January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


TC TO LORD ASHBURTON ; 30 January 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590130-TC-LOA-01; CL 35: 15-18


Chelsea, 30 jany, 1859—

Dear Lord Ashburton,

Above three weeks I had the little Note you wrote me from Malta;1 whh I was very glad to receive. There have been a couple of little bulletins to Lady Sandwich2 since that; whh have embarked you fairly on the Nile, in flamingly triumphant circumstances;—and then we suppose you to be voyaging prosperously, just now, towards the Cataracts and Nubian Snow-Mountains,3—with intention not to “lose your hearing” (as the Ancients were wont, by venturing too far)4, nor to be “hooked by the gunwale to the tops of trees,” as Baron Munchausen was by loitering too long till the River rose in its muddy majesty upon him!5

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“Boat in Almond Tree”
Gulliver Revived … Baron Munchausen (1793)

Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland


By all accounts, in spite of the bad weather, you are much sounder and cheerier than you could have been in England; and we reasonably hope to see you return with a handsome stock of improvement in health,6—whh is, beyond doubt, one of the finest cargoes a man can return with from any voyage or adventure whatever! “In May,” her Ladyship said: we look out for you then,7 along with or before the hawthorne blossoming;—and there is a certain individual ready for great amounts of horse-exercise in these favourable circumstances.

We have had the muddiest tepidest winter I can remember to have seen: scarcely the least touch of frost (one or two mornings perhaps hoary, but the noon always muddy again) since you left us: very unwholesome, they say; but I confess, not so unpleasant to my old nerves as much of our frost here is; especially as that element of frozen-fog, whh, with smoke superadded, is the chosen product of London in winter time.

I have seen “nobody” (almost literally) since you went away; I have led the life of a solitary galley-slave chained to his oar,—with his own sad consent; that is most of the difference. All day, and every day, I sit aloft in my garret here; struggling sorrowfully with human stupidity, of my own and other people's,—my job often not more “genial” than that of cobbling shoes wd be (indeed much of it, assorting, fixing patches, mending nonsenses, greatly reminds me of cobbling, and degrades me in my own mind into a dejected or indignant cobler feeling):—precisely at half past 3 p.m. comes the horse; and I have had to ride, all this time, solitary amid the fogs of twilight, hither, thither, like a wandering ghost, on the wrong side of Styx (whispers one's evil genius sometimes)! I see no friendly understanding soul, or hardly any; have no correspondence,—all my Letters, or above 9 tenths of them, are abt impertinencies, Burns Festivals,8 &c; stray knockings, as if from all the owls9 of England, impinging on the poor Horn-lantern they see in the distance with a candle-end in it! I generally make no answer at all; but the thing does not cease (such Rowland Hill's success, on one side of it),10 and gives one daily a melancholy memento of the owleries that abound among one's fellow creatures, in this fine Epoch,—whh has invited them all to come out and speak, as the best thing!— Since the Crystal Palace Millennium (8 or 9 years ago)11 there has been nothing so disgusting to me as that Burns Festival; whh, God be thanked, is over now a few days ago. Ach, mein lieber Sulzer!12— — If I can live abt 18 months more at this rate, I shall get my Prussian Cobblement finished;13 after whh it is my fixed notion to withdraw into another kind of element, and hold my peace thenceforth to all time.

My Wife is much better this winter than the two last: a very great favour of Heaven to both her and me. I saw Lady Sandwich yesterday,—see her always from time to time:—she also seems much better than is usual to her at this season. Poor Lord Rippon, as you notice, is dead:14 Ld Goderich15 went riding with me, one twilight, very lately, not anticipating such a thing! Bright's eloquence16 I have steered altogether clear of; do. Dizzy17 & Co's;—have no interest whatever in what they say or do or suffer. Lowe18 turned up, at Albert-Gate19 the other night, coming out of the Park; very fresh;—no doubt, looking forth with much more interest into all that; whh is Lowe's mill, if it be not even his kirk too!20 Adieu: my homages and best wishes to her Ladyship.

Yours ever truly

T. Carlyle