1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON; 4 November 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541104-TC-LA-01; CL 29: 187-189


Chelsea, 4 Novr 1854—

Dear Lady,—Your beneficent message, couched in satirical terms, came duly; and was duly welcomed, satire and all: there cannot well any writing come to me of a more canonical character than writing done in that hand, to whatever effect it be! It is a sad fact however that you wish me what I absolutely cannot get,—or rather that I cannot get what you wish me (that is the correct reading): “a temperate frame of mind, and good digestion”; alas, alas, you might as well wish me a pair of wings! They cannot be got by wishing, nor by trying;—otherwise, wouldn't they?

General Grey's letter is very ample and good;1 & I owe a thousand thanks,—especially to your bounteous Ladyship, never wearied with helping a poor eclipsed wretch. Night before last there came that other Note from Mr Glover himself;2 which I partly guess may relate to Pictures, over and above the Print concern? At any rate I have appointed Wednesday to go and see.3 Wednesday at noon, if the elements prevent not, I am to be at Windsor, and survey a little what there is, or is likely to be.— I am in a quite desperate mood about this unspeakable deplorable work, or rather No-work & predicament of mine! Sometimes I think I shall yet get thro' it; and escape from the immensity of Prussian sand and peatbog, alive still, into the green earth again: at other times, I think clearly, Never, never;—and it is sad to think of being engulphen in such an element, of perishing (even at an advanced age) in such a cause. God help me,—and Oh do you have some pity on me; for truly I am ill off to a degree, and if not beaten (whh I suspect), was never nearer it! But you have no mercy, I suppose; will have none? Well, I cannot expect much; I am a useless wretch, and deserve Nothing, or next to nothing.

You say not a word about Lord Ashburton; but I heard of his gout still continuing more or less, and also that your Ladyship had begun threatening to complain of “gout”—in your nose! So Lady Sandwich told me. That is really dreadful.

Jane, I can perceive, means to come to The Grange, and nothing other, when the time suits. As to me,—if anybody fancy I do not like to be there, or wherever certain persons are, then he fancies a—(Commodore Bowling).4 But, alas, and alas, I am fit to go nowhither to be nowhere except in my own garret or covered under a tub, in this state of matters in this humour of mind! Christmas, at any rate, has become a most sad anniversary5 to me; which I shall not for some time forget. It strikes me always I might do better at some other time of the year, and when there were fewer or none with you.— Once more I solicit your Ladyship's prayers.

But indeed today is worse with me than usual. We were last night at dinner, at the Lows's:6— “Nobody whatever but just Cardwell7 to be there”;—to the contrary of which there was a considerably assemblage, rather of an elaborate kind: Snobissimus Delaine of the Times;8 a Sir Something Bethel (? Attorney Genl) who speaks, in a sensible polite but most slow didactic manner; the dialect of Westminster-Hall English9 (if you know that curious dialect, “Consider” = “Considdd..a—a!” with a shake of the voice and eye, for instance); young Peel of the Colonial-Office (whom I like much, his very face was pathetic to me);10 a Captn Something, and a Revd Something; all these, many of them with wives, as well as Cardwell: the consequence was I awoke at 5 this morning, and feel myself a sinful man! Poor Mrs Low was really very good; shook out topic after topic, in a copious persevering, wildly ingenious and most good humoured manner; and rejoiced to see her firework burn without accident. She confided to me, in private, that she had liked the Grange extremely (and could again like, if it should please to be so good): her opinion of Lord An in particular (but you must not tell him in his present weak state) was high in the extreme; of Lady An do do,—only that poor Mrs Low did own to some creepings of terror, and a certain constant apprehension, in her highest flights, that an eye was upon her, that she might receive shot, and be winged by the said Lady! This is really the truth as to purport; only the words I will not swear to. A good soul, I do believe, tho' with a dash of quasi-distraction in it. Let us be thankful, let us be thankful withal!

Thackeray came over to us one night; was very gentle and friendly-looking; ingenious too here and there; but extremely difficult to talk with, somehow,—his talk lying all in flashes, little detached pools, you nowhere get upon a well or vein.

You may inform Lord Ashburton my beard is, and for the last 3 weeks has been,—the horror of surrounding parishes! To myself it is as if I had got a dirty gorse common on my chin; really extremely miserable: had he not carried off my razors, it had gone before now. I do not think really it will ever do; for it grows daily more ugly withal. I do not think they will admit me, at least not without double-scrutiny, on Wednesday. In every way, under every aspect, what is to become of me?—

You spoke of being here in 10 days; but the 10 days are past, and there is no you.11 What is the meaning of it; ought it to be so? I add no more; I cease and determine; and am— Ever yours to command T.C.