1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON; 30 September 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540930-TC-LOA-01; CL 29: 154-155


Chelsea, 30 Septr, 1854—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

Till this morning, when My Lady's Letter came, I never doubted but you were in the Bear's1 country, “to go on Wednesday,” not to return till probably monday. I am in the greater haste to despatch my Note; which was meant at any rate for this day.

You give us a most lucid and interesting glimpse of your Hyperborean life. I know those misty Highland Hills, with their threatening vapour on them, those damp moaning winds; and then the rapid retreat, and the little brooks kindling all into silvery visibility on the black Hillside,—which latter sight it is best to enjoy from the inside of the windows! Stanley's2 waiting in vain, for five hours, to have a shot; and going, like the Primeval Serpent, on his belly:—would he take so much trouble, or the half of it, to pay the whole National Debt, for instance, or to reduce the Czar of Russia to a Pillar of Salt,3 and make all friends of progress happy for evermore? Not a bit of it.— I am shocked to find My Lady fishes with an Otter;4 I imagined she went out with rod and fly, in a Christian manner, and disdained such associates! I myself have no game here, of any kind, except it be spiders in the garden, where I go to smoke; of which, being disgusted at last beyond endurance (for they are black spiders, and in size like robin-redbreasts, such spiders and so numerous as I never saw), I have killed near upon 50 brace, I should think. A sad operation, but an indispensable one. What an opulence of life there is in this Universe, especially among the more contemptible branches of its population! “You cannot kill a fly,” they say, “but there will come forty to its funeral.” Which is true also of other things, in the metaphorical sense, to a very sad degree!

But what shall I say of the grand question, the Beard? Certainly I am, and have ever been, a fixed enemy of shaving; a tyrannous product of mere use and wont; fantastic, without a shadow of reason to shew for itself;—which pesters one with Machis, Packwoods,5 unproductive semi-charlatans; often cuts one's chin; and in my case steals away half an hour daily from my small remnant of precious time. Sure enough you are to be envied, and I do envy you, for that noble freeflowing beard, of which I hear so much. And if you do really mean to front St James's6 with it— But I always think your heart will fail at sight of St James's, and you are only joking all this while? Well, if you dare absolutely risk a stroke, for deliverance of yourself and of mankind, in that manner,—I am mindful of my promise, and even my wife assents; the razor shall be thrown away, and a second beard appear on the streets, too happy to get out under such backing! Really the Beard-movement does proceed, I perceive. Liegh7 Hunt, I heard not long since, had produced a copious beard, white or nearly so; he complained that there were two drawbacks: 1° the little boys laughed at him; 2° the beard abolished an uncommonly sweet smile he was understood to have. That latter evil will not apply to me. Nor do I think practically the little boys will much interfere. Moustaches are already very abundant; and one young gent (of the gent species) carries a beard in these streets, black, immense, sticking out from the chin of him like a kitchen kettle. Consider therefore what you will do!

My Lord Clarendon, after some official passaging, sent me the State-Paper permission, of due form and extent, the night before last.8 Please tell My Lady this; to whom I will write, one of these days.—

Ever yours sincerely

T. Carlyle