TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 1 October 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521001-TC-LA-01; CL 27: 309-312
TC TO LADY ASHBURTON
Berlin (Kellner's Gasthof, in der Tauben-strasse) 1 Oct., 1852—
Here, after various adventures, not of a romantic nor of a very pleasant or victorious nature, I have arrived at last, about a week after expectation; very glad indeed that the job is so far on;—not otherwise very glad, for the day is pouring wet, and these streets are as loud almost as Piccadilly, and greatly muddier & worse paved; and in the stupid houses (which look like granaries many of them, or low-walled warehouses) there is no soul whom I have much curiosity to see,—only one old, memory of a soul perhaps; and in the search after that it is not easy to make much progress, I fear. I find a grand statue of the Old Fritz (really excellent) riding in the chief street, surrounded with Marshals and Generals of note; I have seen two of his Battlefields, Lobositz in Bohemia, scene of his first victory, and Cunersdorf1 of his worst defeat: but to get any real sight of the man and his existence, especially while men are helping me by talk &c to do it, is beyond measure difficult. I must restrict myself to that Problem however; and done or not done, get home out of these tumults: Berlin shall have a week from me, perhaps a week good measure; and after that, presto, by Hanover, by Köln and Antwerp, home, home, and try to get a little sleep once more!— —
Exactly this day fortnight, at Cassel, under bad circumstances tho' with loyal mind, I wrote your Ladyship a semi-legible despatch, announcing among other things that I was to be in Berlin “probably in six days” from that time: the Letter was posted next day at Eisenach, and so has now had 13 days to air itself in the world:—and yet, and yet alas, there is no Letter from you here at the Post-Office for me this morning; none, and either some mischance has happened, or you have forgotten to be gracious, as of old! Pray write at once, if you have not written. I shall in all likelihood be here till a letter can arrive, and at all events it will be taken care of, and sent after me, if I am gone. About Radowitz2 &c I am not anxious: but, ah me, a word of friendliness, tho' of that too I cannot be doubtful from you, would be welcome, in these foreign semi-articulate regions I am now inhabiting!— Also if Lord A do want any Bestellungen [commissions] (Engravings, books of Art &c)—which I rather think is not the case,—let him speak at once, and I will follow his directions to the utmost of my ability. I am, for my own behoof, collecting old Books, a work of great difficulty to select any grains of corn from such a mass of chaff as there is; and am at any rate upon the market where such things have currency and are to be heard of. Only speed is necessary!—
I have been in the Wartburg, where Luther lived as Junker Georg, and worked at translating the Bible: his old room is still there, unchanged, his old oak-table, the very floor he walked upon; the window he looked out of (into sheer abysses, over lonely mountains, into uncertainties, immensities and eternities),—poor old fellow: I felt that there was not probably in the Earth a more truly sacred spot than that same; and I did my worship (being in a sleepless excited condition) with great fervour there. We were next in Gotha, and then—three days in Weimar itself, Schiller's old writing-table (the correct image of your model at The Grange, or rather vice-versâ) is still there; his little poor harpsichord and beside it poor bed where he died, picture of his face when dead: that room also is rather memorable to me. Goethe's House was opened by favour; nay the reigning powers (seeing us in the Newspapers) invited poor Neuberg and me to dinner; and we went in spite of my “shocking bad hat” (a dusty wide-awake, which I hid dexterously below stairs): the “reigning Duchess,” a sister of the Czar3 Nicolaus, is a woman worth seeing,—highly polite and gracious tho' unluckily a little deaf, and cold as polished steel!—poor female-soul, her Husband is a big gentlemanly-looking man, who does his parade-drawing room duty with consciencious perfection; but is otherwise considered imbecile, with him in this limited histrionic scene, has the Sister of the Czar Nicholas had to lead her tragic fact of an existence, and make no complaint about it: she has small blue eyes, the hardest I ever looked into, a weak unmusical voice, a circular profile (receding chin and brow), a thin tall figure; and is, on the whole, she and her polite colloquy (in bad French, do English, do German) more like a respectable ghost to me than anything I have ever met with. The young people, whom you have seen, were “away in Italy”: with them, except looking at their pictures &c was no trade. At length we got away: but on the whole, Weimar, with its silent stagnation from all real business, with its solemn inanities and dilettantisms, with its very Goethe threatening to become a bigger Lytton Bulwer,—O Heaven what a tragedy was that of Goethe to me, of such a man driven thither for such a life!— Weimar, I say, is still a puzzle, and a kind of nightmare, in my imagination!— After Weimar, and next to it, came, of all things, Leipzig Fair; a noise as of Cheapside or Thames Street, and masses of Jews, dealing mainly, I thot in dim muslins and leather: a deafening, distressing scene: next Dresden, where a nest of English, & Foreign Dilettanti turned up, with Bölte in the middle of them; of whom silence: Dresden is a decayed beau; has once had sow-lace about its hat and coat, and has still the “manners of a gentln,” but evidently next to no money in its purse, and looks quite faded and battered in spite of all its graciosities; in fact one sees that Prussia ought to take possession of that country (as the sensible people in it are said to wish), and that the “Saxon Dynasty” has played its card, and has now only to retire in some graceful way. I was heartily miserable in Dresden, with such a set of objects buzzing round me,—in such dreadful hurry too, and no sleep to be had. However I did manage to ascertain the locality of Fk's Siege in some approximate degree; and the good Dilettanti people (friendly and helpful, wretch that I am!) took me, on the request, to the top of the highest steeple, and there with my eyes I saw far and wide, and can remember, if it avail.4
Of the “Saxon Switzerland”; of Lobositz which is in Bohemia, the Ireland of Germany; of Töplitz (beautifully vacant when we saw it, and capable of being slept in); of Zittau and Stell-wagons [coaches]; of Frankfurt on the Oder, nay of Herrnhuth,5 I could speak, having your ladyship under my thumb,—but will not, being of a merciful nature.— In fine, I have seen many things that are not quite witht value; everybody has been kind to me; and except want of sleep I have suffered nothing physical that is worth speaking of; but—but, on the whole, I do wish it were done; and I think, were I once home again, it will be a while before I “travel” more, under what conditions soever it be. Oh my dear Friend, what a life this is; what a life, take it where one may!— From Jane I found a Letter today: she seems well; but has had again to fly the house “for paint, smells and painters; and is overwhelmed poor soul, with the confusions of that “thorough repair”—may we never see its match again! But surely it will pass too; surely things will mend a little,—a very little were worth recognising as a favour of the Destinies just. O Lady, oh my Lady, I am sunk and buried under rubbish in these days and weeks, and feel as if the heart were quite crushed dead in me; and can only say in the sorrow of my soul, Adieu, dear Friend, and may we meet soon when times are better!
Ever yours, /
“Poste Restante here still; for we leave this Hôtel and know not yet whitherward.