January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 15 March 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560315-TC-LA-01; CL 31: 49-53


Chelsea, 15 March, 1856—

The Barbier came;1 some faithful hand left it here last saturday night; and I am likely to derive more help from it than I expected: this is really all the news; and I ought to end here,—and pay my obeisance silently, to a Daughter of the Sun,2 in this black sunless weather and grim condition of things. We have the fiercest cold, with grey dusty winds: my poor wife has been prisoner the last fortnight with some influenza she caugh[t];3 no likelihood for her till the wind turn west: everybody seems to be suffering, but those of thick skin: I could not see Lady Sandwich in her new House when I called; nor get the

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Erasmus Darwin by Robert Scott Tait, 1855.

Courtesy of Edinburgh University Library.


slightest assurance that you were not suffering like the others. Who knows? My own mind is all a grey whirl of dusty dreary un— —

—At this point, Saturday 4 p.m., there rushed in, the close time having expired, Two figures, little Ld Goderich and a bigger Mr Bruce Welsh M.P. for something;4 who sat and sat till the Post hour was gone; and ever since, there has been one confusion on the back of another; a poor man hunted by several demons, from without and from within: so that the actual date (to whh, by way of melancholy memorial, I let the other stand prefixed) is

Wedy 18 March!)— There has Spring come, March the Lion is becoming March the Lamb;5 copious rains, and today a grey atmosphere altogether genial for the plant creation. But your poor servant is still dark, Oh good Lady; in fact an incurable mortal, whose task in the world prospers ill and that only; who has no wheel-vehicle (in any sense of that big word) for travelling in this world; who goes barefoot (if you will observe), or worse, in torn boots that do not fit; and whose way, once for all, will never be smooth! Pity the poor white man;6 yes you actually should, in your noble heart: the poor soul is truly ill off in this generation of evil-doers (and diners-out), and has little comfort except in thinking of one or two things, which are mostly hidden from his bodily eyes!—

I have had a couple of Dinners; inevitable:—that, after all, is perhaps the main fountain of darkness just at this time; but there is never wanting some fountain, nor will be. Let me speak no more of it.

At the second dinner (Darwin's, monday night, when a certain Pertz from Berlin with the Lyells &c7 were the heroes), this was the news about those Berlin suicides, if you care anything for them: 1o Raumer is not the babbling ever-publishing Historian von Raumer, but a Cousin of his; Keeper (or something like that) of the King's Private Library; and is understood to have been insane, there being a touch of that kind in the blood of him. 2o The von Canitz was Secretary or Under-do in some Public Office, a stout Junker partisan,—and had all this while been betraying the royal secrets to the Junker Party8 (Derbyites9 or worse, of that climate),—in fact, communicating all the Russian Despatches to said Party. Seeing himself found out, he had nothing left but to take a pistol. The Police Official, who is killed in duel, Pertz did not know; a man said to be of perfect exactitude, strenuous industry in his business; conduct unblameable there or elsewhere: and the pestilent Junker Aristocracy, young soldiers, gambling high-sniffing fellows (at deadly feud with the Liberals ever since that 1848), had provoked him to duel and be shot in that manner.10 Enough to breed tumult and almost civil-war (for a day or two), thot young Pertz; who however is youthfully simple perhaps, and has a small elementary moustache over his grave mouth. He expected tumult some day soon, perhaps this very day (anniversary of something in 1848);11 but I had faith in the moustache.— More I did not learn at this dinner;—or hardly more: Clough is in Berlin; secretary to something that is investigating Foreign Military Schools, it appears (more power to them).12 The Lyells &c were very dull people:—and indeed men generally, and even women generally, are getting dreadfully dull to me.— The first dinner, inevitable too, was at the great Lord Stanhope's:—yes, well do I remember the first time I ever saw that little man; the first time I saw you, and long before I could make any more acquaintance in your house:—the very voice of that man, bad as it is, has had a meaning to me ever since.13 Young Stanley, old Lindhurst, Gladstone, Elgin, &c &c:14 I had Lindhurst mainly, toughest of old men and attorneys; eyes head as a Scotch pebble, long nostrils as if growing into the upper lip, mean head, but full of wrinkled vivacity, and fond of talking: I have seen few faces more like my notion of the Devil's.— — That Clipping of Newspaper was sent to me one morning by post: I never said such a thing of the Macaulay,15 nor indeed have spoken of him or his affairs at all (which are indifft and insignificant enough to my poor mind), beyond what you have yourself heard poked out of me on Marlboro's score.16

Yours /