July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


JWC TO TC ; 11 July 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580711-JWC-TC-01; CL 34: 31-33


Sunday / night [11 July 1858]


Botkin (what a name!), your Russian Translator, has called, Luckily Charlotte had been forwarned to admit him if he came again— He is quite a different type from Tourgénéff tho' a tall man, this one too. I should say he must be a Cossack—not that I ever saw a Cossack or heard one described!—instinct is all I have for it!! he has flattened, high-boned cheeks—a nose flattened towards the point—small very black deep-set eyes, with thin semi-circular eye brows—a wide thin mouth—complexion whity-grey, and the skin of his face looked thick enough to make a saddle of! He does not possess himself like Tourgueneff, but bends and gesticulates like a Frenchman.

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Vassily Petrovich Botkin
V. P. Botkin i I. S. Turgenev neizdannaia perepiska, 1851–1869 (Moscow, 1930)

Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland


He burst into the room with wild expressions of his “admiration for Mr Carlyle”— I begged him to be seated and he declared “Mr Carlyle was the man for Russia” I tried again and again to “enchain” a rational conversation but nothing could I get out of him but rhapsodies about you in the frightfulest English that I ever heard out of a human head! It is to be hoped that (as he told me) he reads English much better than he speaks it—else he must have produced an inconceivable Translation of Hero Worship. Such as it is, anyhow, “a large deputation of the Students of St Peterburg waited on him (Botkin) to thank him in the strongest terms for having translated for them Hero Worship and made known to them Carlyle—and even the young Russian Ladies now read Hero Worship and “unnerstants—it—thor—lie”— He was all in a perspiration when he went away—and so was I!— I should like to have asked him some questions; for example how HE came to know of your works (he had told me he had had to send to England for them “at exteem cost”)—but it would have been like asking a cascade! The best that I could do for him I did—I gave him a photograph of you, and put him up to carrying it in the top of his hat!


I dont think I ever told you the surprising visit I had from David Aitken and Bess1—I was so ill when I wrote after, that all details were ommitted. Charlotte had come to say one of the latch keys was refusing to act— I went to see what the matter was—and when we opened the door behold David at the bottom of the steps and Bess preparing to knock— “Is this Mrs Carlyle's?” she asked of myself while I was gazing dumbfoundered! “My goodness!” cried I—at the sound of my voice she knew me—just think! not till then! tho at my own door! and certainly the recognition was the furthest from complimentary I ever met— She absolutely staggered—screaming out “God preserve me!—Jane!—That you!”— Pleasant!— David coming up the steps brought a little calm into the business—and the call got itself transacted better or worse— They were on their way home from Italy— Both seemed rather more human than last time2—especially David—whose face had taken an expression of “Peace on Earth, and good will unto men”3— Bess had lost a tooth or two, was rather thinner—and her eyes hollower—otherwise much the same. They invited me very kindly to Minto—and HE seemed really in earnest.

(to be continued)4