April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO JANE STIRLING ; 22 December 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441222-TC-JWS-01; CL 18: 290-291


Chelsea, London, 22 decr / 1844—

Dear Miss Stirling,

The Jean-Paul Book was duly forwarded to me; I have read considerable passages of it; my Wife has faithfully read it all. The Translation seems very respectably done; in a style greatly beyond the average, indeed: but it remains a very different question whether Jean Paul and it will have much success in our English Public, or only a very limited one. It is twelve years since I read these “Flower & Pieces,”1 or looked much into Jean Paul; and I find my toleration for his peculiar way of writing has not at all grown in that period! It is really a sad sin that of not being intent, first of all, on setting forth any meaning you may chance to have; and taking up your attention with the way of setting it forth: God deliver us all from it! As if a man sitting down to dinner should flourish his knife and fork to shew the fine rings he wears, the fine &c &c—instead of honestly cutting his meat with the said knife and fork!— — On the whole I should judge it a likelier line for Mr Noel,2 that of painting of Portraits than this of translating from the German. Probably enough he might get some employment too from the Foreign Review people, or such like: but “Literature,” as a craft for living by, is not to be recommended to any mortal that has another.

Some days ago Mrs Rich surprised us here with a Gift from M. Scheffer the Painter; a mask of the face of Goethe; which, in all ways, has gratified us much.3 By far the liveliest emblem I ever had of the man Goethe. This then is the face I longed most of all to see; this;—and it is all vanished now, and gone into Eternity; nothing remains of it but this dumb lump of lime! There is something very sad and yet very precious to me in this Gift.

We have cold winter weather here; I hope it is better at Paris for invalids. My poor Wife has given in, some four weeks ago; that is to say, has retired within doors, and patiently, not without some coughing and other such symptoms of distress, endeavours to expect that the Sun will turn northward again.

With many kind regards and good wishes to yourself and Mrs Erskine

I remain (in great haste) / dear Miss Stirling

Yours very truly /

T. Carlyle