The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 19 September 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520919-TC-MAC-01; CL 27: 293-297


Weimar, 19 Septr, 1852—

My dear Mother,

I have got safe here, a few hours ago; and will send a hasty word to you at Scotsbrig before going to bed: I have heard nothing from you yet, except a little word thro' Jane at second hand; I can only hope all is going tolerably with you, and trust I may hear expressly so before long. It seems you did not get the newspaper I sent from Bonn; the letter from Rotterdam which you did get was only better than mere nothing: alas, I can very seldom command the smallest convenience for writing;—and tonight too all that I can say will be confused enough, and probably the Doctor will even have his own ados with reading.

From want of sleep I have suffered fully as much as I expected; such beds, and such contrivances for the admission of noise, light and other disturbances into bedrooms I have never seen before! But in all other respects my journey has been fortunate, and I have had nothing but thankfulness to feel on all hands. I am hastening on, too, to get my German travels ended; and hope, in a couple of weeks hence, or soon at any rate, to be home again in Chelsea, there to sleep and rest! Neuberg is worth ten couriers (Jack can explain that to you); and is the kindest of friends over and above. In about 5 days more I expect to be lodged in Berlin, and that is the ultimatum of my journey, from which point, were my business there once done, I shall hasten home again, and no dirt sticking to my heels! But let me tell you a little about my course since you last heard of me thro' Jane; especially about what I saw today and yesterday, which is more particularly my good Mother's property than most other things I have seen or shall see.

After about a week in Bonn, which was not interesting at all, nor capable of yielding any good repose, we set forth up the Rhine, on the morning of Friday gone a week: beautiful sailing up the beautifullest River in the world; at Coblenz we turned aside for 3 days to Bad-Ems (some 10 miles off), and in that strange scene of Bathers, Dancers, Gamblers and other jingly characters, strangely enough, we were very quiet, and I successfully read out most part of a stock of Books I had got in Bonn Library. On Monday last, we were back to Coblentz again, and from that to Frankfurt (Goethe's Birthplace) the same evening. On the morrow, shaving myself at the front side of my noisy room, I noticed by the corner of my eye a known face among the trees of the square down below,—Goethe's face, and alas it was of stone; now when I saw it as I had often longed to do, it could not see me at all, and was not of flesh but of stone!— Frankfurt being intolerably noisy (especially as it was fair time) we made off for Bad-Homburg that same afternoon (10 or 12 miles away); staid at Homburg 2 days till I fairly finished off my Bonn Books,—one of the strangest scenes the Sons of Adam ever contrived for themselves in this world; the rallying place I do believe of such a set of empty blackguards as are not found elsewhere in the world! Several English and others, however not of the blackguard species, were there, whom I knew.— On the morning of the 3d day, we got upon the rail again; came as far as Cassel, having stopped at Marburg for some hours; a strange, most ancient Town, famed for some of Luther's operations, and for being the Landgraf Philip of Hesse's place of residence:1 his high old Castle, where we loitered a couple of hours, is now a Correction House, filled with criminals and soldiers (which later were all paring potatoes for themselves when we first arrived); the chamber of conference between Luther, Zwingli &c is used for keeping hay. The next morning brought us from Cassel to Eisenach with its Wartburg, where Luther lay concealed translating the Bible; and then I spent one of the most interesting forenoons I ever got by travelling;—of which, if I had any convenience at all, I wd so gladly give you some account.

