April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING ; 5 August 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480805-TC-TSS-01; CL 23: 87-88


Chelsea, 5 Augt, 1848—

Dear Spedding,

Your question about the Ouvriers [Workers] on the Sologne has been propounded to me by one or two oracles; but there is no response hitherto, nor any clear road towards one. I have put it on the road to France itself for an answer: if any come, you may depend on hearing of it; nor will it go out of my head while there remains a chance of getting light upon it. The prevailing opinion is, that these men on the Waste Lands (as many others upon the Railways &c) are paid their franc and half daily, but whether they earn it or not,—except as our Paupers “earn” their ration by consuming soot along with it,—seems to be very questionable to everybody.

I myself grow in the belief that here is the actual punctum saliens [salient point] of new life and salvation for us and for all modern societies; that we ought to begin here, by regimenting and reducing to stringent military rule (strict as death both against commanders and commanded) all labourers that cannot find employment and choose to enlist with us; that hereby were a new improved Serfhood and Earlhood, adapted to the new ages, actually started,—by faithfully prosecuting which into all its wide expansions, sternly exterminating all cant and non-performance as we went along, the whole accursed quagmire and rotten cloaca of modern Society might be with a minimum of violence be got drained and purified again, and from Eton School to the top of Lambeth mitre all delusions and damnabilities might gradually die out of it, and, one thrice-glorious day, be found dead, O, ye Heavens!1 This, really, in all sobriety, is my opinion; tho' hitherto I have found nobody but you that would agree with me. Why not speak of it, write of it?2 Alas it is a thing not so much to be written of, as to be set about and done! A man grows weary sitting on the streets demonstrating the possibility of motion, with his own feet gyved. And all the crowd, who with a grin on their countenances cry out “Well done!” and do not, one of them, stir from the spot, are but a small help or encouragement. The truth is, I said the thing ought to be faithfully prosecuted; and how among a generation of poor canting mortals, blind to the eternal sacredness of this universe and to all reverence to one another except a cowardly lip-reverence, and in fact reduced to the condition (it is too sad a truth!) of “enchanted apes,”3 with their ballot-boxes &c.,—do anything whatever “faithfully”? They are infidels to the marrow of the bone;—and I suppose that nothing but black unendurable misery will make them so much as try to get disenchanted: God mend them! Besides all which, I am threatening to get quite demoralised myself, altogether weary, weak and ready to sit down and weep in the great solitude that is round me. God mend me too! Yours ever truly, ever gratefully— T. Carlyle

Compts to the faithless Editor of Bacon;4 whose Note came,—but whose Self never did.