July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO THOMAS WISE, JR. ; 21 February 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480221-TC-TWJR-01; CL 22: 249-250


Towers (British Biography) has a Life of R. Lilburne,—not worth very much.1

Biographia Britannica (Lilburne) is considerably better as an introduction to farther researches.2

Clarendon (Rebellion)3 gives various anecdotes and details; which are to be regarded mostly as mere rumours, and false, or unworthy of belief without better proof.

Godwin (Commonwealth) contains accurate notices of L.'s public quarrels, trials and pamphleteerings:4 this and Biog. Britan., with Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (2d. editn), and the assiduous study of L.'s own writings, will afford a sufficient introduction to the “50,000 unread Pamphlets” (King's Pamphlets) in the British Museum, where alone the more minute history of R. L. can be completely investigated.5

Provided always it can be considered worthy of such loving labour as the investigation of it needs? A contentious, disloyal, commonplace man; little distinguished save by his ill nature, his blindness to superior worth, and the dark internal fermentation of his own poor angry limited mind, does not seem to me an apt hero for a “Life and Times.” —Provided also some Bookseller will undertake to publish such a work, when once after long toil it is got completed?—

I should consider George Fox himself, whose history could be inquired into with somewhat less labour, and which, after several old and new Books on it, is still utterly dark, to be a much worthier subject. —Take his own huge monster of a Journal;6 select with rigorous candid insight what is still interesting and alive to a man of the year 1848,—which will not probably equal the hundredth part, I should guess;—accurately date, specificate, and every way illuminate, and bring vividly before the mind that hundredth part; strictly suppressing (knowing and not mentioning) the other 99 parts, that are dead to all intelligent men of the year 1848. Here, I think, were the basis of a really useful, honourable and important labour in the field of English History;—far superior to any that the poor capabilities of that Puritan Thersites,7 poor Freeborn John could ever yield.

T. Carlyle


21 feby 1848.