August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO SAMUEL GRIDLEY HOWE ; 23 October 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421023-TC-SGH-01; CL 15: 142-144


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London 23 October, 1842—

My dear Sir,

Short while ago, there came safely to my hands the Report of the Perkins Institution;1 and legible in one corner of it, your name as that of the kind Donor. Pray accept many thanks for a Gift which has afforded me unusual pleasure. To be remembered by so good and valuable a man as I construe you to be was of itself very welcome; and the news you give me of work done in your noble Institution is full of interest to all men. The thanks and congratulations of all men are with you in your most blessed task; that of bringing Light to them that sat in great darkness: a blessed task, I call it, if there ever was one! That you so prosper in it, is a true victory; a victory in which there is no sorrow, but joy and blessings only. I bid you go on and prosper.

Few things that I ever read have interested me more than this of your dear little Laura Bridgman;2—probably one of the beautifullest phenomena at present visible under our Sun. The good little girl: one loves her to the very heart. No Goethe's Mignon,3 in most poetic fiction, comes closer to one than this poor Laura in prose reality and fact. A true angel-soul and breath of Heaven, imprisoned as none such ever was before. A child of genius, for such I can perceive she is; without eyes, ears, voice, taste or smell; isolated, as within fivefold iron gates, from all men and all things! And you into such a labyrinth, deep as the centre of the world, have got tidings conveyed to her; have as with a voice of Miracle said, “Arise, deliver thyself!” and the noble child is delivered and disimprisoned. One knows not what act more like a god's the art of man can accomplish:—the art of man I have said; and yet I believe it is rather, and first of all, the virtue of man; his love, his patience, his long-suffering mercy, fruitful in all manner of arts and expedients. You need not our thanks; I believe you to be already thanked and recompensed in very rich measure. We will bid you continue your work; we will, in silence or spoken words, pray for God's blessing to you and it.

One painful apprehension haunts me as to this little Laura: that she be made what we call a “Lion” of; that she learn at last how wonderful she is,—and have all the vanities and base confusions that yet lie safe as sediment and basis at the bottom of her character, stirred up and set floating aloft, to the darkening, sickening and ruining of it! I conjure you, in the name of Mercy, stand between her and all that! She is a born Queen; but it will [be]4 a curse to her if ever she know it;—a true eating of the forbidden fruit. Were it not that you are ever there, and have, as it were, in some good measure, the lock-and-key of all that, I should really tremble for her. For the world, without being malevolent, is terribly foolish; and often more mischievous than the very Devil could be with all his malice. Sad to think that a poor simple Grace Darling cannot, obeying her own innocent heart, simply venture her life to save lives of brothers, but all the blockheads of the world must gather round her with their wonder and their guineas,—and do what lies in them to kill her, soul and body, by the miserablest death! Be far distant, ye unmalevolent blockheads; go elsewhither, in the name of Heaven! Stand not here with your handful of figs, like Shandy at the gate of Lyons, “curious to see w[hether] an ass will eat figs”:5 this is no ass, and you are worse than any!— My wish for this dear Laura were that, if you had once taught her to read and to work, she were safe home with her good mother again. But then I suppose nobody could speak with her there? Alas, hers is a delicate difficult case, and you will require all your benevolence and good sense on her behalf,—and I rejoice to think, will cheerfully use it for her.— That little question of hers, “Do horses sit up late?” stirs us to laughter, to tears—when one thinks of the good little creature,—and probably to as kind a mood as human speech alone can awaken in a human heart.

I could send my respects also to the rugged Saxon, Oliver Casswell:6 my hopes that he will become an effectual fellow, after his kind, one day. But I have already written far beyond what I intended; and must now subscribe myself, with true esteem and the best wishes for you and your work,

My dear Sir, / Most faithfully yours,

T. Carlyle