January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO JOHN RUSKIN ; 2 May 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560502-TC-JRU-01; CL 31: 78-80


Chelsea, 2 May, 1856—

Dear Ruskin,

We know not what night you are coming; but hope only it will be soon. I have got your Fourth Volume1 (best thanks for such a Gift), and have not yet time to read it except in snatches, but struggle forward towards a freer day before long. You have an enviable and admirable power of clearing off, in articulate swift piercing utterance, the divine indignation that may be lying in you against the genus charlatan; whereby you can then say, Exoneravi animam meam [I have unburdened my soul], and proceed to new enterprises: it is a very different, and I assure you a much worse case, when said indignation cannot be got cleared off, but lies sticking upon a man, like burning sulphur on the skin of him,—like to drive the poor soul mad till he some how or other do get rid of it! Euge;—and be thankful to Heaven.

It seems the genus charlatan has broken out in strong counter-cry, in some of the Reviews, this month: that also is very well, and indicates to a man that the physic has begun griping,—more power to it.2 I can well understand how a comfortable R.A. reading these Books of yours, may be driven to exclaim, “I, stiff old stager, cannot alter according to this Ruskin's precepts: I must either blow my brains out, or convince myself that he is wrong!”3— — Nevertheless I bid you be gentle withal; consider that it is a stupid bedrid old world, torpid except at meal-time this long while; and never would, in Art or elsewhere, correspond any way handsomely to the Ideal of its duties. Besides it makes a dreadful squealing, if you whip it too hard; and does you a mischief in the long run.— This is Pot speaking to Kettle, you will say,—and truly with too much reason. Pot has been longer on the fire (that is all), and regrets his extreme blackness, if he could have helped it by any method!4

I have a message for you, or indeed two messages. The first is from Lady Ashburton, a very high Lady both extrinsically and intrinsically, who invites you hereby to her Party at Bath House for Wednesday Evg next:5 the place, as you perhaps know, is in Piccadilly (first gate, to left in Bolton Street there), the hour of rally is probably 10 or after, and the Party I suppose will consist of the usual elements in their highest figure of perfection. Perhaps you will consent to have a look at such a thing in its best perfection, for once? There are very fine Pictures in the House, and many of them, Dürers, Murillos6 &c &c: and I certify the Host & Hostess to be themselves highly worth knowing. If you thought of coming, it would be pleasantest if we all went together;—tho' that, for practical result, is not of the least moment:—we two (unfortunately, I may well call it) are to dine previously that night, somewhere in the Portman Square region;7 and wd need to be taken up there (with a good loss of distance to you) if you pleased to like that method of entrance. Either way will do, if indeed you decided to go at all; which I may privately hope or not, but have no business to advise or desire in an audible manner.

The second message is from Lord Ashburton: You made an Address at Manchester lately; which perhaps was printed, separately or at least in the Newspapers:8 his Lordship (an amiable, clear-minded, highminded man,—uniformly high in volitions at least) desires to see a copy of this address; and bids me ask it of you. Comply if you can; even take a little trouble to comply.

And this is all I had at present: sufficient for the day is the evil thereof!9 You will have to write your determinations on those important points. We are out on Saturday Evg, not otherwise, nor like to be, except as here indicated.

Yours ever truly /

T. Carlyle