October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON ; 20 December 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18561220-TC-LOA-01; CL 32: 57-59


Chelsea, 20 decr, 1856—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

Your Letter last night was of the nature of a godsend; bringing you all once more into my actual sphere of vision, after so long an interval: for which beneficent clear glimpse I give thanks; right glad to have it,—tho’ the news are not what I expected. By all accounts that could be gathered here, by direct tidings to Lady Sandwich, and rumours of a reflex nature that came, I understood in general that “all well” was the state of matters; and had no suspicion or imagination that My Lady especially was on the invalid list. But it has been otherwise. I suppose I need not say how glad I shall be to hear your favourable report on that evil matter confirm itself into the certainty you now seem to anticipate! It was of you always that one was in dread; and now it appears you go scot-free, and a thinner-skinned party pays the penalty. Let us hope that that too is on the way to “all well.” I fall at her Ladyship's feet (as the George-Second Ambassadors do to little George),1 and make many prayers and promises!—

My existence ever since you left us has been sunk a long way under the common low depth: I can hardly remember to have been in such a boundless bottomless vortex as I had had to swim in for the last three months. Making hardly any perceptible way; yet swimming, not to sink altogether! My country “improvement of health” vanished altogether with my arrival here,—or seemed to vanish, for probably I did get essential good;—but the express-train, the town diet, the town life, seemed to have abolished it altogether and even made it a negative quantity. Then there was Fredk, like to drive me delirious in the state it lay in; then a New Editn of my bits of Books, long clamoured for and now to go on: work witht limit, and no strength to do it with. I had to get a Horse, by way of trying for some strength of body at least:—I am confident you bought Kinloch Luichart Estate with about the tithe of the haggling, trying, corresponding &c I had on that small matter. However, here he is, an excellt little Nag at last (cannot remember to have ridden a nicer, except at The Grange now and then);—only no “health” has yet come; coming, we will fancy; as permanent headache, and a general shaking up of bile have evidently come. Furthermore I picked up a desolate little German with a good hand of writing; made of him a “spiritual galloway,” so to speak; who has cost me endless trouble;—a weak helpless creature, tho’ a nibling.2 His last Clerk function was with Heyne the Blackguard Paris Jew:3 I often wonder what the poor creature thinks of being Wagner to such a pair of Fausts! We have ridden thro’ endless square miles of dim dreary “Wash” (like that of Lincolnshire),4 shallow continents of muddy sea; both shores now invisible, nothing but a hope here and there of getting to some sandbank or mudbank, where the water is not above girth-high, & so looking round us a little. In short I have been, and am, nearly lost in the mud element;—and hugely to be pitied by you and her Ladyship. All goings-out, in fact all society with fellow-creatures (except my two horses, ‘spiritual’ and physical, of whom the latter is the more interesting) have ceased, or as good as ceased. “Christmas Dinner” this time will consist of mutton-chop, eaten with the maximum of quietude, within these poor walls. For, by way of consummation to everything, my poor Wife has fallen Prisoner, to cold &c; did not get out at all for about two months; and is still very feeble, tho’ evidently recovering for some weeks past.— Lady Sandwich too, as you doubtless know, has been unwell; the last time I saw her Ladyship was with the French Duchess,5 who, it seems, did all the mischief: day before yesterday, and two other previous times, I found her “gone out driving,” clearly in a tolerably improved state. She left a card lately, but would not quit her carriage here.— — On the whole, I cannot think somehow, you have lost much by Nice tel quel [such as it is]. We have hardly seen the sun physical once a fortnight; sun moral I, for my own poor share, have not seen or heard of at all. Tickets-of-leave6 and Doctors Commons7 are to be abolished. Palmerston resembles, to me, old M. de Maurepas:8 better be far from him. I intend writing to My Lady.

Good be with you all.

T. Carlyle