1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO EDWARD FITZGERALD; 19 October 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541019-TC-EF-01; CL 29: 170-172


Chelsea, 19 Octr 1854—

Dear Fitzgerald,

Many thanks for your remembrance of us: I am very glad to hear of you again; and will at once make answer, and report as desired.1

We have been here all this while; not out of Town even for a day, in spite of cholera, hot weather, and whatever else befel. I have got myself, of late years, so smashed in pieces, and reduced to despair, by incessant fluctuations, within doors (from bricklayers and carpenters) and without whenever away from home, that I had to resolve at length on staying where I was, as at once the simplest and the most promising course for me. It is astonishing what waste it creates in my affairs,—and I believe, in those of most men,—this habit we have of getting into express trains for all reasons and for none! I do seem to experience that I am slowly getting better, in health both of body and mind, by simply staying at home, and sorrowfully and silently endeavouring to put to rights day by day the innumerable multitude of things that have gone out of square with me. For my work is all lying in such distraction, I feel as if the infinite Chaos would swallow me alive;—which perhaps, by this method, it will not quite succeed in doing. Any way, what other chance was there?

The Cholera visitation formed a very bad accompaniment; concerning which, in the circumstances, we had no resource, except to take what precautions Nature herself dictated,—and for the rest, what was a very important precaution, rigorously to hold our peace about the matter. Thank God, that is now gone, or we hear no more about it. I do not much believe in that omnipotence of “bad air,” which is now so currently accepted as the secret of cholera pestilence. In my native village where the “air” is as pure as at the north-pole, there died just twice the proportion we have lost in London! “Bad air” means poverty, misbehaviour, bad living, bad morality,—when London and large towns are spoken of. Let the people clean their gutters and cesspools, by all manner of means; let them believe whatever will aid and urge them in so evidently good a work. But the truth is, Cholera is as yet an entirely unintelligible business;—and indeed Death itself, or even Life, has never been very completely understood, I believe!—

Nothing can go worse on than my studies in German History and on Fredk the Great. The German Dryasdust is an infinitely dreadfuller fellow than even the English; excels in stupidity, I often think, all other created Entities! Upon the whole, I have got again into the very belly of the IMPRACTICABLE; and, alas, I have no such object as an Or Cromwell, but only far inferior ones, to incite me towards “doing the impossible.” Probably you will never hear of me more in useful Book-writing; you ought not to wish to hear of me in useless do. But we shall see, we shall see; we must not die without a struggle!

I noticed Hafiz in Fraser, with respect, with surprise; and might have bethought me of Cowell,2 which however I did not. If you write to him, pray offer my continued kind remembrances.— There is an Article on Odin in the last Westminster Review,3 which perhaps you might like to read, and he. I take it to be by a man Neuberg, a German about my own age, once a merchant in Nottingham, now an idle man with some money, who volunteers, many a time, to work for me in the British Museum and such places. There is loyalty for you,

I saw Thackeray not long since; complaining of liverish sickliness; otherwise very pleasant and good: my Wife says his girls are vastly improved, and doing extremely well.4— Have you heard about poor Lewes, “hairy Lewes” as we sometimes call him? He has put away his Wife at last, and for right good cause; but the rest of the rumour about him I believe to be, in brief, lies.5 He is a good soul in several respects in spite of his hair.— Nay what do I say hair: I myself have ceased shaving now for the 9th day; and am rapidly becoming bearded. That is a fact. Lord love you dear F.; write soon again. Yours ever

T. Carlyle

Poor Naseby! Don't I too recollect!— You must set up a stone there, however; you really must.6

I am due at the State Paper Office (to read Prussian Despatches, frustrà, frustrà [in vain]), indeed in a great hurry.