July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


TC TO EDUARD MAGNUS ; 29 December 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18551229-TC-EMA-01; CL 30: 147-151


The Grange, Alresford / Hampshire, 29 decr, 1855—

My dear Sir,

Your Letter has been forwarded to me hither;1 and the Packet of Photographs, all in excellent preservation as I learn, awaits my return to Chelsea, where I hope to see them in a couple of weeks hence. They are described to me, especially the restored Photograph is described, as making out an excellent representation of the Great Frederick: I shall be delighted to possess at last an authentic shadow of that Portrait, which, ever since you took me to see it at the Messrs Schickler's,2 has figured in my mind as the real Likeness, or as the best approximation to it I had any chance to come upon. The use of this thing will be considerable to me;—and surely the pleasure of possessing it is much enhanced by your great and ready kindness in the matter. That, at any rate, is a thing I shall get real use of, and shall take good care not to forget, or to part with! Many thanks once more. It is of a piece with all I have experienced of the Herr Magnus since our first meeting in Berlin;3 and that is an event which lives very vividly with me in all its parts; and indeed is the pleasantest portion of my Berlin reminiscences, several of which are pleasant. May it be repaid you one day: for truly it was very good on your part, and is still gratefully recognised as such.

My troubles with Vater Fritz have been innumerable, incessant and immeasurable, since we parted! No work ever fell to my lot of so essentially desperate and undoable a character: why I should persist is strange to me; for I have oftenest no motive, or little, except the reluctance to be beaten by what one has tried. To write a good Book on the subject, especially here in England at this time, appears to me impossible: I could long since have written a bad Book, comparable to many that already exist; but that was not my bargain with myself;—and therein probably lay my mistake; for no man can do the “impossible,” tho' the French say they can! Bad Book or not so bad, I hope one day to get it off my hands, and be fairly rid of it; which will be an unspeakable deliverance, and really a “reward” greatly worth coveting by a poor wretch in my case: if I live, with any remnant of health, I shall be sure of that reward; and it is pretty much all I expect, nor indeed is more very necessary at this stage of my course. God send me that reward, however; for truly I am much in want of that!— Allons [Forward].

In point of Portraits I ought now to reckon myself well supplied. I have got Pesne's young King engraved by Wille hung on my wall (a very fine Portrait and Engraving);4 item Chodowiecky of Fritz reviewing his grenadiers:5 a friend6 picked me up these two from the London Printshops lately; excellent Copies both; and both, especially the Chodowiecky full of worth to me, and credible after their kind. In the Chodowiecky, besides Vater Fritz on horseback, there are four Generals a little to rearward of him: 3 Profiles, 1 full face; the midmost of the Profiles I recognise well to be Ziethen,7 but do not know the others with any certainty, and should like well to know.— Besides all this we have got the Little Drummer from Charlottenburg,8 a Picture much admired here, and by none so much as by my Wife and me;—more excellent Copy I never saw; and we know to whom we are in debt for the success in that direction, as in some others. Finally a friend has brought me a correct Drawing from Hopfgarten's Bust of Friedh Wilhelm (Fk's Father, whom I like much, the violent-tempered rugged man): has this Bust of Hopfgarten's any credit for authenticity of Likeness?9 It scarcely resembles at all the other Portraits I have met with, and is much more royal in character. Please keep this question in mind; and give me your verdict on it by and by.— And on the whole pray that I were well out of these Prussian Historical inquiries; for they are of a sort to extinguish a poor human soul that persists too long in them. Duller records of great Events and Personages,—noble human Heroism set forth with every form, or almost every form, of human Stupidity,—I have not met with among mankind! The Prussians, I see, are dumb men (properly), even as the English are.

I am sorry to hear of what hindered your enjoying Spain and its Collections of Art. It is rare that one's long-cherished hopes are quite realised in such cases: but without steady health, a Spanish journey must be, much of it, mere misery. We heard of you sometimes; once as painting, at Paris, a certain conspicuous Personage there. Eastlake,10 I suppose, will have you sent for to do our real little Queen, some day; he defines you, I am told, as “the best Portrait Painter we have in this time”;—which ought to mean a Painter of Queens, or of something better.

Lady Ashburton has not given up her Enterprise of collecting Prints; but makes only inconsiderable progress, except perhaps in the French line. A collection of Vandykes (Pappenheim, Mansfeldt11 and the rest of that epoch) is almost all she yet has of German; in Spanish I think there has been absolutely nothing attained. Her Ladyship puts on record the two Names you give, the Madrid and the Berlin; and bids me thank you for such indication, which will be useful in time and place.

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Harriet, Lady Ashburton. From an engraving by W. Holl.

Reproduced from C. Brookfield and F. Brookfield, Mrs. Brookfield and her Circle, vol. 2 (1905).


I had much more to say; but my paper is done, and also my time; nor in fact are my conveniences good for writing at present. Take care of your eyes! That is a pair of eyes we cannot afford to injure!— Yours with many thanks & regards,

T. Carlyle