The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING ; 2 August 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390802-TC-TSS-01; CL 11: 159-161


Templand, Thornhill, Dumfries, 2nd August / 1839—

My dear Sir,

You are very good to think of us still. I sent you a Times Newspaper the other day, as a mute token of my existence and remembrance; yet with doubts whether you would be able to interpret it so. I am here for the last two weeks; one of the most unoccupied, loneliest, far from one of the joyfullest of men. From time to time I feel it absolutely necessary to get into entire solitude; to beg all the world, with passion if they will not grant it otherwise, to be so kind as to leave me altogether alone. One needs to unravel and bring into some articulation the villainous chaos that gathers round heart and head in that loud-roaring Babel; to repent of one's many sins, to be right miserable, humiliated, and do penance for them—with hope of absolution, of new activity and better obedience! These last two years I have spent in inaction; not in rest; but like a man lying shot on a Waterloo-field, waiting whether he was to get strength again, or to lie and be buried there. Let us hope. All walking, they say, is a succession of falls.1 I go wandering with closed lips over the green summer here; in this unspeakable Universe, winds and waters alone speaking of it to me. One could sit down and burst into streams of tears; but it would serve no purpose.

What you say of your Brother2 gives me a great shock. I knew not at all that it was so. Yesterday, no farther gone, I wrote a light line to James at the Colonial Office, fancying he was there as usual; little in accordance with Leamington where it will find him. Ah me! And “life,” as you say, “must go on.” Life is as awful as Death; as awful and far more toilsome. They that die early depart but an hour before us; in an hour we shall rejoin them—and the Great God will dispose of us all even as He wills, not as we will, and there shall at least be rest together forevermore. What a wretched stroller's farce were life throughout, did not the great black curtain of Death hang ever in the background; great as Eternity, inscrutable as God!—

It is among our clearest purposes not to return home this year without visiting you. Nothing but some incapability signified on your part is likely to prevent us. Meanwhile as to time, manner, circumstances, all is yet as vague as ever. I can guess only that it will probably be towards the end of this month before we stir anywhither. My Medical Brother is home again unexpectedly from Italy, and expected here in a few days; I am also trying to work—God knows with what success. You shall hear from me again in due time. Send me an old Newspaper in the interim; a Letter if anything special take place, good or evil.

What you say of Chartism is the very truth: revenge begotten of ignorance and hunger! We have enough of it here too; the material of it exists I believe in the hearts of all our working population,3, and would right gladly body itself in any promising shape; but Chartism begins to seem unpromising. What to do with it? Yes, there is the question. Europe has been struggling to give some answer, very audibly since the year 1789! The gallows and the bayonet will do what they can; these altogether failing, we may hope a quite other sort of exorcism will be tried. Alas it is like a dumb overloaded Behemoth, torn with internal misery and rage; but dumb, able only to roar and stamp: let the doctors say what ails it, let both doct[ors]4 and drivers and all men tremble if they cannot say,—for the creature itself is by nature dumb, you need not ask it to speak. Unless gentry, clergy and all manner of washed articulate-speaking men will learn that their position towards the unwashed is contrary to the Law of God, and change it soon, the Law of Man, one has reason to discern, will change it before long, and that in no soft manner. I pray Heaven they might learn; but fancy that many stripes will be needed first. However, it is in the hands of the right School-master; one who, whatever his wages may rise to, does verily get his lessons taught. Experience of actual Fact either teacher Fools, or else abolishes them. For the rest, that England will not become what Ireland is, that England has taken to protesting, even inarticulately, at a point far short of that, is perhaps a thing one ought to be glad of. The fever-fit of Chartism will pass, and other fever-fits; but the thing it means will not pass, till whatsoever of truth and justice lies in the heart of it has been fulfilled; it cannot pass till then,—a long date, I fear.

I know not why I have scribbled so much; I intended only a word, and have sent many. My Wife joins me in kind salutations to you and yours. Unless things go too perversely we shall all meet soon.— Ever faithfully yours

T. Carlyle