The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON ; 15 November 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501115-TC-LOA-01; CL 25: 287-288


Chelsea, 15 Novr, 1850—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

I am exceedingly concerned to hear of her Ladyship's sad condition:—not roaming along the downs, under the bright bracing air; but lying imprisoned under influenza and mere silent misery! Today too there is new frost, and of a vile damp character withal; which I fear is no favourable circumstance in that complaint. Pray keep the Doctor to his duty;—and let us hear at least how matters go.

Whether the Sophocles will ever reach you, or indeed see the light of the sun anywhere again, is still uncertain. Perhaps it will come in the end; and you will love it for the dangers it has passed: today Col. Maberly writes, with great politeness, that he “will pay every attention”;—and there it yet lies.

I will straightway set about getting you a Suetonius1 in English or French;— so that you may read the blackguard History of those ancient Blackguards: a sin, if it be one, to which human nature is prone! Nay, by management, it is capable of being a virtue too. But the general rule is, “Poke not into carrion, for you will get mischief of it; let all carrion, classical or other, get under ground as soon as possible, and stay there!”— I will also, as I walk up to Town, call at Bath House, and look after that Map; probably tomorrow (if not sooner) I may be able to give some account of the Book and it.

I am utterly alone here, within doors all day, except one walk, which I take generally in silence and by myself, with the humour of a man taking physic. The Town is getting fuller of carriages; but to me at present it is little other than a phantasmagory; of which I hear little beyond the physical noises, and regard next to nothing. Not because I am busy; alas, no, I can yet work at nothing;—only sit, like a Siberian Bear in winter time, empty enough of pabulum or outlook, and for the present contemplatively sucking his paws.2 “No Popery,” and worse, still abounds on the flag-stones;3 and Paxton's Industriality rises, like the hugest Bird-cage in Creation, whenever you enter the Park.4 O curas hominum, O quantum &c [O the cares of men, O the emptiness]!5

But tell my Lady to get well again, and not lie a prisoner there: and keep well yourself,—and wish me well. And so I let you go for the present.

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle