TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG ; 31 May 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520531-TC-JN-01; CL 27: 128-134
TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG
Chelsea, 31 May, 1852—
Thanks for your Letter, which gives me much pleasure; thanks also for your new prophecy of Books, which will be very welcome to me when they get across. I wrote to Bunsen Junior, straightway about the conveyance; he answers me, this morning, from the country, that the Aachen convenience is “always” open to me; that a Courier leaves that place on the 3d and on the 17th of every month:—in fact, I had better slit you off the first leaf of his Note, which will completely instruct you on that matter. I will take Nicolai especially, one of the most authentic of men; Schmettau also, which I believe to be about soldiering and the Silesian wars, will probably be very useful:1 in short, we will reject nothing of your List; far from rejecting!— If in any of your Bonn shops you can find a Stieler's “Hand-atlas” (Deutschland in 4 Maps, of date 1821),—I already possess 2, the N.W. part, and the N.E.; they are exactly the same size as the newer and much minuter Stieler's you sent me; and I shd like very well to possess the other 2, S.W. and S.E. (probably about 2 /, if they exist),—Wms & Norgate consider them quite antediluvian (date 1821), and never heard of them before. By the marks here given you will easily know them (my “N.W” ends with Heilbronn, Wurzburg &c on the right hand corner at the bottom; “N.E.” has Kissingen, Eger, Prag &c along the South border),—and on the whole don't bother yourself about them, and only try a very little: and wrap them round some bit of cane, pamphlet or the like, if they are to be had.
I have got full benefit out of all the Books you formerly sent: my old Büsching seems to be the cheapest purchase I ever made,—serves me as a German Villars, or, Topographical Dictionary, and in many other ways. Even Erman (on Fk's Grandmother) has got himself well read; and the redoutable Nicolai; champing into powder the nonsense of Ritter Zimmermann, got some kind of blessing from me. I am much in want of some small German, or especially Prussian Namenskatalog, Biog. Dicty of Official persons, & other authentic easily consultable Prosopography to tell me Who's who. So many different Schwerins, Anhalts, swarms of Würtemburg Princes, Margraves of Baireuth, and Anspach, without even a clear date stuck to any of them:— Denina's Prusse Litteraire, the only help of that kind I have yet got, is as good as no help, or worse, indeed one of the paltriest books ever written, and deserving properly to be burnt out of the way. Nothing even equal to an old English Peerage-book, whh, God knows, is no ideal kind of article, have I yet fallen in with. Hübner's Genealogische Tabellen is in the Museum;2 but only to consult, if even that, for I never try to read in the Museum, or even look into it without something of a shudder. On the whole I greatly want something abt Frederic, which wd tell me all that the barrenest file of contemporary Newspapers could,—give me namely an indubitable basis of Chronology, as minute as I liked. If you hear of any such thing, be on the watch for it. Preuss's editings are infinitely careful, minutely copious in annotation; but he has withal a dreadful want of the real sense of method,—in fact of sense generally in comparison to the task he has taken up. In editing Frederic's works, for example, he seems to have missed altogether the very obvious truth that except as autobiographic documents about Frederic these are not “works” at all; and has irremediably jumbled his operation thereby from top to bottom, which is great sorrow to me for one!
I cannot say that I make much progress with Fk, or see what relation I can well establish with him; but he does increase in beauty to me, the intrinsic bright sheet-lightning soul of Vater Fritz does,—a most brilliant swift-darting, and yet most stable and practical creature, invincible as the very gods;—and so I continue to read about him; not being able, in fact, to read at all except in a train and about something; and the world offering to me, in my present deep silence, nothing else is so inviting. I have even tried what I could to go thro' the 5000 Letters of Voltaire3 for his sake,—the Pirithous of that Theseus.4 Voltaire also has his lightning element, and holds of the gods after all.— — On the whole, it is very clear, if this continue I shall have to go to Germany, especially to Berlin, Rheinsberg, Ruppin5 and the Riesengebirge: accordingly it seems to be silently settled that we are, my wife and I, to come across, and stay as long as we can; but the practical particulars of the adventure do not seem to advance much towards maturity all the while. I suppose we shall probably go nevertheless: people preach to me abt the withering heat and sand and then the fierce winter cold of Berlin; but one might try to weather all that, or what was unavoidable of that. I have never yet written to Varnhagen on the subject, tho' often thinking of doing so. Indeed I have been much lamed for the last four weeks I [had] a vile fit of influenza; had two relapses, owing to my impatience; an[d] made matters worse and worse. The disease was infinitely contemptible; but the weakness it brought on was something quite transcendent, and it is not yet gone, tho' now slowly but steadily going.
People are all busy with their Elections,—that is to say, all people who have any wish or hope to be elected;6 but the Nation generally, I think, is in a high degree torpid as to such questions; and seems to be gloomily conscious that no good will come to it from electors and eligibles. The late instance of brazen Political Mendacity is slowly producing some surprise and disgust in the English mind, and (I dare say) giving rise to reflexions on the constitutional horoscope which are not of a very flattering nature in this instance!— Meanwhile trade is brisk, bread plentiful; and a great stir is rising towards the Australian Gold Fields, and grave anxieties in the Colonial world on that head. I saw yesterday yesterday7 a heavy honest Scotchman, owner of twenty thousand sheep there, who had been interrupted in his visit home, and was obliged to hurry off again (sailed today), all his labourers having left him at sheering time except the steward, who, “with four blacks,” had had to manage as he could. This new gold element is really likely to embroil the general chaos not a little; and may perhaps hurry on either catastrophes or remedies, in various quarters of our affairs.8 For the rest, we too have at last got summer; whole oceans of verdure; tho' as yet mainly under veiled skies, and not with the emphasis that you record of Rhineland. An abundant harvest is said to be in promise; tho' perhaps a little later than usual.
