The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 7 March 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280307-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:332-339.


Edinburgh, 7th March, 1828—

My Dear Brother Jack—I have felt for some time that I owed you a long Letter; and now I seize the earliest vacant hour to pay it. I got rid of a piece of scribblement last night, which had vexed me as usual for several weeks; and Tait also informs me that those Books for the Baron are within three days' distance of Edinr, while the Leith shippers engaged yesterday that their Rotterdam Packet would sail about the middle of next week; so that my writing at present may serve likewise to announce the approach, and I hope, seepidily [sic: speedily] subsequent arrival of that too long delayed consignment. Inform your Baron, therefore, with many sincerest compliments from me, that a Parcel will be sent off as specified, containing some what like the following articles: Caesar Moreau1 (if it come which I think likely); the Epicurean; Cobbett's Cottage Economy, and his two little works on America,2 which I thought might be interesting to a lover of rural matters. I purpose also to add a copy of the German Romance on my own account; and Jane has been manufacturing a pretty enough Trinket, which now lies ready as a small memorial for that foreign Friend. M'Culloch's Answers to Kleinschrod will also be there; which indeed contain little that we did not know already, and no references that I remember to Books of a purchaseable character; only to the Edinr Review, Encyclopedias &c &c: however, I will examine again before it goes off, and see whether aught farther can be done. For yourself there will be a letter; and four old Dumfries Couriers!— And now having discussed this little piece of business I must take to another little piece, which seems not less but more essential. Owing to the low state of his funds, our foreign Doctor must now be beginning to feel his mighty heart not a little straitened for want of mere terrestrial cash. Explain to me therefore how I may send him a matter of Twenty Pounds, or such other Sum, as he may require to bring him home to us again. I have no want of money for all needful purposes at present; and (thank God for it!) I am able to earn more; neither is there any investment for it half so good as there, in the Bank of Affection, where perishable silver and gold is converted into imperishable remembrances of kind feelings. Let the Doctor speak, therefore, plainly and speedily; and “it shall be done.”— Would to Heaven I had a better Pen! But it is hopeless today; for I have already tried about twenty, and my hand is out.— Dear Doctor! Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards; yet gleams of comfort now and then visit him notwithstanding; so here you see, after all, is a Pen which in the strength of Heaven may see me thro'. Let us be thankful!—

Your Melrose Letter (for Dr Brewster lives there now) surprised us much when we saw it, and gratified us much when we read it over. I know that style well: it is the letter of a man thoroughly busy, endeavouring with his whole heart to get hold of knowledge; and worrying himself because, as in all earthly things his progress cannot be instantaneous and per saltum [by leaps], but gradual and after all incomplete. Never fear, my good Jack! Continue with unabated heart; and long after you will find that you have amassed more, far more, than you were for the time aware of. The Doctor ‘cannot see the wood for the trees’! So is it with all of us. This journey to Munich will not be lost, but a great gain, or I am mistaken; both from what you learn, and what you unlearn. We are greatly pleased with your sketches of ‘German character’; your Oken, your pert Surgeon, your Schelli[n]g &c must surely be pictures from the Life. Becker says Oken and Wilhelmi are true portraits, as I described them from your letter. Above all I am glad to find both that you admire Schelling and know that you do not understand him.3 That is right my dear Greatheart: look into the deeply significant regions of Transcendental Philosophy (as all Philosophy [underscored twice] must be), and feel that there are wonders and mighty truths hidden in them; but look with your clear grey Scottish eyes and shrewd solid Scottish understanding, and refuse to be mystified even by your admiration. I reckon this to be strength of your Intellect, Jack; its solidity, its imperturbable quietude and clearness. A precious gift; and coupled as it is in you with deep feeling of various sorts, still more precious. In truth, Doctor, I begin to have better hopes of you than ever. You must be the Friedrich Schlegel, and I will be the August Wilhelm:4 only you must not turn Catholic; neither will I turn Dandy! This is not altogether idle talk: I have my own thoughts about our Doctor, some of which I might tell better to a third party perhaps than to himself. Meanwhile Diligence, Truth! Truth, Diligence! these are our watchwords, whether we have ten talents, or only a small decimal fraction of one.— But whither am I running? Your Diligence needs rather to be bridled than spurred. If I had aught to advise, it would be that you should study sciences less and men more. Mingle with the world in all directions; let its influences come freely in upon you; for now I am assured they cannot corrupt you, and will in many ways instruct. Despise not even the Carnival, and herrliche Musik [delightful music]! Man is Man, both at Munich and at Craigenputtock!

