effect, and almost the only Letter I have ever had from poor Mitchell, has agitated various emotions in me; and I decide on offering it, as an additional and not quite worthless Document in the intricate Suit now pending. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland stands a long way removed from the United Irishman divided from him by a most confused untransparent and bewildering medium. That the Lord Lieutenant should get to see him, on any side, for what he actually is,—this cannot tend to harm, but must tend to benefit only.

Nobody has seen the Letter but your friends Lord and Lady Ashburton, and accidentally Richard Milnes; all of whom are touched with sympathy for the misguided Mitchell. In the event of his being found guilty by a Jury, it is a natural desire that such a man, whatever doom is appointed him, may not be confounded with common Felons; and indeed I think there will arise a feeling that it might beseem the Lord Lieutenant's magnanimity to subdue this man by nobleness and clemency rather than by force and rigour, should such a course seem possible;—to which effect, in the desired event of a condemnation, perhaps some Petition of a more formal character may arise among us here.4

For the present if, by way of answer, your Lordship will, without word spoken or written,5 please to stamp a bit of hot wax on that Letter and let the Post-Office do the rest, I shall take it as a kind forgiveness of this intrusion, and as all the answer that is either fit or desirable in the actual circumstances.6

I have the honour to be / Your Lordship's / Most obedt obliged

T. Carlyle

His Excy

The Earl of Clarendon &c &c