The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 14 November 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531114-TC-LA-01; CL 28: 310-312


Chelsea, 14 Novr, 1853—

On Saturday morning I was driven out by a body of upholsterers with carpets, curtains; I had to take my stick, and step out for a long walk, towards the good fat Neuberg's as I decided. He lives at Willesden in country seclusion, 7 miles off; I had a vestige of business too, and walked off since there was no help. Thro' the smoky rage of the Edgeware Road, thro' interminable rows of villas, intermixed with Carriers' Inns, and dirty shops of ginger-pop: it was a heavenly relief to get at last into the silent country, with the clean tho' cloudy sky above me: why is the son of man jammed into brick labyrinths; and sordid discords, of an avoidable sort, instead of having silence, free air, and the sun? “Avoidable”: alas, these too are unavoidable, the lesser evil of two;—and we had better not kick agt the pricks!1 Neuberg brought me homewards to Sloane street, in a dogcart he has; very cold; and there was darkness and dinner; and another day was gone, to little purpose, to join those beyond the Flood! This morning the good man has again been here; to get certain blurrings and paper-botchings of mine, and see if he can riddle any crumbs of sense out of them. A useful man, and a friendly and good, tho' fat.

We had Thomas Spedding last night, James's elder Brother; a rational, instructed, but rather slow-going man; whom however I like. It is he that winded up his career as London Barrister long since by this notable peroration: “Such, my Lord, are the grounds on which I am instructed to support this case; I cannot say I think them very strong ones!”— — Good Heavens, here is another interruption: the Weimar Schoolmaster, and a murrain to him! Where is “the lodge in some vast wilderness”;2 ah where?

Well, I trust you have sunshine on the shore of your bright sea; and ride daily at a gentle rate, among “butchers' broom”3 (a memorable plant to me) and wild hollies, not without remembrances of favoured individuals, and with advantage to your own bright Self withal. Please Heaven, you are coming home “about the end of the month”; and about the beginning of the next (4th decr is the day hitherto) we are to march. Such are the lots from Fortune's Urn: shall we not be thankful for them, spoiled to the heart as they too often are? No complaining; indeed no talking: that is the right precept.

Hudson, it appears, is fairly ruined at last;4 so we hope at any rate, and so I hear from various sides. One has but to wait in this world; wait, and all carrion will ultimately evaporate, and vanish from one's path.

The idle world is speaking chiefly about the Turks,5 for whom I care nothing; and about the Maurice question, whh also has no interest for me. Friedrich the Great said once to the orthodox of Neuchâtel, “If these people want to be damned forever, why not?” To Maurice himself, if they thrust him from the Church altogether, it might do good rather than harm. That is a confiscated affair altogether, and can in the long run yield only bankruptcy of spirit to the like of him. Alas, human stupidity is great; I think sometimes it is the greatest; and see, with wonder and awe, how (as Schiller says) the very gods can never fight it down.6

For the rest, our weather here is damp fog with a spice of frost in it: on rare occasions, as today, the sun gets out for an hour; and always one guesses he is not far off,—probably shining upon Sambo and you, as I love to fancy. Be thankful for it, gather strength from it; be merry of heart to meet your old sad friends with their rueful countenances.— — These evenings I am reading about Struensee and Queen Mathilde of Denmark; a sad hash of a business,—ugly people almost all. Likewise in Coxe's Pelham, dullest of the dull;7 where is much about your great-grandfather; not at all a bad man, I begin to see, after all the stupid noise there has been.8

But I must liberate poor Tom Wilson; he has been sitting solitary below, all this while, sucking his fingers, and waiting the uncertain future. I had more to say,—infinitudes to say for that matter;—but we must end here. Adieu, dear Lady: good be with you evermore.