August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO ALEXANDER J. SCOTT ; 24 October 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421024-TC-AJS-01; CL 15: 145-146


Chelsea, 24 Octr, 1842—

Dear Scott,

Marheinecke's Book1 will not do. It is of the deadliest tiresomeness; an altogether stupid Book; dependent for any interest it has solely on the copious incessant extracts from Luther's Writings; which clipping process is itself very ill managed; so that I suppose this dull compilation is as good as superseded, even in Germany, by the lively dextrous French one of little Michelet. Ranke too is said to be coming out with some History of Luther,2 perhaps has begun to come out with it.

There was published some ten years ago an entertaining and intelligent Life of Schiller, containing various new Letters of his, new personal details &c by a Frau von Wollzogen (I think that was her title), who had known the man, and was connected with his Wife's family. Goethe sent it over to me; I can remember reading it, in the Annan & Liverpool Steamer, not without some real interest.3 Would the British Public do the like? I think it is in either two or else three thinnish “foolscap-octavos.”

There is also here a Preuss's Life of Frederick the Great, in two thin octavos;4 untranslated as yet: I have not read it myself, and only had it recommended to me as the eligiblest initiatory Book on that Subject.

The thing that strikes me, however, as hopefullest, if anything be very hopeful, is a certain Life of Herder by his Widow. It is not a large Book, perhaps one good octavo might hold it in English; it is simple, clear; and, I can remember, entertained me very much, when I read it, fifteen years ago in Edinburgh.5 The translating of it would involve your young friend, if he were willing to do his best, in a general perusal of Herder's Writings, which also might perhaps be a wholesome task for him.

Booksellers used to say in my time that “no Translation from the German had ever been known to prosper!” I hope, that is altered now; but do not with any certainty know it to be so. Except indeed that Mrs Austin and others seem to make a kind of literary existence out in that way.

If I can assist you farther by word or deed, pray ask me.

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle