The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO GOETHE; 15 April 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270415-TC-G-01; CL 4:209-211.


Edinburgh, 21. Comley Bank, / 15th April, 1827—

Respected Sir,

It is now above two years since Lord Bentinck's Servant delivered me at London the packet from Weimar, containing your kind letter and present;1 of both which, to say that they were heartily gratifying to me would be saying little; for I received them and keep them with a regard which can belong to nothing else. To me they are memorials of one whom I never saw, yet whose voice came to me from afar, with counsel and help, in my utmost need. For if I have been delivered from Darkness into any measure of Light, if I know aught of myself and my duties and destination, it is to the study of your writings more than to any other circumstances that I owe this; it is you more than any other man that I should always thank and reverence with the feeling of a Disciple to his Master, nay of a Son to his spiritual Father. This is no idle Compliment, but a heartfelt truth; and humble as it is, I feel that the knowledge of such truths must be more pleasing to you than all other glory.

The Books,2 which I here take the liberty to offer you, are the poor product of endeavours obstructed by sickness and many other causes; and in themselves little worthy of your acceptance: but perhaps they may find some favour for my sake, and interest you likewise as evidences of the progress of German Literature in England. Hitherto it has not been injustice but ignorance that has blinded us in this matter: at all events a different state of things seems approaching; with respect to yourself, it is at hand, or rather has already come. This Wanderjahre, which I reckon somewhat better translated than its forerunner, I in many quarters hear deeply if not loudly praised; and even the character with which I have prefaced it, appears to excite not objection but partial compliance, or at worst hesitation and inquiry.

Of the Lehrjahre also I am happy to give a much more flattering account than I could have anticipated at first. Above a thousand copies of the Book are already in the hands of the public; loved also, with more or less insight, by all persons of any culture; and, what it has many times interested me to observe, with a degree of estimation determined not less by the intellectual force than by the moral earnestness of the reader. One of its warmest admirers known to me is a lady of rank, and intensely religious.3

I may mention farther that some weeks ago, a stranger London Bookseller4 applied to me to translate your Dichtung und Wahrheit; a proposal which I have perhaps only postponed not rejected.

All this warrants me to believe that your name and doctrines will ere long be English as well as German; and certainly there are few things which I have more satisfaction in contemplating than the fact that to this result my own efforts have contributed; that I have assisted in conquering for you a new province of mental empire; and for my countrymen a new treasure of Wisdom which I myself have found so precious. One day, it may be, if there is any gift in me, I shall send you some work of my own; and along with it, you will deserve far deeper thanks than those of Hilaria to her friendly Artist.5

About six months ago I was married: my young Wife who sympathizes with me in most things, agrees also in my admiration of you; and would have me in her name beg of you to accept this purse, the work, as I can testify, of dainty fingers and true love; that so something, which she had handled and which had been hers, might be in your hands and be yours. In this little point I have engaged that you would gratify her. She knows you in your own language; and her first criticism was the following, expressed with some surprise: “This Goethe is a greater genius than Schiller, tho' he does not make me cry!”6 A better judgement than many which have been pronounced with more formality.

May I hope to hear, by Post, that this packet has arrived safely; and that health and blessings are still continued to you? Frey ist das Herz, doch ist der Fuss gebunden [The heart is free, but the foot is still bound].7 My wishes are joined with those of the world that you may be long spared to see good and do good.

I am ever, / Respected Sir, / Your humble servant / and thankful Scholar, /

Thomas Carlyle—

If you stand in any relation with Mr Tieck it would give me pleasure to assure him of my esteem. Except him and Richter, who has left us, there is no other of these Novelists, whom I ought not to beg your pardon for placing you beside, even as their King.8