TC TO GOETHE; 10 June 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310610-TC-G-01; CL 5:286-290.
TC TO GOETHE
Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 10th June, 1831—
My dear and honoured Friend,
If kind thoughts spontaneously transformed themselves into kind messages, you had many times heard from me since I last wrote. Here, in our still solitudes, where the actual world is so little seen, and Memory and Fancy must be the busier, Weimar is not distant, but near and friendly, a familiar City of the Mind. Daily must I send affectionate wishes thither; daily must I think, and oftenest speak also, of the Man, to whom more than to any other living, I stand indebted and united. For it can never be forgotten that to him I owe the all-precious knowledge and experience that Reverence is still possible, nay Reverence for our fellowman, as a true emblem of the Highest, even in these perturbed, chaotic times.1 That you have carried and will yet carry such life-giving Light into many a soul, wandering bewildered in the eclipse of Doubt; till at length whole generations have cause to bless you, that instead of Conjecturing and Denying they can again Believe and Know: herein truly is a Sovereignty of quite indisputable Legitimacy, and which it is our only Freedom to obey.
In anxious hours, when one is apt to figure misfortune for the absent and dear, I often look timorously into the Foreign Column of our Newspapers, lest it bring evil tidings of you, to me also so evil: again, I delight to figure you as still active and serene; busy at your high Task, in the high spirit of old Times. Wie das Gestirn, Ohne Hast, Aber ohne Rast! [As a star, without haste yet without rest!]2— May I beg, for my own behoof, some few of those moments which belong to the world? It is chiefly in the hope of drawing a Letter from Weimar that I now write, in the Scottish wilderness, where there can be so little to communicate.
Our promised Packet has been detained longer than we looked for, and diminished in Contents; by a circumstance, however, which, we hope, will render it the welcomer when it comes. We send it, this time, by London, where also it will have to linger, and be finally made up under the eye of a Proxy. For in that City, let me announce, there is a little poetic Tugendbund [league of virtue] of Philo-Germans forming itself, whereof you are the centre; the first public act of which should come to light at Weimar, on your approaching Birthday.3 That the Craigenputtoch Packet might carry any little documents of this along with it, was the cause of our delay, and of the new route fixed on. In London, with which I can only communicate by writing, matters move slower than I could wish: nevertheless, it is confidently reckoned, the whole will be ready in time, and, either thro' the hands of Messrs Parish at Hamburg, or of the British Ambassador at Berlin, appear at Weimar before the 28th of August, where doubtless it will meet with the old friendly reception.
Of this little Philo-German Combination, and what it now specially proposes, and whether there is likelihood that it may grow into a more lasting Union, for more complex purposes,—I hope to speak hereafter. The mere fact that such an attempt was possible among us, would have seemed strange, some years ago; and gives one of many proofs that what you have named World-Literature is perhaps already not so distant.4 To the Berlin Friends, from whom lately came a friendly Note,5 I purpose communicating some intelligence of this affair: it may be, we too in London shall have a little Society for Foreign Literature; which, in these days, I should regard as of good promise.
The chief item in our Packet for Weimar will be the Proof-sheets of my poor Contributions as a Foreign Reviewer; the most of which I have had stitched up into a volume for your acceptance, till I can offer the whole in another form. If the last Number of the Edinburgh Review has fallen into your hands, you have already seen the newest of these, the Criticism of Taylor; likewise, in the same Number, an Essay on the Correspondence with Schiller. This latter is by a Mr Empsom [sic],6 a man of some rank, and very considerable talent and learning; in whose spiritual progress, as mainfested in his study of German, I see a curious triumph of Truth and Belief over Falsehood and Dilettantism. He was the Reviewer of Faust7 in a former Number; and on this occasion, still leaving somewhat to desire, he has greatly surpassed my expectations. Of young men that have an open sense for such Literature as the German; or of mature men that from youth upwards had been acquiring an open sense, there are now not a few in Britain: but the Critic here in question started at middle age, as I understand, and only a few years ago, from quite another point; is an English Whig Politician, which means generally a man of altogether mechanical intellect, looking to Elegance, Excitement, and a certain refined Utility, as the Highest; a man halting between two opinions, and calling it Tolerance; to whom, on the whole, that Precept, Im Ganzen, Guten, Wahren resolut zu leben [To live resolutely a whole, good and true life],8 were altogether a dead letter. How, in this case, the dry bones, blown upon by Heavenly Inspiration, have been made to live;9 and a naturally gifted spirit is freeing itself from that death-sleep,—is to me an interesting phenomenon. It is on such grounds that the [study of] the best German writings is so incalculably important for us English at this [E]poch. I am happy to report anew that we make rapid progress in the matter; that the ultimate recognition and appropriation of what is worthy in German Literature by all cultivated English minds, may be considered as not only indubitable, but even likely to be speedy.
For myself, tho' my labours in that province, have of late been partially suspended, I hope they are yet nowise concluded. The History, when it sees the light, may be no worse for having waited; already, simply by the influence of Time, various matters have cleared up, and the form of the whole is much more decisively before me. As occasion serves, I can, either at once, or gradually as hitherto, speak out what farther I have to say on it. But for these last months, I have been busy with a Piece more immediately my own: of this, should it ever become a printed Volume, and seem in the smallest worthy of such honour, a Copy for Weimar will not be wanting. Alas! It is, after all, not a Picture that I am painting; it is but a half-reckless casting of the brush, with its many frustrated colours, against the canvas: whether it will make good Foam is still a venture.10
In some six weeks, I expect to be in London: I wish to look a little, with my own eyes, at the world; where much is getting enigmatic to me, so rapid have been its vicissitudes lately. The mountain-solitude, with its silent verdure and foliage will be sweeter for the change; and my efforts there more precisely directed.
Here, however, are the limits of my paper, when there was scarcely a beginning of my utterance. How poor is all that a Letter, how poor were all that words could say, when the heart is so full! Do you interpret for me, and of broken stammerings make speech. Think now and then of your Scottish Friends; and know always that a Prophet is not without honour, that we love and reverence our Prophet. My Wife unites with me in every friendliest wish. May all Good be with you and yours!— Ever Your Affectionate,
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