April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JAMES MARSHALL; 5 January 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490105-TC-JMA-01; CL 23: 197-199


Chelsea, 5 jany, 1849—

My dear Sir,

Thanks for your Letter, for your two Letters, which I duly received, and read with welcome. You are very good to remember me so kindly. I wish you had dwelt a little more on the vulgar article of “news”; especially Weimar news, of which there has been much since we last met, and much even that must have passed under your own eyes. The history of man,—in all forms of it,—this is alone interesting to man!

A day after your last Letter, the Pamphlet1 arrived: but it was charged with such a postage (5/10, I think), greatly beyond the shop price of the Pamphlet itself, that I had to refuse the article, and now it is wandering I know not where. If the Performance be at all as good as you surmise, it will probably find its way to the London Library, and so to me, in a gratuitous manner; or I can order it from one of several Booksellers, if my curiosity awaken:—but, alas, you do not know how dead I am grown to all that sort of ware; how, by repeated experience of a too fatal kind, I have learned to fear the Greeks,2 especially when they speculate to me about “Constitutions,” franchises, systems of society and such like! Ach Gott!— Such, you see, in spite of the “Franco tout [all free of postage],” and what that cost you, has been the fate of this unlucky Work thro' our Post-Office and me: in general, for the future, I forbid you to send any Book in that manner. Nutt the Bookseller in Fleet-Street here, who I think communicates with Leipzig &c, and certainly with Berlin once a fortnight,—he, if you think of sending a Book on any rare occasion, is the much surer channel. And so let us submit to the loss, on all sides, and learn better for time coming.

After a good deal of bother, Eckermann's affair is at last settled,—at least I sincerely hope so, and that Bunsen's Banker has been drawn upon, and has paid the amount in hard cash! In these tumultuous times one could hardly get a Prussian Excellency3 to attend to so very private a matter; the rather as I never saw the Excellency, and had to manage by writing merely. However, here is his ultimatum now, and this day I enclose it to Eckermann, with my blessing.

Things all stand in this apartment pretty much as you left them; except that the Better Half having been extensively engaged in upholstering, paperhanging and so forth below stairs, has changed some of the Engravings here, and has even permitted me to hang up maps, three or four, which are an unspeakable instruction now and then to a man! The poor apartment is very well:—but, I think, as to utterance of “Literature” now or soon, there is hardly any darker apartment in the world than it. Most inarticulate at present; chaotic wholly, and abhorrent of speech, or the vain effort to speak! This “general Bankruptcy of Humbug all over the world,” one of the most scandalous sights the Sons of Adam ever saw, is enough to create silence in a serious man. Enough of itself,—if there were not plenty else, which there is. On the whole I love silence more and more, and speech less and less, in this world;—and would recommend many a high literary and other talking or writing mortal to consider if he is not somewhat of the nature of a drum, or brass instrument full of mere musical wind; and, if so, to cease in God's name.

Thackeray, Dickens and the others carry on their affairs; Thackeray has risen quite into fashion4 since you were here. Nothing can convince me that the like of all that is a noble employment under this Sun; or that it is in fact any employment at all, different from what we see at Astley's Amphitheatre,5 or what the black Bayaderes6 perform, in Oriental Countries, for some big surfeited ugly black rajah, who pays them surprisingly,—of whom, and of whose affairs Bayadere performances and other, the Devil (as I discern well) will take charge one day!— —T. B. Macaulay makes the most noise during this week and last: he has just sent out two volumes of his History;7 promises 10 or 18 more; is read by innumerable mortals; has received (says Rumour) immense monies;—whereat Flunkeyism, with upturned wondering eyes, talks and psalmodies. I know my man; and will read his Book, or try the reading of it, much at leisure by and by.— Forster was here the night your Letter came: I gave him your message, which was evidently pleasant to him.

Why did you say nothing of Schöll, and his Goethe's “Letters to the Frau von Stein”? Such a Publication ought to have set Weimar into a state of mind! I have read it, with some amazement, chiefly at the male von Steins, father and especially son.8— These evenings I am reading Viehoff;9 a diligent mortal, not without intelligence, but flat-soled, and of a breadth like a Russian Steppe! There is something damnable in that method of writing;—indeed, as I told you, I am not sure that almost all writing is not damnable, in such times as ours!— Adieu, my dear Sir, if you or any good soul in Weimar can remember me kindly, do it. Yours,

T. Carlyle