Eisenach is about as big as Dumfries, a very old town but well whitewashed; all built of brick and oak with red-tile roofs of amazing steepness, and several grim old swag-bellied steeples and churches and palatial residences rising conspiculous2 over them. It stands on a perfect plain by the side of a little river; plain smaller than Langholm,3 and surrounded by hills which are not so high, yet of a somewhat similar character, and are all grassy and many of them thickly wooded. Directly on the south side of it there rises one Hill, somewhat as Lockerby Hill in point of height and position, but clothed with trim rich woods all the way, thro' which wind paths with prospect-houses &c: on the top of this Hill stands the old Wartburg, which it takes your4 ¾ of an hour to reach by speeling pretty briskly: an old Castle (“watch-Castle” is the name of it), near 800 years old; where there is still a kind of “Garrison” kept (perhaps 20 men),—tho' it does not much look like a Fortress; what one sees from below being mainly two monstrous old houses (so to speak) with enormous roofs to them,—comparable to two gigantic peat-stacks, set somewhat apart;—there are other lower buildings that connect these, when one gets up; there is also of course a wall all round, a donjon tower standing (like Repentance5 in size and shape); and the Duke of Weimar, to whom the place belongs, is engaged in restorations &c and has many masons employed on it just now. I heeded little of all else they had to shew except Junker Georg's6 (Martin Luther's) Chamber, which is in the nearest of the “Peat-stacks,” the one nearest Eisenach, and close by the Gate where you enter, on your right hand. A short stair of old-worn stone conducts you up; they open the door; you enter a little apartment, less than your best room at Scotsbrig, I almost think less than your smallest; a very poor low room, with one old leaded lattice-window: to me the most venerable of all rooms I ever entered. Luther's old oak-table is there (about 3 feet square), and a huge fossil-bone (vertebra of a mammoth) whh served him for footstool: nothing else now in the room did certainly belong to him, but these did. I kissed his old oak-table; looked out of his window (making them open it for me) down the sheer Castle-wall into deep chasms, over the great ranges of silent woody mountains, and thot to myself, Here once lived for a time one of God's soldiers, be honour given here! Luther's Father and Mother, painted by Cranach,7 are here; excellt old Portraits, the Father with a dash of thrift, contention and worldly wisdom in his old judicious peasant countenance, the mother particularly pious, kind, true and mother[ly], a noble old peasant woman: there is also Luther's self, by the same Cranach, a picture infinitely superior to what yr Lithograph wd give a notion of: a bold, effectual-looking rustic man, with brown eyes and skin, with a dash of peaceable self-consciousness and healthy defiance in the look of him;—in fact one is called to forget the Engraving in looking at this; and indeed I have since found the Engraving is not from this but from another Cranach, to which also it bears no tolerable resemblance. But I must say no more of the Wartburg,—we saw the place on the plaster where he threw his inkstand (the plaster itself is all cut out there, and carried off by visitors); saw the outer staircase (which runs close by his door) where he speaks of often hearing the Devil make noises: poor and noble Luther; I shall never forget this Wartburg, and am right glad that I saw it and Marburg.— That afternoon, there being no train convenient, we drove to Gotha in a kind of Clatch (two-horsed), very cheap in these parts; a bright beautiful country, and a bonny little Town (belongs to Prince Albert's Brother,8—more power to his elbow): there we lodged in sumptuous rooms in an old quiet inn,—the very rooms where Napoleon lodged after being beaten at Leipzig:9 it seems, I slept last night where he breakfasted, if that cd do much for me. At noon we came off to Erfurt; a place of 30,000 inhabitants, and now a Prussian fortified town, all intersected with ditches of water (for defence sake); streets very crooked, very narrow, houses with old overhanging walls,—and still the very room in it, where M. Luther hid while a monk; and our Guide-Book said, the very Bible he found in the Convent Library & read in this cell! This of the Bible proved wrong; Luther's particular Bible is not here, but is said to be at Berlin; nothing really of Luther's is there, except the poor old Latticed-window, glazed in lead, the main panes round abt the size of a biggish snap (all bound together by whirligig intervals); it looks out to the west, over more old cloistered courts and roof-tops, agt a church steeple, and is itself in the second story:—except this, and L.'s old ink-stand a poor old oak boxie with inkbottle and sand-case in it, now hardly sticking together, there is nothing here that belonged actually to Luther: the walls are all covered over with Texts &c in painted letters, by a later hand, the ceiling also is ornamentally painted;—and indeed the place is all altered now and turned long ago into an Orphan Asylum, much of the old building gone, and replaced by new of a difft figure. On one wall of the room, however, is again a Portrait of Luther by Cranach; and this, I found on inspection, was the one your Engraver had been vainly aiming at,—vainly, for this too is a noble face, the eyes not turned up in hypocritical devotion, but looking out in profound sorrow and determination, the lips too gathered in stern but affectionate firmness:—he is in russet yellow boots, and the collar of his shirt is small and edged with black. This was the last we saw of Luther; we had to hasten back to our railway-station, and take the next train for Weimar;—where a certain Mr Marshall (who had run to Frankfurt to meet me) was waiting for us, and had done all he could in providing Lodgings at the quietest Hôtel,—and here I now write, dear Mother, and all the house except myself seems now to bed. I too ought to go. I will add a word tomorrow before this go, if I have any time at all,—but Marshall threatens me with a terrible day of sight-seeing, Goethe-ing &c &c! Mean time, goodnight, and blessings be with you ever!

T. C.

Monday 20th I have had a good sleep; have seen all manner of Goethe and Schiller affairs till I am quite worn out with fatigue; and now is the moment for dinner with “Hofrath [councillor] Marshall.” Tomorrow we go off (I hope) towards Leipzig; next day to Dresden, and in Berlin in some 4 days hence. “Berlin, Poste Restante”: tell Jack. I have found no Letters here; at Frankfurt I had 1 from Jane. Adieu dear Mother; my time is done. Blessings on you all. T. Carlyle