July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


TC TO JOHN RUSKIN ; 3 December 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18551203-TC-JRU-01; CL 30: 129-130


Chelsea, 3 decr, 1855—

Dear Ruskin,

Among other things you gave me to think about, since you were here I have been twice or thrice reflecting upon your munificence to those old dames at Deptford. Your Gift of £10, no doubt it was gratifying to your own pious feeling,—but would it not have been safer, in the given case, to have added it to our Subscription? The old women have, to my own knowledge, had an amount of £130 140 with yours1 added, this year, to their usual income; and the question, What good it may have done them? appears to be a little uncertain!

Well, the £10 is gone; but the intended annuity of £5, it is upon this that I will now obtrude upon you my surmise. If your purpose is quite fixed in regard to this new eminent piece of bounty, would it not suit as well if you join with us in regard to it,—namely threw in a sum at once which would purchase such an annuity, or enabled us in some authentic way to mark you as a Donor to that annual extent? I am very clear that, for the sake of the two old women themselves, the two adventures ought to be th[o]roughly2 conscious of one another, and to be virtually if not formally one. In fact, I think, unless you renounce your project altogether, it would be worth your while to consider this suggestion, which it is well worth our while to impress upon you!

The truth [is]3 I have just returned from an interview with Forster (who in the temporary absence of Dickens is my sole coadjutor in that matter of the “Miss Lowe Subscription”): Forster reports rather a beggarly account of the last 18 days,—an increase of precisely £30 (£202.2 this evg);—and in short a clear demonstration that the voluntary Principle has just about exhausted itself; and that in the way of “falling like dew,”4 £202.2 is nearly what the British Nation can do in this matter.5 More could be raised, no doubt, by “aggressive methods” common in such cases, and probably a touch of that (applied at least to the 20 or 25 gentn that signed the memorial) will be resorted to, as coming within the rule: but farther it will not be pleasant to go,—at least if one can help it at all.

It was in these circumstances that I mentioned your bounteous doings; and Forster, headlong mortal, urged me to apply to you as above,—which I thoughtlessly promised; which in fact I did not till now see the very great impudence of doing! However, it is done; and I know also you will forgive me, and not call it quite so impudent as I assure you I do myself.

To let us announce your Donation, or in some way to join it with our (too limited) “fall of dew”? If you absolutely dislike it, say NO, at once; and fear nothing.6

Yours ever truly / T. Carlyle7