August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


TC TO KARL AUGUST VARNHAGEN VON ENSE ; 12 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570812-TC-KAVE-01; CL 33: 21-22


Chelsea, London, 12 Augt, 1857.

My dear Sir,

About ten days ago, there came to me a very pretty message from Berlin: a Note from you in the incomparable hand so familiar to me of old, and a beautiful little Book,1 which entertained me greatly for several evenings after. I am truly glad to get a word from you, in assurance of the old disposition towards me, and marking that you are still well and active; such things grow ever more precious as one grows more solitary in this world,—inexorable Time more and more exercising his sad privilege upon us! Do not forget me; nor will I you,—amid the wrecks that go on around us.

The Book is altogether delightful reading: I have sent it on, the instant it was finished here, to my Wife, who has run into Scotland during the heats, and who I dare say is busy now upon it. Nothing can be more gracefully thrown off, with perfect clearness too, so far as the circumstances permitted. It gives me curious glimpses into the latest chapter of your Berlin Histories, which was quite dark to me before. Immermann &c I had heard of; but only as rumours of Names; I never read anything of Immn;2nor does this Narrative give me much appetite to him: he plays but a sorry figure here.3 On the whole, a tragic Female History throughout; things all gone awry, in that and other departments, and no immediate prospect of their coming right again! But the Gräfinn [countess] herself is very beautiful, in her sorrows and otherwise; a fine clear Being,—clear, sharp, as if she were made of steel. Perhaps there are other good Books upon that Frei-Schaar [volunteer troop] of Lützow's, and the human aspects of the Befreiungskrieg [war of independence] in Prussia?4 They would be welcome to me, if they are at all like this present one,—had I gone into a little leisure again. The last Letter in the Book, about digging up the Friend's body, and bringing it home to natal earth,—has a grim pathos, and silent Tapferkeit [bravery] and Redlichkeit [sincerity] that goes into one's very heart.— Ask the fair Authoress, If she has not other Books perhaps, of the like quality, lying in her heart!5 You can assure her, with my respectful homages, That I find this one a Book extremely well worth writing, and well worth reading.

For months and years past I have been sunk as man seldom was, in the dismallest Stygian regions, struggling with this Unblessed Task of mine, which I have often thought would kill me outright. You called it a “gewaltiges [powerful, violent]” subject; I have often bethought me of that term,—and that, if I had been twenty years younger, it might have suited better! But no, there is no help;—struggle thro' to the farther side, or else drown: that is the condition.— We are now at last fairly at Press; slowly printing,—I flying slowly ahead. In another twelvemonth (if all can hold out) there may be 3 volumes ready,—down to decr 1745:6—and the worst part of the job done. Taliter qualiter [such as it can be]; dreadfully taliter indeed!— — At present I am in very great want of Books, Magazine Essays, or any real Elucidations by persons of veracity and insight, about the Two Silesian Wars (1740, 1744). Guerre de Bohème,7 Espagnac (Marshall Saxe),8 and the terrible imbroglio called Helden- Staats- und Lebens-Geschichte,9 are almost my only resource hitherto.

Miss Wynn, you doubtless know, is at Heidelberg. My Wife was sadly ill the whole of last winter; and is still too weak. Milnes is looking towards Heidelberg too, he tells me.9 Weather is very hot;—news from India &c &c: good news in fact are scarce! Yours ever truly T. Carlyle