Stanley's Life and Letters records several meetings with Arnold, and a day or so before he died he enthusiastically described to dinner guests his exploration of Naseby Field, the location of one of the most important battles of the English Civil War, with Carlyle.

Rugby, January, 1840.

A note of yours to our common acquaintance, Mr. James Marshall, furnishes, I believe, the only shadow of a pretence which I could claim for addressing you, according to the ordinary forms of society. But I should be ashamed, to you above all men, to avail myself of a mere pretence; and my true reason for addressing you is because I believe you sympathize with me on that most important subject, the welfare of the poorer classes, and because I know, from your History of the French Revolution, that you understand the real nature and magnitude of the evil, which so many appear to me neither to comprehend nor to feel.

I have been trying, hitherto with no success, to form a Society, the object of which should be to collect information as to every point in the condition of the poor throughout the kingdom, and to call public attention to it by every possible means, whether by the press or by yearly or quarterly meetings. And as I am most anxious to secure the co-operation of good men of all parties, it seems to me a necessary condition that the Society should broach no theories, and propose no remedies; that it should simply collect information, and rouse the attention of the country to the infinite importance of the subject. You know full well that wisdom in the higher sense and practical knowledge are rarely found in the same man; and, if any theory be started, which contains something not suited to practice, all the so-called practical men cry out against the folly of all theories, and conclude themselves, and lead the vulgar to the conclusion, that, because one particular remedy has been prescribed ignorantly, no remedy is needed, or at least none is practicable.

I see by the newspapers that you are writing on Chartism, and I am heartily glad to hear of it. I shall be curious to know whether you have any definite notions as to the means of relieving the fearful evils of our social condition, or whether you, like myself, are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mischief, and are inclined to say, like the Persian fatalist in Herodotus, [greek characters]

I have no sort of desire to push my proposal about a Society, and would gladly be guided by wiser men as to what is best to be done. But I cannot, I am sure, be mistaken as to this, that the state of society in England at this moment was never yet paralleled in history; and though I have no stake on the country as far as property is concerned, yet I have a wife and a large family of children; and I do not wish to lose, either for them or myself, all those thousand ties, so noble and so sacred and so dear, which bind us to our country, as she was and as she is, with all her imperfections and difficulties. If you think that any thing can be done, which could interest any other persons on the subject, I should be delighted to give aid in any possible manner to the extent of my abilities. I owe you many apologies for writing thus to a perfect stranger, — but ever since I read your History of the French Revolution, I have longed to become acquainted with you; because I found in that book an understanding of the true nature of history, such as it delighted my heart to meet with; and, having from a child felt the deepest interest in the story of the French Revolution, and read pretty largely about it, I was somewhat in a condition to appreciate the richness of your knowledge, and the wisdom of your judgments. I do not mean that I agree with you in all these; in some instances I should differ very decidedly; but still the wisdom of the book, as well as its singular eloquence and poetry, was such a treasure to me as I have rarely met with, and am not at all likely to meet with again. [II, 188-89]

References

Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn. The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D., late head-master of Rugby school, and regius professor of modern history in the University of Oxford. 4th ed. 2 vols. London: B. Fellowes, 1845.


Victorian Overview political history Thomas Arnold of Rugby Thomas Carlyle

Last modified 10 August 2006