1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON; 14 February 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550214-TC-LOA-01; CL 29: 259-260


Chelsea, 14 feby 1855—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

Your doctrine in this passage (which I well remember from last year's edition of it)1 is orthodox, and even intensely orthodox, in Political Economy; I find it like wise to be indisputably true, so far as it goes, in the nature of things, and worthy to be called a “law of God” in its kind. Very necessary, too, that it should be recognised as such;—and certainly you express it, and illustrate it, with very great clearness and ingenuity in this place. On the whole, I do not know that I could practically counsel you to make the least change in what you have said and printed here; tho' if I could convey to you my complete notion on the subject (as I cannot), an additional paragraph, from your pen, endorsed with your name, might have a good effect among the ignorant ruling classes of mankind, all sitting with folded arms, and appealing to “universal laws” (in Political Economy and elsewhere),—as if gravitation were the only force in Nature; as if the Bricklayer wd ever get his House up by merely allowing gravitation to go its way! Certainly he must not forget it; he must know it well, and be taught it if he is ignorant: but if he do nothing more than rember2 it—!— He will govern the Colonies as Sir James Stephen did;3 he will fight in the Crimea as our War-Office now does; he will witness Preston strikes,4 French Revolutions, and various other immensely sad phenomena in this world! Chaos never could have become a Cosmos at all on these terms. It seems to me, and has long mournfully seemed, as if the whole mind of the world, and of England especially, were lying buried under hideous nightmare, and doing its “Litany to INDOLENCE” by this sad Gospel according to Martineau Senior and Compy.5 Human Pity must awaken; human detestation of disorder, and determination to remedy it or die (whatever Martineau and Senior may say);—otherwise, I believe, we are all rapidly bound, with M. and S. on the top of us, towards such a Niagara as M. and S. little dream of.

But all this is nothing (I feel) towards the practical question now on hand; and the more of it we have, the farther shall we get from that. I have written on the Margins here and there some words whh may remind you of our discussions we have had: as I said before, it is no change on what you have written that I could desiderate, but perhaps some addition to it of a few lines,— supposing you to seize (by vast dexterity) what I do mean, then to believe in it, and thirdly to think the addition worth while. Which are 3 provisoes of a rather dubious nature! I have otherwise nothing to say, except in the way of praise, assent, and imprimatur.

When are you coming to Town, then? How is my Lady; she does not even tell me how she is! It was a great disappointt that I missed you altogether when last here.— We have an iron time; the Thames tumbling with ice, all nature wearing quite a Siberian aspect. The frost freezes up even my work; and the wheels seem stuck again, fiercely as I struggle. In my whole life I never had so undoable a job; and it will or can be worth nothing when done. I seem to myself now and then a very lucky son of Adam!— Last Sunday there were from 50 to 100,000 human creatures (gents very many of them) upon the Serpentine;6 and I had to pick up Nero, and carry him, while incautiously passing that way. Good be with the Grange and what it holds!— Yours ever T. Carlyle