July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


TC TO RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES ; 29 October 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18551029-TC-RMM-01; CL 30: 95-96


Chelsea, 29 Octr, 1855—

Dear Milnes,

The inscription on that “Cromwell” Book is evidently of the 17th century;1 nor is it easy to see why anybody should forge a sentiment or signature of Oliver at that time. Nevertheless I could by no means undertake to certify that the writing is Oliver's (or consequently that the Book ever was his); the reverse rather, till evidence arrive, seems probable or possible. The signature or writing does not resemble my remembrance of Oliver's; it seems likewise questionable whether Oliver would put down such a sentiment on the fly-leaf of a Book. I could not pretend to deny either, for my remembrance of the Oliver Mss. is growing fainter and fainter; but till proof (by Experts in the Museum or otherwise) I should be in doubt, tending towards denial. Perhaps some man of Oliver's (Chaplain Sterry, Clerk Maidstone,2 or the like) who had heard Oliver express himself to that effect, and in admiration of the sentiment wrote it down there?— This on the whole is my likeliest surmise.

For the rest, it seemed to me a very pious, deep and genial kind of Book; very rare too, they say;—and has almost certainly belonged to Oliver's environment, if not to Oliver.3 The two Book binders, who have it, I take to be perfectly honest persons. Whether, on these terms, it is not still worth £8 to an opulent man of your tastes,—soll schweben [it hangs in the balance]. Fitzgerald was for buying it at £10 (the people at first asked £40!)—but that was on the hypothesis of its being indisputably Oliverian; which, as matters stand, it certainly is not. This is all I can say on the affair.

It will much beseem you to come and see whether I am dead or alive here, after so many adventures; and the sight of your face will be illuminative to everybody in these premises. I cannot say I envy you your chaotic conferences at Crewe;4 but I should like well to go whither my Letter is going, could I travel as easily, and were the season younger. I must “invade Silesia” instead: woe is me!— — A huge “republic of the Mediocrities,” this modern world; which tho' a very quiet, is a dreadful and even damnable fact, if you will think of it well.

The Johnson's Goddaughter case is to come into The Times after all; Palmerstonian bounty proving ineffectual, there is no other course for behoof of the poor old creatures. In the pettiest Germany Duchy, in Sachsen-Meiningen or Lippe-Bückeburg, had any of these territories been honoured to produce a Johnson, the Govt could have been so much a gentleman as to do this thing: in enormous potbellied England it is otherwise; and there is no remedy to be dreamt of at present.

Adieu, dear Milnes. I must not waste my own small fragment of time, nor any more of yours today. Come and see me next week, according to yr charitable purpose. We send all our regards to Mrs Milnes,5 and beg you to take care of her.

Yours ever truly /

T. Carlyle