The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO RICHARD HENRY HORNE ; 23 November 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18391123-TC-RHH-01; CL 11: 215-216


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea / 23d Novr, 1839—

My dear Sir,

Accept many kind thanks for your kind gift of the Schlegel.1 I read the Introduction last night; and can truly say I sympathize completely with the doctrine you advocate there. It is your way, from your different point of sight, of stating an emphatic truth, and beginning of endless truths, little recognised and dolefully wanted in these times of ours. I bid you good speed in prosecuting that. Had not I, for my share, many years ago, got rid of the cursed malady which you call by the name “analysis,” I think I literally should not have been alive now. Logic is glass-spectacles; may be very useful if there be an eye behind it. God help them that stick it on a bare eye-less death's-head, and pretend to see with that!

I conjecture you do not yourself read German. You seem to me one of those that ought before all things to read it. There is, in a manner, no instruction at all to be had for the like of you, for pursuits like yours, in any other Literature but the German. Schlegel, tho' so new to us English, is a very small matter in his own country. What he did, so far as he has done it, was to grind good wheat into marketable meal: the sowers and growers were quite another sort of men, with another sort of cunning in them than his! Lessing I believe was the first in any country that began to put Shakspeare on his true basis; a very original enterprise sixty years ago. The best criticism extant I should incline to call Goethe's of Hamlet in Wilhelm Meister, written several years before Schlegel was heard of.2 He, at bottom, is a very poor creature, tho' of a rich country; wears a flaxen wig, paints himself, tho' upwards of seventy, and aspires indeed in a very hopeless manner after many things.3

Pray think me a zealous preacher, not an impertinent advice-giver, when I counsel you to set about decisive study of German for yourself.4 The language, even if you do not know it, is attainable by any ordinary faculty in three months.

If you ever pass in this direction and have half an hour to spare for the purpose, pray come and tell me what you are doing now.

With many thanks and goodwishes,

I remain always / Your very truly /

T. Carlyle