January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO GOETHE; 13 August 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310813-TC-G-01; CL 5:325-327.


6. Woburn Buildings, Tavistock Square, / London, 13th August, 1831—

My much honoured Friend,

I send you a word of remembrance from this chaotic whirlpool of a City, where I arrived three days ago; where the confusion in which I and all things are carried round must be my excuse for brevity and almost unintelligibility. Often do I recal to myself that saying of poor Panthalis in Helena, “the soul-confusing spell of the Thessalian Hag,”1 and feel as if I too were a shade; for in truth this London Life looks more like a Mephistopheles' Walpurgis Night2 than a real Heaven-encircled Day, where God's kind Sun were shining peaceably on industrious men.

Our last two Letters must have crossed each other about Rotterdam; for your's was in Craigenputtoch about a week before mine could be in Weimar. A thousand thanks for your remembrance of us! Never was letter more gladly welcomed: it reached us in the calm summer twilight, and was itself so calm and pure, even like the summer Evening, with mild sun-rays and the sheen of an everlasting Morning already peering thro'. Endless gratitude I owe you; for it is by you that I have learned what worth there is in man for his brother man; and how the “open secret,”3 tho' the most are blind to it, is still open for whoso has an eye.

Since then, two things have occurred which I must now notify. The first is the departure of a little Packet from Craigenputtoch which had to go round by London, and lie waiting there; but was finally put to sea by my Brother, on the 5th of this Month, with impressive charges to the Messrs Parish of Hamburg that they would have it in Weimar before your Birthday.4 As it went by the Steam-ship, and our Hamburg Merchants are the most courteous and punctual of men, I can still hope that, in spite of so many delays, all will be well. The Craigenputtoch articles were insignificant enough, and might arrive fitly at any time: solely some Books, and printed Lucubrations of mine, which I hoped might not be quite uninteresting to you. But along with these, went another Article, from others as well as from myself, the significance of which required that you should see it on the 28th of August. It is a Birthday Gift from a certain select body of English Disciples, who in this way seek to testify their veneration for you. Perhaps to make the feeling still purer, I find, they have withheld their names, and merely signed themselves ‘Fifteen English Friends’: I may mention now that among our number are some of our most noted men, our three highest Poets, certain Diplomatic characters, and men of rank, as well as humbler but not less faithful and honourable labourers in the vineyard. Let me hope that it will arrive in due season; and the sight of it give you some gratifying moments.

My second thing to be announced is the arrival of your Weimar Packet at Craigenputtoch. I could not but take it as a good omen of my journey hither that this friendliest of Messengers reached me some two hours prior to my departure. A hasty glance thro' the Contents was all that could be permitted me: I must leave my Wife to assort and admire those printed Poems and beautiful Randzeichnungen,5 in her mountain loneliness, as I find yesterday, by a Letter from her, she is actually doing. For my own part, I snatched up the Metamorphosis of Plants and Schiller Redivivus6 with intent to read them as the Steamboat shot along with me to Liverpool, whither the first stage of my journey lay. In a calmer hour, a more deliberate word may be spoken of them.

I have come hither chiefly to dispose of the Piece which I lately described myself as writing. Whether or how well I shall succeed seems questionable: for the whole world here is dancing a Tarantula Dance of Political Reform, and has no ear left for Literature. Nevertheless I shall do my utmost to get the Work which was meant to be a ‘word spo[ken] in season,’7 actually emitted: at lowest I shall ascertain that it cannot be emitted, and study to do what duty that situation also will call for.

Probably I shall be here for a month. On returning to the Scottish wilderness, you shall hear from me again. Meanwhile figure me and mine as thinking of you, loving you; as present especially on that 28th with wishes as warm as loving hearts can feel. Salute Ottilie from my Wife and me. Think sometimes of those that are yours in this Island, especially among the Nithsdale Mountains. All Good be yours always!

T. Carlyle