January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO DAVID AITKEN; 21 December 1829; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18291221-TC-DA-01; CL 5:44-46.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, / 21st December, 1829—

My Dear Sir,

If this Letter ever reach Minto Manse you will have little cause to rejoice in the arrival; for it will only cost you postage, and give you trouble.

You must know I have partly engaged with certain London Booksellers to produce some sort of Historical View of German Literature, for some ‘Cabinet Library’ or other; and am busy at this very time in laying in all manner of provision for that undertaking. It is to be in four volumes, and the first should appear in spring. Whittaker's people have promised me seas and mountains in the way of furnishing Books: but in the mean while nothing whatever has come to hand; nay I know such promises, at any rate, too well to slacken my endeavours after help elsewhere.1

If in your Collection there is anything that you can spare for me, I know it will be lent me with your old frankness. There is one little series of yellow-coloured volumes, containing a short Life and some Specimen (one in each volume) of the chief German writers, in their order; Hans Sachs, Santa Clara,2 &c &c I recollect having read: the whole of these little volumes would be highly convenient for me. I suppose, you have no special Life of Ulrich Hutten,3 nor any considerable portion of his Works. I am also gleaning everything about Luther, Sebastian Brandt4 &c &c. Bouterweek's and Eichhorn's Histories5 I expect from the South. The last three volumes of the Conversations-Lexicon6 (from “Schubart,” where my own last Lieferung [instalment]7 stops) I would also ask, if it were not a shame. Unhappy Conversations Lexicon! It has taken twenty months to come from München; and that fraction of it is still wandering the wide world!

Now if you could take those little yellow Volumes, with whatever else you think useful, and can want for six or seven months; and have them forwarded to your worthy namesake “Sam. Aitken” of Bank Street, he will send them on to me without delay. At all events let me hear from you, at great length; and fail not to give me your counsel, and geprüftes Wort [expert opinion] in this unspeakable enterprise. I will tell Mr Aitken to wait for your packet about eight days; and after that to transmit what he may have got; for the London Books also are to be consigned to him: the Minto stock, should any hindrance have occurred, may follow at any other time. But do not fail to write, however it may be: the Post will convey your tidings, and we will warmly welcome them, now as well as afterwards.

We rejoice to learn in general that you prosper in Minto; and often we hoped last summer that some lucky wind would blow you into Nithsdale, and up to these moors for one happy week. Alas, for the Wednesday-nights!8 Alas and alackaday! But Time goes on his stern course; and treads our little card-castles into shivers, and the Past will not give up its dead!— Surely, you will come this Spring, and let us recal [sic] old times. Write, and say that you are no craven, but stand to your word.

We live in a strange, quite original position here; environed with ‘solitude and primeval Nature.’ Tonight there is [mist] and black haze, and deepest silence all round for miles; but within is a blazing fire, and a cap-making Wife, and Books and Paper, and Time and Space to employ worthily or unworthily. Come & see, if you would understand it.

My Brother John returned last spring, with wonderful accounts of Munich and Vienna and Strasburg and Paris, and the other phenomena of this Earth. He is gone two weeks ago to settle in Warwick where some friends of his and mine hold out fair offers. I have not heard of him yet.

Did you read Sir W. Hamilton on Cousin's Metaphysics in the last Edinburgh Review? And what inferences are we to draw from it? Pity that Sir W. had not the gift of delivery! He has real knowledge on those matters; but all unsorted, and tumbled topsy-turvy like a ‘bankrupt stock.’9

If you ever see Dr Brewster, pray assure him that he is not forgotten here; but that best wishes for him dwell in the Nithsdale wildernesses, which is a strange residence for them.

Your ancient ‘Wednesday-night’ hostess here would skip for joy to make you coffee once more! She bids me send you her affectionate regards; she too would fain hear from you soon. Believe me ever, Most sincerely Your's,

T. Carlyle—