1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO GEORGE BOYD; 5 July 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240705-TC-GBO-01; CL 3:101-103.


4 Mydelton Terrace, Pentonville, London / —5th July 1824—

Dear Sir,

I was much obliged by the Scotsman you sent me to Foley Place, and the criticism of Meister contained in it—shallow and narrow enough it is true, but favourable and on the whole the best it has yet received. I hope ere long to read some article more worthy of Goethe and his novel, in some more substantial publication. Blackwood's ought to satisfy me; but in truth it is a most meagre account, or rather no account at all, of Meister, and can serve no purpose farther than an advertising announcement of the work and its repute. An article in Taylor & Hessy's Magazine on the subject will appear next month, but of what character or by whom I know not.1

Whittaker2 I have not seen. I called one day at his shop to consult about transmitting that copy of the Novel to Goethe in Germany; but Whittaker was absent, and his clerks, ugly gaping Cockneys, made such foolish staring when I mentioned the affair, and talked so offensively about “Gothy” while consulting together, that I made an abrupt retreat, and have never yet fulfilled my purpose of returning. I got the book sent off by another hand; I suppose it is now far on its journey to Weimar.

Since I arrived in London some change has taken place in my affairs: I do not go to France, as I partly anticipated; for some time I am like to be a little unsettled in my movements and proceedings. My friends here are full of compliments about the success &c of Meister; many of them are advising me (with Mr Blackwood) to go on in translating German works, as a province of literature at once unoccupied and likely to be profitable as well as instructive. Their persuasions, aided by my own judgement of the case, have so far prevailed upon me that I now write to consult you upon the subject; conceiving myself bound to take your advice at least in a part of my project before proceeding any farther with it. The part I allude to is an idea I have long had of translating a Continuation of our present work by Goethe, entitled Meisters Wanderjahre, Meister's Travels (Trampship as we should call it in Scotland), a book I think about half as large as the Apprenticeship, and likely to be even more interesting, as it was written only two years ago, and after much controversy on the subject in Germany. What do you think of this? Procter (Barry Cornwall) has been very strenuously advising me to undertake a new version of Werter: but to this I feel little call; tho' Blackwood says it is better than Meister, and would sell better. My own opinion on the first of these points is widely different. Goethe's Life (for Colburn's3 seems to be utterly and universally condemned) has also been passing thro' my mind: I think it would make an excellent thing, only it would be rather long, its extent if I remember right being fully twice that of Meister. There are also some things of Paul Richter's: but concerning these I have yet come to no bearing. What I want of you is a decision about the first three. In regard to Meisters Wanderjahre I shall treat with no one till I have heard from you: it properly forms part of the former work, and were much better to go along with it. In regard to Werter, I have already hinted that unless you thought it likely to be very useful as a commercial speculation I have little care about it. As to the Life I confess my feeling that were it shorter it might please me (as well as the public) very much. I could also command notes to it from Coleridge4 if necessary; and from another gentleman5 personally known to Goethe, and familiar with all the late literary history of Germany as of England. This I think would be a[n] advantage. What do you say?

I am going out of town shortly, and I want to have thi[s] aff[air] arranged before I go. For the next month or six weeks it is likely I shall be in Warwickshire; I expect to set out in a week, and I wish therefore to hear from you as speedily as possible. Let me beg of you accordingly to give the matter a few hours' consideration, and let me have your thoughts on it directly. Tell me also how the Novel is coming on. People here praise and praise it, but I suppose it is out of flattery to me. How do you and sheriff Whittaker feel in regard to it? Whittaker told a friend of mine that it was meeting with a very quick sale; but you Bibliopolists are such a slippery race of mortals, there is no knowing what to make of you.— Hoping for a speedy answer, I remain,

Dear Sir, / Most sincerely yours /

Th: Carlyle—

(Direct to Pentonville, henceforth)

[Written on cover:] I expected a frank, but have been disappointed; so rather than wait another day I write unfranked.