January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO [THOMAS WOOLNER] ; 2 March 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560302-TC-TWO-01; CL 31: 40-41


Chelsea, 2 March, 1856—

Dear Sir,

Your Letter was delivered me last night at the Athenaeum; the first chance they had had of me there. I go very seldom to that or any other place at present, being extremely busy.

Oliver Cromwell has no squint, stare, or deficiencies of any kind in the eyes of him. One eye (probably the left right?, but I am not sure) is considerably bigger than the other; that is to say, wider open,—habit of looking intently, and rather with one's right side, for sake of the right hand?— He has no wart on his underlip, nor anywhere but above one eyebrow, near the nose (right side, I think?): a small tuft of a Charles-First1 is visible on the underlip, thin moustache on the upper: nothing more, of the mark kind, in that quarter. He is found, on measurement, to have a face bigger than almost any other man's,—among its various other prominences, this is one.

There are very many false and absurd Portraits of Oliver in circulation: nevertheless the real face of him is capable of being perfectly well known The dead mask of it is to be had in Stucco-shops (a man with an Italian name near Soho-square used to have them);2 a goodish Oil Picture is to be found in the Museum: Cooper “that prince of limners” (as old Anthony Wood, his contemporary, justly calls him) did an elaborate and extremely successful Miniature of Oliver;3 one or more, which he seems to have copied several times, being now master of the face: such Coopers, in perfect preservation, still exist in the hands of persons tracing descent to Cromwell;—I know one of undoubted genuineness in a House in Essex:4 what I can believe to be, as it were, the very face of Cromwell, or the nearest we shall ever come to that. Cooper (if one avoid well the spurious “Coopers,” which also exist in plenty) was the man of men to do such a face. There are Medals also by good contemporary hands;5 and I know one Medallion (at Swansea in Wales) which much pleased me.

In all the good Pictures the eyes have a singular wild earnestness, wild silent sorrow you might call it; the mouth and lips are very grand: the face altogether is heroically grim and heroically kind and true (in Cooper especially) to the superlative degree. On the whole I am not acquainted with any grander human countenance, to my thinking.

I fear all this is too late, and that you may have already left Frome.6 But I would not lose a moment in sending you such hurried indications as I could, in case they might still be useful.

I have by no means forgotten the inexhaustibly goodhumoured man, whom I sat to long ago;7 whom I have ever since wished well to. Believe me / Yours always sincerely / T. Carlyle