1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON; 4 March 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540304-TC-LA-01; CL 29: 40-42


London, 4 March / 1854

Dear Lady,—I have run in hither to write you a small bulletin; one word to signify that I and my affairs are alive, and that on the whole things in general remain with me precisely as they were. Is not that an important purpose on my part? Do you get many Letters of that depth of meaning?—

But in serious truth if any demon should whisper into your noble heart that you are getting forgotten in the Suburb of Chelsea, that you are no longer so loved and regarded as in times past,—that there is in that locality a base Judean who will throw a pearl away richer than all his tribe,1—then do not, Oh never do believe said demon; for he is and will be speaking false, and predicting a thing that cannot occur.— And so let it rest: alas, the times are hard; and we must wait for better,—with or without much hope of their coming.

I am myself still as low in humour, as helpless and hopeless, as when you left me; keep daily struggling to do some work, and daily fall (as it were) afaint amid my tools, and cannot so much as dig a barrow of rubbish, and wheel it away! This is bad; but this must mend. In fact my spirits (as you naturally guess) are not joyful but mournful just now; all thought still gravitates with me towards one sad subject; common talk and intercourse (right labour, as I said, there is not) are but as a light film of froth, and the black still water is below.— Perhaps it is good for me, too:—we must say no more of it.2

Jane continues still poorly; ventures out a little now in the sunny hours, but still has a great deal of cold. I am myself decidedly below par; as almost everybody is. The weather is full of frost, a sullen blistering fog (frozen-fog) every morning till ten or 11; then sun like midsummer for two or three hours: it is extremely pernicious weather to the thin of skin. Today the fog has continued, or only lifted itself a few years;3 and we have no tradition of sun: but I think I smell rain, and a change, which will perhaps do better.

One day Milnes gave me a visit; very fat, and happy as ever; full of amusement at Drummond's Pamphlet &c &c.4 I read Drummond since you went: really a most notable piece; very serious withal, much more so than the talk of Henry almost ever is, and abounding in utterances and calculations that are enough to make the ears tingle,—if anybody heard, or listened, which the Bookseller tells me nobody does. “Bless you, sir, 250 copies or so: I believe he has lost some 7 or 8 thousand pounds by his Writings before this!”—5 For the rest, I in substance greatly agree with Henry in this Pamphlet; deducting “Christ” &c, I find he has seen into many things in a really true and remarkable way.6 I sent off my Copy of it (along with one of Common Things)7 to the good Thomas Erskine,8 who likes to see signs of the times.

I had your Oxford Professor, Vaugh[an],9 too, one afternoon: he dined, walked, took tea; the long visit and fret (tho' of my own seeking) was very unfriendly to my nerves for two days after! Vaughan is a clear, still-eyed, intelligent, almost clerical-looking man (tho' far enough from Orthodoxy, as I can perceive): an especially serious-minded carefully cultivated person;— would be perfect, if his talk flowed a little more freely, and especially if his laugh did. He has indeed a decided deficiency of fun (tho' not a total want), and tends slightly, in vise [view?] of that, towards the stickish in some outward respects. But I think him a most worthy man, and design to see more of him as I have opportunity.

I wish Ld An and you wd interest yourselves about the Civil Service and Promotion by merit. The more I think of that, the more important it seems to me,—the crown and summary of all conceivable “reforms”; and immensely wanted, if it could be well done? And how can it ever be done, if the wise and distinguished do not help to say, “Try it; let us all try it!” It seems to me the real Noah's Ark for this perishing Epoch. That is the way to “translate” us;—and Drummond shan't go!—

Enough, enough, dear lady of ladies: I am far too long here, and must run for my life.

Bid Lord An call if he ever come to Town; can't you? No answer: I will write again before long.

Yours evermore /

T. Carlyle