The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 9 September 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520909-TC-JAC-01; CL 27: 275-278


Bonn, 9 Septr, 1852—

My dear Brother,

I am surely bound to try if I can write you an intelligible word before quitting Bonn; you have yet got nothing from me but a symbolical Newspaper from this place, and from Rotterdam, the miserablest dud of a letter ever written,—for which you had to pay too, my own resources at the Postkantoor (Post-office there) proving insufficient for any but Neuberg's frankage. I hope the Newspaper and it, such as it was, satisfied my poor Mother's anxieties nevertheless. Your letter to Neuberg had arrived before me, and was welcome when I came ashore. I have since had a letter there from Jane: no other news; a letter she had sent to Rotterdam proved too late; and they do not now send it me when written to me. N'importe [No matter] since I have heard by a later date.

My night at Rotterdam, owing to cocks, snoring neighbours, and my own sad agitation, proved altogether sleepless, and I got on board the Dusseldorf steamer in no jocund humour: but there it was far stiller living and really pleasant accommodation; nothing but Dutch and Germans on board: I spoke all the languages I had (to a very small extent, however; preferring silence, tobacco, and the sight of the Dutch victory over the swamps); I had eight hours (twice 4 with an interval) of real sleep upon the benches of the vessel); walked 2 hours before and after sunrise abt Düsseldorf, a pleasant interesting town and scene; resumed my boat, and landed here safe, the good Neuberg waiting for me on the shore, about 4 p.m. Since which I have, as it were “dee'd and done nocht ava'.” There has indeed been climbing of the Drachenfels, looking over the Bonn Library (for things on Fredk); and much contention with the genius of insomnium & Dyspepsia, of which you shall hear in season: but in fine it is decided we go off up the river again tomorrow morning at 8,—towards Frankfurt, perhaps with some lingering abt Nassau,1 or failing that with a week at Homburg; but thro' Frankft at last: so that, “Poste Restante, Frankft a. M.” is the address, if you write at once, whh pray do. After Frankfurt I can only give Dresden, Pte restte; and I must recommend you to see how long this takes to reach you; and to calculate for me accordingly; of course I am very anxious to hear! It is uncertain how long Dresden will last; Ng talks of getting to Prag out by Würzburg, Baireuth, Eger &c on Diligences, as a recommendable thing,—about a week's journey from Frankft and round to Dresden by Schandau and the Sächsische Schweitz;2—but failing that, there is a railway thro' Weimar &c direct to Dresden; and at Weimar one wd stay a day for auld lang syne. Dresden one or two; after which Leipzig, Torgau &c, and Berlin (Poste Restante, there too!) after which we decidedly turn home again, and with wings if we had them!

This country is really beautiful of its kind, tho' not worth going to see: the Siebengebirge reminds me of Cumberland, and surely is not prettier to the “eye of taste” so-called. I was there yesterday; and wd not give 3 groats for any “pleasure” I had. The people too seem good, snod, sonsy people, tho' very poor and seemingly very ignorant. Their ground is all cut into little bedquilts of gardens; and several hundreds of women (500 or more) come trotting every morning into Bonn to sell their poor twopence worths of potherbs, straw, potatoes fire-wood; such a waste of human labour, and such wretched scratching under the name of cultivation I have never anywhere seen before. The potatoes are very small; affected too, but otherwise not much hurt by the disease; a fortunate fact for these poor people, whose resources are otherwise of extreme tenuity. Happily their Garden quilts are their own, witht rent; & their thrift is great. Three lads were wheeling dressed paving-stones yesterday down the Drachenfels as Ng and I ascended: a steep height, not so high as Criffel; they cd do 7 journeys in a day, and got a groschen each per journey: 7d a day; whh was by no means equal to coining in the way of wages! They had heard of England; and longed much to be there; whh I earnestly dissuaded; recommending America instead, of whh the poor souls had also heard with hope. They looked healthy, but leanish, hungryish; had fustain3 clothes, rather ragged and coarse shirt—“diese spinnt die mutter [spun by the mother].” N.b. I talk bad German quite freely from time to time, when absolute need is; but shall never, or not at this time, get to be even modestly correct in it.

Bonn, beyond some Books abt Fk, whh I am to take with me to Homburg or Nassau and there examine, has little or nothing to interest the human soul: I have seen some Professor people: old Arndt is alone worth seeing, 83 years old, and fresh as ever yet, a brave, loud-talking, hoping cheery-hearted old man;—of the others ach Gott,—lehrt immer in Göttingen [oh God,—still teaching in Göttingen]!

Brumagen Dawson has been here these 3 days; only went this morning: the police had sent him off in a hurry from Dresden (owing to Baroness Beck, as we conjecture, and Austrian influence there): he is a free-flowing, ingenious creature, going all to wind (by stump-oratory) as himself seems to be painfully aware. I found him amusing while he lasted here; amid the deep dulness of the place.— In tobacco I have only been moderately successful; item in pills; item in sleep— Did Bedlam ever contrive such “beds” as these German one's are? As if you tried to sleep in a big potatoe-basket; in a corn-chest half a foot too short for you! However, I try to get used to it, and have made some improvements.

Oh Mother, oh my good old Mother, how are you, or what are you doing? Many times my thots go after you!— And Jamie and the busy harvest (now all getting carried): many a glance of that has come flashing on me thro' the strange scenes here present to me! I can only apply to you for news, and send my affection to all.

Again thank Dr Hunter very much if you write to him; and say I have discovered that I owe him still 8d (of money he laid out for me), and will clear that account by stamps, were I once home.

Adieu dear Brother,—blessings on you dear Mother and the rest;—may I hear soon and you all be well! Ever yours

T. Carlyle