January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO KARL AUGUST VARNHAGEN VON ENSE ; 1 May 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430501-TC-KAVE-01; CL 16: 142-145


Chelsea, London, 1 May, 1843—

My dear Sir,

Almost a month ago your three beautiful volumes of Memoirs were safely delivered to me here, and in all ways cordially welcomed.1 I reckon it a healthy sign of your German Public, in spite of all its confusions, that it demands a new supply of such Writings: there is everywhere a great heart of Truth living silent and latent amid the noise and tumult of world-wide Inanities literary and other; this we shall always know, and quietly trust in this.

Last week there was consigned to your Berlin-London Bookseller here a new volume of mine with your address on it; probably in a fortnight it may be looked for. I now, by the direct conveyance, write to announce it;—enclosing a few more Autographs, which have come to me since your last packet.2 None of them is like to be of almost any interest; but they are gathered here, without trouble, and I say always, You can at worst burn them. From time to time when such an object turns upon my path, I will not fail to lift it; to send it over sea, to the man of all living men who can extract most meaning out of it, for his own behoof and ours!—

Since the finishing of that Book, I have been reposing myself with various imaginary kinds of work;—among others a daily spell at reading Danish, with a view to get acquainted with the old Norse world. Müller's Sagabibliothek, I had hoped, was in German; but, alas, it proves to be in Danish;3 and I have to learn that new dialect first,—which turns out to be an almost ridiculous mixture of Scotch, and broken Teutsch [German], artfully disguised; the whole broken down, seemingly so as to give the speech-organs a minimum of trouble! I get into it without difficulty; but find Müller unluckily to be no perfect oracle after all. Nials Saga in Icelandic is also here;4 and the Abstract of it in Müller gives me great curiosity to penetrate into a sight of it, and of the strange old world it belongs to. We are without due helps in English for introducing ourselves to old Scandinavia; nor do I find hitherto in Germany any effectual notice of such. Do you know the magazine Bragur;5 and what is the worth of it? Has anybody written, or translated, or in any way made accessible a solid word on that old province of things, in German speech? Geijer's Swedish History in its German dress6 is already ordered from the Bookseller: I have also read with attention the German Version of one Strinnholm, a Swede, on the Wikingszüge,7—it is something, not much. This; and some nine or ten Books of Travels in Iceland, from not one of which can I gain the smallest distinct insight even as to what specially the outward look of the Island is!— If in your circle, you happen to know any real Master in Scandinavian things, you could perhaps question him for me, on some convenient occasion: perhaps even a German Book-catalogue, if I knew which, might instruct me in several things.

There was one other matter, of the smallest possible weight, about which I have often forgotten to ask you a small question. In the Supplement to Creuzer's Symbolik, written I think by one Mone8 (which I found to be but a stupid book), there is account given of an ancient German Body having been dug up from some morass, I think in the neighbourhood of Paderborn;9 in which, or some such Museum, says Mone, the Body yet lies; due account of the business having been given in printed ‘Transactions,’ or the like, to which he refers. If I remember rightly the date is 1817. But I have not Mone's Book at hand; and, as you see, the matter has got somewhat dim for me. The purport of my request is, that if there was any Pamphlet published about it, any Paper in some Society's Transactions, or other attainable Article descriptive of this singular affair, you would indicate it to me. This poor old Cheruscan brother man,10 apparently some horrible miscreant, plunged down to be tanned in peat-bogs, and then to be dug up into daylight again after 2,000 years; this is a thing I shall never forget; this is almost all that I now remember of Mone and his grey dreary Book.— In Dublin Museum, I believe, there is the analogous figure of an antique nearly naked Celt, dug out of bogs, in like manner; but this, from my account of it, seems much less notable than the Cheruscan.

I ought earnestly to caution you against taking much or any trouble about all this; but I am afraid, that will be almost of no avail! In verity, these matters are so unimportant to me, you can hardly take too little trouble with them; and if I find, as is still to be dreaded, that you have taken too much,—why then, in that case, I will not employ you again! Actually that shall be your punishment.——

Today however, in my haste, I must bid you adieu,—in hope of meeting again, on paper at least, before long.— Poor Schelling!11 I really fear you are right regarding him! As for us, by God's help,

Dringen wir vorwärts [Let us push onward]

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle