January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO J. W. DONALDSON ; 9 May 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560509-TC-JWD-01; CL 31: 90-91


Chelsea, 9 May, 1856—

My dear Sir,

I again want a little bit of Etymology from you,—and solicit patience.

The German all name their great Empress, as you must have noticed, “Maria Theresia,” while the French and English stand steadily by Therèse, Theresa, and know nothing of an i in the case. The Germans even use “Theresius” as a man's name (as I have observed), and retain the i there too.

Almost beyond doubt I shall have to say “Maria Theresa,1 too, if I ever print anything on the Subject:—at the same time, I should like rather to know which of the two parties is right. The real etymology of Theresa, Theresia or Theresius: that would throw decided light upon the question.

I never doubted it must be Greek: some Greek Saint or the like (who perhaps was herself nothing more than a vocable,—as I think they say is Saint Catherine's Case!);—but with all my dictionaries and guessings I am foiled on that side. Some say Theresa is originally Gothic: I think the Saintess was Gothic-Spanish;2—but I have not even a Bollandus quite at hand.3 In short I find it much easier to ask you again.

No hurry in answering; only so soon as you are deliberately sure, please to write one word,—which shall be the answer of the Bacon's Brass Head to me,4 or better than that.

I have not seen you for a long while, and you have had mutations and adventures in the interim. On the whole I suppose you will find Cambridge5 to be the real soil for such a tree, after all. We have a native country of extreme stupidity, tossed about by dark fierce winds; one has to choose the sheltered places, and the good neighbourhoods.

Sulzer was a man who, like Rousseau, believed in the native goodness of mankind,—professed so to believe. The old Fritz answered him, “Ach mein lieber Sulzer, Er (He, royal for you) kennt nicht diese verdammte race,—You don't know that damned brood of creatures!”6 Which I often remember of the Old Fritz, with a peculiar grin, not of dissent altogether. “Kennt nicht [know nothing],”—Douglas Jerrold7 and those other gentn “don't know”!—

But enough I must babble no more

Yours always truly /

T. Carlyle