The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 16 February 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520216-TC-LA-01; CL 27: 44-47


Chelsea, 16 feby, 1852—

Dear Lady,—Today I am going out to ride; and have to write you first a little word,—upon “business” (save the mark!). On Saturday I thot to have written, without business; but, as usual, the chaos-flood swam me away, and when the time came there were not means. It was better not. Alas, in this unthrifty position of mine, “Secretary of State (in Chelsea) without appointments,” it is only or almost only to the bores and blockheads of the Earth, and on affairs which are not my own, that I have free privilege of writing: certainly more than nineteen twentieths of the letters I write are to persons towards whom my whole mind were absolute zero,—not to say, in many cases, an explosion of execrations (if there were no laws of politeness extant)! A bad position, you admit: but what remedy? As usual, there is no remedy; and, in fact, we must let it lie there, and not say more of it just now. The “business” I had to write of is this.

You named to me a French Book on Modern European Politics,—Fichelment or Fiquelment or some such name, a Frenchman who might rather be agreeable to me; of whom, if I liked, I might have a reading.1 Do you recollect the Book by this description? It is for the Title of the Book (correct name, place, size, year, and price if you know that too) that I now apply. I do not want the reading just now; because your Book will surely get dirtied if you send it me:—but Mazzini needs it, intending to write some review or other on some cognate subject;2 and happening to hear my Wife mention it, and the Bookseller declaring he had never heard of it by that mutilated title,—he (Mi) comes up to me yesterday with a demand for the same. I said he should have the exact title soon,—more power to his elbow. And this is my “business”;—a weighty one, is it not?— —

Mazzini's Soirée, which my Wife attended, along with Clough and some other male and female disciples of good figure, was “perfectly successful” after its kind:3 a very harmless meeting; properly a kind of Lecture, with fringings of coffee (voluntary coffee): Lecture whh M. read in the most artless manner, “with candles between him and the little slips of paper,” and as practically as a grocer's bill,—since to be seen (by me not to be read) in the public Papers,4—and listened to witht commentary, except of feet and hands by a believing auditory of the youthful middle-classes near a thousand strong. Good luck to it;—the obliquity of the ecliptic5 will not change for that sort of matter just at this time. Ledru Rollin was believed to be present: but he has now, ever since the coup d'état shaved off his moustaches and is not distinguishable from common French citizens.6 Nay he refused to go with Louis Blanc and put himself at the head of two “disaffected regiments,” or indeed to meddle or make farther in the way of risking his skin with the affair at all;—in consequence of which he is, it seems, “politically annihilated”;7 which perhaps is just as well for him and us. Jane also saw, with Plattnauer a half-mad friend of hers, the ci-devant [former] “Minister of Public Instruction” in Rome,8—a wretched little yellow moth-eaten-looking man, smoking an extremely bad cigar with poor Plattnauer, to whom he is now teacher of Italian. O heaven, what a mad farce-tragedy of a world this is,—and has for a long time, in an extremely high degree, been! If Louis Napoleon never do any more good in the world, this of closing the windpipe of the “nine hundred talking attornies” is a benefit we ought never to forget. The hundred or two of revolutionary brulots [firebrands] and editorial and other brouillons [mischief-makers], whom he has safely swamped in the mud of Cayenne,—may not that too, tho' a dreadfully ugly job of scavengerism, be a most salutary and useful one?— —

I continue reading about Frederic; ordering maps, running after books &c to see what I am to order. The thing seems to myself very idle: what have I, here where I am, to say about the “lean drill-serjeant of the world”?9 I do not even grow to love him better: a really mediocre intellect, a hard withered soul; great only in his invincible courage, in his constant unconscious loyalty to truth and fact: the last and only King I know of in Europe since Cromwell:—should we, or should we not, leave him to Mahon10 and Company? On the whole, I will lay out a few pounds upon him; and read a little farther, so long as it continues amusing to me. My last Book is by Mirabeau:11 ten volumes, which I have had to read flying, to stilt thro, as thro' a boggy jungle of many miles! But it is good too, in essence, and throws new light not to his disadvantage on Mirabeau himself withal.

O Lady, what a scribble-scribble is this! And here is the horse; which I have ordered to walk for five minutes.— Your goodness endureth for ever.— — I saw Ben, the day of his promotion when it was not yet known:12 I believe that may prove their best appointt. Men say this poor moribund Russeldom may still last a session! Who knows,—with none by13 Stanley and Disraeli to take the place of it? I am sad and ashamed; and if there were a danger of invasion, I shd verily be terrified.14

Spring is now coming; I fancy you getting pleasant glimpses of sky and earth among your woods. Do not quite forget me, will you?— — I expect varieties of details when you answer this, what you are doing, what intending, what &c &c— You are not bound to answer quite in haste, unless you prefer. Adieu, may all the Powers be good to you, Bellissima [Most Beautiful]!