January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO GOETHE; 22 December 1829; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18291222-TC-G-01; CL 5:48-51.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries / 22nd December 1829—

Respected Sir,

The Packet, which I some time ago announced, at length sets out; with true wishes on our part that it may find you happy and busy, and bring kind remembrances of Friends that love you. The Sketches of our House and its environment are moderately correct, and may serve the flattering purpose you meant them for; as it is not the beauty of the Amulet, but its mere character as Amulet, that gives it worth. You will like the little pictures no worse, when I inform you that they are from the pencil of Mr Moir, the Translator of Wallenstein, who paid us a visit in Autumn, and promises to see us again in Spring. In return for his workmanship, I presented him with the last of those four Medals; to which indeed, on other accounts, as a true admirer of your Works, he had a good right. He passed thro' Weimar, last Summer; but unluckily at a time when you were absent: however, he purposes to return ere long, and make new sketches from the Rhine scenery; and hopes, next time, to have better fortune in Weimar.

The Portfolio is of my Wife's manufacture, who sends you among other love-tokens a lock of her hair;1 concerning which I am to say that, except to her Husband she never did the like to any man. She begs, however, and hopes, that you will send her, in return, a lock of your hair; which she will keep among her most precious possessions, and only leave as a rich legacy to the worthiest that comes after her. For a heart that honestly loves you, I too hope that you will do so much.

The Cowper's Poems you are to accept from me as a New-year's Gift; the value of which must lie chiefly in the intention of the Giver. Cowper was the last of our Poets of the Old School; a man of pure genius, but limited and ineffectual; as indeed his bodily health was too feeble, had there been no other deficiency. He is still a great favourite, especially with the religious classes; and bids fair to survive many a louder competitor for immortality. As his merit, such as it is, appears to be genuine, it will to your eye readily disclose itself.

I have read the Briefwechsel,2 a second time, with no little satisfaction; and even today am sending off an Essay on Schiller, grounded on that work, for the Foreign Review.3 It will gratify you to learn that a knowledge and appreciation of Foreign, especially of German Literature is spreading with increased rapidity over all the domain of the English Tongue; so that almost at the Antipodes, in New Holland itself,4 the Wise of your country are by this time preaching their wisdom. I have heard lately that even in Oxford and Cambridge, our two English Universities, which have all along been regarded as the strongholds of Insular pride and prejudice, there is a strange stir in this matter. Your Niebuhr has found an able Translator at Cambridge;5 and in Oxford two or three Germans already find employment as teachers of their language; the new light contained in which may well dazzle certain eyes. Of the benefits that must in the end result from all this no man can be doubtful: let nations, like individuals, but know one another, and mutual hatred will give place to mutual helpfulness; and instead of natural enemies, as neighbouring countries are sometimes called, we shall all be natural friends.

That Historical View of German Literature,6 which I mentioned in my last Letter, is now almost decided on; and I hope, in the course of next year, to offer you a copy of some treatise on that subject. My knowledge, I feel too well, is limited enough; but from a British writer, and by British readers, less will be expected. Besides, it is the more recent, and comparatively a brief period that will chiefly interest us.

Were this ‘Historical View’ once off my hands, I still purpose to try something infinitely greater! Alas! Alas! The huge formless Chaos is here; but no creative Voice to say ‘Let there be Light,’ and make it into a World.

Some time ago we spent three weeks in Edinburgh; warmly welcomed by old friends; and looking, not without interest, on the current of many-coloured Life, which here we may be said rather to listen to than to see. I found the Literary men of that city still active in their vocation; and to me undeservedly kind and courteous: nevertheless, the general tone of their speculation was such as to make me revisit my solitude, when the time came, with little regret. The whole bent of British endeavour, both intellectual and practical, at this time, is towards Utility; a creed which with you has happily had its day, but with us is now first rising into its full maturity. Great controversies and misunderstandings, on this matter, are to be expected among us at no distant period.

For the present you are to figure your two Scottish Friends as embosomed amid snow and ‘thick-ribb'd ice’;7 yet secured against grim Winter by the glow of bright fires; and often near you in imagination; nay often thinking the very thoughts which were once yours, for a little red volume is seldom absent from our parlour. By and by, we still trust to hear that all is well with you: the arrival of a Weimar Letter ever makes a day of jubilee here. May all good be with you and yours!

I remain always,

Your affectionate Friend and Servant, /

Thomas Carlyle.

Were it convenient, we would beg some similar Sketch of your Mansion at Weimar; concerning which I regularly question every Traveller, yet with too little effect.8

To Doctor Eckermann I still owe a Letter; which I mean ere long to pay, with increased advantage to myself. Please to assure him of my continued regard.