April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JOHN FORSTER; 19 February 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490219-TC-JF-01; CL 23: 237-238


Headley Grove, Epsom19 feby, 1849—

Dear Forster,

My Wife wrote to you from this place the other day; and I neglected to bid her tell you about Whiteside:1 that is the small purport of my Note this day.

Whiteside is perfectly safe, lying at Bath House, in a certain room, all this while; and shall be returned to you faithfully in the fulness of time. Him, I imagine, you have already reviewed;2 so that as there is no hurry presupposable in that quarter, I shall take it for granted all is right there.

We were to have been home again today; but that result does not now completely realise itself till Monday:—by the bye, if you sent me an Examiner, I should get it here to my Sunday breakfast, as usual! Instead of that, it lies unopened till Monday afternoon; and the human mind, deprived of its natural food, consumes the same with all the more appetite after so long a fast!—(This pen, with the water ink, with the &c, is very little to my mind.)

Meanwhile, I am left here perfectly alone,—such has been the welcome course of events this day;—alone, amid the beautiful Chalk Hills, with a quiet Horse to ride, a totally quiet House to lodge in; all silent, bright, mournfully beautiful, as Hades;—and my determination is, Not to speak one articulate word to any creature (for the excellent old Scotch-servant will act by dumb-shew) for some four-and-twenty hours to come. An invaluable opportunity for summoning past things, and present, to give account of themselves; and deciding (if one could but decide) numerous Causes in Banco Regis [with regal authority]. I find the Sermon which this old Earth preaches to me, when she has the opportunity, worth all other Sermons. Yesterday I was at Reigate; the day before at Dorking, over Box Hill; the day before that, on Epsom race-course, all to myself and to the February Sun, a truly impressive scene to me: this day I have thoughts of Gatton, that I may see the Brother of Old Sarum, which is present to me since last year.3 No part of Britain, where I have been, surpasses this innocent simple Chalk Surrey;—and the blue sky, as we know, bends over all.

I did not hope very much of Macaulay's History; and even under these terms I was disappointed. Flat, flat, without a ray of genius from beginning to end; all dead, as the Gospel of Holland House;—and as for story, Lord bless your honour, there is no story, and the Devil himself couldn't make one! Stuart Kings and their fetid canaille, what story is in them, or ever can be? Ob[l]ivion,4 zero, and eternal Silence, that is their story,—appointed for them from the foundations of the world! Let Macaulay sell his twenty editions, therefore; for that is all he will ever get by the job.— Adieu, dear Forster: to Chelsea soon (after Monday).—

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle