1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO KARL AUGUST VARNHAGEN VON ENSE; 15 January 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540115-TC-KAVE-01; CL 29: 15-18


Chelsea, 15 jany, 1854—

My dear Sir,

Your Bülow's Leben,1 with the kind Letter in it, has come safe to hand; many thanks for so welcome and friendly a Gift, which so many others, a long list now, have preceded! It lay waiting for me here, on my return from a short sad visit I had made to Scotland, whither I had been called on the mourn-fullest errand,—the death of my aged, dear and excellent Mother, whose departure I witnessed on Christmas day; a scene which, as you can well believe, has filled me with emotions and reflexions ever since, and cannot for the rest of my life be forgotten. I have kept myself very silent, and as solitary as possible, ever since my return; looking out more earnestly towards new labour (if that might but be possible for me), as the one consolation in this and in all afflictions that can come. In the evenings of last week, three of them at least, I have read Bülow, as an agreeable halting-place for my mind; and was very sorry last night when it ended upon me, as all things have to do.

You have given us a flowing Narrative, in your old clear style; painted out a stormy battling Life-Pilgrimage, with many interesting particulars in it. Bülow was not much other than a Name to me before; but I possess him now on much closer terms: the man and the scene he worked in are very vividly brought out in this Book. Both in face and in character, I find him an intensely Prussian Physiognomy;2 really very interesting to me,—with his strange old Swedenborgian Father, his wild Brothers,3 and all his peculiar environments and personalities. Almost a type Prussian, as I said; reminding me of much that I saw, and guessed, among your military people, while among you.— Was that Tauentzien a kinsman of Frederic's Governor of Breslau?4 A most ridiculous figure he makes in that proposed duel with Bülow!—

I have gone thro' great quantities of the dreariest Prussian reading since I saw you; but cannot boast to myself that Prussia or Vater Fritz becomes in the least clearer to me by the procees. Human stupidity (with the pen, or with other implements in its hand) is extremely potent in this Universe! How I am to quit this Fritz after so much lost labour, is not clear to me; still less how I am ever to manage any Picture of him on those terms. Mirabeau, so far as I yet see, is the only man of real genius that has ever spoken of him; and he only in that cursory and offhand way.5 In the end, I suppose I shall be reduced to Fritz's own Letters and Utterances, as my main resource, if I persist in this questionable enterprise. If I had been able to get any sleep in Germany, my own eyes might still have done a good deal for me; but that also was not possible: the elements were too strong for so thin a skin; I was driven half-distracted after five or six weeks of that sort,—and to this hour the street of the Linden, and with it all Berlin, is incurably reversed to me; and I cannot bring the North side out of a Southern posture in my fancy, let me do what I will. I remember Lobositz, however; I remember Kunersdorf too in a very impressive manner;6 and wish I had gone to Reinsberg, to Prag, to Leuthen, &c &c.7

My Wife had a pleasant Note from Miss Wynne at Rome the other day:8 Rome seems full of interest to the two fair Tourists, and they are doing well,—in the middle of a large colony of English visitants, if other interests should fail. It is a very welcome hope of ours, at all times, to see Miss Wynne settled within easy reach of us again.

You must recommend me to Mademoiselle Solmar9 very kindly, if you please: her kind politeness to me I often think of, with real regret that I was not in a condition to profit by it more: such goodness, coupled with such gracefulness,—what but five weeks of want of sleep could have rendered it of small use to a foreign wayfarer!

We are busy here, babbling about Turk wars, Palmerston resignation-reacceptances, Prince-Albert interferences &c &c,—with very trifling degrees of wisdom, and to me with no interest whatever. London, England everywhere are swelling higher and higher with golden wealth, and the opulences which fools most prize;—London in particular is stretching itself out on every side, at a rate which to me is frightful and disgusting; for we are already two millions and more; and our new populations are by no means the beautifullest of the human species, but rather the greediest and hungriest from all ends of the Earth that are flocking towards us. We must take our destiny. “Unexampled prosperity,” fools call it,—by no means I.— Yours ever with thanks,

T. Carlyle

Neuberg requested me lately to ask if you had yet got a Copy of his Heldenverehrung;10 and to bid you demand one appointed, at Decker's,11 if not.— Adieu.