The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO THOMAS ERSKINE ; 9 July 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530709-TC-TE-01; CL 28: 192-193


Chelsea: July 9, 1853.

I had a very miserable tour in Germany; not one night of sleep all the time, and nothing, or too little, of the living kind that was beautiful to look upon in return for all that physical distress at once so tormenting and so degrading. I remember the Rhine river as a noble acquisition to my internal picture gallery. Cologne, &c., I got no good of, but rather mischief; the sight of those impious charlatans doing their so-called “worship” there (a true devil worship, if ever there was one); and the fatal brood, architectural and others—Puseyites and enchanted human apes that inhabit such places—far transcended any little pleasure I could have got from the supreme of earthly masonry, and converted my feeling into a sad and angry one.1 I was in the Wartburg, however—in Martin Luther's room—and I believe I almost wept there, feeling it to be, as far as I could understand, the most sacred spot in all the earth at this moment. Here, tempted by the devil (always by “devils” enough), but not subdued or subduable, stood God's Truth, embodied in the usual way: one man against all men. It was upon these hills he looked out; it was there and in that way he dealt with the devil and defied him to his face. A scene worth visiting indeed. There are excellent portraits by Cranach of Luther and his father and mother2 hung on the walls. Martin himself has a fine German face: eyes so frank and serious, a look as if he could take a cup of ale as well as wrestle down the devil in a handsome manner.

The Wartburg is much visited by tourists; but I was not sorry to find they did not much heed Luther—merely took him among the rest and dwelt chiefly on the “Byzantine architecture” and restorations. The only other beautiful thing I saw was Tieck, and he is since dead. On Fritz I can make no impression whatever, and practically consider I have given him up and am not equal to such a task on such terms.

My wife is now at Moffat with my brother and his household. As to me, I got so smashed to pieces and perceptibly hurt in every way by my journeying last autumn—all travel and noise is at all times so noxious to me—I have never yet been able to brook the notion of travelling since, but have flattered myself I should sit still here, and would on almost any terms. Certain it is, I have need enough to stay here, if staying by myself in my own sad company be the way to riddle any of the infinite dross out of me and get a little nearer what grains of metal there may be.

Adieu! dear Mr. Erskine. Give my kind and grateful remembrances to your two ladies3 and to everybody at Linlathen.

I am always faithfully yours,