The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 17 January 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520117-TC-LA-01; CL 27: 17-19


Chelsea, 17 jany, 1852—

Here is Senior's1 Letter again: many thanks for it, and many more for the opportunity it gives me. The Letter itself is very good, interesting as a hasty bag of rumours from the seat of war; but the handwriting surely excels in badness all human efforts hitherto! Some of it, names &c where there is no kind of clue, I was forced to give up, as needing witchcraft:—in fact it is atrocious, more like footwriting than a handwriting; as if the philosopher had done it with a burnt stick between two of his toes.— In point of substance too your own dashing Note is far more descriptive of the state of matters: Pretorian guards at 10 francs a-day, Generals put au secret [in solitary confinement], all Journalism stopped, drunk soldiers elbowing the Able editor;—this poor Opera-King2 is in deadly earnest, it would seem; and has surely a terrible job ahead of him! Like a Yankee Captain of a River-Steamer, with his valves all loaded, everything plugged up, and a roaring fire below: so he sails,—defying the explosive powers, for a short season. A very ugly phenomenon; but on the whole I sometimes say, Are not the Destinies, in strange fashion, doing by this poor man the things one often prayed to see done? Stump-oratory has got a little repression, which it will feel for a long time. I have prayed for that as the beginning of all good results whatsoever; and been used to say that “Rhadamanthus”3 (my own private friend), if he could get the whole body of French Journalists, Parliamentary orators, Book-writers, and Talking Persons, assembled in the Champs-de-Mars, wd peremptorily order them, probably all, to be silent till they got something wiser, or else die. And behold here, in the most unexpected way, is Rhadamanthus partly doing it! Let us be thankful; let us quietly take the Christmas Play-shew (a gratis one, and acted as play never was before,—with real thunder, and cannon-firing that means death), and look with sure hope what the catastrophe will be. Weak, vainglorious, somewhat despicable France finds itself suddenly caught as in a universal rat-trap; which is a sad destiny indeed; but I must say, the ratcatcher, the job, and the rats are all worthy of one another! Enough of them, more than enough.

Nothing is passing here, either good or bad, last week,—nothing except the inexorable lapse of so many more of our few days, laden or not laden with some fraction of worthy labour into the Eternities,—not laden, I grieve to say, for most part! But at least I keep silent and apart from the jangle of fools and of men generally; and let remorse get what hold of me it has a right to. Perhaps I shall find my way again by and by; at all events one ought to die seeking it. Under a load fully equal to all my strength, I get along, if not with less sorrow, yet with less contemptibility when well let alone by blockheads, play actors, zanies and bores. For the rest, little other than a lost man—Oh Lady, Lady! But you are a brave sunny courageous hoping soul; and the reflex from you (even under these conditions) is infinitely precious to me. Thanks to the gods for all good and beautiful things!—

—Poor Jane has got rid of her cold again; and is now, as she was daily, out with her “imaginary truffle-dog,”—as you defined the glorious Nero to be. By the bye, don't be unkind to that poor old wretch of a truffle-man; I mean, do not let my foolish impertinent words irritate your royal mind towards him; remember always, he said nothing, and is where he was. Attend to this, I humbly beseech you, bountiful Lady of the world. And that will do for the old truffle-man; more power to his elbow, poor old being!—

I regret Lord An did not go as umpire,—tho' perhaps it is likeliest he could have done no good in the Engineer affair. But Cranworth4 seems to me remarkably shallow, and sticks to the mere skin of the affair, as if that were the substance of it. The workmen have got the wrong side, I do understand; nevertheless, nevertheless—! The truth is, this relation both of master and man is an inhuman one; whh Lord A. partly suspects, and whh Lord C. (whoever he may be) appears to have no inkling of at all.5— — God bless you, dear Lady; and send you the 28th, and a good closure of “the King's Arms.”6 I will write again before long, and pray for you always. Adieu.