The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JAMES MARSHALL ; 13 March 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530313-TC-JMA-01; CL 28: 76-79


Chelsea, 13 March, 1853—

Dear Marshall,

I got your Letter some ten days ago; and was very glad to hear of you again, and understand that I was not forgotten in Weimar. No spot in my travels looks brighter to me than that interesting little city; if I were a painter I could put it all on canvas by help of memory,—the Ettersburg, pretty Belvedere, Tiefurth,1 Goethe's House, Schiller's House and Death-chamber: all this and more, winding up with your emphatic final remonstrance to the railway porter, “Sie MÜSSEN warten [You must wait]!,” remains with me vivid as reality, and is like to remain. Thanks to the kind friends that made it pleasant,—thanks to you chiefly who stood at the centre of the operation! I was in the contemptiblest state of wretchedness on the physical side; and you had a rather heavy task, I do perceive; but, by dint of dextrous assiduity and imperturbable good humour, you managed it,—more power to your elbow! The remembrance of those unendurable physical confusions, want of bed-curtains, want of sleep, want of &c &c, enough to drive a poor thin skinned wretch to the verge of Bedlam in the end, is gradually dying away; falling down like foul bewildering dust; and the essential phenomenon itself will remain in a clear state, and continue to be a possession for me. That the Imperial Lady, her Highness the Grand Duchess, still remembers me, is a great honour; for which I will beg you, in some good time and way, to express my human gratitudes,—as surely they are well due in that quarter; nor is anything of Belvedere, least of all the noble Mistress of it, likely to be forgotten on my side.

We did not see Eckermann at Berlin, as you are aware; by a curious infelicity he had again fled, two days before our appearance there. I was very sorry; two intimate English friends, lady sisters familiars of my wifes, who come often about us here, had waited nearly a week in the Royal Hô tel under the Lindens for us,—and just gone two hours, when we came to lodge there!2 My more and more feverish distraction of nerves, to which none of those kind souls could have brought any remedy, made such misfortunes at once more sad to me and more indifferent,—new showers upon a rat already drowned, all but the inner imagination of him! The search for Eckermann, however, procured us accidentally the Painter Magnus's acquaintance, who proved to be a truly superior painter and person, full of helpfulness withal, and one of my chief resources while in Berlin. Ten days or a fortnight there: but I made nothing of it; I met with hardly any man worth going ten yards to see; what was still sadder, hardly any man or thing that could give me the least instruction about my hero Fritz: all the world was full of talk about their big Rauch's monument, and seemed to think that had done the whole business,—while, alas, I found that that had done simply no “business” at all (except perhaps consecrate the “artistic,” pedantic, and other expensive Owleries of poor mankind), and that, for an inquiring soul with reason and a heart in him, Rauch and his copper mountain were not intended! Had it not been for Magnus I do not even think I should have discovered any real Portrait of Fritz at Berlin: no mortal seemed to know of such a thing, or to be in the least want of it; Rauch himself, a fine mild ingenious old gentleman, had astonishingly little to say on that or any cognate subject. And in the Royal Library too— But let me say nothing more of all that; let me remember only how good every one was to me, how patient with the foreign savage and his disappointments and indignations Of a truth, if Frederic the Great did injury to German Literature and Kunst [art], said Kunst and Literature have richly paid him back again! I said to myself a hundred times, Ye speaking, painting, dissertating, poetizing, most “artistic” (vorstellungsfähig [imaginative]) German People, is this then all you can do to “represent” a great man and hero, when the gods send you one? You unfortunate!— I saw Kaulbach's3 huge Allegorical Paintings, acres of indian smearing,—and hastened in to look at Chodowiecki's Prints, a sane and genial thing. I saw big Radowitz, and shall not forget him; Cornelius,4 and many persons doing the Catolisch [Roman Catholic],—ach Gott: “doing” it; which is forever damnable! By far the beautifullest thing, indeed the only truly beautiful thing I saw in Berlin, was good and brave old Tieck, pathetically bright like the setting sun; lying on his sofa now, not to rise any more, his race being run.5

On the whole I made but little of Germany; and have to admit that my journey (by blame of my own, I am aware) was somewhat of a failure. Nevertheless I do remember the Rhine stream and its banks; the image of a grand world-river, I find, was not in me before: the Binger Loch, and the Gewissf, 6 and many other points and places,—in spite of the dirty Frenchmen elbowing me,—are very memorable. Do the Wartburg and all Luther's localities. Of Cities I remember Weimar best; then Marburg, with its old Deutsch-meisters, St Elizabeth,7 Philip with the Two Wives, and actual Hassenpflug & Co.8 Dresden looked like a battered old beau; the Sächsische Schweitz9 not equal to a foolish ride thro' the Cumberland Lakes. For the rest I saw Lowositz Battlefield in Böheman, and Kunersdorf with Frankfurt on the Oder:10— —in fact, in fact, I did see something; and ought not to waste more time in complaining that it was so little. I believe I like the German People better than ever; but somehow have acquired a new sense of their tendency to prosy inconclusiveness, and talk and thought that leads nowhither; and have learned (chiefly, I suppose, by reading in these Prussian Histories) to regard the German Dryasdust with an almost devout terror, and indeed to regard the commonplace German sage and artist, with pen once in his hand, as one of the most alarming and a quite peculiar phenomenon. From which good Lord deliver me at any rate!—

My health till lately has been quite below par ever since my return; these long-tortured nerves are only now beginning to get to their old pitch again. I still read about Fritz; but there is no information upon him to be had in this world I believe! “Very well, ” I sometimes say, “You have lived long without the Zollerns,11 they without you: Why not continue so?”—

Adieu, dear Marshall; you must give my kind and never-altering regards to Eckermann; and can assure all Weimar friends who may remember me (for such is the real fact) that I have not forgotten them, nor forgotten to think gratefully of them. Yours always truly / T. Carlyle

—My Wife's remembrances—