The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JANE BAILLIE WELSH; 26 February 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220226-TC-JBW-01; CL 2:56-58.


[26 February 1822]

[…] bis zwey Tropfen Sie zum König machen konnten.1 -quired to be shed, before two drops [of your father's blood, which formed you into a living creature] could make you a [powerful] King.
Sie zum Beyspiel, Sie sehen sich um zwanzig Jahre später, ich Sie um eben so viel früher You, for example, are considering what your condition will be twenty years hence; I, what it was twenty years ago.
Idealischen Geschmack. Ideal taste — romantic, poetical style or manner.
Den könnt'er stehen lassen, weiter schicken,—Wen auf der Welt kann man das nicht? Him might he have left or sent away—What person in the world may one not treat so [in such a case]?—das—i.e. stehen lassen, oder weiter schicken.
* Schlecht Bad, wicked, poor, low, silly &c—or an adverb from any of these.
Der im ganzen strengen Rath der Weiber bestoch'ne Richter sitzen hat. Who, throughout all the severe tribunal of the fair sex, finds [has sitting] judges preposessed in his favour.
* —sie mir diese Stelle. —[verb illegible] me this place, posture, condition, employment, charge &c.
Ins Freye. Into the open air.


Upon the whole, I like this task better than any I have had for a long while: I have enjoyed a thousand little pleasures in going on with it. I hope you will send me more work immediately: and—observe—mark along with the passages selected, the page where you find them—or my translation must run a risk of being wide of the mark. The phrases marked with a star (*), I could not discover in a cursory glance, which I had, to-day, of an edition of Carlos (the same as yours): and therefore they are not to be relied on as correct. If I have erred—send them back—again and again, till all be clear as noon. You will speedily, it is probable, be far beyond the reach of my assistance: let me help you as long as I can.

Those books have been waiting for you, some day or two; and recollect you only said I need not send them. As to writing, I know I must not, and so refrain. Indeed I have no great temptation to act otherwise; for I will confess your letter pleased me less at first sight than it might have done. This morning, when they gave it me, I was moping and musing (as my custom is) over ten thousand thoughts which I have no living heart to entrust with; and that strain of elegant mockery, tho' richly merited, I doubt not, appeared somewhat unsuitable to the earnestness (whatever be the extravagance) of the feelings against which it was directed. Alas! I know too well—without any telling—that the style is absurd enough: but surely it is not for the sake of rhetoric and grammar that we write to each other. It seems to me that the chief end of letters is to exhibit to each a picture of the others soul—of all the hopes and fears that agitate us, the joys and sorrows and varied anxieties in which a heart's friend may be expected to sympathize: and if I may trust my own judgement, this employment is even more useful (I say not a word of the delight attending it) than any other to which our imperfect means of communication can be devoted. The three grains of knowledge mixed up in three bushels of error, which people make such a din about, are taught in colleges and schools, and set forth in ten thousand times ten thousand heavy tomes: why should our poor scanty pages be employed in adding to the heap? Man's noblest part is not his poor glimmering taper [of] an understanding; Lucifer knows far more than ever Bacon knew: it is the hea[rt] that makes us great or little; and who would not rather be the meanest crea[ture] that can love, than the highest that could but perceive? Is it fit then that what is less dignified and altogether selfish in our nature should be cultivated exclusively? O! for a friend a bosom-friend—the treasure which many seek and few successfully—to be our own and ours alone, to have but one soul and spirit with us, to reflect back our every feeling, to love us and be loved without measure! I declare an hour of such high and sacred communion is worth more in my eyes than a whole eternity of shallow speculation.— But I forget: I am writing; and somewhat too wildly also: I have done.

Send me a letter, I pray you, when you return those tomes. If you can avoid it, do not laugh much at me: but any way, write. I would know all that you are doing, wishing, thinking: I long to tell you all that I am doing in return. Those verses on Napoleon,2 I suspect, are by a favourite of mine as well as of yours: I will criticise them next time; they deserve a more careful criticism than I have yet had time to give them. How is your blank-verse Carlos proceeding? Your Tasso? How do you like “Les Passions,”3 and Alfieri,4 no bad commentary on some of them? Speak to me without reserve; and let me do the like. I am always yours,

Thomas Carlyle.

Moray-street, 26th Feby, 1822. / Time, Midnight.

Wednesday 2 o'clock. What a fool I am! To-day your letter seems an excellent letter, and you the kindest creature in the world for sending it. I wish however I had abode by my first resolution—that of writing nothing but German. Forgive, as usual.

I have just learned that Irving and William Grahame are coming from Glasgow tonight, to stay with me for a week. G. is one of the worthiest persons alive: they have been telling him about you, apparently; and the man will have it that Dumfriesshire is your Vaterland5