The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO HENRY CRABB ROBINSON; 25 April 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260425-TC-HCR-01; CL 4:79-83.


Hoddam Hill, Ecclefechan, Dumfries shire, / 25th April, 1826—

My Dear Sir,

It is long since I ought to have thanked you for your friendly and prompt answer to my last inquiries: and I do so now with no very good grace, when I have a new favour to ask of you.

The Book of “German Novellists,” concerning which I took your advice last spring, is actually in the Press: after much loitering, groping, consulting, and passive and active meditating, I at last fixed upon my men; began printing last January; and am in hopes of being soon rid of the affair, if you can help me out of this strait in which I am for the present entangled.

I am to have four volumes; two names in each of the first three; and Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre is to occupy the fourth. Of these, the first and the last and half of the second are already printed: Musäus, Fouqué, Tieck, Goethe with lives and so forth; Hoffmann, Jean Paul, and Maler Müller are still desiderated. And like to be so, unless you can lend me a hand; for the original works are not to be had in any shop of this Island; and tho' I have sent for both to Leipzig and Hamburg, and the invoice from Fleischer in the former of these book-marts reached us about a month ago, no glimpse of the ware itself has yet come to light, not even a probability when it is to be looked for. You will conceive the whole nodus of the case when I tell you that in ten days unless some Deus intersit [god intervenes], Ballantyne with all his Devils will be at a stand!

Of Hoffmann I have a piece beside me that would answer, one of his Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier; but I want much to see his Leben und Nachlass, or any even the slenderest account of his Life; being ignorant at present even of the date of its termination. With Jean Paul also I could contrive at a dead lift to “help myself through”: on the faith of your recommendation I sent for Schmelzle's Reise, and also for the Leben Q[uintius] Fixlein, with a Biography of the Il[l]ustrious Dead himself; the former works I suppose are on the road at present; but as for Biographies Fleischer declares that tho' two höchst interessante [most highly interesting] Lives of Jean Paul are in the Press, no life whatever of him has yet come out of it. Nevertheless I have got the Picnic and Dejeuner dansant zu Kuhschnappel of Richter1 here; and if no better might be, with this I could serve my turn. The death of Richter, among many deep feelings of sadness which it excites in me, affects me likewise with this very mean inconvenience, that I should and cannot give some more precise account of his life. The date of his death2 even is not known to me. This, however, surely might be learned.

But with regard to Maler Müller I confess myself totally helpless. This Müller is a person whom I do not recollect having heard you mention: Maler (Painter) is the agnomen by which he is commonly designated, tho' he has two Christian names besides. Richter, Horn, and other Aesthetic gentlemen speak in high terms of him; and an intelligent Hamburger3 whom I met with last summer recommended him with panegyrics almost rapturous. In short, I have come to regard this Maler Muller as an indispensable personage; and to believe that I cannot with a safe conscience present my Seven Champions of Germany to the English unless he be among the number.4 It seems he was a contemporary of Goethe in early days, and published various choice pieces about the period of Werter; but afterwards forsook Poetry for Painting, in the but moderately successful pursuit of which he died some months ago at Rome. His Literary works (Maler Müllers Sammt liche Werke, 3 Bande, 80.) are mentioned in Fleischer's catalogue, as published at Heidelberg in 1811; since which time, it would appear, they have met with quite a new reception; and says my Hamburg correspondent “it is even thought that had he continued to cultivate poetry, he might have all but equalled Goethe himself”!

Now you can easily figure how gladly I would buy these three volumes; borrow them, beg them, nay almost steal them; so any one of these four modes of appropriation could bring them into my hand. As I have no late catalogue of any London German Bookseller, it seems barely possible that Bohtes widow, Boosey, Black or some of these people may have the article in their possession. Nay failing this, who knows but your Mrs Aders5 or some other of your German friends may have it in their library, and be prevailed upon for the sake of helping a disconsolate Author out of this Slough of Despond, to let him have it for a week or two in his extreme need? If you can possibly do any thing for me, I know you will do it: if not, why then we must summon our Christian fortitude, and await in meekness and humility the chances of wind and weather. I will tell you again sämmtlich [all] what I want:

1. Hoffman's (C. [E.] T. A.) Leben und Nachlass, or any account of his life, even the date of his decease.

2. Richter's Schmelzle and Quintius Fixlein, and the same thing about his life

3. Maler Müller's Werke; with if possible the like appendage.

The first of these works would enable me to go on for the matter of four weeks; by which time, it is likely enough, the Leipzig package may have arrived: the last would enable me in some measure to make ends meet without its arrival; the whole three would elevate me on the “Rock of Necessity,” from which I might snap my fingers in the face of all chances whatsoever.

I confess, my dear Sir, I have very little hope that it will be in your power to accomplish aught for me in this difficulty: yet when I have tried you, I am at the very end of my resources; at which point, as you know, it is much eas[ier] to rest in patience than at any nearer one. So I trespass once more on your [good] nature; still trusting tho' feebly. If you succeed in getting any of these books, and can leave them with C. Tait, Bookseller, Sign of Horace's Head, 63. Fleet-street, he will send them directly to his brother in Edinburgh, who is my Bookseller in this adventure[.] The Fleet-street Tait will of course purchase, that is, pay the books, if purchasing or paying avail: but this I doubt much.

At all events I shall gain a letter from you, by this attempt I am making; and that will amply repay the trouble it cost me. I have not forgotten the still Temple, nor Alsatia, nor the kind Philosopher that dwells there. When you see this Book, I hope you will find that your advices have not been quite thrown away on me; and here and there a little trait will remind you of our dialogues over coffee and Sally-Lunns.6 I have a note about Nicolai and Philisters,7 to which I would gladly have appended an acknowledgment to the proper quarter, had I been authorized

Literary news, news of yourself, news of all kinds are a scarcity with me here. For ma[ny] months after leaving you I lay as if in the Castle of Indolence; stretched under whispering beeches, reading German, smoking Orinocco, and one of the lordliest prospects in the world spread out at my feet: Skiddaw, Saddleback, Helvellyn, and all these everlasting hills for my background, the silver water of the Solway in front, my time slipped smoothly away; divided into two portions like Lafontaine's l'une se passait à dormir, l'autre a ne rien faire [the one was passed in sleep, the other in doing nothing]. I am grown a little healthier and much happier, but I am still as secluded as ever. If you can let me hear afar off the tumult of the Brick Universe, its sound will be welcome to me; for there is much in your Babylon that I like, and hope to revisit under kinder auspices. Believe me always,

My Dear Sir, / Most faithfully Your's, /

Thomas Carlyle

I have a long row of Spanish books now in my eye; for which my conscience many a time reproves me. I will send them, when I go to Edinr; sooner, if you require them.

What has become of Coleridge and his book of Aids?8 Where loiter the sweet singers of England, that no twang of a melodious string is heard throughout the Isle, nothing but the chink of yellow bullion? Alas! we are all Philistines9 together. But veniet dies! [the day will come!]

Forgive me these horrid blots: it was a chance; to which the finest calligrapher is exposed, when his pen has been six weeks on duty, and his ink, become a syrup.