January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 3 April 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560403-TC-LA-01; CL 31: 56-59


Chelsea, 3 April, 1856—

You did not come on Monday, according to my weak hope; far enough from that: you are not to come “till the end of this week, or beginning of the next”;—nobody knows certainly when your actual coming will be. Well, I have been quite out of sorts, decidedly below par in health and jocundity, ever since I last wrote and before; I could have got but little good of the most joyeuse entrée [joyful reception]: “two afflictions, put together, sometimes make a consolation.”1 It must be owned our climate has, for most part, been very sad hitherto, grim grey east-wind and dust the main elements of it; the “young Spring” till within two days past has been an extremely tart young lady. Now however, we have western breezes copiously tempestuous, evidently laying in abundant rains for us: the health of all creatures, my own among others, is sensibly improving. I have also begun to try work again; I did nothing but read, and grope about, during those harsh temperatures, and sorrowfully survey the unspeakable boundless quagmire in which I am still sunk,—with vow (“registered” I know not where) to work a miracle upon it, with such opulence of strength as I at present boast of! Ah me, ah me!— But one must plunge on, all the same. It is only when I fall altogether idle, that I get altogether miserable. Privately I have various abstruse satisfactions otherwise; and when the eye of Pity sheds a tear over the heavy-laden sore-struggling (too much complaining) mortal, said mortal is not so ill-off as he would make generous Pity think,—foolish mortal. But when one is idle, then the question does rise, gorgon-headed, “What is the use of such a life if one get no work out of it? Would a dog have it on such terms?” &c &c Oh my Lady, my Lady, have I nothing else to help you with but the foolish story of my own foolish woes? Truly I am the poorest of all men, I often think withal; and you, are you not the best and richest of all women? Let me hold my peace once more! That, at least, is possible to the resolved mind!—

On Sunday night late the voice of cannon was heard; then soon afterwards the voice of bells. Peace come, ah yes their Peace,—with my blessing on it. We were threatened with an illumination; but that blew over. I should have grudged much to spend any tallow or composition candle on such an affair.2 Frederick's old applewoman came to my mind: an old applewoman whom the King had been used to fling a coin to, or exchange a word with at the gate of Potsdam, on his rides,—she, after the 7-years war, seeing him again, remarked “Where has your Majesty been? I have not seen you this long long while!”—“What, Leischen, did you never hear of the big war we were in?”—War, yes they talked about war, this and that; but what knew I of it? Pack schlägt sich, Pack verträgt sich (Doggery has its battlings, Doggery has its settlings)”—not worth the notice of a poor diligent body selling apples here!3

Or what are we to say to the “Child of France,” and its amazing Messiah-ship?4 I declare that to be the highest flight of Playacterism yet recorded in secular affairs: a cool strength (almost unconscious strength) of human Impudence, which strikes the observer dumb. Apparent this universe is made of nothing but painted paste boards, newspaper paragraphs, theatrical draperies well adjusted, and the Infinite of human Gullibility applied to with a brow of brass?5— By working late and early6 for a long time, men do pretty much get “Barabbas the Robber”7 shuffled up for them, by authentic “Universal Suffrage”; and great Nations (one great, and still big) are found to have attained that tragical topgallant,—preparatory to plunging, we may guess, since they can soar no farther! It often strikes me the Jews were quite correct on that memorable occasion: “Barabbas is our man”; we are for Barabbas: who so like us as he?— — England too I am perpetually grieved to believe is travelling rapidly on the same road: but I always hope it will pause, and institute alarming thrice-alarming unexpected reflexions, which time yet is.— Any way I mean to write the history of Fredk, I; and that ought to be the once concern for me, amid such phenomena.

Doubtless they are babbling away in their houses of Parlt: but I hear not the least whisper of them; I in fact speak to nobody, hardly somebody once a week: the very letters I get are fewer and fewer,—and all of them rather a sorrow than otherwise,8 except only one sort (really so) of which you know the uncommon frequency of late. Allah Kereem [God is generous]. I think always cheerier days are coming. On, on, any way!— Oh my noble Lady, may all the gods bless you. I end as I began. You will say when you come?