The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG ; 15 September 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530915-TC-JN-01; CL 28: 269-272


Addiscombe Farm, 15 Septr 1853

Dear Neuberg,

This morning your Letter of the 11th from Heidingsfeld reached me out here, whither we have fled for a little quiet, in the absence of the hospitable owners. I have been looking with great impatience latterly, for some news from you; and now I perceive your last Letter must have been lost on its road towards me, or else still worse must have befallen! Here is, at once, what I can say in reference to that misfortune, in the absence of all my papers which are at Chelsea.

One Letter from Heidingsfeld, and only one, have I received: the date, I guess from memory, must have been about two months hence (say 11th july);1 I answered that in two or three days, introducing (if I recollect aright) two or three Berlin questions; and, what is still more important, and of course is very fresh in my recollection, a Bank Draught from Lord Ashburton to pay Weber for his Prints at Bonn. Your silence all this while I ascribed to some delay or other in getting Weber's Receipt for me;—and was of course disappointed at not finding it, or any allusion to it, in the present otherwise so welcome Letter. However, on a little consideration, I begin to see there is essentially nothing lost but your second Letter: for you answer certain Berlin queries; therefore must have received them; therefore must have received &c &c. If Weber's receipt was in that lost Letter, you will have to make him send another; and that will cure the main damage. Or it is possible he was directed at once to send his Receipt to Lord Ashburton? In that case, it may have arrived all right, and never have been mentioned to me; for they are far off in the Highlands these some weeks. In any case I persuade myself there has nothing gone fundamentally awry: but this loss of the letter does disquiet me; and I beg for a word from you about it without any delay.

I had been diligently preparing a good many new questions, labelled “For Neuberg in Berlin”; and they all hang now, on their several fragments of paper, duly grasped in the Clip (I think that is the name of it, the steel finger-and-thumb) on my table at Chelsea;—and will not be answered on this occasion! However, we can send them to Preuss, it appears; and in fact they were not of much consequence, many of them, nor worth detaining you in hot solitary Berlin. I never yet dare tell myself that I will write on Frederic; for indeed the thing is still an Impossibility to me; but I have continued havering2 about the edges of it, very unhappy on account of it; and one day I must do something or other with it.

My dear old Mother has, as you have heard, given us a good deal of alarm since you went. Alas, she is now past 82; and the inevitable cannot be supposed to be very distant! For the last year or more she had been growing visibly feebler; but in july last, matters seemed to come to a crisis: and after almost a miraculous escape, our poor patient seems ever since to be a degree better, and a hope that she may yet be spared us for a while, is but too prone to rise in one. Ever since I have had consciousness in me, this thing has been my terror: alas, alas, it is the doom of all men, a merciful as well as stern one;—and it is not for me to forget that it has been long delayed, and promises to fall as gently as it well could! My brave old Mother is perfectly composed; has her faculties of mind all perfect, and is clear and quick of thought and perceptive as she ever was, tho' reduced so low in bodily strength Two of my sisters attend her alternately, their own households being at no great distance; and “the Doctor” (as we call him) holds himself always within reach.

Except expressly summoned on that melancholy errand, I decided not to leave London, or travel at all, this year; I accordingly rejected all offers, to the Ashburton Highlands &c, and have steadily kept at Chelsea,—where, tho' quiet was less attainable than usual, I actually find my health rather improving, simply by dint of sitting still. No other remedy, I believe, has been provided me in this world: having too thin a skin, I must, once for all, expose it to the fewest annoyances, the fewest emotions, possible; and bear what burdens won't drop off in that way, without kicking. The Autumn time, when Western London is like La Trappe, has been very pleasant this year in respect of weather too: I might have studied even, had not so much else been upon me,—had not still other, unexpected things come in the wind!

You will be surprised to learn we are again busy building in Chelsea since you last heard of me! The case was, an ever-increasing miscellany of noises (cocks not wanting) had been annoying us exceedingly, me at least, for many months past; intimating that the progress of Free-trade, and development of Beaver Hudsonism, had reached even Cheyne Row, and banished the old quiet from it,—not to speak of temprary cocks &c. In a paroxysm of many feelings therefore (not all of them pleasant!) I decided to realize the idea I had had for 12 years past: of an apartment free to air and absolutely inaccessible to sound,—at once perfectly ventilated and deaf. And that accordingly is a-doing, and is even nearly done, if it will prosper when finished! The top story of the house; a new top-story built over all the others: that is the new miraculous apartt; and there I hope to receive you, of an evening, when you come down from Hampstead. We took a new Builder, one of Cubitt's, and that has been the basis of all success and despatch; really one of the cleverest Artist's I have ever seen in that kind; I have also been infinitely helped by a friendly and altogether skilful Mr Chorley of my acquaintance. And in short we had stood all the noise; and could not be persuaded to move out hither to this little fairy palace (the beautifullest of all now empty Cottages), tho' permitted and pressed,—not till two days ago, when the noises outside and in, combined too with dust and demolition (for the staircase, namely), became at last too formidable. I think of staying here for a week or two, so long as I can manage to find it pleasant: Jane, who had already a month of country in Scotland, who cares in general less for the country than I, and has work to do at home proposes, if not to leave me in the perfection of loneliness here, at least only to come and go. This is our history since you went.

Your account of Eckermann is highly interesting! Poor fellow, I wish he had assurance of continuous “bread-and-butter”: but about 2 weeks ago I had a Note from somebody, a Clerk in the Bank, informing me that he had got some Goethe Autographs to sell for Eckn (who had fallen unwell too, it appeared, but was getting better): the question of this Clerk was, How to sell said Autographs? I recommended to try Lord Ellesmere3 with one of them. But poor E. has often been in my thoughts since;—and I rather wish you would write a word of inquiry about him (to Weimar, I fancy; he was still at Kiel, but about to go); and try to ascertain, in a delicate way, whether there is nothing even we could do for him, at any rate whether his pecuniary strait has fairly passed? The Bank Clerk was so unmelodious a gentleman, I did not like cooperation with him farther. But surely something should be done for poor Eckermann if he is in difficulties on that side,—and something perhaps could be done, if not in Weimar (which seems disgracefully negligent), then perhaps among Goethe's admirers in this country. If you see a way for such a delicate inquiry, I really wish you would move a little in it.4

Thanks for the Struensee Books:5—thanks to the Bibliotheker at Keil (most obliging gentn), if you ever write again in that direction. Preuss also has been very kind; he bids fair for a cargo of inquiries one of these days or months.

Mrs Norton6 has again been quarelling with her Husband in the Law Courts and even in the Newspapers,—to the amusement only of the rabble,—poor luckless beautiful and clever Lady; has not the English “talent of silence.”— — Paper, pen and posture are alike uncomfortable, and the time too is up, as well as the space! I expect to hear again in a few days. Chelsea is the best address.—Ever yours T. Carlyle