August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO [ALEXANDER B. GROSART?]; 25 November 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461125-TC-ABG-01; CL 21:98-99.


Chelsea, 25 Novr, 1846—

Dear Sir,

I am much afraid I shall not be able to assist you, by any contribution but that of my good wishes, in your pious Enterprise. I have not read Fergusson at all since the time of my boyhood; neither has Ramsay ever in mature years been familiar to me except in parts. Yet I still very vividly remember Fergusson's best Pieces, mainly those your mention; and should be very glad indeed to see any real elucidations of them or him, if a faithful Editor and Biographer will give us such. Ramsay, as farther off, is still more obscure; in fact, is becoming very cloudy in some of his features. Much enveloped, as most things are apt to be at present, in vague traditionary cant, and twaddle of all kinds: words, words, which, even for the utterers of them, mean almost nothing!

I recommend to you the utmost rigour of accuracy both as to facts and opinions: say nothing that you do not mean (whoever else may have meant it) with the whole insight that was given you or attainable by you.— Perhaps a good Portrait of Ramsay might be attainable somewhere?1 The current one is surely other than good. The Portrait of his old shop in the High Street,2 this at least is still to be had; perhaps at Leadhills the hut where he was born may still be in existence,—at all events the site of it is sure to be!3 Any authentic particular, provided it be authentic and indisputable, is valuable in these cases: if not authentic, it is of course the reverse of valuable! I should also hope there may be some better Portrait of Fergusson procurable than that frightful madhouse one; not a fair representation at all of the poor high-soaring, deep-falling, gifted and misguided young man.4

With many wishes on your behalf, which are not good for much, but are all I have, in regard to this matter,

I remain / Yours truly

T. Carlyle