April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO AUBREY DE VERE; 29 September 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490929-TC-ADV-01; CL 24: 252-254


Chelsea, 29 Septr, 1849—

Dear A. de Vere,

Your Note,1 by some mistake of the people here, did not come to hand till last night, when I returned finally home from these wanderings of mine,—properly the night before last;—and a welcome enough sight it was, at this end of 300 and odd miles of Express Train, and the multiplex confusions of that day, and of many past days and weeks. I had heard of you in Edinburgh about a week before from Empson; but knew not whitherward to aim a Letter at you, having seen your Address extinguish itself at Cork (if I remember), and continue dark henceforth.

It was a great disappointment to me that I neither heard of you at Limerick, nor could see any De Vere there; your Brother the Soldier Engineer was unluckily out from his desk, when I called,2 nor did the counter call take effect till half an hour too late: as for the Baronet,3 whom I well remember, not without remorse for the Anti-Irish vexation I once gave him, it remained uncertain to me whether he was at Curragh or Kilkenny or where; in these circumstances there could nothing be attempted in that direction. Meditations among the turf-boats; talk with articulate-speaking natives, such as the City of the violated Treaty4 turned up for me,—judicious Quakers, noisy Priests, sleek Poor-Law Officials, and insignificant miscellaneous: this occupied my little time in Limerick, till Bourke took me off with him in the Galway direction. A real grief and disappointment; one of the many such I had to pay in Ireland for the kindness of old and new friends. You must tell Lord Monteagle I had a passing interview with Lord Carew at Waterford, full of politeness on his part; Lord Stuart de Decies was eminently kind to me, and has left Dromana as a right pleasant place, a [word illegible] (English) islet in the waste chaos, in my memory; and Ballygiblin with Sir Wm and Lady Beecher was in every respect a ditto ditto to me. Thank his Lordship for those kind favours; let him know that they were successful, which is perhaps the best kind of thanks. I must likewise trust you to make my regretful acknowledgements to Mr Cooper of Markree; pray do not forget: I staid only two nights at Sligo, and was under special charge, of a very friendly kind, all the time;—not to say dead wearied, and with a whole bundle of undelivered Letters still in my repositories.5 The beautifullest soul in all Ireland, so far as my experience went, I am to say farther for behoof of your Cousin Spring Rice,6 was Lord George Hill, at Ballyare and Gweedore; a man to remember all one's life; almost a poetic or tragic man. Out of the black bogs, and blacker savage populations of Gweedore, that noble, elegant, truly aristocratic mind will never, I suppose, make much conquest of money,—at least, any Hudson or Rothschild7 will entirely extinguish him in that kind of conquest,—but there is another kind of conquest which he is daily making, in which no Hudson has part or lot, and which all the ingots of Threadneedle Street,8 and all the acres in Ireland, are very poor in comparison to, if a man has really got a soul and not a mere stomach instead! To have seen such a man, in these beggarly times, to have frankly communed with him, and to remember him always thenceforth, is a real possession to me.

For the rest, I do not on the whole think my ideas about Ireland underwent any essential change whatever; but to have the empty Theorem clothed with a flesh-and-blood Body,9—this was and still continues abundantly impressive to me; I may say, painfully impressive and oppressive to me. Under the sky at present I think there is no such detestable and profoundly damnable spectacle as that which, in its finished state, the West of Ireland offers to one who can look on it with eyes. The late but inevitable downbreak, and scandalous bankruptcy of a Rotten System of Things; the long-suffering of the gods worn out; and Nature, stern as Rhadamanthus, as green and soft as she looks, saying audibly and visibly, “Ye distracted Liars, it shall endure no longer! Grow wiser, truer; or die, all of you,—and be damned!” That really is her message, translated into unofficial language; and it was my main consolation, a very grim one, sad as death yet with a kind of joy as of immortality in it, as I wandered thro' those abominable scenes of Westport and other “Workhouses”; huge Swineries, as I called them, human swine (O Heaven!) fed on compulsion, and no bacon to be expected! the drippings of all our Cants, Cowardices, God-forgettings and Devil-worshippings; those in that Sea of Purulence,—equal to the Best of Loki10 in Scandinavia, they may be seen there!— Adieu for this time. My Wife is here, not very strong: I have seen no other friend of yours lately. God bless you.

T. Carlyle