The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO KARL AUGUST VARNHAGEN VON ENSE; 29 October 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511029-TC-KAVE-01; CL 26: 220-222


Chelsea, 29 Octr, 1851—

My dear Sir,

Mr Neuberg intimates to me, the other night, that he is about returning to Germany, probably to Berlin among other places, and that he will take charge of any packet of “Autographs” or other small ware, which I may have to send you. By way of acknowledgement for your great kindness to Neuberg, if not for infinitely more solid reasons, I ought to rouse myself, and constitute him my Messenger on this occasion! He is deeply sensible of your goodness to him; and surely so am I, to whom it is not the first nor the hundred-and-first example of your disposition in that respect. Many thanks I give you always, whether I express them in words or do not at all express them. This I believe you know; and so we need not say more of it at present.

There were other Letters I had laid up for you; which seem, in some household earthquake, to have been destroyed; at least they are undiscoverable now when I search for them: but by the present sample I think you will infer that they were not good for much;—hardly one or two by persons of any note or singularity whom you are not already acquainted with, so far as handwriting can bring acquaintance: such were those now fallen aside, such are these now sent; if they yield you a moment's amusement in your solitude, and kindly bring you in mind of a friendly hand far away, they will do all the function they are fit for.— About a fortnight ago I despatched, without any Letter inclosed, a volume I have been publishing lately, Biography of a deceased Friend of mine: this also I hope you have got, or will soon get, and may derive a little pleasure from. It will give you a kind of glimpse into modern English Life; and may suggest reflexions and considerations which, to a human reader like yourself, are not without value. I wrote it last summer when we were all in Babel uproar with the thing they called “Crystal Palace,”—such a gathering of jubilant Windbeutelm [wind bags] from all the four corners of the world as was never let loose on one poor City before!—in which sad circumstances all serious study was as good as impossible; and, not to go quite out of patience, one had to resolve on doing something that did not need study. Thank the gods, we are now rid of that loud delirium, of street-cabs, stump-oratory, and general Hallelujah to the Prince of the Power of the Air,—what I used to call the “Wind-dust-ry of all Nations”;—and may the angry Fates never send the like of it again in my time!

In the end of July I ran off to try a month of Water cure, which has done me no ill, and not traceably very much good; after which I went to my native region in Scotland, then to Lancashire &c on my way homewards, nay was even a week in Paris;—and at last, for a month past, am safe at my own hearth again, beautifully silent in this deserted season of the Town-year; and on the whole am much more content with my lot than I have been in the past noisy months. Silence, solitude: I find this withal an indispensible requisite in life for every faithful man; and have often thought of ancient Oriental Ramadhans &c with a real regret, and pity for the modern generations. No devout mortal but will long to be alone from time to time; left utterly to himself and the dumb Universe, that he may listen to the Eternal voices withal, that the whirlwinds of dusty terrestrial nonsense may from time to time precipitate themselves a little!—

What my next task is to be? That is the question! If I were a born Prussian, I believe I should forthwith attempt some Picture of Friedrich the Great, the last real king that we have had in Europe,—a long way till the next, I fear, and nothing but sordid loud anarchy till the next. But I am English, admonished towards England;—and Friedrich, too, is sure enough to be known in time without aid of mine.— And so I remain in suspense; have however got Preus's big Book,1 and decide to read that again very soon. I am much at a loss for maps and good topographies on that subject: if you could select me a very recommendable name or two, it might be of real help. We have huge map-dealers here, a wilderness of wares; and can get any German thing at once, if we will know which. Item, I have been reading again (for curiosity merely) about Catherine II:2—you who know Russian might guide me a little there too? Catherine is a most remarkable woman;—and we are to remember that, if she had been a man (as Francis I, Henri IV3 &c), how much of the scandal attached to her name would at once fall away. Doubtless you have read Kropomisky's Tagebuch:4 is it good for anything? Are there no Histories but Castera's and Tooks?5 Any news on that subject wd be welcome too, some time when you a[re ben]evolent6 to me. Adieu, my dear Sir, and do not forget me!— [signature cut away]

We have lost Miss Wynne's latitude and longitude in these her travels. If she come to Berlin, remind her punctually of that fact.— Milnes, as you perhaps know, is at last wedded; just returning from his marriage-jaunt: a very eligible wife to begot.7