TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG; 25 July 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510725-TC-JN-01; CL 26: 110-113
TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG
Chelsea, 25 july, 1851—
Your Letter came two days ago: a very interesting document; opening pleasant glimpses of your late ways and of the world you have been living in. If all men would handle the pen with such definiteness, grace and dexterity, Rowland Hill1 would be a greater benefactor than he has yet proved! Your view of Berlin City and Neighbourhood is such as to make one rather thankful not to be there in this hot weather;—tho' there is an iron energy in it, too; and I have long perceived the Drill-serjeant to have been much more effectually busy there than elsewhere, the good fruits of which will not fail to appear by and by.2— Meanwhile, you have certainly made a handsome business of it for your own affair; far beyond what could have been expected; and truly I am well enough pleased both for your sake and my own,—for, it appears, I too am more interested in it than I quite understood. Best luck attend the “Evangelium,” such as it is;3 and may here and there a human eye recognise us, amid the millions of vulpine, bovine or otherwise inhuman that will not!
Herr Tauchnitz, a huge eupeptic man, in shewy apparel, with the Cross of some Legion of Honour or Dishonour at his buttonhole, called here some months ago, and made an honest bargain with me about the French Revolution: five-and-twenty pounds down on the nail; which sum, as he bragged of giving Thackeray £100, &c &c, seemed to me abundantly exiguous (especially as the day was wet, and I was sicklier than usual); so that I fear the Grand Cross, who affects to have a soul above ducats, may have left me rather in ill-humour. I have sometimes regretted that I did not rather recommend to him the volume of Latter-Day Pamphlets; however, there is now no help, and we will wish him speed with what he has.
Our summer here has been in the highest degree noisy and inane: probably the idlest summer Britain has had for half a century past. The “Glass Palace,” in which I once was and no more, surpassed in beauty of effect and arrangement all the edifices I had ever seen, or read of, except in the Arabian Tales; but there unfortunately the merits of the business ended: “the best got-up piece of Nonsense I ever in my life saw,”—that was articulately my private vote on the matter; which is now inarticulately or otherwise becoming a very general public vote, for there has been no trade or business all summer, especially none here, and the shopkeeper world, driven almost to despair by total want of custom, is getting abundantly sulky. To look once at this Glass Palace was (if you forgot all else) perceptibly pleasant; but to have gone to study, to think, or to learn anything in it, would almost have driven a serious man mad. Who can bear to look on Chaos, however gilded the specimens shewn? Very empty persons only! “Improvement in Manufactures?” I have often said: “The grandest specific set of improvements ever made in manufactures were effected not in a big Glass Soapbubble, presided over by Prince Albert and the General Assembly of Prurient Windbags out of all countries, but under the torn Hat, once, of a Lancashire Pedlar selling washballs and cheap razors thro' the Hill-country,—Pedlar and Barber who chanced to have a head that he could employ in thinking under said Hat!”4— — But on the whole I have studied to keep very quiet; have shrunk into the remotest corner, and hung up what screens I had against the tumult of dust, till it laid itself again, and became mud and zero,—as infallibly it will, all the faster for being well let alone! This Life of Sterling, of which you hear, is a very slight Book,5 but it has quietly and piously occupied me, and was a thing I had to do: a light Portrait, the truest I could easily sketch, of an unimportant but very beautiful, pathetic and rather significant Human Life in our Century: I found it a new kind of task; and the blockhead part of the world may both read it and forget it with more ease than most of my Books. The greatest bother really has been with the Printer, especially since my impatience with his slowness (that is his one fault, for which there are excuses) became vocal. He pleads, and truly, the worst of Mss:—a sort, the strange qualities of which must dwell a little in your own memory, I should think! The poor man has still about 100 of his nearly 400 pages to do; and I have decided to stay no longer in Town waiting upon him. The Bookseller, at any rate, in this sad paralysis of trade, decides not to publish till October. I at one time thought of Darmstadt and a recommendable Water Cure there; but, owing to this Printer and other causes, have been obliged to change it for Malvern and a ditto, which is within reach of the penny post. We are actually talking of being off thither in about a week,—to stay there for a month, and then do some other Lancashire and Annandale Tourings for a month more before settling again. The Address is Chelsea always: I feel much better than I did last year this time; Biography being a much gentler business than the Latter-day one:— I have long had a vague notion of Water Cure as likely much more than anything else to help me for a time; and now I am, at lowest, to get rid of said notion!
My Wife, who escorts me to Malvern (if we go), as bodyguard, not as patient, is as well as usual in the hot weather; has had Nero twice stolen, I think, and hardly any other adventure of the tragic kind. My Brother is busy at Scotsbrig; actually toiling at the Purgatorio, I believe: we expect him here almost daily, where he may have a fine quiet time of it, in his museums & c, after we are gone too, if he like. Wilkinson has sent out his Physiology; which I find to be a most surprising Book,—shadows and analogies being apparently all the same to it as facts, admeasurements and substances,—a very cloudland indeed, with abundance of broken rainbows scattered about: I have not yet made much way in reading it, but do design to persevere. He is well; and comes to us pleasantly now and then. You will get your Book done, and come too, will you not? Write at any rate. My kind remembrances to Varnhagen,6 the brave man!— Yours ever truly
—Your Letter to the Leader by all means:7 it has much need of you, and so have its readers!—