January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


TC TO KARL AUGUST VARNHAGEN VON ENSE ; 7 April 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450407-TC-KAVE-01; CL 19: 50-53


Chelsea, London, 7 April 1845—

My dear Sir,

About a week ago I had your very kind Letter1 with the Autograph of Schiller, which latter I shall take care to return you soon as it has served its purpose here. The Medallions, and the Portrait of Schiller will arrive in good time for their object:2 we shall certainly be able to make out a Likeness of Schiller from the combination, unless our part in it be mismanaged; yours has been performed with all imaginable fidelity! I could regret that you give yourself such a quantity of trouble to serve me; really a far too liberal quantity of trouble!—but I suppose you find a satisfaction in it; so I must let you have your way.

Today in my extremity of haste, with Printers chasing me, and paper litter of every description lying round me in the most distracting way, I must restrict myself to the one little point of business which your Letter indicates: that matter of the Behemoth.— Your great Frederick is right in what he has written there, at least he is not wrong,—tho' I suspect he has but consulted Book Catalogues, or some secondhand Criticism, rather than the Work itself which he speaks of. Behemoth is the name of a very small Book of Thomas Hobbes, Author of the Leviathan, as you have guessed: I think the big Leviathan was published about 1650 or shortly after; and this little Behemoth not till about 1670, tho' probably written long before.3 I had a copy of it, and read it twice some years ago; but at this moment it has fallen aside, and I must speak from memory. It is properly a historical Essay on the late Civil Wars, which had driven Hobbes out of England; it takes a most sceptical atheistic view of the whole Quarrel; imputes it all to the fury of the Preaching Priests, whom and indeed all Priests and babbling Religionists of every kind Hobbes thinks the Civil Power ought to have coerced into silence, or ordered to preach in a given style. In this manner, thinks he, the troubles had all been prevented; similar troubles may again be prevented so. He speaks little about Cromwell; rather seems to admire him, as a man who did coerce the Priests, tho' in a fashion of his own;—this leads me to suspect that your King had never seen the actual Book, but spoken of it from hearsay. It is a most rugged, distinct, forcible little Book, by a man of the creed and temper above indicated; I remember it gave me the idea of a person who had looked with most penetrating tho' unbelieving eye upon the whole Affair, and had better pointed out the epochs and real cardinal-points of this great quarrel than any other contemporary whom I had met with.—— I know not whether this will suffice for Herr Preus[s]'s4 object and yours: but if you need more precise instruction, pray speak again; it is very easy to be had to any extent. Nay I think it would not be difficult to pick from the Old-Book Stalls a copy of the Book itself: but indeed there is a new Edition of all Hobbes's works lately published, in which the Behemoth is duly included,—Sir Wm Molesworth's Edition of Hobbes;5 which is probably in one of your Public Libraries by this time.

I send you an Autograph of Thomas Babington Macaulay, a conspicuous Politician, Edinburgh-Reviewer, Rhetorician, and what not among us at present. The note is addressed to me:6 the subject is perhaps worth mentioning. An old foolish story circulates concerning Oliver Cromwell: how when the king, in 1647, was negociating between the Army and the Parliament, he had promised to make Oliver an Earl and Knight of the Garter; how Oliver did not entirely believe him; got to understand that he was writing a letter to his Queen, which was to go off on a certain afternoon, sewed into the pannel of a saddle, by a Courier from an Inn in London: how Oliver thereupon, and his son-in-law, on that certain afternoon, disguised themselves as troopers, proceeded to the specified Inn, gave the Courier a cup of liquor, slit open the saddle, found the Letter, and there read,—“Fear not, my Heart; the garter I mean to give him is a hemp rope.” Whereupon &c &c. This story, of which we have Oil Pictures, Engravings, and a general ignorant belief current among us, I have for a long time seen to be mere Mythus; and had swept it, with many other such, entirely out of my head. But now a benevolent gentleman writes to me that, for certain, I shall get evidence about it, in Sir James Mackintosh's papers,—sends me even a long memoir on the subject. Macaulay has Sir James's Papers at present: I forward to Macaulay the long memoir; requesting him to burn it, if, as I conclude, he has and can have no evidence to confirm the story. This is his answer.7—— It is astonishing what masses of dry and wet rubbish do lie in one's way towards the smallest particle of valuable truth on such matters! I was in Oliver's native region two years ago;8 and made sad reflexions on the nature of what we call “immortal fame” in this world!

Peel is considered to have done a great feat in getting a Grant of Money (a much increased Grant) for the Catholic College of Maynooth in Ireland.9 — I do not wonder your King is in a great hesitation about setting up Parliaments in Prussia.10 I would advise a wise man, in love with things, and not in love with empty talk about things, to come here and look first!—

Adieu, my dear Sir,—in haste today.

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle