The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO KARL AUGUST VARNHAGEN VON ENSE; 24 December 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501224-TC-KAVE-01; CL 25: 316-318


Chelsea, 24 decr, 1850—

My dear Sir,

At the winter solstice, when Christmas Carols are about breaking out, and men are remembering old friends, I again write to you. For many months past, I have been too sickly and dispirited to write to any one; indeed, of late, the burden of life falls so heavy on me, and things in this strange epoch are so intricate around and in me, I feel it a kind of necessity to hold my peace, and contemplate the Inextricable without attempting to name it at all. I do confidently hope to reacquire the use of speech, and with it much human joy at present very much forborne:—in the meanwhile I can say: old friends are only the more dear and sacred to me that I have to look at them as if I were already in Hades,—as if they and I had no portion but in Eternity, and our speech to one another, for the present, were as that of Gods, a mute symbolical one! Perhaps you understand all this, out of your own experience too; at any rate, I know you will forgive it, and look kindly on it as you do on all things.

We regularly hear of you thro' Miss Wynne and otherwise; we had Berlin visitors not long since, and looked direct upon faces that had lately looked on you. Many kind and pleasant messages have we had, and none that was not kind and pleasant, from Herrn Varnhagen; for all which, accept gratitude if we have nothing better!— The other evening Miss Wynne was with us; and we hoped to have persuaded her again tomorrow; but she decides to pass this Christmas day, the first after her Father's death,1 in solitude and silence. Which also we reckon to be good.— You will be rejoiced to learn that, since this final consummation and winding up of her many toils and sorrows, her health appears decidedly to begin improving; and friends look forward with assurance towards better days for this excellent and amiable person. Of Milnes, Bölte, &c I say nothing; for I suppose you hear of them much oftener than I do, at this season of the year.

But let me state my special errand before my paper end. I have a favour to ask on this occasion; and I know you will do in it for me what you can,—my only apprehension is that you put yourself about to do more. Beware of that latter extreme; and hear in brief what the matter is. A certain Herr Neuberg, who has lived long in England, and has now revisited Germany (a Würtemburger, I think), is resident at Bonn this winter; and I think meditates some journey to Berlin soon. He is a man of unostentatious but truly superior character; a most pious, clear, resolute, modest and earnest man; with excellent insights and faculties; well acquainted both with our literature and yours, and indeed knows England and English affairs better probably than any stranger you have met. This Neuberg, who was twenty years a merchant in this country, and then, finding himself possessed of a competence and totally without enthusiasm for more, decided to give up business, and live henceforth among intellectual objects,—appears to have produced some small volume for the Press (I think it consists mainly of translations from me, “upon the subject of Work”);2 and this chiefly is his errand to Berlin at present. In which matter it is naturally clear to him of how much service you, whose works, qualities and position are well known to him as to every one, might be;—wherefore he modestly insinuates, not a request, but a hint or wish that I would introduce him. Being a man whom I so much esteem, and who has really so much sense and practicality, and deserves so much esteem, there is no refusing him this favour: accordingly, either by post from Bonn, or more probably direct from hand in Berlin, you will likely soon receive a card of mine introducing Neuberg and his little errand; whom I will only ask you to receive for my sake, and to treat farther according as the circumstances seem to yourself to direct. His Manuscript, I believe, is of no great length, and will probably be very clearly written: if you pleased to run your eye over it, and give him any advice, he would be very grateful for it (as should I), and would receive it with a truly intelligent and modest mind. But, once more, let this be, I entreat you, just as the case directs; for neither N. nor I will be so unfair as to make any request about it, or entertain any expectation upon it. With regard to the man himself, I much mistake if you do not find him a rather pleasant incidental acquaintance, with conversation which will entertain you well on various subjects;—and as such I will beg you to welcome him; leaving the rest to follow, or not to follow, as the law of the phenomenon prescribes.

And so adieu my dear Sir; with many wishes and regards, suitable at this season and at all seasons. I hope to write again, about many other more interesting matters; I even hope to hear from you again. We are full of “Papal Aggression,” “Chrystal Palace,” and other nonsense of which I say nothing just now.—

Yours ever truly, /

T. Carlyle