The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 25 September 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520925-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 301-304


Nieder-Rathen (in der Sächsischen Schweitz) near Dresden, 25 Septr (Saturday evg) 1852—

Dearest, I got your nice little Letter the night before last, waiting for me at Dresden; and right glad was I of it: there came with it one, from John, which had been forwarded from Frankfurt; —nothing but favourable news from home; this, in my painful pilgrimings in foreign parts, is surely a great comfort and blessing! I wrote to you from Weimar, some five days ago; and therefore there is nothing pressing me at present to write; but having a quiet hour here, by the side of the Elbe River, at the foot of wild rock mountains in the queerest region you ever saw, I throw you another word, not knowing when I may have another chance as good,—certainly none till we reach Berlin, and find lodgings there. I am on the second floor in a little German Country inn, literally washed by the Elbe, which is lying in the moonshine as clear as a mirror and as silent: right above us is a high Peak called the Bastei (Bastion) a kind of thing you are obliged to do (by Tourist Law); this we have done, & are to go tomorrow towards F's first battlefield in the 7-years war; after which the second day (if all go well) will bring us into Berlin. We came by an Elbe Steamer; go on tomorrow at nine by another Steamer, then by railway,—and hope to see, tho' alas in quite confused circumstances and to little advantage, some of the actual footsteps of Father Fritz, for here too amid these rocks, as well as farther on at Lobositz, he did feats.— But let me tell in order; and take up my story where I left it.

The day after I wrote, we were to leave Weimar; but lo, in the morning while we sat at breakfast, little Marshall came in, looking highly animated, with Letters from the Schloss, from “the Grand Duchess,” from the &c &c—in short, the said Gd Duchess (Sister of Tzar Nicholas, and Mother of the Duke who was at Chelsea)1 had seen in the Newspaper that one “Carlyle” was among the arrivals; “could this be the berühmte [famous]” &c—in which case naturally he and his companion must come to dinner; and of course there could be no travelling that day. Well, we did go to dinner; saw how they ackit;—a rather troublesome dramatic affair, of which you shall have full description when I return: enough, it was very sublime and altogether heartless and even dull and dreary, but well worth doing for once. The Gd. Duchess is towards sixty; slightly deaf, and has once been extremely pretty, tho' hard always as nails or diamonds: her Husband, a kind of imbecil man (they say), looks extremely like a gentleman, and has an air of solemn serene vacuity whh is itself almost royal. I had to sit by the Duchess at dinner (3 p.m to 5), and maintain with energy a singularly empty intellectual colloquy, in French (chiefly), in English and in German; the Lady being half deaf withal, you may think how charming it was. She has a thin croaky voice; brow and chin recede; eyes are blue, small, and of the brightness and hardness of precious stones. Ach Gott, at last we got away; soon after 5; and I for one was right charmed to think here is one thing over. But it must be owned the honour done me was to be recognised; and I was very glad to oblige poor Neuberg too by a touch of Court-life, which he wd not otherwise have seen.

At Leipzig all was raging business, the Fair being in hand; noisy and busy almost as Cheapside London,—lots of dim haberdashery, Leather without end, and all things rolling about in noisy waggons with miniature wheels: to get any sleep at all was a kind of miracle! However, we did tolerably well; got even a Book or two of the list I had formed;—drank a glass of wine (one only) in Auerbach's Keller:2 and at last got safe to Dresden (80 miles off), whh was a mighty deliverance, as from the tumult of Cheapside into the solitude of Bath or the New Town of Edinr. A very interesting old Capital; where, if sleep had been attainable, I could have staid a week with advantage: but alas it was not, and so I had to plunge along, and save as from a conflagration what little I could of my possibilities;—and at length, with gratitude to Heaven, to get away into the Steamer this afternoon; and bid adieu to Drn and its Japan and other Palaces for ever and a day.3 Paget did write to me in time; I saw Paget and found him full of eagerness to help; saw one Noel also (Lady Byron's Nephew, who boasted to have known me in Chelsea);4 above all things, saw Bölte; the whole of whom were eager to help: but, alas, what “help” is there; nobody can help you in almost anything;—I saw three learned historical writers, and none of them cd tell me where Fk had cannonaded in his sieges, or answer the least question I put: in the end we all got upon the top of the highest Church-steeple with a female beadle for a guide; and then I endeavoured to catch with my own eye the best picture I cd of the region in general and city all round. Poor Bölte, who is still in the Auerbach's house, sole mistress there, made a small evg party (chiefly of “learned historical men”) for my behoof; very good people, but of no use to me or next to none:5 she looks calmer, better-coloured, much more like a lady than she used to do in London; this day I called again to take leave of her; and was really affected to see over her Desk a Portrait in water-colours of —— have you any notion whom?6 Poor soul, after all. She writes twaddle in the Morgenblatt [newspaper]; and seems intimate with the English-German Dilettante & quasi-intellectual circles whh copiously exists in that city. I really wished her well.7— She had even offered me the night before, a bed with curtains, and perfectly quiet, in whh I might hope to sleep; and really I was near accepting; but in the end, decided no. Oh, sleep, Oh gentle sleep! But it is not to be had for complaining; so I will try to wait patiently, and not break down altogether till I see Chelsea again. I get about half my quantity or more on the average; and only when I take ⅓ of a pill (these horrible savage pills, sad fault of Alsop and the Post-Office) am I thrown into a great flurry by noises in the night. For Berlin, if it be not all the noisier, I design at least a week: in a 10 days hence, I may be far on my way homeward again,—God grant I were already there, and my errand once done!

Miss Wynne has at length been heard of, thro' Bölte; she Miss Wne preceded us to this region,—we looked for her name on the Bastei register tonight, in vain.—but Bölte said her next route was to Berlin, where we are pretty certain to discover her.— —Poor Macaulay, poor soul, can it be true what you report of him! It is very tragic indeed.— — I am sorry to blot this poor scrawl, but8 really it seems as if I could n't help it, so untowardly is my ink, and other apparatus. No fire was ever heard of in these rooms; hardly even in the kitchen can one see the colour of fire; and their writing they dry with sand.

A taproom with some 20 rustic gents,* enjoying cards, beer and bad cigars for the last hour or two, seems now to have winded itself up; and things are growing stone-quiet in this establisht: Neuberg has long since retired to his room;—and I now must address myself to the task of falling asleep.— We go tomorrow at 9,—Lobositz (in Bohemia), Zittau (Lusatia), Frankfurt am Oder, Berlin,—that is the projected route, but liable to revisal.

Adieu my own dear Goody; I send thee a hearty blessing far over the seas and hills. Ever affectionate T. Carlyle

*(they did not go till after midnight, the scamps!)

The sprig of heather was plucked for you at the foot of the Bastie in “Saxon Switzerland,” so-called; let it also go, and accept it from me. O my little Dear!— At Berlin, I post it!— But any rate I hope soon to be home & end this correspondence.

(terribly blotted,—owing to bad blotting-paper)