The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG ; 18 April 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520418-TC-JN-01; CL 27: 86-90


Chelsea, 18 April, 1852—

Dear Neuberg,

Your Books &c have at length arrived; four days ago; all safe; and were extremely welcome to me. I have already fallen upon some of them, and shall before long be thro' the whole lot, in one form of perusal or another. Frederic's Grandmother has proved well worth the time spent on it; Büsching, too, I am delighted with,—certainly of all Books I ever saw, the cheapest! And the old Königreich Böheim, all ashy with the fires of the 30-years war, and full of ancient aspects of the habitable Earth in Rübezahl's country: you cannot think what good I shall get of it.1 I have already learned beyond dispute, what I never could before, which of the Friedland's was Wallenstein's, where he indubitably did superintend such stone-and-mortar work in those wild years,—Stralsund and some other things (tho' not quite “hung on a chain from Heaven”) having proved impregnable to him.2 Thanks also for the Bellum Septennis, which is well done, and will have its uses.3 The original was the first book I ever read in German; I went thro' it again lately, still with satisfaction and instruction: the Translation (which I had heard of but never seen) will serve me for reference since I have not the original, of my own.4 The other little Book of Instructions, which was once an invaluable unattainable curiosity to mankind, is still richly worth several sixpences to one inquiring man!— Stieler's maps I find to be capital (especially with a huge eyeglass which I have got, big as a fireshovel): of them and of Reymann's (of which later let me recommend you a shilling's worth, whenever you go a day's journey in Germany) I mean to have plenty from Henrietta Street5 whenever I need them. They are to be had here at the same price as with you. Thanks, many thanks, for all the pains you have taken with me.

If at any time you meet with these two Books: Mauvillon: Vie de Fredc Guillme I;—and Mauvillon (son of the former): Vie de Ferdinand Duc de Brunswic (unless the German original is considered to be better for some reason?)6—pray pick them up. I suppose they are very cheap when the Antiquär once catches them.7 Item, Brenkenhof's Leben (Brenkenhof was Fredc's Brindley, and did an immense quantity of damming and bog-draining and other complex beaver-work for him.8— Don't trouble yourself to search for these Books but take them if they come to hand: I will mention others gradually as they occur in the course of these investigations. Nicolai is first-rate of its kind; and comes almost providentially, for I had swallowed Zimmermann not very long before: bane and antidote. I sent for the two sets of Anekdoten whh you found recommended; the London Library buys these (thanks to it): if Nicolai's Anekdoten was not one of the two sets— But I think it was. Any way I must hear Nicolai, heavy surly authentic man, to the very last word.

The “Carriage and duty” of these Books, as charged by Wms & Norgate, was enormous! That is one fact to be kept in mind: 18/ for that inconsiderable parcel; I mean to go and remonstrate, but fancy I shall make nothing of it. Only, if so, we will try to avoid Herr Hartmann on future occasions.

Had I known in time, George Bunsen wd have saved us all the trouble together: he came from Bonn hither about a fortnight ago; “would have carried” &c, nay still “would,”—and, just two days before your parcel came, insisted on sending a plan of route in such cases,—which, if it can ever be of use either to me or to you (for I could receive here any light object, and send it whither you bade), I will excerpt for you. It is this:

The Prussian Courier comes by Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle—I know not whether on horseback or on wheels, but confidently suppose the latter. A Herr von zur Hosen (Lord of In-the-Breeches!), Royal Postmaster there, receives and communicates with him. Therefore, in regard to any not too bulky or heavy thing (limits were not indicated to me, and did not seem to be strict), here is how you do:

First: Direct the Parcel (all its inward covers and directions being well completed), “Sr Excellenz Dem Herrn Ritter Bunsen (I suppose that is exact?) &c &c London marking it, “zur Eröffnung des [to be opened by] Dr Georg Bunsen”.— Secondly: Put another cover, and addressing it,

“K. Ober Postdirector Herrn von zur Hosen
(Inhalt: Drucksachen [Contents: Printed Matter])

N——g (whatever that is)9 Aachen, send it by Fahrpost to Aachen,—when we hear there is Courier expected soon. Of this latter essential fact I could at any time (I suppose), on inquiry, give you notice.— And so enough of Drucksachen and Speditions handel [forwarding business] for the present.

