July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


TC TO SIR GEORGE SINCLAIR ; 24 July 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550724-TC-SGS-01; CL 30: 8-10


Chelsea, 24 july, 18[5]5—

My dear Sir,

Surely you are abundantly kind to think of me in such a combination; and I cannot but regret to answer that there is no feasibility in the affair. I am much too poor for an M. P.; and, what is still more irremediable, am at least 20 years too old: nor indeed could I ever have hope to distinguish myself in such a Cockpit,—nor even have much wished to do so, had it always been what it now is, and looks too like continuing to be. The British Empire seems to me as if melting down into universal diabetes of insane palaver,—all men speaking, and intent to speak, and no man addressing himself, with earnestness or likelihood, to do, in any department whatsoever. This is very sad and hopeless;—and has produced a Balaklava, not in the Crimea alone, but in every province of our affairs;1 for our whole British world (I should say) has been “a Balaklava,” ever since I have known it, or made practical scrutiny of it in high things or in low. And now it seems as if the account were fast getting completed, and the Eternal Powers were saying to us, “Enough, ye Hypocrites!” For I have perceived, too, this long while, that we are sunk in Hypocrisy deeper than any Nation ever was before; so deep that we are quite unconscious of it: no Nation, ancient or modern, ever sat down so contentedly by the side of Untruths without number, saying to them, “True, you are Lies, not God's facts at all, but the Devil's lies; nevertheless, you seem to have money in your pocket, power in your hand, and one can live handily by speaking you fair!” Till it has come to the pass we see: Parliamentary and other “eloquence” in very great abundance; all work, or power of work (to which God will grant success, or the title of true work) gone out in consequence: a bad time indeed, except perhaps (temporarily) for very bad men. Alas, when “Administrative Reformers”2 &c apply to me, I have nothing to say. I think sorrowfully, “How is work possible if all able men are invited everywhere, and as it were compelled, to spend their faculty in speaking? He that cannot first hold his tongue will never do any work! Before “Administrative Reform” arrive to much purpose, you will have done a thing or two you are but little prepared for, and your big Parliamentary or Talking Apparatus (the envy of surrounding Nations) still less prepared for!”— — But enough, enough of all that; upon which I know not how I have got into utterance; for in general I strive to keep it far away from my thoughts, as too painful and useless there.

It is really matter of regret to me that I cannot get to Clifton,3 according to your kind invitation, just now. Perhaps I may find you in Thurso yet some day before all is done! Certainly if I ever go into those parts, or otherwise have opportunity, I shall be right glad to make such an acquaintance; not having by any means too many of that kind on my list at present,—so far as can be judged at this distance. Meanwhile with many thanks and regards,—to which let me add respectful hopes for the good invalid Lady,—I remain

Yours sincerely /

T. Carlyle