August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


TC TO LORD GREY ; 14 February 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580214-TC-LG-01; CL 33: 182-183


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, / 14 feby, 1858—

Dear Lord Grey,

It is three or four and twenty years since Ballantyne first came in sight to me,1 and he has continued so, farther off or nearer, ever since: so that I now know him well enough;—and can, with great readiness, give testimony of him, since it is of a favourable sort.

He was, he has told me, originally a Paisley Weaver, eager for reading and so on; but has been at Editing now for 30 years; and, I dare say, thoroughly understands that branch of business. He is an uncommonly honest little man; with a great deal of good-natured aimiability,2 frank loyalty of character; a great deal of natural rectitude and good sense,—steadily gravitating towards truth, in regard to persons and to things, so far as his troublous Newspaper element will permit.

He has no great amount of solid information,—not less than other Editors, however, more rather;—but his tendencies and persuasions are such as, I imagine, wd find much approval from your Lordship, in some important respects. I read his Statesman3 on Saturday nights; find it decidedly less insupportable than the other weekly Newspapers I have tried. Unluckily tho' B.'s opinions are generally good, his own style of writing is but flaccid, unimpressive; and there is hardly anybody of marked talent yet writing for him. But he knows talent when it turns up; could know where to seek for it, too; and indeed, I shd think, is expert in Editing, and in all mechanical branches of his craft;—only, I fear, this present Enterprise of his is greatly deficient in money as yet. With money I conceive it possible he might really build up a pulpit of some emphasis for those doctrines of his; and might perhaps do sensible good, in the way of opening the eyes of the quieter Middle Classes to the perils ahead and around; especially to the differences between “Reform” and Democracy,—whh Ballantyne, to his astonishment, has begun to recognise of late years, with eyes wider and wider!4

On this latter practical point I must not pretend to judge: but to the constant respectability and real worth of Ballantyne I can confidently testify as above,—and leave him to your Lordship's insight and goodness.5

I have the honour to be / Yours always sincerely / T. Carlyle