The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON; 14 November 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511114-TC-LA-01; CL 26: 229-230


Chelsea, 14 Novr, 1851—

Dear Lady,—Will you accept my blessing and poor heart's-wishes; which are all I have to send you from these vacant realms where I inhabit at present. I am cultivating solitude and silence as heretofore; holding a kind of sad spiritual ramadhan, or “sacred month,” wherein is much penitence, regret and sorrow, as there may well be while the noisy nonsense is precipitating itself; but which, if one's poor mind is ever to be “knit up into firmaments” again, and have any clearness for its works, is surely not an unnecessary process. Alas, alas!— Of you I think, often or indeed always; but only as a ghost might, and on terms which neither God nor man, if they could be well seen into, need find much to punish! Yet I hold on; and while I even continue a ghost, and am not quite annihilated even out of ghostland, you shall more or less belong to me, and I will take the liberty of looking over to you, still extant in the land of the living, as a very glorious phenomenon indeed!— Quieres1 of paper might be written on this subject; but it is better that we leave it all unwritten, and let the one severe element of this world, “expressive silence,” be the record of it. Poor sons of Adam, bankrupt beggars that we are!—

Of Alverstoke I often thought while you were there. One of the strangest places, now that I look back on it thro' the curtains of the Past, that the Sun ever saw for me. Nineveh, if it were to arise again with Layard and fabulous Rawlinson on its antidiluvian back;2 nay Hades itself, with my own life in it, could hardly be stranger to me. For it is Hades, it too. Inexpressibly painful to me, and beautiful withal,—as Hades ought to be. Eheu!— We must quit all this.

I suppose you are now safe home again; and I will hope, are enjoying on Muff's back the blessed sunshine of these days, which are not all black even to us under our fog. Be diligent with Muff on the sunny hill sides; and let him be swiftish and at least sure (the lucky villain) and bring you home from Abbotston Down3 daily in a victorious manner! Of course your hunting guests are come, or coming? I should like to know their names and successive advents,—tho' these cannot much concern me either, you would say, except at secondhand! I wish you well thro' with them; that is perhaps my wisest wish.

In late days I have taken to reading a most heavy but minute and accurate German History of Frederic the Great; a task I have had before me these several years. Which, alas, does not hitherto profit according to hope. But I must finish the Five Volumes nevertheless. Frederic, the more I know of him, pleases me the better; a man and king whose love of reality was instinctive and supreme: that is his distinction among men,—and truly it is one of the greatest and royallest, especially in days like ours. I find him the last of all our “kings”; and with some prophecy in him too of being the first of our coming kings: the details poor Preuss (my dull Historian) gives me of his faithful incredible indefatigable toil in “governing” Prussia, and making it great and free (free of the Devil, I mean) are worthy of perpetual remembrance.— I had long since some thot of writing a Book about Frederick; and if I were a Prussian I still should, as my poor homage due from me to such a soul; but being English,—I had much rather have an English hero, if it pleased Panizzi and Company,—which, alas, it does not do, nor can do!— I find Panizzi the true representative of English Dilettantism, Pedantry, Babblement, and hollow dining and drinking Nonsense of so-called “Literature” in this epoch; and therefore I have forgiven, or endeavoured to forgive, the poor man, fatal to me as he and the like of him have been and are.

Kossuth still perorates; is not to go till the 20th now, they say; which is rather sad news to me. Might the “Stump-Orator” but perish (universally), what a relief were it, a first condition of relief, to this bewildered world!— Senior with his young woman came one day; no refusing to go and dine: and so the other night it was fulfilled. Cameron there (husband of the Mrs Cn) Painter Laurence, Crawford (of Sterling's Life);4 a passabler evening than was hoped. Cameron has snow-white hair, a sleek small red face, lively little black eyes, and no chin to speak of; seems to be of Scotch breed or birth: may the Heavens be good to him, poor little fellow! Senior, sage-dull tho' he is, rather shines a landlord.

O lady, lady, what poor twaddle is all this; and it is all I have to send you today, and that under seal of secrecy withal! Well, well; we cannot help it. You do not write for Mallet-du-Pan (a very dull Book);5 yet I think you will some day,—a long Letter (full of details) to my Wife or to me? No answer otherwise: I will write again before long. Take care of yourself!— Ever yours