The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON ; 14 September 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500914-TC-LOA-01; CL 25: 212-213


Scotsbrig, 14 Septr, 1850—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

This metrical genius is entirely unknown to me;1 neither he nor any of his patrons, except Miss Eliza Cook2 whom Fame has told me of, ever came under my eye or imagination before. One sees well, as you say, that he is of the Laura Matilda school,3 not likely to do any good by prosecuting “Poetry”: indeed, judging by his prose address and what other indications there are, I should doubt much whether he would ever carry a very heavy musket, of any kind, in the regiment;—poor fellow, he might perhaps be of use as a drummer (figurative for preacher, parson) or in some other such capacity! One cannot say; he himself hopes it; has aspiration in him,—which, as it comes out in this musical manner, may perhaps be taken as a virtue and the prophesy of some undeveloped merit, not as mere discontent and a crime? A small Gift of money, from such a place as The Grange, might properly enough be ventured on him;—and if there were any delicate way of bestowing it (which I suppose there is not) except as prepayment for a Copy of his Poems, it wd be a second good deed to discourage him from farther attempts in that carreer.4 Poor soul, he is a fellow creature, struggling, as we all do, in the midst of darkness, to better himself and get into clearer regions:—and so I will leave him to your tender mercies.

I am delighted to hear that the Tuesday weather was propitious; that her Ladyship's grand-to-do came off with due success! Many more such to you and her, and those that are lucky enough to depend on you! These things are not quite easy to do; yet they ought to be done,—they, and so many, many more which the Lords of this Earth are terribly negligent of in our poor time.

For myself I am at present the weariest, or probably it shd be the laziest, of all her Majesty's subjects. Never in my life did I feel such a passion for lying still at any price. Really I believe my liver and nervous-system are far out of order; and Nature herself perhaps prescribes this medicine to me. I sit, with some harmless reading or sometimes without any, plunged into convenient scraggy bushes, under shade of wild trees, “by melodious waterfalls,” or at least clear-rushing Scotch burns; and look out into the Universe in the most wayworn manner. “To sit is better than to stand,” say the red Indian sages; “to sleep is better than to wake;—to be dead is best of all!”— — It is to be hoped I shall rouse me by and by; and try to do some stroke of work farther before all end. To open my mouth, except upon compulsion, or make any effort at all: even that were something. If I can get with you to Paris in the end of Octr, how happy shall I be! That is really the most agreeable prophecy the future offers at present.

My Lady sent me a bag of Hampshire thistle-down, the other day;—intending probably that I should sow it here in Annandale? Alas, alas, I find we have plenty here already: no want of thistle-down in these parts either! Tell her Ladyship that I will repay the compt (perhaps in kind) before long. And so Adieu for this evg.

Yours ever truly,

T. Carlyle