Doubtless you are dying for news. Vernimm [Listen] then! Perpend5 my words! I have not a syllable to tell you about the London University, except that according to all human probability the people neither now nor at any other time will not [sic] have the least to do with me. After a long silence I heard the other day from Charles Buller the Younger (it appears they have never got or heard of the German Romance volumes, and learned with difficulty even my address!); and he says that hearing of my purpose he went to Mill (the British India Philister) who is one of the Directors, and spoke with him;6 but found that my German Metaphysics were an unspeakable stone of stumbling to that great Thinker; whereby Buller began to perceive that my chances had diminished to the neighbourhood of zero. It appears, however, that I am become a sort of newspaper Literatus in London; on the strength of these Articles (bless them!), and that certain persons wonder what manner of man I am. A critic in the Courier (apparently the worst in nature—from the one sentence I read of him) says that I am the supremest German Scholar in the British Empire!7Das hole der Teufel [Let the devil take it]!— However I was rather amused at the naiveté with which Crabbe Robinson talks to me on this subject. He characterises the Papers as a splendid instance of literary ratting on the part of the Editor; and imputing the whole composition to ‘a Sir——Hamilton, Advocate,’ says it has some eloquence, and tho' it cuts its own throat (to speak in a figure) will do good.— I know not whether you have seen the Foreign Review; it is not worth going far to see. A stupid Book, but pays well, and edited by a very civil and well-meaning man:8 I design from time to time to correspond with it. They gave me £47 for my trash on Werner: I have sent them a far better paper on Goethe's Helena [underscored twice], for which I shall not get so much. The man Frazer expresses a real anxiety to hear from [me] on any subject. Unless your Paper is quite a different thing than I expect, he would positively be glad to pay you well for it. Suppose you try an Essay on Animal Magnetism,9 if the general state of Medicine be yet, as I think it may, too heavy a corncern for you. Warum nicht [Why not]? It will do yourself a deal o' good; and you can manage it. Only be sceptical, quite sceptical; tell in clear language what the Magnetisers say they can do; and then translate scores of remarkable cases &c and things that they have done. Tell also how many A.M. Periodicals they [there] are; by whom edited and of what character; that so people may see in what degree of estimation our Germans hold it. Do my good Doctor try this! I am quite sure it will be serviceable to your medical proficiency, and what to Jonathan's proud heart will not be indifferent it must “put money in his purse.”10 I do not imagine that you will find the task so difficult; and as for the editorial reception of it, I incline to suppose that Frazer could not well but accept it. A word to the wise! The paper on Tasso has never yet been touched, I have been so sick and weak: I expect to have it in readiness next Number. For the Foreign Review next No. I have also engaged to send in a long paper on Goethe's Character generally; this of Helena [underscored twice] being only a sort of introduction. Before I quit this subject of Reviews, I must quote you the following sentence written, mit eigner hand [with his own hand],11 by Goethe in a letter I had from him three weeks or four ago. He says: Können Sie mir vertrauen wer den Aufsatz: State of German Literature im Edinburgh Review No. [&c]12 geschrieben hat? Hier glaubt man es sey Herr Lockhart, Herr W. Scott's Schwiegersohn. Ernst und Wohlwollen sind gleich verehrungswerth?13 Good!— Goethe wrote on this occasion to say that another box was coming for us ‘over Hamburg,’ but the Leith men have never yet had a ship, and do not expect one for a week yet. It contains books; and, stranger still, two medals which I am to give Sir Walter Scott in Goethe's name with verbindlichsten Grüssen [most courteous greetings]! This will prove a curious introduction: I will tell you about it when it happens. No answer to the letter written about St Andrews, which must have met his at sea.— And here I am reproachfully reminded that I should have told you about this other university scheme, long ago. Alas, it is soon told: from all that I can conjecture by various rumours of late days it would appear that the whole matter has evaporated, and Goethe's certificate need not be presented at all. An old stager (Cook of Laurencekirk)14 is to be appointed, at least is applying: he will vote for another old stager succeeding to the Principality, and a young stager will get his Kirk, and so the whole thing be rounded off in the neatest manner possible. In which case what would the certificate of the Angel Gabriel himself avail me? No pin's worth. But the Deevil [underscored twice] may care! I can leave independent on thee; and so nothing more need be said. All this is not certain, but next to it: you shall hear as it advances. What we are to do in that case is yet nowise clear. The people have not yet asked us about quitting the house here, the term for that business being altered to the 15th of March; and how matters stand at Craigenputtock I can only guess, but am soon going down to see. I am in no small uncertainty. This Edinburgh is getting more agre[e]able to me, growing more and more a sort of home; and I can live in it, if I like to live perpetually unhealthy, and strive forever against becoming a hack, for that I cannot be. On the other hand, I should have liberty and solitude for aught I liked best, tho' among the moors: only Jane, tho' like a good wife she says nothing, seems evidently getting more and more afraid of the whole enterprize. O Jack, Jack! ‘The Prison called Life [underscored twice]!’15 But I must go, as I said, and look at things with my own eyes; and now, as ever, there is need of mature resolve, and steadfast when mature.

