The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 15 September 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520915-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 284-288


Homburg (vor der Höhe), 15 Septr, 1852—

Thanks, Dearest, for your long and kind Bonn Letter, whh reached me safely yesterday morning at Frankfurt (10 miles from this): the assiduous Rosa had inclosed it to Neuberg; and how welcome it was to me at the “Braunfels” (Jew Bankinghouse) where N. had gone to get money,—all right now! Yr Rotterdam letter, it seems, is safe; worth another shilling too to have it safe: a second letter, which I hope you have under way, to “Frankfurt, poste restante,” has not yet time, for a day or two; but proper instructions can be left, it seems, and shall, with the Post-officials at Frankft, and if not there before we go, then at Weimar (where a day's rest is to be), I shall get that too, and rejoice in my little kind despatching Goody and the news she sends. Thank God, no bad news; not fundamentally bad, tho' so supremely bothersome on the surface. What a day was that on the sofa after a night of foul paint-smells and misery! Oh if we had but these wretched mortals once fairly out of our poor little habitation, shouldn't we be shy to let them in again: don't they wish they may get in again! Patience, patience, my little Dame; I see you are getting them cast out, these devils, worse than Mary Magdalen's;1 daylight begins to shine thro' that sad adventure, and we will laugh at it, from the safe other side, some day. They are in the back area, it seems? Bid them not forget the immortal “trellis,” after all;—the hydrastisy2 they won't forget!— But let me sketch you my adventures, in a very brief form.

We did get out of Bonn fairly on Friday morning; a “washerwoman” of mine (dreadfully blue and damp she proves) and various little interests of N.'s rendered Thursday unadvisable; but Friday, at 8 a.m., then we did start, up the lordly Rhine again, under auspices at first wettish, but whh dried and brightened by degrees. The evg before, I had found out C. Barton's return, and made Ng lead me to his house: A considerably altered man, and all for the worse: puffy face, much crowfooted, scratch-wig discoverable with some difficulty; manners as of some empty fop in a play; a “Ha! ha!” as destitute of joy as ever sounded from the soi-disant human throat: in fact, a verfehltes Leben [failed life], poor devil, and a wretched egoist Hofnarr [court jester] from whom I was willing to escape after some minutes. Anthony S.'s adventure at Dessau, it appears, was better than we heard: the police took him not for a “political exile” at all, but for a fugitive Jew Banker's Clerk (Jude ist Jude [A Jew is a Jew]), which Jew Br had run off with immense monies not long before!— Don't speak of that,—not till my return.

Of the Rhine you shall hear enough by and by: it is verily a “noble river”; much broader than the Thames at full tide, and rolling along many feet in depth, with banks quite trim, at a rate of 4 or 5 miles on hour, witht voice, but full of boiling eddies; the most magnificent image of silent power I have ever seen; and in fact one's first idea of a World-river. This broad swift sheet, rolling strong and calm (in silent rage) for 3 or 4 hundred miles is itself far the grandest thing I have seen here, or shall likely see.—But enough of it, Ng and I got out at Coblenz that Friday abt 2 p.m. and by N.'s suggestion put ourselves into the coupé of an Ems Omnibus,—Bad Ems, 10 miles off, up a side valley (east side) there to try for a quiet sleeping-place, and day for excerpting German Books. Which really answered well. Ems is the strangest place you ever saw: Matlock, but a far steeper set of rocks close to rear, in front a river equal to Nith; and half a mile of the brightest part of Rue de Rivoli (say, Regent's Quadrant) set into it:3 a place as from the Opera direct, and inhabited by Devil's servants chiefly. Of it enough in winter evenings that are coming! We got the quietest lodging perhaps in Germany (not very quiet either) at the further end of the place, last house and abutting on fields: there in spite of cocks I got one night's sleep and 2 half ones, and did all my bits of Books (except 2 whh I have now finished here); and shall not undertake any similar job while here. Better buy the Books in genl, and bring them home to read. At Ems we inquired diligently for Miss Wynne (as here also), to no effect. We saw Russians gambling every evening, heard music by the river side, among fantastic promenades and Regents-Quadrant edifices, and Devil's-servant people every evening every morning; saw a dance too, unforgetable by man;—in fine drove, in cheap cuddy-vehicle, very respec[t]able, on Sunday ev[en]ing,4 up to Nassau (Burg Nassau, the birthplace of “Wm the Silent”5 and other heroes); a kind of pious pilgrimage, whh I am glad to have done. At the top of the high tower, on a high woody hill, one has of course a “view”—not worth much to me. But I entered my name in their Album; and plucked that one particle of flower, on the tip top of all, which I now send to thee,—keep it carefully, & mark on it “Burg Nassau, 12 Septr 1852”: do, and be a good Lassie! Next morning we left Ems; joined our steamboat at Coblenz, and away again to the sublime portions of the Rhine country: very sublime indeed,—really worth a sight; say 100 miles of a Lochlomond (or half Loch Lomond) all rushing on at 5 miles an hour, and with queer old towns and ruined castles on the banks: a grand silence too; and gray day, adding to one's sadness of mood; for a “fine sorrow” (not coarse) is the utmost I can bring it too in this world usually! Beyond Coblentz our boat was too crowded; nasty people, several of them, French mainly; stupid, and polite, English mainly,—there was a sprinkling of Irish too, “looking at the vine-clad hills” (as I heard them lilting and saying). Neuberg guided and guides, & does for me, as only a 3d power of Courier, reinforced by loyalty and friendship, could,—bless him, the good and sensible, but wearisome & rather heavy man! At Mainz, at dusk, it was decidedly pleasant to get out, and have done with the Rhine (whh had now grown quite flat on each side, and full of islands with willows, not to speak of chained (anchored) corn-mills &c &c: Maintz and Faust of Maintz we had to survey by cat's light,—good enough for us and it, I fancy;—in fine abt 10 at night the railway (20 miles or so) brought us to Frankfurt; and the wearied human tabernacle, in well-waxed wainscotted upper apartts, in the “Dutch Hof,” prepared itself to court repose,—not with the best prospects, for the street or Square (Rossmarkt, joining with Theater Platz) was still rattling with vehicles, and indeed continued to do so, and we left it rattling. Of the night's sleep we had as well say nothing: I remembered Goody over the Malvern Inn-Gate, and endeavoured to possess my soul in patience.6— In shaving next morning, with my face to the Square, whh was very lively and had trees in the middle, I caught with the corner of my eye sight of a face which was evidently Goethe's: ach Gott, merely in stone, in the middle of the Platz amid the trees;—I had so longed to see that face alive, and here it was given to me at last, as if with huge world-irony, in stone! An emblem of so much that happens: this also gave me a moment's genial sorrow, or something of the sort.

