The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING; 29 January 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510129-TC-TSS-01; CL 26: 29-31


Chelsea, / 29 January 1851.

Dear Spedding,

I learned, last week, from somebody who reads the Newspapers, what had befallen at Mirehouse.1 Henry Taylor too has lost his Father,2 in these days; Arthur Helps his Mother:3 ever as of old, “man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.”4 I too have a Mother, now near four-score; whose death has been a terror to me ever since my childhood. God is great; God is also good! We can say no more. We will not weep too much for the Dead; it is the Living rather that deserve it of us; they that are still in the choking press of this sad sordid warfare; not they that have got it honourably over. They do rest from their labours, and their works follow them,5—thro' Eternity.

A long experience has taught me to believe that the world's bravest men are often they whom the world never hears of. People call this a paradox of me; but it is deliberately my conviction, grounded on actual survey of the facts as they have shewn themselves to me. Certainly by far the best-made men whom I have known in this world were men who, along with their other heroic gifts, had the crowning gift of continence (which grows daily rarer in this poor Earth); and had not needed to get upon the platform, or explode themselves in Stump-oratory,6 or windy Stump-activity, which is always of a difficult ambiguous sort, little to the taste of a strong man not compelled to it. Richer are they, and more blessed, who have walked silent under these deep skies and eternities. Ah me, when I read the lamentations of some “unrecognised” poetical, political or other big-blown imbecile, and think of my own brave Father and of others whom I have known, I too am without words!

When is James7 coming up? We shall be right glad to see him again. I have been very sorrowful and silent all winter; very much worn out of health, in fact; and admonished, by all manner of instincts and indications, to hold my peace, and wait whether a little strength would not return to me. My solitude accordingly has been well maintained; in that I have not erred. May Heaven prosper it.— Paxton's Palace seems now nearly all glazed; really an excellent clever edifice; a pleasant triumph of human wit over obstacles and conditions: to me the only feature in the least pleasant of this big syllabub of balderdash and ostentatious inanity which Squire Cole,8 Prince Albert and other Dignitaries of the world have been so busy cooking for us. I rather think, were the mess ready, and all the talking noodles of the world fairly got into these precincts, you will not find me here on your coming up to see: I seriously meditate flying beyond seas till the vile banquet of the children of the wind, with all its tumults and eloquent eructations, be fairly over. One dead dog is bad; but fifty of them stranded at Blackfriars Bridge on a hot day, what can you do with these? The nostril and the soul alike turn away with abhorrence from such an Ecumenic Council; and pray the Heavens it may soon be blown asunder again.

Neither does the Cardinal much concern me: I felt much insulted at first,—for even a turkey cock, scraping his wings and goggle-goggling too much, has been known to provoke me in some humours, and I have taken him by the neck, and flung him over the wall, on occasion:—but as to Wiseman, I now find he is a real gain to me; and that infallibly, in the collision of windbags, collapse will the sooner ensue. Besides the poor Pope is logically right. Of English Protestants (if we go to the real meaning of that word) I hardly know three in the world: all are cloth-worshippers (i.e., Papists), and shd declare themselves so. Adieu dear Spedding, Yours ever / T. Carlyle