TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 3 October 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521003-TC-JAC-01; CL 27: 317-319
TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE
Berlin, 3 Octr, 1852—
My dear Brother,
The Letter you wrote me did not come to hand at Frankfurt whither it was addressed; but I got it safely at Dresden, the people having sent it on, according to order: one of Jane's addressed “Dresden” found me there the same evening, about a week ago; and right glad I was of both, as you can believe. This is now the fourth evening since we got to Berlin,—by a circuitous and painful route, due to the great Fritz and his Battlefields;—and now at length I propose to give a more deliberate little word than I could write in Weimar, in Bonn or Rotterdam, about my travelling experiences. A short word; but one that will be welcome to my good old Mother and the rest of you.
Weimar, from which, if I recollect rightly, my last letter was dated,—proved to be a laborious agitating place, and detained us 3 days in all, which were, if not pleasant by any means, yet very strange, and will long be memorable to me. The third day was added partly or wholly by accident: the reigning Powers having heard of our existence somehow, proposed a Dinner, and we couldn't decline; but went—to Belvedere of the Weimarese,1—and witnessed one of the loftiest pieces of Histrionism off the Stage; not to be repeated in a hurry! The old Gd Duchess (Young Duke & Wife were in Italy) is the Sister of the Russian Czar; quick witted, courteous, rather deaf, and for the rest all made of hard French-polish into the very heart:—positively I have not yet got my mind made up about that phenomenon in general, and feel only as yet that it was in the highest degree tragic. Schiller's house and Goethe's; and the thot that their lives had lain in such a Scene made the matter worse and worse. Weimar is quite a little spiritual puzzle to me.— — At Dresden we found Bölte2 and other Sages and Dilettanti English and Foreign; and ran about, “like mad,” seeking information and getting next to none; at length we climbed to the top of the highest Church steeple, and at least saw with our eyes what kind of scene it was we had got into. A beautiful old City; but quite faded and reduced; evidently going back in the world, and wearing, like Bath, the air of a decayed beau,—stately, poor, with lace tarnished and purse grown light. I saw where Fk had been however,—if that can do any good to me, I have acquired that. Of Lobositz, Töplitz and the Bohemian Border Regions, still more of the “Saxon Switzerland,” I will say nothing at all,—tho' this Lobositz adventure cost us 2 days beyond calculations, and some of the queerest experiences we had yet had in Germany. Zittau at length again connected us with Railways; we went thro' Herrnhuth (4 hours there), thro' Frankfurt on the Oder (1 day there, and on the field of Cunersdorf,—compared with which Creca Moss3 is as the Carse of Gowrie): finally to Berlin itself, as I said;—and properly to within sight of the end of these sad wanderings. For after a few days spent here, the best I can, which will not be very well, I have all along intended and do still intend to rush directly home, and try for a little rest at Chelsea after all these sublime sights I have had! Heigho, Oh whow! I declare I am terribly wearied, for one thing: and repose, under the humblest circumstances, will be of all things the desirablest to me. I have seen Pottsdam, Sans souci &c4 &c, am seeing and doing what I can; and profess only to hope that, in a week or so, I may be under way again, with my nose homeward. Doubtless there are many things here that I might learn, if not abt Fk yet about Prussian life, if I chose to stay and resolutely try: but in fact it is not worth while; “Was thut's [What is the need]? What's ta use on't?” And I so weary too, and living continually as in a kind of nightmare in these strange foreign days.
The fatigues of this German journey,—especially the sleeping departments of the business,—have by no means been less than I anticipated; and to think that my health either of body or of mind wd ever “improve” by such a course of action and suffering, wd be very vain. Nevertheless I suppose I have gained something, were the handful of wheat once separated from the mountain of chaff: at all events I have done the thing; and it will not start up with promise, in my own eyes or those of others, inviting me to do it again. The German beds especially are quite a new experience in life to a thin skinned sleeper! Were I to live a thousand years, I shd hardly forget these miraculous machines, I think; and all Christian beds shall henceforth be dearer to me, and honourable however humble, on their account!— —
Dear Brother, I read what you wrote on that private subject of your own, you may be sure, with profound interest; and I may add, since your mind has come to that deliberate decision, with good augury for my own part,—with what depth of good wishes you do not require to be told. God bless you and the good Partner you have chosen; and may it be for good to you and her (as I truly think it will) and not for evil! I feel as if I could cry at present; but I will not.— Jane had written me about the matter, and writes often, keeping me on a level with events; she anticipates, as I do, great possibilities of advantage to you. No more of it at present, but the best wish of my heart to you and the other party interested;—and as Mr Croaker said, “This time twelvemonth may we all like it as well—”5 and better!— —
Berlin, a big noisy city (kind of cross between Paris and an immense Congeries of Maltkilns set in rows, for the streets are mean, low & the houses have no chimnies), has yet yielded me almost nothing; sight of a few Portraits at best; but I have now (by the Ambassador Bloomfield's aid) admittance to use the library Books at home &c &c; and hope, with effort, to get a little better on. Varnhagen has been to me, and I have returned his call; but in him is no help at all: a lively-talking, pleasant, official kind of man; I understand every word of his German, and feel with regret how little it can do for me. Poor fellow, he is ten years older than myself; and has had many Strapazen [hardships] too; for the rest, a rüstiger alter Kerl [hearty old fellow], with cunning grey eyes, turn-up nose, plenty of white hair, and a dash of dandy, soldier-citizen and sage (or, if you had ever seen the men both, a mixture of Stewart Lewis6 and Leigh Hunt): that is Varnhagen; and he goes to some Miss Something's soirée every night,—whither I wd never follow him, and “don't intend to.”— — Tell my dear Mother, I hope to write to her from Chelsea before long; if I continue long here I will write here; but don't you till you hear. Blessings on one and all
poor Mrs Macready is dead, Jane will have already written to you; I am wae indeed to hear it.