1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JOSEPH NEUBERG; 8 October 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541008-TC-JN-01; CL 29: 164-167


Chelsea, 8 Octr, 1854—

Dear Neuberg,

We hear nothing of you since you went away: I hope you got safe to Heidingsfeldt,1 found all safe there that you expected, and are passing your time in some quiet useful and not unpleasant way. This world gets very autumnal to one, at our time of life; but autumn too has its advantages, its satisfactions; and there is the everlasting azure over one, with the stars and the eternities, at all seasons.— In a little while we shall begin to look for you back; to ask when you are about returning.

Here there has been nothing of moment since you went: equinoctial winds, with once or twice a stormy deluge of rain, but the weather in general bright, of agreeable coolness, and to me perceptibly wholesomer than it was. Cholera, after killing about 10,000 of our 2 millions, seems to be almost gone from this big Babel:—it has been in all quarters of the Island; and I sometimes privately wonder how the Editors can keep maintaining with such composure that it depends all on air: in my native village, one of the clearest spots under the sun, it has killed 9 persons out of 1000; which is about twice the proportion of its virulence in London: we read also that it is doing its business in the Isle of Skye, where surely there is no want of “drainage,” whatever else may be defective!2

As to my labour so-called, I have sat here with all the old obstinacy, and with nothing but the old success: it is yet quite unapparent to me how I am ever to reduce the extant Histories of Fk the Great to a human condition; it is as if the poor man lay, for me, diffused and dissolved in a century of mere froth, falsity and inanity, the vague dishonest babble of which, and indeed most of its works and words, are from of old contemptible and detestable to me. Fk's Century did nothing that I can completely approve of and rejoice in, except cut its own throat, and so end its dishonest nonsenses, in the French Revolution! Alas, and I begin to see that even that process was a much more lengthy, miscellaneous & dismal one than I had in former times imagined. A long ugly Slough of Despond3 indeed; and in the outlook beyond (which I still privately believe in), it is as if almost nobody wd go along with me; and the whole world, rejoicing in its Crystal Palaces, its Turk Wars &c &c, requested me to be so kind as hold my tongue. How even to speak to the “fit audience tho' few,"4 I do not, at this moment, on this subject, at all see. However, we will wait patiently, we will try diligently;—we can even hold our tongue to the end of time, if that be the law. In fact the longer I live, it is certain the less sublime grows the speaking function, now so admired under the name “Literature,”—Oh Heavens!—and I only stick to it because the iniquity of Fate has allowed me no other whatever in this my day and generation.

I write great quantities of stuff, tho' there is nothing that can ever be printed of it; I get even many useful views & reflexions suggested (not speakable the greater part of them) by this long pondering on the Chaos of German History: I do begin to see into it like a boundless dim land of spectral realities, knit to me by thousandfold human considerations; stratum after stratum of the vanished ghosts that once inhabited this Earth where I now am in their likeness:—on the whole, I have a faith that real labour does get some kind of wages in due time; that profit will come to me out of this long digging in the minds;5 so I persist, in spite of the dreariness, the dismal solitude and hopelessness: clink-clink; we shall perhaps get out one day with life left after all!

Last week, after some negociation, I got into the State Paper Office; have been thrice there reading the Despatches about that sad “Double-Marriage” affair, and Fk Wm's real figure in regard to it. Hotham our Ambassador is an able, dignified kind of man; a great deal of new light and distinctness is to be had out of those old Papers;—whh it is clear to me no Prussian or other Historian has yet taken the pains to read.6 They ought to have been all printed (i.e. the fit selection whh wd represent them all),—but in Prussia, not here. What can or could be done here with them is quite a problem to me;—in which I often think to myself, “Would that Neuberg were returned!” The place one gets into is a very quiet little room in that State Pr Office, only 3 persons in it, some times only yourself and the Keeper,7—from 11 o'clock till 3;—but it gives me daily a headache, and tumbles me up a great deal. However, I mean to go back still: I never saw Fk Wm nearly so well, nor indeed saw him at all before.— There are paper-marks stuck in wherever I have found anything; and for the 4 voll. I have examined, certainly a plentiful proportion.

If you can find a Mauvillon's Fredk Wilhelm (French, abt 100 years ago),8 be sure to buy it. Item the Supplement to Hübner,9 in the like case,—some supplement: the Gotha Almanac, of which I have gathered 20 volumes or so, will do nothing. “Wartburg” (title of which I enclose)10 is of no great moment. I liked your Möser extremely;11 but want far more about the Vehmgericht.12 Heaven help you with all these commissions! However, I must now stop.

The other night I was astonished beyond measure: an Article on Odinism, in the Westminster,—which I seemed to have written my very self!13 I need not say I liked it extremely; but who wrote it, who? was ever the question. Before next morning I had, without putting any second party to trouble, found it all out; and now I know as well as you,—whh I imagine to be knowing pretty well.14 Chapn has not had any article as well worth reading; and indeed it is very prettily done. We are waiting for the fall of Sebastopol here,—we, hardly I, as you may guess. My poor Brother John is gone northward; gradually towards Scotland; arriving about now. The rest well. Adieu, dear Neuberg. Yours ever

T. Carlyle