January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 8 March 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560308-TC-LA-01; CL 31: 45-47


[8 March 1856]

Dear Lady,—I am again unfortunate. Nobody at Bath House1 yesterday, Ld A. not to return till today;—and at Lady Sandwich's there was a sad deficit of news from you, and misgivings lest you might be unwell. Is that so! Lord A. had reported you as bidden keep the house before he came away; and there was no news since. Where am I to think? May there have news come today in South Street,2 and to better prospect.

Lady S. was quite brisk and lively, tho' rather avoiding the cruel March airs, which was wise: she expects to “flit personally” on Monday, and is deep in upholstery, and cheery negociations with upholsterers and decorators of human life. Fleming3 came in while I was there; charged with gossip to the muzzle, quality clear and bitter, to a superior degree, as seemed, but my dinner hour had come, and I had to leave that interesting spiritual report.

I am very busy; in fact busier than man shd be. The air is harsh and dark, soot and dust considerable elements of it; the world's outer business is not momentous to me just now; I dismiss the rumour of it in silence, and sit doggedly in my garret here. I am getting on a little better, thank God: one day I shall have done with these horrible affairs, and look back on all that soul-confusing labyrinth, like a man that has got thro' the mountains, and sees them all lying in heavenly azure behind him,—their detestable peat-bogs, damp caverns, torrents, rocks and quagmires all beautifully lapped up in that manner.— Don't I wish it!

Lowe's downbreak in the H. of Commons is said to be a considerable one:4 but I suppose it is only a monition as to the method of proceeding there; and that the same Lowe with all his spiritual and muscular energies, will still find that he is there,—tel quel [such as he is] rather “mauvais coucheur, [bad bedfellow]” as I once heard a Lady hypothetically define him. To me his very uprisings (by the vehicle of a Delaine and radical prophesyings in the Times) are not interesting;5 much less his downbreaks. I conjecture there lies a great deal of locomotion in him yet,—and that it will not lead quite straight to Heaven for self and followers.— And Ruskin is in a great passion with Ld Stanhope and the poor House of Lords for that reading of Nelson's last speech: “A coronet or Westminster Abbey,” said his poor Lordship, instead of “Victory or Westr Abbey,” nobody correcting him; which sets the high moral small-beer of Ruskin all into froth. Instead of “This piece of work done, or else my life!” to make it “That peacock's feather got, or death in seeking it!”—what a platitude and turpitude, thinks Ruskin; and decides to “pitch into it” (as he says),—asking me first to do so; who refuse utterly, tho' in a benevolent manner.6 Ach Gott! Ach Gott!

In fact I am good for absolutely nothing at this time; and unworthy of speaking to the like of My Lady,—that is too sadly true; besides that I am utterly whirled round with despicable little interruptions, hurries, confusions,—and in fact it is as I once heard the crowd say to a public speaker, “You had better sit down, Sir!”

I hear your laughter following me out of doors; yes but your forgivenness goes with it,—and you are the lamp of my dark path,7 yes you, all the same.— Beware of the March air; take care, take care. Let us hear that you are well again.

Yours /

T. C.

Chelsea, Saturday