The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 18 May 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530518-TC-LA-01; CL 28: 146-148


Chelsea, 18 May, 1853—

Dear Foreign Lady,

There is no “wet day,” nor any likelihood that I can see of your writing to me, in which sad case, what is there for us but the next-best? I got no news at Bath House either; except that you had gone on from the Boulogne regions next day, probably as harbinger; and that Lord A., who was thought (at Bath House) to be a little better, would follow straightway, so soon as you had found a proper lodgement for him? Some way or other, I hope it is all right at present; and fancy you sauntering about in that big Bandbox,1 under the few Spring leaves it has, under this bright sun;—and send many a blessing after the brightest Foreign Lady there now is.—London,—partly perhaps owing to the Whitsuntide Holidays,—is wonderfully quiet in the fashionable regions, ever since you went;—not a carriage to be seen, by Nero and me, yesternight in Belgravia; only rackets enough, and a distracting torrent of dirty cabs &c, when we got into the Cremorne regions2 again. Do you really mean to snap your tether, then, and “go to the South” for good? If you do, where are we! It is true we have almost nothing to offer you,—alas, perhaps almost less than nothing;—and the very weather threatens to be too hot (as bad as too cold), when you come back. Nevertheless, nevertheless—!— On the whole, you won't break your tether, my Lady; and mustn't, “the effectual fervent prayer”3 of a few righteous persons, or even of one, will plead for monstrous England (poor luckless Caliban4 that it is), and prevail with the Powers and you!

Meanwhile I despatched your Letter to Clough,5 with an advice to rejoice over it, and come home directly. Two days before, there had come, from C. himself, a very pleasant, sketchy, cheerful, semi-satirical little Letter; which I might have forwarded today, only it is not at hand for the moment, but gone into nearer Clough circles. From the Darwin side of things Jane, on speaking of your Granville achievement, learned that it would be precious news to one young lady of their acquaintance;6 said young lady was just consulting the Darwin side of things on this question,7 “Whether a young female of sensibility could not at once go out to Boston, and bear a hand in the romance of keeping School there,—with an accomplished young philosopher and instructor of youth?”— — Poor little soul, one really grants her this immense temporary happiness! For once in your life, my Lady, I must admit you have, considering all sides of it, done a pretty thing. And as I said of your Letters, such things are apt to be rarer with you than with the generality. There is one however!—

Jane has gone off, this day, to be with the Sterling girls (out at a pretty place near Reigate) till Saturday:8 Nero too is gone, and except for a judicious black Cat, I am left quite alone. What my thoughts are cannot quite be said in this Letter;—but I am left to them and the Cat, such as they are! De profundis clamavi:9 Oh my noble Lady, do not ever you quite forget me,—not you if you can rightly help it! I wish this, for reasons of my own. And for the rest am growing harder and harder of face and heart, towards most other creatures, every day I live. Alas, it was on a bright May Day like this (I reflected yesterday, the look of the sky suggesting it) that I went trotting down by the side of my Father, to enter Annan Academy, about 40 years ago; 10—and was a very soft little fellow about that time, and had gallons of “tears” in me, that balmy morning and afterwards. Said balmy morning, still present to me like this morning, whither is it gone? Said little boy, where is he, and in what region of the All? Ach Gott! neither of them are discoverable now; their locality has grown inscrutably unknown;—and all romance is a poor froth of flummery in comparison with the fact to each of us, if we were not flummery ourselves, and incapable of thinking in facts.

Nothing historical has taken place here since you left. I have seen nobody to speak of: one night, looking in on Chorley's hermit-cave I found a certain Mr Lock, railway engineer & honourable member,11 whose sagacious Tubalcain12 countenance and honest healthy heart (rejoicing in “this grand era” as he smoked) gave me real pleasure for an hour. Milnes has got Gladstone to abolish the tax on Old Foreign Books,—or hopes he will: I have been writing to him about it this very day. Uncle-Tommery goes on, I suppose,—more power to its elbow. But the Lionness falls sick, lazy, I hear; and Aunt Harriet has to poke her up (literally with the elbow, it is said):13 one of the best facts I have yet heard of the lioness.

“D.T.'s Discourse on the Nigger question,” meanwhile (unless I prevent, which why should I?) will come out as Railway Sixpenny Trash, on the per contra side. Also “Biographical Essays by—” Oh my noble lady fair, may the gods ever bless you! I have done for this time.

Yours, & return!

T. Carlyle

I do not think Lady Sandwich can have forgotten me, or can mean to do it: Certain it is at any rate, we here have no intention of the kind! Therefore, Hommages—in all sincerity.