The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG ; 17 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520817-TC-JN-01; CL 27: 228-230


Dumfries, Scotland / 17 Augt, 1852—

Dear Neuberg,

If you are still quiet at Bonn, you must now be a little curious to hear of me. I received your Letter at Linlathen in the Dundee region, whither I had fled from Chelsea and the heat;1 and ever since, the German problem has been more or less present to me, and pressing for a solution, which, alas, such is the complexity of my position, and such the state of my unfortunate unsleeping much-enduring nervous-system above all, I have never yet been able to give it! You shall hear, as exactly as I can describe them, what my velleities [fancies], dubieties and miserable half-resolutions are at this stage of the affair.

First then it has become evident that my Wife cannot, just at present, accompany me to Germany if I go: the carpenters and plasterers require, it seems, continual supervision; are far behind their time; liable to every sort of error and human short-coming: in short she is busy (and even rather happy and successful, she professes) in administering that great affair;—and her only anxiety is to keep me well away from it for two months to come, till which date she does not expect that the house will be perfect again. That is her side of the matter, by the last advices.

As for me I have been kept in continual misery of dyspepsia, loss of sleep &c &c ever since I left home; and find too well once more what my instant lot is when I quit the little cell that is used to contain me and my set of habitudes: so that all “travel,” especially all search for amusement in that process, is with reason as terrible to my imagination as it ever used to be! This is my paltry situation,—inseparable from the allotment of nerves I have, and too sadly confirmed by every new experiment I make in the matter. Curtainless (perhaps even blanketless) beds; strange diet; incessant noise and hurry: all this is sufficiently horrible to me, in my actual mood above all.

On the other hand, I confess to myself and to you, it is quite shameful to give such way to cowardice; I perceive that, if I do not now go to Germany (now when I have 2 months or six weeks actually demanding to be spent from home), I shall never again have a chance to go! A small voice of duty furthermore seems to summon me at least to Berlin;—as to Silesia and Bohemia, especially in the wild wet weather we now have, the thought seems too audacious; being withal less indispensable, so far as Frederic goes. Nay with regard to Fc himself I must admit, tho' my acquaintance with him somewhat ripens, I do not at all feel such a love as will go thro' fire and water; in fact I do not in the least yet see what profitable thing I can ever well write of him; and there are other things, to be had witht travelling, on which one's itch for writing (if it ever arose again, as sometimes seems possible) might exercise itself.— In a word, no man can well be in a more irresolute state than you perceive I now am!—

For the rest, I have ascertained that there goes a Steamer from Leith (which is within 4 hours of this my native region where I now am) weekly to Rotterdam; every saturday it sails; so that I might spare the 300 miles to London at any rate by such a journey in your direction;—and might be in the Rhineland in a week hence, and fairly in the thick of the fight, where perhaps I shd prosper better than my sickly fancy paints; who knows? At any rate, I should be obliged to struggle thro', when once in!—

The things necessary for me to see in Germany are, besides Berlin which does not answer till the end of next month, Dresden and the Elbe as high as Schandau (near which is Lowositz, one battle-place),2 Leipzig, Torgau, Weimar; the Harz also and some glimpses of Hanover would not be unwelcome: but what I need to do is Berlin and its environs and its libraries, picture-galleries and well-informed persons; this I really should endeavour to compass, or else give up my Fc once for all. As to Schlesien and the Riesengebirge—yes that also I should grudge to renounce; but the difficulties of it seem too heavy for human nature at this juncture!—

On the whole, what can I ask you to do for me? If you are still at Bonn, and write in two days after the arrival of this, your Letter will still find me in these parts. Your address is, “Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan,” my Mother's house, whither I return tomorrow: I am here at my sister's only for a day; Scotsbrig will be my abode thenceforth, and is a sure address always. Tell me at least what my route from Rotterdam towards Dresden wd be. Not by the Rhineland at all, I think? But I have not any kind of German map at hand at this moment. And where, supposing I actually landed at Rotterdam about Monday or Tuesday come a week, you and I could meet, if a meeting were at all possible?— In short, write to me at any rate; I will not finally decide on anything or stir from my present moorings till I have heard from you again: and my next announcement, I hope, will not be to give up the project altogether, but to announce my intended sail from Leith on Saturday-week, and rendezvous with you somewhere beyond the German Sea. Let us hope so!— My Brother is off to Edinr two days ago; but is to return in the end of this week, and promises to bring at least a Continental Bradshaw3 with him. Tell me anything you may know about Passports at Rotterdam. And excuse this confused Message, written withal amid en[d]less4 confusion. Yours ever

T. Carlyle