The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO N. H. JULIUS; 14 March 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260314-TC-NHJ-01; CL 4:55-58.


Mainhill, Ecclefechan, Scotland— / 14th March, 1826—

My Dear Sir,

Your welcome and long-expected letter1 reached me safely in the end of last November. I could not but feel much obliged by your kindrecollection of me; and I had besides to thank you for a greater quantity of distinct information on the subject of my inquiries than I had supposed it easy to comprise in so small a space. By dint of reading and investigation, in which I have been materially assisted by Franz Horn2 whom you recommended, I can now flatter myself with having obtained some tolerable view of this department of your Literature; and am proceeding in the fulfillment of my small enterprise with much steadier steps than formerly. Your goodness encourages me again to trespass on your time, for a piece of assistance, which I fear you will find it more difficult, tho' I trust not impossible, to give me.

This Book of “German Novellists” is already in the Press; and above a third part of it printed. I design it to include the following names: Musäus, Fouqué, Tieck, Hoffmann, Maler Müller, Jean Paul, and the fourth volume to be occupied exclusively with Goethe and his Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre. Of these the first three names are nearly finished; and in a few days, for want of materials, we shall be forced to commence with Goethe, and print the fourth volume while the second is still uncompleted. My Bookseller Tait wrote off, some three months ago, to Fleischer of Leipzig for the necessary books; but no tidings of them have yet reached us; and as they have to travel round by Buxhaven and London, I begin to be very much afraid that our whole progress will be stopped by this misarrangement. It has struck me that perhaps it might be in your power to remove this difficulty for I learn from the Newspapers that the Elbe is now open; and there is a constant intercourse between your city and Leith. If it were not that I have already experienced your kindness, and have at present no other resource, I should scarcely have the face to make this proposal.

The books sent for from Leipzig form a long list; but if I had one or two of them in my possession I could contrive to get on. The first and most indispensable is Maler Müllers3 Werke, a performance which I owe my Knowledge of to you; which I now look forward to with high expectations; and of which I do not think there is a single copy in Britain. The next are Jean Paul's Leben Quintius Fixlein and Reise des Feldprediger Schmelzle nach Flätz;4 neither of which works is to be found either in London or Edinburgh; yet without one or both of them I see not how I am to manage. I have learned with real sorrow that this illustrious man is dead some months ago; Maler Muller, you tell me, has also left us: “one by one the stars go out!” Of Hoffmann I have sent for the Serapionsbrüder, and the Leben und Nachlass: but if I had any sketch of his Life, there is one of the Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier now lying beside me, which might serve my purpose in other respects.5

Now am I not asking too much of you, when I request as an especial favour that you would have the goodness to call on any of your Hamburg Booksellers, Perthes, or Nestler, or any other proper person; and direct him to send over these works by the first Leith Smack; addressed to “Messrs Tait, Booksellers, Princes-street, Edinburgh,” who will pay the price punctually to any specified individual either in Edinr or London. Of this, you may assure the Bookseller, there is not the smallest risk: nor indeed do I suppose any hesitation will occur on this point; I have a catalogue of Nestler's beside me, belonging to a Mr Buchanan in Leith, with whom he is frequently in the habit of dealing, and who is an intimate acquaintance of these very Taits. The great point to be attended to is speed: for, by almost the quickest conveyance, the packet is like to be fully late enough. I shall enumerate the books I want, in more distinct order:

1. Maler Müllers Sämmtliche Werke, in (I believe) 3 volumes, 1811.

2. J. P. F. Richters Leben Q. Fixlein—1 or 2 volumes 1801

3. ———Schmelzles Reise nach Flätz—1 volume 1809

4. Besides this, I must request of you to exercise your discrimination in procuring for me some Biographical account of these two authors, if any such have yet appeared. It seems natural that in many of your Reviews and Magazines and Almanacks some sketches of these distinguished persons must have been published; from which sufficient information might be derived. I hope also that it may not be difficult for you to send me the pamphlet which you reckon the best of these: my present information is of the most defective sort; derived almost wholly from the Conversationslexicon!6 I know not even the date of their deaths; and the column of a Newspaper itself would be useful to me.

5. If there is any similar short sketch of Hoffmann's Life; any review, for instance, of his Leben und Nachlass that could be easily procured, it would be very acceptable. The date and place of his decease you could perhaps, failing all this, send me in writing.

These biographical commissions will, I fear, occasion you the most trouble; but to me they are also of the greatest importance. If my project succeed, and these books be consigned, without loss of time, to the “Hamburg and Leith Shipping Company,” or any other earlier conveyance, I should hope that they might be here in four or five weeks; and you would have the gratification of relieving me from a very awkward perplexity.

And now, My Dear Sir, allow me in conclusion, not to apologize for the burden I am laying on you, but to express my hope that some time or other it may be i[n my] power to undertake some equivalent service for you. I am by no means wi[thout] purpose or expectation of ever seeing you again: for it shall go hard with me, if I [do] not tread the Deutschen Boden [German soil] yet, before all my travels be concluded; and then I trust it will be in my power to renew an acquaintance which promised to be so agreeable, and was so soon interrupted.

With sincere esteem, I am always, / My Dear Sir, / Truly Your's, /

Thomas Carlyle—

P.S. I have been in Edinr since your letter came: I did not fail to satisfy Dr Irving's inquiries after you by delivering him your compliments.

Can you inform me if there is a Merchant in Hamburg, named Thornton, an Englishman by birth; one of whose sons, Richard, attended the Edinburgh University? The question is of no importance: only I knew the young man while there, and could like to know that he is alive and happy.7