1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG; 28 April 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540428-TC-JN-01; CL 29: 72-74


Chelsea, 28 April, 1854—

Dear Neuberg,

Thanks for your Note, and the pleasant glimpse of rustic England in these sharp April days. Your tour to Nottingham,1 and the look into old earnest scenes, will do you good: I too suffer dreadfully by sluggishness in late times; the fruit partly of increased years, as I compute, which is beyond Doctor's help,—but partly also of sleepless German travels and these unutterable household uproars, which is perhaps abating by degrees.

I had received a Letter from Abeken,2 and Pertz's Disquisition in corpore [in the flesh]:3 if you write soon to Abeken, pray thank him very kindly for me; I mean to write myself before very long. The Pertz is not worth very much; it settles what Manuscripts there are, and indicates that Pertz and the Royal Library have at length got the real original, and parent of them all (purchased at some Hanover Auction, for 45/, lately); it admits the exaggeration and shrieky perversion of the Magravine,4 without trying anywhere to correct them; indicates that there is still a Journal of Travels into Italy (hardly worthy of publishing);—and, on the whole, leaves one at rest upon the question, “Have you not seen Pertz, then!” We have now seen Pertz; Heaven make us thankful.— Abeken's Berlin account of my relation to Friedrich and his History is really not so far out; alas, if it were entirely the truth, I believe it might be better for me! In my life I never got into such a Frischer Haff [unused lagoon], not half a fathom deep, of brakish water, anywhere, in endless square miles of superficies, and nothing but sand round one to the world's end. If I ever do make a readable little human Book out of Frk, it will be a kind of miracle in Literature. However, I do stick to it, by mere vis inertiae [force of inertia], and as if by a kind of sad enchantment into the realms of sand and brakish Haffs! A new cargo of German Books arrived the other day; I have been to the Museum also, looking after one Köhler (much the sensiblest of all these poor Professors),5 but found I had got the wrong reference, and my small object was to be fished (if I could) out of 24 quartos.

We went to Addiscombe the thursday before you left; staid there, no foreign company but ourselves, till Monday; pleasant enough days, on the sunny side of green bushes, with the pure spring country all spread round one, and a Vie du Prince Henri (unluckily worth nothing)6 in one's hand. On sunday we made a pilgrimage to the “Crystal Palace”: a wonderful place, with “regardless of expense,” and some very little more, written conspicuously on every feature of it;—announcing in fact that the age of miracles is not past; that here is a new age of miracles, tho' alas only a Cockney one, regardless of expense! However, there will be really many good copies of remarkable objects; classical and other excellent sculptures,—whole acres of Egyptian nightmares are already in order,—not to speak of Florentine carvings, Tombs of Knights Templars7 &c &c: in short, on some private day (such as there are to be) I shall wish to go back, and examine several things. That is the way to manage with Museums: walk direct towards some object specifically preappointed, shutting your eyes to all the rest; otherwise “the rest,” if you have any sense and seriousness of mind, will tend continually to drive you mad. As we experienced in the Kunstkammer [art gallery], of famous memory, that day;8— which in fact is but the acme of Museums; or chaotic omnigatherums9 offered to a human soul really seeking nourishment for itself.— The Country all round Sydenham is getting torn up into breadbox architecture; and indeed everywhere the bricklayer is thrice busy (Croydon itself, I think, will be a bit of London before long); as if all the vulturous creatures in Creation had said to each other, “Come let us fly to the biggest Dead Horse that ever was; over in London yonder there is offal without end!”— I suppose this may come to good too, in some remote way, in some infinitesimally small degree? At lowest it will (on present terms) rot away into powder before very long, and be scattered into nothing by the winds.

When you get back, come to see us. I think we are to be from home on Saturday Evg come-a-week, our only night of absence; but the next night we shall hope to be at home as usual.

Do not forget to satisfy Abeken about the Copy of the Charlottenburg Picture10 which has come to Bath House. The real truth is, it is an excellent Copy of an extremely beautiful and interesting Picture; I know not that any Picture has come to us, for generations back, better worth having at its price: a truly “Historical Painting,” which I would not exchange for whole galleries of Kaulbachism11 or other Hypocritic Nonsense on Canvas. The little Fritz, in blue velvet frock, with his little drum, is one of the prettiest children ever drawn; and then he became Big Fritz;—and his Sister here is great grandmother (I believe) of the Czar Nicholas,12 not to speak of other more unquestionable merits!— I only wish the Graff Portrait of Friedrich (which is not Schickler's, it seems, but yet the same as that)13 may succeed equally; and come soon.

Enough today; and indeed far too much. I will wish you a pleasant journey, and safe return in improved conditions; and remain

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle