The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 2 November 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501102-TC-LA-01; CL 25: 269-270


Chelsea, 2 Novr, 1850—

So Paris is over, then! I have sat silent as a stone in a kind of strange anticipation of it; and it too is away for the present. Well, well; who knows that it is not, in this world, “just as well”! Perhaps the time may come for breaking silence there or elsewhere; perhaps also never. Some things are known and sure to me without speaking; and I think, to you also. Thanks evermore for your continual goodness to me; and may Heaven grant that I make a wise and manful use of this great possession! I really ask for nothing more.

Poor Jane is full of troubles again, about “Help” as the Yankees phrase it. Our new maid, a promising good creature, of Irish breed, proves entirely broken in health,—unable to eat a morsel of food;—and so, after a fortnight, all we can do with or for the poor soul, is to get her a place in the Middlesex Hospital: thither she is now wending; and her mistress is out on the great Deep, trying to catch another fish, who again will last but for a short space. I really think, since one cannot get rational little Niggers (the Hindoo breed, I should prefer), or other permanent domestic really helpful to one, it wd be well to have done with this mockery of “service,”—for such it really is, in all spheres of life at present. How the New Era will adjust itself on these new terms remains to be seen!—

All this while I have been doing literally Nothing: idle reading (chiefly in the Annual Register, old Nos of it, which I recommend to you also, on occasion), idle musing, a vigorous “consumption of my own smoke,” and for the rest silence as much as possible, have been my occupation since I left your woods. There must something else come out of me by and by; but over that rest clouds. I feel myself sometimes, with almost a kind of terror, the most utterly lonely man I ever read of in these ages. The wild roar of Sophocles's Philoctetes1 (which also I have been reading) seems to me the dialect I could a little express myself in: but it is better not. On the whole perhaps I am not quite lonely either,—am I? A “stiff upper lip to it always!” as the Yankees say—

Kinglake came to us one night; Darwin also was there. I like Kinglake, even him, as compared with the grinning inanity of most men's “conversation” to me: a hard man, but always means something by what he says;—a feline element in him too, I fear:—but even a genuine felis [cat] is something!2— All mortals are loud about these Phantasm Bishops come from Rome;3 the walls chalked with inscriptions, &c &c. To me it is probably a kind of gain; nevertheless one's feeling is rather anger at it;—and if Barclay's draymen4 wd interfere in this case, perhaps I shd not much object!— Take care of yourself, and keep out of the damp. And be good to me always. God bless you.

T. Carlyle