[Letter of John James Taylor to Francis William Newman.]
November 20th, 1850
I enclose herewith a Banker's letter for the amount of what I have been able to collect for the Hungarian fund.—We have some Magyar exiles now resident in Manchester—very interesting people—a Mr. and Mrs. De Merey, thrown by these events out of the lap of wealth and luxury into actual poverty; the latter, a very accomplished and elegant woman, having opened classes for instruction in French; and an eminent physician, Dr. Merei, from Buda-Pesth, who, I am glad to say, is likely to be engaged by one of our Schools of Medicine here in lecturing on the diseases of children, a subject to which he has paid great attention.—I received a letter the other day from Mr. Martin Diosy, who describes himself as having been Secretary to Kossuth, wishing to know whether it would be possible to get up a memorial to Lord Palmerston in Manchester, for the deliverance of Kossuth and his companions from their confinement in Turkey.—Do you think that any memorial would be likely to do good? To produce any impression, it would be desirable to get some men of influence, whose names would tell, to take a part in it. But it is difficult to interest such people. I am sometimes disgusted to observe how often people, who pass for Liberals, cast away from them, as of no importance, all matters that stand aloof from the direct prosperity of England; so that when any appeal is made to them about Hungary or Germany, the first question that seems to arise is, what practical issue the thing is likely to take, and how it may affect the value of railway-shares and the profits of trade.—What a state Germany is in! I do not know how you feel, but to me it is quite heart-sickening to see the rights and liberties of millions of instructed and right-hearted people chaffered away in such unmeaning and pusillanimous diplomacy as is now going on between the governments of Prussia and Austria. As a Minister of Religion, I have almost felt startled and ashamed at my irrepressible desire for the outbreak of war to settle this great question once for all. War is no doubt a fearful alternative and an awful risk. If it could be prevented, I should rejoice. But I do not see how it is to be avoided, unless freedom and progress are to be laid prostrate for ever; and the longer it is delayed, the more bloody and destructive it must become. It is ominous, that all who are believed to harbour red republican tendencies seem rather to rejoice at the idea of immediate peace. It seemed to me the affair of Hesse Cassel was an admirable case on which to commence the struggle. Never were a people more calm, wise, constitutional, and disinterested; and they were opposed to a sovereign as odious and contemptible as our own James II. I fear the opportunity is lost, and the enthusiasm of North Germany will be allowed to evaporate in idle words. Our German friends here of every grade of political opinion, are unanimous, so far as I know, in the feeling—that there must, and ought to, be war. On considering what I have written, I hope I shall take your general sympathy with me, as I fear I should have exposed myself in the judgment of wise and moderate men, as they are called. I have, however, given utterance to what I feel. I have always, you know, been a believer in the civilising influences of commerce; but crises sometimes occur, requiring for the moment a return to the old modes of settling social questions—before the old state of society can be completely got rid of—in which the spirit of commerce seems to damp and enfeeble the spirit of disinterested heroism, when one would be glad for the time to recall the warrior spirit of past ages. Is not the present one of those crises? The monied world is too cautious and too selfish.—I must turn to another subject. We wish to have a review of Mr. Kenrick's two volumes on Egypt for the February number. Would you undertake it? We know, he would prefer a notice of it by a general scholar like yourself, to one by a professed Egyptologist, who might make it the occasion of a discussion of theoretical points in which the public at large take no interest.