The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 17 April 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390417-TC-RWE-01; CL 11: 89-92


Chelsea, London, 17th April, 1839—

Dear Friend,

Some four days ago I wrote you a long Letter, rather expressive of anxiety about you; it will probably come to hand along with this. I had heard vaguely that you were unwell, and wondered why you did not write. Happily that point is as good as settled now, even by your silence about it. I have, half an hour ago, received your Concord Letter of the 19th of March; the Letter you speak of there as “written last Saturday” has not yet made its appearance, but may be looked for now shortly: as there is no mention here of any mischance, except the shortcoming of Printers' copy, I infer that all else is in a tolerably correct state; I wait patiently for the “last Saturday” tidings, and will answer as to the matter of copy, in good heart, without loss of a moment.

There is nothing of the manuscript sort in Teufelsdröckh's repositories1 that would suit you well; nothing at all in a completed state, except a long rigmarole dissertation (in a crabbed sardonic vein) about the early History of the Teutonic kindred, wriggling itself along not in the best style thro' Proverb lore, and I know not what, till it end (if my memory serve) in a kind of Essay on the Minnesingers. It was written almost ten years ago, and never contented me well. It formed part of a lucklessly projected “History of German Literature,” subsequent portions of which, the Nibelungen and Reinecke Fox, you have already printed. The unfortunate “Cabinet Library Editor,” or whatever his title was, broke down; and I let him off,—without paying me; and this alone remains of the misventure; a thing not fit for you, nor indeed at bottom for anybody, tho' I have never burnt it yet.2 My other manuscripts are scratchings and scrawlings,—children's INfant souls weeping, because they never could be born, but were left there whimpering in limine primo [on the very threshold]!3

On this side therefore is no help. Nevertheless, it seems to me, otherwise there is. Varnhagen may be printed I think without offence, since there is need of it: if that will make up your fourth volume to a due size, why not? It is the last faint murmur one gives in Periodical Literature, and may indicate the approach of silence and slumber. I know no error of the Press in Varnhagen: there is one thing about Jean Paul F. Richter's want of humour in his speech, which somehow I could like to have the opportunity of uttering a word on, tho' what word I see not very well. My notion is partly that V. overstates the thing, taking a Berlin propos de salon [society gossip] for a scientifically accurate record; and partly farther that the defect (if any) was creditable to Jean Paul, indicating that he talked from the abundance of the heart, not burning himself off in miserable perpetual sputter like a Town-wit, but speaking what he had to say, were it dull were it not dull,—for his own satisfaction first of all! If you in a line or two could express at the right point something of that sort, it were well; yet on the whole, if not, there is almost no matter.4 Let the whole stand there, as the commencement of slumber and stertorous breathing!

Varnhagen himself will not bring up your fourth volume to the right size; hardly beyond 380 pages, I should think; yet what more can be done?5 Do you remember Fraser's Magazine for October 1832, and a Translation there, with Notes, of a thing called Goethe's Mährchen? It is by me; I regard it as a most remarkable piece, well worthy of perusal, especially by all readers of mine. The printing of your Third volume will of course be finished before this Letter arrive; nevertheless I have a plan: That you (as might be done I suppose, by cancelling and reprinting the concluding leaf or leaves) append the said Translated Tale, in a smaller type, to that volume. It is 21 or 22 pages of Fraser, and will perhaps bring yours up to the mark. Nay indeed there are two other little Translations from Goethe which I reckon good, tho' of far less interest than the Mährchen; I think they are in the Frasers almost immediately preceding; one of them is called Fragment from Goethe (if I remember); in his Works, it is “Novelle”; it treats of a visit by some princely household to a strange Mountain ruin or castle, and the catastrophe is the escape of a shew-lion from its booth in the neighbouring Market-Town. I have not the thing here,—alas, sinner that I am, it now strikes me that the “two other things,” are this one thing, which my treacherous memory is making into two! This however you will find in the Number immediately, or not far from immediately, preceding that of the Mährchen; along with which, in the same type with which it would give us letter-press enough. It ought to stand before the Mährchen: read it, and say whether it is worthy or not worthy. Will this Appendix do, then? I should really rather like the Mährchen to be printed; and had thoughts of putting at the end of the English Sartor. The other I care not for, intrinsically, but think it very beautiful in its kind.6— Some rubbish of my own, in small quantity, exists here and there in Fraser; one story, entitled Cruthers and Jonson, was written sixteen years ago, and printed somewhere early (probably the 2nd year) in that rubbish-heap, with several gross errors of the press (mares for maces was one!): it is the first thing I wrote, or among the very first;—otherwise a thing to be kept rather secret, except from the like of you!7 This or any other of the “original” immaturities I will not recommend as an Appendix; I hope the Mährchen, or the 2Mährchen and 1Novelle8 will suffice. But on the whole, to thee, O Friend, and thy judgement and decision without appeal I leave it altogether. Say Yes, say No; do what seemeth good to thee.— Nay now, writing with the speed of light, another consideration strikes me: why should vol. 3d be interfered with if it is finished? Why will not this Appendix do, these Appendices, to hang to the skirts of Vol. 4 as well? Perhaps better! The Mährchen in any case closing the rear. I leave it all to Emerson and Stearns Wheeler, my more than kind Editors: E. knows it better than I; be his decision irrevocable.

This Letter is far too long, but I had not time to make it shorter.— I got your F. Revn, and have seen no other:9 my name is on it in your hand. I received Dwight's Book, liked it, and have answered him: a good youth, of the kind you describe; no English man, to my knowledge, has yet uttered as much sense about Goethe and German things. I go this day to settle with Fraser about Printers and a second edition of the Revn Book,—as specified in the other Letter: 500 copies for America, which are to cost he computes about 2/7, and your Bookseller will bind them, and defy Piracy.10 My Lectures come on, this day two weeks: O Heaven! I cannot “speak”; I can only gasp and writhe and stutter, a spectacle to gods and fashionables,—being forced to it by want of money. In five weeks I shall be free, and then—! Shall it be Switzerland, shall it be Scotland, nay shall it be America and Concord?

Ever your affectionate—

T. Carlyle

All love from both of us to the Mother and Boy. My wife is better than usual; rejoices in the promise of summer now at last visible after a Spring like Greenland. Scarcity, discontent, fast ripening towards desperation, extends far and wide among our working people. God help them! In man as yet is small help. There will be work yet, before that account is liquidated; a generation or two of work!

Miss Martineau is gone to Switzerland, after emitting “Deerwood, a Novel.” How do you like it? people ask. To which there are various answers returnable, but few so good as none. Ah me! Lady Bulwer too has written a Novel, in satire of her Husband. I saw the Husband not long since; one of the wretchedest Phantasms, it seemed to me, I had yet fallen in with—many, many as they are here.

The £100 Bill came, in due time, in perfect order, and will be payable one of these days. I forget dates; but had well calculated that before the 19th of March this piece of news and my gratitude for it had reached you.