From Bonn I had written to Mephisto Marshall at Weimar: behold, one of the first faces the morning offered me at Frankfurt was that of Marshall himself, who had come in person to meet us the night before, and had been at the Post-Office and at all inns,—the friendly, ugly little man. He expressed great regret that you were not there, as he had rashly fancied from the “we” of my Note; was quite desolate to hear I could not stop at Weimar, or any place, beyond one day, for want of sleep: he went about with us everywhere, and at first threatened to be rather a burden, but by degrees grew manageable and rather useful, till we dined together and parted on our several routes. He is gone round by Würzburg &c to Weimar; and is to expect us there about Saturday, and not to run out to meet us and show the Wartburg at Eisenach7 &c &c. His Grand Duke & Duchess are in Italy; Eckermann himself is at Berlin: one day may very well suffice in Berlin.— At Frankfurt yesterday, after breakfast and yr Letter, we saw (weariedly I) all manner of things: Goethe's House (were in Goethe's room, a little garret, not much bigger than my dressing-room), and wrote our name “in silence”; the Judengasse [Jews' street], grimmest section of the Middle-Ages and their Pariar-hood8 I ever saw; the Römer, where old Kaisers all were elected;—on the whole, a stirring strange old-Teutonic-Town, all bright with paint and busy trade (the “Fair” still going on, under its booths of small-trash, in some squares); finally we mounted to the top of the Pfarrkirche steeple (oldest church, highest steeple), “318 steps,” and then Marshall called for and got—a bottle of beer (being giddy, poor soul) & we aided in drinking the same (I to a cigar), and composedly surveying Frankft City, and the interior parts of Germany as far as possible. At 5 p.m. Ng put me into an Omnibus (vile crowded airless place), and in 2 hours brot me here, in quest of an old lodging he had had, “the quietest in the world,” where we were lucky enough to find a floor unoccupied, and still are for at least one other day. As I said, my Book-excerpting (taliter qualiter [for what it's worth]) is as good as done; and the place is really quite rustic; out at the very end of Homburg, and that by narrow lanes; I see nothing but fields and hear nothing but our own internal noises: last night accordingly I expected sleep,—alas, our upper-floor lodgers took gripes, took ill,—Devil mend them,—and my sleep was nothing to crack of. In fact, I have renounced the hope of getting any considerable sleep in Germany; I shall snatch nightly, it may be hoped, a few hours, say half a portion, out of the black dog's throat;9 and let every disturbance warn me more and more to be swift in my motions, to restrict myself to the indispensable, and to hurry home, there to have sleep!— I calculate there will but little good come to me from this journey: reading of Books I find to be impossible;—the thing that I can do is to see certain places, and to try if I can gather certain books. Wise people also to talk with, or inquire of, I as good as despair of seeing. All Germans, one becomes convinced, are not wise!— On the whole, however, one cannot but like this honesthearted hardy population: very coarse of feature, for most part, yet seldom radically hässlich [ugly]; a sonsy look rather, and very frugal, good humouredly poor, in their way of life. Of Homburg proper (which is quite out of sight and hearing, yet within 5 minutes walk) N. and I took survey last night: a Public set of Rooms (Kur-saal they call such things) finer than some palaces (all supported by gambling, all built by one big French gambling entrepreneur); and such a set of damnable faces (French, Italian and Russian, with dull English in quantities) as were never seen out of Hell before! Augh,—it is enough to make one turn cannibal. An old Russian Countess, yesternight, sat playing gow-panfuls of gold pieces every stake, a figure I shall never forget in this world! One of the first I saw, risking coin at an outer table, was Lord Clanrickarde, almost a beauty here, to whom I did not speak: afterwards, in music room (also the gambling entrepreneur's as indeed everything here is) the poor old Duke of Augustenburg hove in sight; on him I ought to call, if I can find spirits? Oh, what a place for human creatures to flock to, Och, och! The taste of the water is nasty selzer, but stronger (as Ems is too, only hot): on the whole if this be the last of German Badeörter [Spas] I ever see, I shall console myself.— — Dearest, Dearest, it is now high time to go out; and here surely is the longest Letter I have written for months.— Ng says, if you write the very day after this comes, “Dresden, Poste Restante” will do: if not “Berlin,”—and mind!— A line to poor Jack with a thousand goodwishes; poor souls, I do think it may be an improvet for him, God grant it may! And my poor old Mother, tell her I am well; and be you well

Adieu, adieu

T. Carlyle