In ten days, then, I expect to be in Dumfriesshire, and to continue there perhaps a fortnight. They were all well and moderately hearty when I heard about a week ago. The Scotsbrig people sent us a box of buttered eggs. Alick's courtship, I think, must have assumed an unpromising aspect; but nothing positive was said. He inquired your address; which I sent him; so probably by this time he may be writing to you himself. Whenever I get word from you, I send it off directly; and all and sundry are eager as you could well fancy to learn it. One and all would send you the best affection of their hearts, only that they are dumb thro' distance and want of penmanship. I get scarcely any tidings except thro' Alick. Little Jane does well, and seems to conduct herself with great prudence, and be contented enough. Poor little Crow! And for my own little ‘Goody’ I am sorry she is not at all stout in health; otherwise I had nothing but joyful things to tell of her. Both of them are absent; but they have sent you their love in words almost daily since you went away, and in thought far oftener.God bless you. My Brother! Write directly to us, and say that you are well.— T. Carlyle—

[In margins:] Tell me also the title and character of Lessing's Biography, I think by his Brother, or nephew, if there is such a work in print.16 In general Biographies are the best of all things for me: they tell about universally interesting things, and give indications about all that is worthy of knowing. What is Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre17 to be had for? And when is Schelling to publish his bibliographi[es?]

I have so many questions to ask about German Books, that I know not where to begin. Gather stores of Knowledge which may avail us both. Is there such a thing as a life of Fichte, or, if not[,] do you know anything about his history.

Does Schelling know Cousin18—a little French thief I suspect? Tell me more and more about Schelling, and get as well acquainted with him as you honourably can. Have you seen Cornelius? And are you getting any insight into art?

Preserve your Journal! Preserve it, preserve it however stupid; so it be only full enough. Write down whatever strikes you and as it strikes you. Can you inform yourself thoroughly about the state of Education in Germany? The universities, Schools, that of Munich[,] others?

Our Mother sent me a little line in the box. Doubt not she prays for us both daily.

Gordon says he will write to you by the parcel.

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