I am in one of the most painful trials in which I have ever been in my life and I think you can help me.
'It has always been on my mind that perhaps some day I should be called on to defend my honesty while in the Church of England. Of course there have been endless hits against me in newspapers, reviews and pamphlets,—but, even though the names of the writers have come out and have belonged to great men, they have been anonymous publications,—or else a sentence or two on some particular point has been the whole. But I have considered that, if anyone with his name made an elaborate charge on me, I was bound to speak. When Maurice in the Times a year ago attacked me, I answered him at once.
'But I have thought it very unlikely that anyone would do so,—and then, I am so indolent that, unless there is an actual necessity, I do nothing. In consequence now, when the call comes on me, I am quite unprepared to meet it. I know well that Kingsley is a furious foolish fellow,—but he has a name,—nor is it anything at all to me that men think I got the victory in the Correspondence several months ago,—that was a contest of ability,—but now he comes out with a pamphlet bringing together a hodge podge of charges against me all about dishonesty. Now friends who know me say: "Let him alone,—no one credits him," but it is not so. This very town of Birmingham, of course, knows nothing of me, and his pamphlet on its appearance produced an effect. The evangelical party has always spoken ill of me, and the pamphlet seems to justify them. The Roman Catholic party does not know me;—the fathers of our school boys, the priests, &c., &c., whom I cannot afford to let think badly of me. Therefore, thus publicly challenged, I must speak, and, unless I speak strongly, men won't believe me in earnest.
'But now I have little more to trust to than my memory. There are matters in which no one can help me, viz. those which have gone on in my own mind, but there is also a great abundance of public facts, or again, facts witnessed by persons close to me, which I may have forgotten. I fear of making mistakes in dates, though I have a good memory for them, and still more of making bold generalizations without suspicion that they are not to the letter tenable.
'Now you were so much with me from 1840 to 1843 or even 1845, that it has struck me that you could, (if you saw in proof what I shall write about those years), correct any fault of fact which you found in my statement. Also, you might have letters of mine to throw light on my state of mind, and this by means of contemporaneous authority. And these are the two matters I request of you as regards the years in question.
'The worst is, I am so hampered for time. Longman thought I ought not to delay, so I began, and, therefore, of necessity in numbers. What I have to send you is not yet written. It won't be much in point of length.
'I need hardly say that I shall keep secret anything you do for me, and the fact of my having applied to you.