The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO C. K. J. BUNSEN ; 4 March 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530304-TC-CKJB-01; CL 28: 63-64


Chelsea, 4 March, 1853—

My dear Sir,

Those Letters of Goethe are very good in their way; Jerusalems Tod &c very good; and the whole story of Werter, with its Documents, will have a Biographic interest which must render them permanently valuable.1

But, alas, the thing wanted for this book seems not somebody to translate it, but somebody to write it! I venture to predict that it can expect no success at all in England, if merely translated in its present form. The Editor, I lament to observe, seems a mere mass of chaff and wind; and doesn't in the least understand what is wanted of him. I defy anybody to read these Letters as they at present stand, UNLESS he had lived, first 79 years ago at Wetzlar,2 then 50 years ago at Hanover as Boarder in the Kestner Household, and in the meanwhile had visited much abt Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Cöln and all along the Rhine Country! Nay the Editor himself appears not to have read them: at least it is quite clear, from one of the last of these present letters of Goethe, that G. was at Wetzlar again after his Hegira [flight] to Frankfurt, and passed a day or more with the Liebenden [lovers], and even was defrauded of his kiss on leaving. Of which the Editor, with his sublime asseverations and reiterations that said Hegira was “eternal” &c appears not to have the least perception.

But as to the English in particular,—what does any living Englishman know of the “visitation” at Wetzlar (whh might be explained in half a page); of Friedberg, Schmidtgasse, the Deutsche Haus &c &c; or what can he make of Letters crammed to the brim with still more recondite allusions, which only a “Boarder in the Kestner household 50 years ago” could give a guess at?—An ‘Editor’ who instead of manfully, with the utmost brevity and the utmost precision, explaining all these things, or saying at once, “I cannot,” will launch out into floods of vapid palaver and eloquent commonplace,—such Editor belongs to the intolerable class!— In short, my dear Sir, I strongly advise you to have nothing to do with this business; and indeed, in spite of your ever-abounding good-nature, and readiness to help all creatures, I conclude you will have arrived at that result already for yourself!

The other day, meeting Pauli3 in the London Library, I charged him with a little petition to you in regard to Dr Abeken;4 which, at the risk of slaying the slain, I will repeat. Please assure Abeken, by the very first opportunity, that all I ask of him, or have a right to ask, or do essentially want, is an answer, some answer. Perhaps he never got the Letter, tho' I posted it myself with all precautions? At any rate, if he cannot get me those Books, there are a thousand other resources in that event,—perhaps it is even better that he cannot get them, such as they are like to be;—and the only quite fatal loss for a man is that of time, whh I am now undergoing, or painfully liable to undergo.

With many apologies for breaking in upon you with these things, “falling with the door into the house,”5 and nothing but ill news on my tongue, I remain (very sorry for Fritz and myself and Goethe & the Editor of Goethe) Yours always / T. Carlyle