The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO C. G. DUFFY; 26 April 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510426-TC-CGD-01; CL 26: 71-73


CHELSEA, April 26, 1851.

DEAR DUFFY,—I think your prospectus perfect;1 it has colour enough left; all you have taken out of it is the angry controversial smoke, whatever could obstruct the clearness, which is here perfect, that of an object seen by sunlight under the general azure of the sky. Few things can seem more creditable; certainly nothing at all in any best Irish programme we have lately seen. In reading, I almost feel a kind of desire to invest money in the scheme myself—if I had any money worth investing!

At page 22 you speak of draining and improving (to the extent of main drains and roads) the estates you purchase, which, undoubtedly, is very proper so far, before allotting them: but you will have to specify the limits of that a little more, I suppose. The statement at this point of the prospectus startled my attention as a new circumstance; perhaps some warning of it could be introduced about page 10 with advantage? Indeed, I do not quite know about those “quarter shares,” whether to vote for them or not; nor, in fact, about any detail of the plan is my vote good for much. I used to believe immensely in small farms; and certainly the best people of the labouring class I have ever seen lived in that manner; but there goes much more than a small farm to such a result; and failures enough (in an ever-increasing proportion) have become manifest to me withal. Brief “he who is a free man” will do rather well in small culture, which is his true position if he is poor; well in small culture or in big; but he who is “not free,” again, whom nature has made a fool and a slave (i.e., too foolish and too slavish for his difficult position), he will never do well, unless, perhaps, if well ordered and compelled; and it is a pity to put any portion of our poor old Mother's surface under the control of such a one, if we could help it. Democracy, here as elsewhere, I clearly see, is not possible; but, on the other hand, your “aristocracy”—Good Heavens! So you must even do your best according to the day and hour. Surely, by this method, you may hope to push out the finest of your Irish peasantry, these likeliest to be able to live as “free men” under our terrible pressures; and for every one of these you can retain within the four seas gods and men will be obliged to you! The others they had better go to America, or even to final chaos, than live as they have long been doing: I deliberately say so. But they are not, I believe, going either of these roads just yet; they are pouring over into Scotland and England (Watt's steam engine is worth a million of O'Connells and stump-orator “Liberators!”),2 and are fast making us all into one uniform mess of pottage, which I cannot but admit is fair to the Three Kingdoms and her sacred Majesty and Co.! Oh, Heaven! one tries to laugh at the things (in this poor epoch), and they are terrible and sacred as the baring of the Lord's right hand upon Iniquity and Quackery and Doggery too long continued.

Did you ever read a small octavo volume, almost 150 years old (London, 1703, I think), called “Fletcher of Saltoun's Works”?3 I recommend it to you for a couple of evenings. A proud Scotch gentleman, a noble Scotchman, he will show you an advocacy of “Repeal” conducted not à la stump-orator, and yet not destined or deserving to succeed at all on those terms, also a Scotland not so unlike your present Ireland; on the whole a variety of rather curious things, and the soul of a right gallant man for one, and will repay perusal well, I promise you.

Your lady-critic is getting very wild upon Leigh Hunt, woman, &c. &c.4 Beautiful alcoholic steam too; but it requires to be resolutely cooled, rectified, and condensed, if we are ever to swallow it with satisfaction.—Adieu, yours ever truly,