I am strongly inclined to be of opinion that you shd not quite neglect to look about you over those Estates offered for sale; and see whether you could not tolerably fit yourself with a pleasant rural habitation, where you might learn to farm a little, and trim up once more a home for yourself on the face of this “all-nourishing Earth.” Depend upon it, as matters go, that is a considerable point for a man; to be anchored even by the possession of a House, a Library, a Dairy, Garden, and good conveniences for living whatever life one may have,—this is greatly preferable to no anchorage at all. As to England, you could still visit England almost ad libitum, after a little while; and if you have quite done with trade (as I suppose to be certain), there really is very little in England that cannot be overtaken by visits. I have serious thots myself, many a time, of fairly lifting anchor out of this empty noise, and steering towards some discoverable habitation that were at least silent, and furnished with not-dirty air to breathe. Age is and should be earnest, sad even, tho' not ignobly but nobly sad; and the empty grinning apery of commonplace creatures and their loud inanities ought to be more and more shut out from us as the Eternities draw nigh. You, in your own thoughts, may find occupation for yourself wherever you are; and whether the world takes any notice of it or takes no notice, is really not the question with a man. Besides, cannot you sell your chateau again, if you grow weary of it? At the same time,—do nothing rashly! And on the whole never mind my counsels; which, like counsels generally, are given witht knowledge of the really deciding elements. I can only wish you a wise decision; and that means all that can be wished.
Chapman has gained his cause,9 so far, with unexpected speed; but the matter is far yet from complete;—and on the whole I can prophesy a very muddy troubled lake to fish in, for long years henceforth, to the vehement man,—with perhaps large draughts of fish now and then, such fish as there is in that kind of water. Of Wilkinson I have heard or seen absolutely nothing since you went. He sent me his Physiology,10 which I found to be full of beautiful eloquence and ingenuity, but absolutely without recognisable basis on fact, and as it were, quite indifferent whether built on fact or on dream, analogy and shadow; I rapidly broke down therefore in my reading of it; made no answer; and there we rest hitherto. I hear farther, however, that he is busier than formerly, his practice much increasing; also, in some vague way, that the half-distracted Odoherty11 is gaining large vogue for some Swedish, “muscular” or other half-distracted form of “medicine” he has taken on hand. Nature has an immense pantry, and is very bountiful to human beings!
But now, before my second sheet end, let me attend a little to your queries on Heroworship. I take the references as you give them, not having any Copy of the Book,—witht going downstairs p. 32.—Follow Simrock;12 my knowledge is vague, and quite secondhand in comparison.
p. 55 (Havamal, Völuspa) do do13
p. 56 (thimble).—I got this from Mallet (Northern Antiquities,—“non dez”), and have since repeatedly seen it different in better authorities; but liking the poor thimble, I always kept it.14
p. 11 (Aristotle's fancy), I have very little doubt Plato is the word,—tho' Plato's “fancy,” too, in his Republic, does not too well suit (if I remember now) what is there said of the Sun and the man. However, say “Plato,” beyond doubt. I read the thing, forty years ago, in some poor Book or other, neither Aristotle nor Plato; and have ignorantly but now irremediably, twisted it to my own uses a little.15
p. 315 (sympathy-hatred). “nor no hatred” should be “nor any hatred”;—meaning complete indifference or impartiality.16
p. 58 (Childe-Etin). There is a Ballad of Childe-Etin, whh I have read in some Scotch collection (hardly Scott's, I think), but cannot say where. I have written to Rt. Chambers to tell me; and if his answer, which is already due, come before tomorrow's post go, you shall still have it; if it come at all, it shall be kept for you.17 Meanwhile here is the Red Etin of Ireland (still more decisively a Jötun[)]; who changes people into stone; has married the King of Scotland's daughter, and daily beats her;—a truly ugly scoundrel and son of Chaos;—but gets his monstrous heads well cut off at last, by a dextrous pious little fellow (Thor in modern coat): of him you will find lively enough account in a German Book Geschichte der volksthümlichen schottischen Liederdichtung, von Eduard Fideler18 (2 voll Zerbst, 1846) ii. 261–7;—and this will do for you whatever befal. Fideler (some poor schoolmaster I suppose) gives the fullest account of Scotch songwriting I have anywhere seen,—the good faithful soul!
p. 333. St Catherine Creed (oftener now written Crea) Church, the very walls that Laud dedicated in 1630, still stands in Leadenhall Street: the Catherine is undoubtedly the Egyptian Phantasm Saint; as to Creed or Crea (Neal uses the former word) opinions are at variance, and equal only to a guess. The Church, before Laud's time, had been built on an extinct Priory of Saint Saviour: “Crea,” says one is the old French pronunciation of Christ (which I do not the least believe with confidence); I cd rather guess some unusually conspicuous Creed had been painted on Priory or Church; and so had been taken to distinguish it from St Catherine Coleman (Coleman Street) which is another Church.19— An account of Laud's ceremony at Creed Church one of the strangest ever seen out of Drury Lane is in Neal's Histy of the Puritans (4to London 1754) i. 549;—and has been duly laughed at by Hume in his History20— Adieu dear Neuberg. Yours always