The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO ARTHUR HELPS ; 12 May 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520512-TC-AH-01; CL 27: 113-114


Chelsea, 12 May, 1852—

Dear Helps,

The London Library is in Danger!— Your man Ross,1 whom I once saw long ago, and of whom I have heard authentic testimony lately, seems at present decidedly the most promising; but there are already five or six other native candidates, all of them, I fancy, superior in real fitness to the young Neapolitan Advocate just arrived on our shores, whom Gladstone has decided to lead in over the belly of both Rhyme and Reason, and make king over us!— I myself am struck down to the Earth with Influenza, incapable of stirring out for near a week past, and forbidden even to speak, above five words in the half hour, under penalties. I sent a message to Forster last Saturday, solemnly admonishing to delay and deliberation; Forster's answer was that he went with me to the letter; but that Gladstone, Ld Lyttelton &c were “stirring Heaven and Earth” to bring in their man; and that, from the present composition of the Committee, there “was not a possibility” of hindering them. Forster himself is ill, and gone to the country: here in my prison I cannot even learn from anybody what the Commee did last saturday; but only that this next meeting is to be on Saturday week, when “testimonials are to be presented,”—i.e., I suppose, when G. and his majority are to bring their enterprise to the penultimate, if not even to the triumphant ultimate stage.

To myself all this is a thing evidently contrary to, not the London Library alone, and to its clear interests and rights, but to the Common Honesty of every one of us to whom said interests and rights have been tacitly but most validly delegated for management and supervision; and it is my decision, for one, that I must and will resist it, and try to find or make “a possibility”: I think, it will be worse for me, if I don't!— At all events, I will go before the thing end, and in some softest but perfectly audible way protest agt such a proceeding, and refusing absolutely, I for one, to have any hand in it more or less, openly dismiss myself from the Com̅ee before they proceed to so untenable an operation. This alone, you perceive, will be but a poor measure; but better than this, on various sides, are open to us;—and in fact, I find, in my solitary contemplations here, that there are decided “possibilities” (pace Forster), and that if there were not, such must be made,—and must be prosecuted with despatch and to the utmost!

The first of all, dear Helps, is that you, quite gently and with habitual reticence, come up to Town, and lodge yourself within reach of me, the earlier the better, but at least a week before next Comee meeting. Unless actually held, as I myself am, you are actually bound to this,—somewhat as your Groom wd be if he saw one of your horses about to be stolen by a cadger, and cd prevent it by a little running! My remaining capabilities of speech shall all be devoted to you; and before the day come, I hope to be myself on my feet again.

These things I have written, dear Helps, to “liberate my soul.” I have no Candidate of my own; on the whole, no wish in the matter except that what is honest be done by the Comee, and especially by one poor member of it;—and, sure enough, Gladstone might saddle Kossuth or King Bomba2 on the L. Library, or put the L. Library altogether in his pipe, and smoke it to white ashes, witht entirely ruining one's prospects in this immense universe! These things I know withal and will keep in mind; and yet I have written with complete persuasion what is above, and do very much wish and advise you to come,—at once, if you can.

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle