January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO JOHN RUSKIN ; 5 March 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560305-TC-JRU-01; CL 31: 41-42


Chelsea, 5 March, 1856—

Dear Ruskin,

It is certainly a sad “land-change”1 these words of the Sea-Hero have suffered in the House of Lords: “This bit of work done, or else my life!” into, “That peacock's feather got, or else life lost!”2— A most sordid platitude; well worthy of being reprobrated3 and rebuked. If indeed there is any public still left to whom you can appeal, on behalf of the Heroic, against platitudes done in high places and low? Which we are bound to believe there is; tho', for my share, I often think I do not know where it lives at present,—and in fact have taken shelter by withdrawing out of the dirty welter altogether for the time; and never by any chance look into a Morning Newspaper; but keep well to windward rather, while these big Tumbrils of the Spiritual Night-soil are in passage, poisoning the blessed air of the Heaven-sent new Day of one's life! Do you, therefore, if you still have faith, pitch into that turpitude; and call a dull-nosed public to look at it: I can have no opportunity upon it. I should not have known what you meant, had not a man happened to call yesterday, with some rumour that there had been a Debate (bless the mark!) about having a National Picture Gallery, whh has long been an aspiration of mine.4 “A coronet or Westminster Abbey”: Oh Heavens, Oh Earth!—

You are a happy swift man; I here, slower than the snail or the boring worm and yet human, am very unhappy; buried in endless Giant Mountains of Prussian Pedantry, Prussian Stupidity and Infidelity; seeking a poor prize after all, even if I should attain it! However, I shall perhaps get out one day, and that will be blessedness enough: we must have faith.— Your Book is scattering the astonished cohorts of Chaos into strange agitated groups, I perceive. Which is the natural effect of it, and surely a salutary one by way of preliminary. Go on and prosper.

My wife here has caught cold a week ago, and sits prisoner; otherwise we are in the old way. Ought you not to come and see with your eyes now at last?

Yours ever truly /

T. Carlyle