April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 18 December 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441218-TC-LAAL-01; CL 18: 286-287


Chelsea, 18 decr, 1844—

Dear Lady Ashburton,

Many thanks for your kind remembrance of me and my affairs. Certainly I could like well to see your Daughter Lady Bath, to see Longleat, Stonehenge, and many interesting objects in that quarter of the world!1 The Longleat Pamphlets and Manuscripts of the Civil-War Period2 might also be of use to me. I read all such, where I can lay hold of them to borrow and bring home with me; they exist in great quantities in this country; and have never yet been examined, even partially that I can find, by any faithful rational person. They are dull, unspeakably dull; rubbishy, dark; stupid, I should say, beyond any other kind of writing that I know to exist in this world. They have near broken my heart! There are thirty or forty thousand of them lying in the British Museum, where I have spent above a hundred headaches on them: I have of late months got a formidable Scotch Clerk3 who reads there for me; a rugged fellow, with a skin as thick as a rhinoceros's, who can read there without headaches, without disgust and despair!— Yet always, as I said, they are of use when I can get convenient hold of them. It is like examining a waggonload of Marine Stores; you do, if you have gained skill in the business, pick up an old tenpenny nail, an old doorhinge, that you can turn to use in some way.

I must not travel westward on such an errand: but if the Marchioness have a Tutor in her house, any writing reading person, who could examine those old things for me, and send me note of them, certainly I should keep them in my eye against any day of opportunity. From such a body of Marine Stores, seventy volumes of them, I could surely pick a nail or two.

In these very weeks I find my friend Cromwell busy with what they call “the affair of Sir James Thynne.” The “affair of Sir James Thynne,” since Oliver saw good to meddle with it, is not entirely a nonentity to me: I have set the Scotch rhinoceros on boring into it a little. This Sir James I think is Lord Bath's Ancestor,—at least the son of his Ancestor: an uncle of that Thynne who was murdered in Pall Mall during Charles Second's blessed time. Perhaps there is something in the Longleat Papers about this “affair” of Sir James?4 I cannot consent that anybody should have much trouble in such a matter,—only a very little trouble; marine Stores, alas they are not gold jewels! Sad experience oft repeated in my present very sad Enterprise points out this rule to me: “E[x]pect5 nothing; be glad and grateful if you get anything.”

Mr Baring, we conclude, must have arrived.6 There came yesterday a Letter from the Bullers, which he seemed to have been the bearer of. Our sky, he will find, is now as soft as the Sardinian people's, only somewhat muddier. Alas, our very sky in London here seems made of mud, suspended mud. As to the Frost,—you at The Grange, you, who have a Sun and Firmament of the usual sort, know little of it! The ugliest weather I had ever seen before was beautiful to that London week of Frost. The dust was whirling and howling thro' all streets; nothing to be heard but tenfold noise and jingle; all tradition of a sky quite gone from us,—the poor women all hidden within doors, nothing to be seen but universal Stormy Dusk, and blue-nosed Cabmen careering in it with dreadful Comforters round their necks;—not unlike a kind of Demons!—

You do not say how you are, dear Lady Ashburton? A right merry Christmas to you all! Ever truly Yours T. Carlyle