April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO LORD CLARENDON; 5 August 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490805-TC-LC-01; CL 24: 173-175


Londonderry, 5 Augt, 1849—

Dear Lord Clarendon,

As I do not return by Dublin, but quit Ireland at this point for Scotland, will you accept from me a word of adieu in writing, which I had hoped to have offered by word of mouth, had the course of travel allowed.

I have roamed extensively over this unfortunate Ireland; round all the coast, by Waterford, Cork, Killarney, Galway, Sligo, with excursions into the interior in various quarters; I have seen many kinds of men, and in some places the strangest figure of Human Society that memory ever had to record, or even imagination to conceive; and certainly one ought, in looking at all, to have laid up “materials for reflexion” for some time to come! My surprise, however, if I have been at all surprised or disappointed, has rather been of the joyful kind; that of finding more good men, of all descriptions, busy in their places, and more germs of hope and benefit, discoverable in this waste scene of Human Distractions and Delusions, than I had dared to anticipate. If the Potatoe will but honestly die, and keep dead, the people will have to admit that it is dead; and close on the rear of that discovery, the possibility of a new Ireland (which ought to mean a new England and a new Scotland, both somewhat desirable withal, in various respects!) will dawn upon the astonished imaginations of Irishmen. The universe is not built upon potatoes; it was not a good universe while it rested on that sad basis! But “the insolvent Unions” of the West are certainly at this moment the miracle of the world; the Connaught of these years is paying the full score for the sins of many past generations;—and, I calculate, will teach all men that “indolent Laissez-faire plus a Poor-Law” is not, by any manner of means, the solution of Human Society; that actual command of the Foolish Multitude by the Wise Few is once more (in spite of all our modern philanthropies) becoming clearly, what it always from the beginning of the world till late times was, the indispensable necessity, if human beings would live together in any but the savage state. Alas, alas, what a sea of nonsense we have got to get across before there can be any steady progress towards that result! The thought of this has kept me dumb these several years; and is indeed enough to sadden any considerate person's heart.

Wheresoever I went, one thing struck and gratified me: the position of the Lord Lieutenant, and the estimate formed of his conduct, in the minds of all manner of men. The “native Irish,” Priests, repealers (Ex-repealers) &c &c all bitterly dislike the English; but on all of them it has got, or is getting, clearly impressed, that Ireland has no better friend than its present Viceroy. Even Duffy of the Nation volunteered to admit that Lord Clarendon's demeanour, throughout that infatuated (and to Duffy not tragicomical but tragic) business of Repeal and its Results, had been that of a man of dignity and honour,—unexceptionable in all particulars, except that of some Dublin Newspaper (whose name I forget) set to abuse and calumniate him (Duffy) with which operation, I ventured to assure him, Lord Clarendon had no very intimate concern!1 These were Duffy's own voluntary sentiments, perhaps worth recording here, and submitting to a very unexpected audience.

At several points in my journey I fell in with Duffy, and went a day or two along with him. The depths of Native Irishism (which has not grown much lovelier for being looked at) were thereby laid bare to me: many Priests, only one or at most two of whom did I much have to esteem; Repealers (all hopeless Ex-repealers now), among whom the Mayor of Kilkenny2 seemed to me a man of real honesty, of intelligence (strangely cultivated), and elevation of mind, a man really worthy of esteem. Duffy himself is now in Dublin; intent, as you already know, on recommencing his Newspaper; but I greatly mistake if his views are not wholly altered, or altering, in regard to all manner of Anglo-Irish questions; if you do not see a “Nation” very different indeed from what the late one was. Duffy's popularity among all classes of the Irish population (innkeepers, populace, priests &c) surpasses all my conceptions; my notions of his personal character and qualities you already know, and have forgiven; but I have now good hopes of the man,—hopes that even you may admit the intrinsic worth of this poor misguided soul and see him effect real benefit to his bewildered countrymen. He has in him many truths, which it is highly important they were taught, and which there is surely no man living that has now such an opportunity to teach them. If the “Martyr of Repeal” (say, surviving Martyr of Ex-repeal) turn out as I expect, the day may come when honourable Persons in Authority may find some worth in him too.— In all things, Let us hope!

Forgive me, dear Lord Clarendon, for this long incoherent story, little to the purpose after all, and little expressing the things I wished to say. The hurry of a traveller, whose poor brain is set whirling, like all his bodily adjuncts and his bodily self, in the incessant locomotion must plead my excuse.— Lord George Hill was the last person I saw; after his Gweedore the last object is to be the School at Temple Moyle in this neighbourhood.3 After which, to Glasgow on the morrow, and then home to native Annandale for a while. I saw one Mr Boyne (an agent of the Board of Works) at King William's Town;4 and greatly admired him and the works he is doing there. A most effectual Triptolemus;5 to whom if you gave the able-bodied of a Western Union with their gratuitous Stirabout, and some quasi-military cat o' nine tails to awaken their energies, surprising (and I think invaluable) results might follow! I deign to ask Captain Larcom shortly for some further details about Boyne.

And so farewell, dear Lord Clarendon: be pleased to accept my cordial thanks, and all the honourable wishes I can form while quitting your shores.

Yours with great regard, T. Carlyle