The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO LEIGH HUNT ; 24 October 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521024-TC-JHLH-01; CL 27: 343-344


The Grange, Alresford / 24 Octr, 1852—

Dear Hunt,

I can make nothing, or almost nothing, of Lord Hervey's duchtich. In the first place, it is certain, there is no such word in German; nor can his commentator ever have “consulted” any “German friend” on the subject, but must have simply inserted his own guess upon pure chance.1 So much is clear enough to me: but what word his Lordship did intend, is a question difficult to answer; and without good study of the context the answer cannot well be so much as conjectured.

Drawing a bow at a venture, I have a considerable notion he may have meant the adjective tüchtig (which is very similar in pronunciation, especially between a Hanoverian and an Englishman, the g too being guttural, and the t easily confounded with d): Tüchtig signifies “effective,” “solidly expert”; it is in fact fundamentally the same word as our doughty (from the Scotch verb dow, “to be able”; German taugen); but it is not so high a word as doughty, nor at all exclusively applied to martial work, but it is used as a term of familiar but deliberate praise to a man of worth, who is thoroughly master of what he pretends to, in regard to work or action of any kind. Ein tüchtiger mann=a genuine, a sufficient man. Tugend (the substantive of the word) signifies VIRTUE in German; but perhaps the meaning of tüchtig to Lord Hervey might be pretty much equivalent to “clever,”—if he used tüchtig, if he intended it when he wrote duchtich.

If this make sense of the passage for you, I think you may stand by this; such is the likelihood of the mistake in his case.

But I am coming home in about a week; and if the point is still obscure, and you will then send me a copy of the passage at large, or instruct me how to find it in the London Library, I will deliberately study it, and do my best to rede the riddle for myself and you. Tuesday next, and after that ad libitum [freely].

Nobody was ever more in haste than I for the present; so adieu, dear Hunt; and believe me ever (without doubt or misgiving)

Yours with sincere regard

T. Carlyle