This George Bunsen wishes to make your acquaintance when he returns to Bonn, which I think will be before long. He is an intelligent-talking, very goodnatured, courteous and amiable young man; extremely expert and far advanced in his academic accomplishments I believe—tho' his eyes (threatening often total blindness) have been a sad bar to him:—indeed I believe he must really have a great deal of talent in some form or mode; tho' for myself I have not yet made much of him; and can only testify expressly to his excellence in singing, and to his perfect placidity and kindness of temper: his speech, which is very copious, does wear an aspect of wise extensive understanding, and even of depth, and superiority of view,—but lacks bone dreadfully when you come to handle it; begins rather nowhere, ends do, and in fact melts very much into more cloud on various sides! However I think there is no question but he will make a pleasant speaking neighbour to you; so he shall have his card freely when he goes.

We are plodding along here in the old dusty way; terribly off for weather; indeed I call it the dustiest, bleakest, ugliest spring I can remember even in London,—and extremely backward, owing to the drought, which is only this day promising to end; tho' my Brother writes from Scotland it is quite the reverse in those naturally damp regions, altogether an “Italian spring,” and the best they ever saw. Here everybody is down with influenza, our poor Housemaid banished into the country, glad she is still alive; that happily is the worst in our premises; my Wife has escaped hitherto, and tho' weak is generally able to stir about, and front the additional domestic tribulations,—tho' unhappily today she too is imprisoned with headache, and far enough from well.

We have M. Thiers here and quantities of talking and galloping people; of whom however I get less and less good as I grow older: Heaven knows it never, at the youngest, was very much! Thiers, in particular, is a noticeable subject: bon garçon truly, with the light eupeptic practical Gascon spirit very strong in him; has a most musical, plaintively-singing and yet essentially gay and jaunty treble voice; talks unweariedly, and in a very neat and clear and carelessly frank and ingenious way, with the same; close-cropt bullet-head, of fair weight, almost quite white; laughing little hazel eyes, jolly hook-nose and most definite mouth; short, short (five feet three or two, at most), swells slightly in the middle,—soft, sausage-like, on the whole,—and ends neatly in fat little feet and hands: such is Thiers to the outward eye and ear; a man, for the rest, worth listening to, a little; a little and not much; for after all his notions of everything are hopelessly commonplace, his talent a beaver one out and out: of things higher (and this is even a saving clause for the man and his history) he has never had a tone of intimation; can go along without a conscience good or bad, and has found that answer, in the element he lived in. Nothing of the hypocrite in poor Thiers; a cheerful healthy human parliamentary beaver; bon garçon to this day. Guizot I generally consider to have had a conscience, nay still to aim at having one; and to be first & chiefly damnable from that addition to his outfit; a hypocrite-fanatic; full of rancour, gloom and deceit and self-deceit:— Unhappy constitutional human creatures that we are! To think what Guesclin or Turenne or Sully or Colbert10 wd say to these improved Kings of France, is the source of unspeakable infinitudes of reflexions to me.—

Our Protectionist Ministry is understood to have given up Protection,11 and to stand there as merely Conservative, Anti-democratic,—on what footing it can find in these drifting deluges. Comparatively, I am willing to wish it well; as indeed all the world seems to [do]:—all men seem to murmur, as if looking over their shoulder towards it with sad supreme indifference: “Live as long as thou canst; thou too, poor phantom!” A feeling that we are resting on a thin earth rind over terrible abysses haunts all reflective men; I think I can notice too that men's despair of Parliaments and appreciation of Stump-Oratory are visibly increasing. In fact very much is perhaps increasing and growing here,—tho' it is under such incalculably complex conditions, and in the middle of such huge decomposition and decay. We must be patient; and appeal silently (not à la Guizot if we can help it) to the immortal gods.

I suppose you do not get Chapman's Review12 at Bonn: I by no means advise you to take the trouble of importing it by special express! Not above the 10th part of it is legible to me at all:—ach Gott!— — A fierce controversy is going on here among the big Booksellers and the little: the big, as you know, insist on taking from 45 to 60 per cent of the sale price for the mere act of selling any new Book; the little declare (this long time practically and now in open words) they can do it for far less, say 15 or 10! It is easy to see how such a controversy must end.— I am perfectly silent in it, and indeed almost perfectly careless.

Our talk of Germany gets more and more towards a state of definiteness: I see clearly, if I continue to read about Frederic,—which I find really to have some likelihood,—it will be indispensable to come, perhaps even to stay for half a year or more You shall hear duly abt it; probably before long. Adieu. Write when you are in the humour to do me a favour—I have read Marwitz; a good solid Prussian Tory: his book and self are both worth knowing.— Ever yours truly

T. Carlyle