January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO G. R. GLEIG; 21 May 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300521-TC-GRG-01; CL 5:102.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 21st May 1830—

My Dear Sir,

I cannot but feel much flattered by your desire to enlist me under your flag; and shall surely, one way or other, had I time to consider of it, find a place for myself and service there.

The Popular History of Germany is a thing which has been passing thro' my own head, of late; but the difficulties deter me. The History of Germany, like that of Greece, can hardly be written well; there is no Unity in it: the country with its interests is a heterogenous Aggregate, not a Whole; the Imperial Constitution not its soul, but rather a loose garment or wrappage mechanically and even then very imperfectly binding it together. At all events, I am dreadfully sick of Compilation for the present; and dare not, till these troubled waters (of a certain History of German Literature, at present occupying me) are subsided and forgotten, look any similar adventure in the face.

Meanwhile to show you how ready I were, could any good be done, I make the following proposal:

Frederick the Great, as an Author, Soldier, King and Man, well deserves to have his History written; better perhaps than Charles XII, whose Biography by Voltaire1 has always seemed to me one of the most delightful Books. Let your Publishers offer me Three hundred pounds, and time to heat the historico-biographical crucible and fill it and fuse it properly, and I will give them the best single Volume I can on the brave Fritz: I think it might be ready before this time twelvemonth; and very probably I might go to Germany in winter to inquire into it better.

This is the most eligible enterprise I can think of at present: if you can arrange your side of it on these terms, I shall be very happy to hear so, as soon as possible, and proceed forthwith to take measures for performing mine. I do believe, a rather good Book might be written on the subject; at all events, I am willing to try.2

With continued good wishes, I remain (in great haste)

Faithfully yours, /

Thomas Carlyle—