October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 9 March 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570309-TC-LA-01; CL 32: 98-100


Chelsea, 9 March, 1857—

Dear Lady,—You are still far away from us; involved in clouds and uncertainties; nothing left for us amid the wide contradictory confusions but our own power of maintaining obstinate hope! I never before felt so sorrowfully the helplessness of human speech; the impossibility of gathering from these thick-coming rumours, whh vary every day, what one is to think of a Fact unknown, and so terribly interesting to one. The contemptible babble that human creatures utter is hard to bear in such a case. I take the resource of shutting my ears to it; I think with myself, You know nothing of it, your good prognosis or your evil, please do not trouble me with it!— On the whole all prophecies and accounts had assumed a favourable aspect of late: Venables called and comforted me much by his candid rational serious and hopeful account, whh brought many matters clear before. Lord A.'s Notes too pray thank for them as they merit from me. The very tone of his voice is audible in them; and I can read many things by serious inspection of a line or two so true from the source as these are.— We hear you are for moving homeward, “to Paris in April” if strength allow:—God send you here at your own house again, among your own friends again, that one might see you with eyes! The Spring is coming forward rapidly; fields already greenish in tinge, and trees themselves looking vernal against the clear skies. I often see Addiscombe region from the distance: poor House and Gardens and all things there putting-on their best I doubt not; and beautiful as the world could shew,—but alas the Lady, light of them all, is not there. Sometimes in articulate moments one's thoughts are very poignant; but oftenest I am sunk into a gloomy frozen state whh does not articulate itself at all, and is only more sad on that account. For the last year or two, especially in late months, I find myself grown strangely old—rapidly becoming senex [old] and in fact become so, amid these chaotic waters of bitterness.

My Wife is still very poorly,—has begun in the last few days to go driving out, if the sun and temperature favour; therefore may be judged to be again in the way of recovery: but she has four months of sad leeway to make up. She is & has been very quiet and patient, with her sleeplessness, her coughings &c &c; which is the kindliest feature of her illness to me. Many people come to her in the forenoons (that is, more than enough, tho’ at the maximum perhaps 3 or 2) when she is able to see people: I myself sit aloft here; see nobody—but the ever-present face and doings of the Anarch Old.1 My labour disgusts me to the heart, and the result itself is unspeakably contemptible to me;—no motive, only a dogged temper, to persevere. I had to send off my German galloway,2“Peesweep” (Scottice for Pee-wit) is now the definition I give myself of him; his intellect, assiduity, futility and general behaviour, some what resembling those of that ominous Bird.3 He took to whistling thro’ his nose as he breathed here in the cold weather: so I had to send him home for a working-place; calls here twice a day,—and I cannot well pay him off (poor devil, so willing is he, and so resourceless) or I almost would. Friedh was to be written with a Peesweep (“ki-bitz” they call it in German), and nothing better to help one forward; that also was in the fates!—

We are all fallen to daggers-drawn in the parliamentary regions, as you see; an “election” to be held straightway,—and such a torrent of balderdash and worse poured out over the world as is painful to think of. People seem to prophecy that Palmn will get a Parlt more amenable to him,4 and in itself a shade worse than any we have yet had.— I cannot say I take any perceptible interest in it. Me there are plenty of other things to interest!—

Ought I to go at all upon this Commission for the Natl Portrait Gallery; or wd it be right to stay entirely away? If you were here I would ask; but alas, alas!— — Work at it I neither will nor can as matters stand with me; nay there was nobody ever asked my consent, or ever spoke of the matter to me; and I know not whence the thrice-profitable bit of promotion (my first in this world) can have come.5 Sorrow on it for the present; it is it that takes me away from you at this moment. I intend writing again within a week. Oh my Friend, my Lady. But I will not yield; nor shall you, Brave One!—

Yours ever, /

T. Carlyle