April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON; 29 January 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490129-TC-LA-01; CL 23: 207-209


Chelsea, 29 jany, 1849—

Thanks for your Letter, for your two Letters. On Thursday Evg,1 if the gods permit, I will have tea at Bath House. The gods know their own mind; I know not what they mean to make of me:—in this matter of the tea, they will probably consent!—

I am quite shivery and unwell, these several days;—shamefully sensitive, I fancy, to the chill damp winds, and to other unfavourable influences. This universe is here on its own account—not entirely on ours, I believe! Patience; at least, silence.—— —— I have fairly given up my desperate enterprises of writing, for the present; in my actual mood it will not do. I have taken, in a cowardly manner, to revising Oliver Cromwell,2 for a third Edition which is about to be wanted now; there I find refuge better or worse, till the days mend. It is an operation analogous to darning of stockings on the great scale; with which kind of employment, if Conscience would let one alone, I could do very well;—but Conscience will not; Conscience barks and snarls unutterable things.— A certain blockhead is for bringing Louis Blanc to me too!3Le gamin philosophe [The street-urchin philosopher].”—

Yesterday in the Park, Miss Farrer,4 with much difficulty as she said (so unobservant was I) hailed me from a brougham; it drove to the footpath, and I hurried up: Lady Sandwich too was within: “What in the world were you thinking about?” said her Ladyship;—I would not have told for sixpence; answered in general, “The universe and the Chaos under it,” which also was the truth so far. Lady S. very well; another day we found her “packing,” but full of spirits; she expects Lord Sandwich and Lady today,5 I think,—as you doubtless know.—— — Mrs E. Villiers and little Mrs Taylor I also, one day, saw;6 from the latter I got Hy Taylor's account of you, that you were “quieter than usual, very gentle and good,” which pleased me well.— We have also had big (Jew) Schwabes from Manchester;7 small Christian Newtons8 from &c &c. I, on the whole, speak to no person who does much other than distress me, in these sad times.

Macaulay is over, several nights ago; I was, if anything, a little disappointed; little of the Book, except that Chapter on the old state of England, quite equal even to one's hopes of Macaulay.9 Pleasant easy reading too; clear, definite, every corner of it; but without concentration, modulation, a formless flat,—flat, like a russian steppe; pleasant grass to gallop on, but without stream, without mountain, without feature, grass, grass to the uttermost horizon: in fine no story to be told, and nothing but a Whig Evangelist to tell it us! I was not sorry to end; and shall not burn to begin again. The true “History of England,” so far as England has a History in those scandalous years, will turn out to be very brief (I apprehend), and to lie leagues below all that,—where T. My, I perceive, will never find it or seek it.— Did man ever look at such a series of empty clockcases as these “characters” one and all are? This is not their likeness, I say;—why take their likeness at all!—

Jane is out; and here comes somebody: surely nobody shall get to me! Oh dear Lady, Lady; I wish—— I could wish a great many things, but they are of no use: I will wish myself a little more sense; that is the best! For if one have sense enough, nothing is too hard for one, and royal victories are achievable even in the depths of Chaos, and the other place that begins with “G.10— Be patient with me, be good to me, while you still can. Yours ever / T.C.