January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO CHARLES BUTLER ; 28 May 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560528-TC-CBU-01; CL 31: 103-106


CHELSEA, LONDON, May 28, 1854 [1856]


It must be at once admitted, and ought to be always gratefully remembered, you have stood a real father to that poor down-broken bond; and have set it up triumphantly, with victorious kindness, on such a footing as it never had before! I think (so far as vague recollection serves), it bears now almost the value, and yields about twice the interest that was originally attached to it, which is a result valuable to me, in more ways than one. The money is worth something in this ever-hungry world; and as to the transaction which the money now comes from, that is one with a value in it higher, probably, than any money. I may long recollect that pleasant brief evening, and the chivalrous procedure that has arisen out of it.1

By all means, leave the document where it is, if you will still be so kind as to trouble yourself with the keeping of it.2 If you continue to think the investment safe, I may send you some more in the course of years; the interest, in August or any time, will find uses for itself here.3 And so, with many thanks, let the matter lie arranged.

We are in our usual state here, little different from what you saw, except that I am dreadfully overwhelmed this long while with an ill-fated Prussian enterprise in the Book way, the ugliest I ever undertook, and the most thankless and hopeless, in which, except the unwillingness to be flatly beaten in one's old days, there is no adequate motive to persevere. This is really a sore job, and I have often fallen nearly desperate upon it. One needs “the obstinacy of ten mules,” as I sometimes say, “in this world.” However, I now do begin, in cheerful moments, to see promises of daylight here and there through the abominable black dust-whirlwind where my dwelling has so long been; and expect to get out of it alive after all, doing a bad Book, the best I can, since a good one is not possible in the case.

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Charles Butler by Samuel Laurence, 1854. Reproduced from Francis Hovey Stoddard,

The Life and Letters of Charles Butler (1903).


Of Miss B.,4 I am sorry to report that I know absolutely nothing for many months past, perhaps above a year, when she made her last visit here, and promised to come back soon, but never came. She lives about four miles from us (in a street leading off Hyde Park Gardens, toward the Paddington region, at least there she did live, when I called long since and found her gone out).5 I am so held to the grinding-stone, I never, by any chance, get away to such distances, and indeed, hardly make visits at all, this long while. I have often asked myself, and ask all American friends, what poor Miss B. is about? but nobody knew her, nobody can tell. Her very address I have now lost; could find the place, I think, from the physiognomy of the street, were I there in person, and from some recollections of “twelve” as being the number of the house. Poor lady! I fear she is in a very abstruse condition; engaged in an enterprise which is totally without rational basis, and getting more and more exasperated that she does not (as she cannot by possibility) succeed in it.

Laurence6 need not write to me 'till his demon fairly bids him; I am satisfied to hear of his prospering so among you; for which, I doubt not, the good, meritorious man is thankful. Such “hospitality”—I have often thought of it with loyal wonder; it is like the hospitality of the heroic ages, and rebukes common mankind of our day!

My wife joins with me in kind regards to Miss Lynch (among others of the Chelsea party that evening) whom I very well remember, and still like. My notion is the Sardinian professor may have done an extremely wise thing, in staying where he was on those terms.7 Easily go farther and fare worse.

What a narrow providential miss of the uttermost calamity was that of you and yours.8

We do well to recognise such things as mercies of a Special Power that has pity on us. Great pity withal is shown us in this universe, where so much rage and cruelty also are—the soil of it only getting arable by little and little. Accept our united regards. I remain always,

Yours sincerely, /