The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 10 November 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521110-TC-LA-01; CL 27: 354-356


Chelsea, 10 Novr, 1852—

Dear Lady,— A word from me, in these black days, can only be a voice de Profundis; and to you, the noblest of all the human souls I have still on my list in this world, it is perhaps better, for many reasons, that I say nothing whatever. The proper collapse out of all these journeyings, tribulations and excitations did not come about till now, till the wet Tuesday evening when I disappeared (as a ghost should) from your bright environments;—and ever since, I have been at it! “Annihilating rubbish,” endeavouring to annihilate rubbish: such monstrous Continents of it, spiritual and material, as I cannot recollect to have ever seen before,—and with a new assistant, a gentleman named Old Age, looking in upon me; courteously informing me that he will help, for the future, more and more! However, it is something, as I said, to get down fairly to the bottom of the unutterable gulf, and look fairly into the eyes of your gorgons there,—and piously signify to them that they shall not make you into stone, that they shall themselves be slain, and reduced to ashes, by and by, if it please God!— Do not yet altogether quit hope in me. Pray for me in your noble heart: know always that if I ever can reward your heavenly goodness in the least particular, I will do it in the name of Heaven; and that if I never can (as is too evident to me often) I will carry the remembrance of it as a sacred possession whithersoever I may go or be driven. That is the historical truth;—nor is it a very strange one after what Fleming has taught me of you! Indeed I altogether agree (on reflexion) with that remarkable man, and even go beyond him (having eyes of my own withal) in what he said on the subject alluded to! And so pauca verba, as Corporal Nym says.1 And understand me to be black as Orcus,2 extremely ugly indeed in these days; but busy as an indefatigable stoker, endeavouring to burn immensities of smoke and coal-culm3 (as one's hope and duty is) and very recognisant of what heavenly lights there still are. Ay de mi, ay de mi!

I hope your visitors have now left you again to peace; I like better to fancy you walking near the silent woods; sitting reflective at midday in your moss-house (if the weather is dry, and the stove lighted), remembering and readjusting many things. Alas, care and sorrow lie coiled round the horizon of every soul. But I love you for your noble cheerfulness of heart, for your frank courage and ready gracious sense,—in fact I love you for several things, and have a confidence that the gods will not desert you, not altogether, at any time!—

I have seen nobody whatever; it is my hest at present to avoid everybody, and live, so far as I may, with closed lips and far from mad noises. The very swearing the Parliament does not affect me;4 I see daily the carpenters working at covered ways for the poor Duke's last journey,5 and crowds gazing, but I take care to make no inquiry. All evening we read, mainly in silence; all day, solitary, in miscellaneous ways. I am “annihilating rubbish,” as you hear, or praying to the gods that they wd help me to annihilate it.— We have gone thro' Thackeray's Novel; my Wife first, with great admiration “for the fine delineations of women”; I next, with aversion and contempt mainly for his feline phantasms of “women,” with many reflexions on his singular fineness of sense and singular want of do,—and on the whole with fairly more esteem for this Book6 than seemed likely at The Grange. I find the “style,” both of painting and writing, worthy of peculiar recognition, in general quite excellt for clearness, simplicity and grace,—and here and there with a fine adagio of affectionate sentimentality, which is almost beautiful, almost pious. Poor Thackeray. God help him, and us, after all! Adieu, dear Lady: announce to us your advent to Town, when you are coming; and do not forget us tho' unworthy of remembrance. God bless you ever T. Carlyle

I send a Pamphlet (from Vienna), the French part of which is worth your reading.7 Never mind the German, nor the last chapter of the French (unless you like[)].