The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO RUDOLF LUDWIG DECKER AND KARL DECKER ; 27 December 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521227-TC-RLDAKD-01; CL 27: 375-377


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea / London, 27 decr, 1852—


I had the honour to receive, the other day, your obliging Gift,—six Engravings of the Frederick Monument with accompanying Letterpress, and one on large paper splendidly bound;—for which welcome and unexpected mark of your attention I beg now to return many thanks.1 It would also give me great pleasure to treat with you about a Translation of any work of mine on Fk the Great;—but, alas, that part of the business lies as yet far over the horizon, and is only to be counted among the good things which may never come at all!

I have indeed, for the last year or more, been reading many Books about Frederick, and making many inquiries about his existence in this world,—as I have repeatedly done at various times of my life, your Great King, and his Warfarings, and manful struggles and endeavours here below, having from of old been an object of great curiosity with me:—but as to writing any Book upon him, I confess I dare not set that before [me] as an object, or confidently hope at all to get the matter so illuminated for myself as to vindicate such a procedure! Alas, no; probably never. The character of Fk himself is, long since, abundantly luminous to me (his own Writings being there to tell [me] of that); but in regard to his Environment (Umgebung) in all features of it, the case is still lamentably different with me; and multitudes of Books that I read thr[ow] no new light on it whatever. I want greatly some B[ook] with intelligible Biographies of Friedrich's Generals;—some intelligible Book of Prussian Topography would even be welcome to me;—and the Princely Houses and distinguished Persons he stood connected with, are inexpressibly obscure to a foreign reader. It strikes me often I must have chosen my Books ill; or else learned Deutschland must, with all its writing, be lamentably deficient in these helps to Historical study? Not even an available Prussian Peerage-Book could I hear tell of; I bought one (Neukirsch's Adels-Lexicon) which is no better than waste paper for any such purpose!2

In short you perceive, Gentlemen, I am still in the fatal impossibility of getting due instruction about Fk the Great; and shall, too probably, always continue so: in which circumstances the writing of a Book upon him would be an offence clearly not to be committed. I can only try and repeat, if I ever did write such a Book, it would give me pleasure to treat with you about it in the way you propose;—and so, in the meanwhile, with many thanks for your kindness to me,

I remain, / Gentlemen, / Your obedt & much obliged /

T. Carlyle

P.S. If Professor Preuss and your other people would conclude the New Edition of the Oeuvres de Frederic, with the due Indexes &c &c, it would be a great conquest for me!— Far beyond all other writers on Fk, and indeed wi[th] all the rest together, that exact solid and diligent Professor takes his place.

T. C.

Den Herrn Decker &c &c