1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO ÉMILE MONTÉGUT; 4 April 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540404-TC-EM-01; CL 29: 53-55


Chelsea, 4 April, 1854—

My dear Sir,

You are very mindful of me, and very kind; and I am again much obliged to you for a Book that has arrived the other day: Graffigny in 2 volumes,1 handed in gratis by your Bookseller's punctuality.

The other Book on Madame du Châtelet, which came a good while ago, with the Paper on it by a Lady in the Revue,2 ought to have been acknowledged at the time when it was received,—“ought,” alas! and my conscience has been reproaching me about it* (*no; I did write about it; it was your Note I never answered!)3 ever since; however, I hoped you would understand that silence itself signified “Yes” in that case. I read the Book and the Article with true interest; and got, especially out of the former, a perceptible increase of light upon Madame, and her relations to Voltaire and to the world; for which I am very thankful. The Lady's Paper was also very good; tho' done somewhat en beau [prettily but superficially], and less to be depended on, for various reasons.— Note, if you at any time bethink you of any other Paper in the Revue des 2 Mondes, which you think may be useful to me, be satisfied with indicating it to me in the first place; I can, at least if it is within 10 or 12 years, at once procure any back No of the Revue.

This Book of Graffigny is far the best I have yet seen on that subject; and really is of high interest for the Biography of Voltaire, and his beautiful Tigress:—I cannot say I get more in love with the Du Châtelet, the more I know of her; and indeed I sympathize very much with Frederic the Great, who, I noticed long since, had from the very first decided (I suppose on Keyserling “Cesarion's” report)4 that he never would have any meeting with that “divine Emelie,”5 he, for one! Thro' Graffigny, an excellent rational and practical woman, one obtains a direct glimpse into Cirey and its strange inmates: I design to read her Book a second time with still more attention; it is rare that such a reporter turns up; and especially in so curious a scene.

If you discover anything about Voltaire's genealogy kindred, or family connexions, I shall be very eager to know it: certainly it is astonishing that no Biographer has thought of mentioning to us what Brothers and Sisters he had, and what became of them in the world.— Neither, I fear, is there the least information to be had about his Lawsuit with the Jew at Berlin (in 1751 or '2)?6 In the Supplément to Frederic's Oeuvres Posthumes7 are some confused rumours of it; but even out of Germany itself I can get nothing definite;—I must make what I have suffice.

Thiébault's Book is very common in this Country; and I have known it for a long time.8 He is a truthful enough creature; but very dull; and, reporting mostly from memory, and never having learned to speak German, he is full of errors, and indeed is not to be depended on for the particularities of anything whatever. Denina the Sardinian9 is another of the same. In fact there never was a duller set of mortals than those who have written about Frederic;—no man of genius, that I can see, ever yet opened his mouth upon him, except Mirabeau alone, and he saw him only for half an hour.— — I begin to get quite overwhelmed with the masses of futile nonsense accumulating round me; and in general, despair of ever myself writing anything upon the subject.

Our soldiers are marching off, day after day, in high ardour, to have a dash, along with yours, at the “rugged Russian Bear”: I myself have no enthusiasm in that matter; and wish all our friends were well home again, and Turkdom (not a beautiful object, that) wheresoever it shall please the fates!10

I will keep the Graffigny along with the other Book, in hopes of seeing you here again one day, or at least till you otherwise order in regard to them. I return you sincere thanks, being really much obliged by such goodness

Yours always truly,

T. Carlyle