October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO SARAH AUSTIN; 18 July 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330718-TC-SA-01; CL 6:e6.


Craigenputtock, / July 18 1833.

My Dear Mrs. Austin,

Your three beautiful Volumes1 were here sooner by your conveyance than they could have been by mine. We have all read them, with pleasure, with eagerness; for me, I could not skip even what I knew in German already, but must have it taste for me a second time in your fine clear-flowing English.

A Book more honestly put together I have not met with for many years. A discreet gentle feminine tone runs through it, with quiet lookings nevertheless into much, much that lies beyond the English horizon; no compromise with error, yet no over-loud assertion of the truth; unwearied inquiry, faithful elaboration; in a word, the thing done that is pretended to be done: what other praise could I wish to give you?2

I perceive that Falk has been the root or nucleus of the whole, yet so much better than Falk have you made it, I almost regret you had not left him out altogether: a dull undiaphanous, semi-diaphanous kind of man; one cannot see Goethe through him, only see a huge singularity. Some of the speeches, especially that about Schulze,3 I must endeavour to consider as mis-reported not a little. However, you, with your appendages and fringings, have done wonders, and actually almost (with such a deft, assiduous needle) worked a silk-purse out of what the Proverb says will never make one. Had but a Boswell stood in Falk's shoes, there had been a task worthy of you!4

Leaving Falk (which was worth turning into English, too), I find nothing else that is not instructive, much that is gracefully so; of your doing, nothing, as I said, that is not well done. You have fairly and clearly (and in your case almost heroically) stated the true principle of Translation;5 and what is more, acted on it; I hear the fine silver music of Goethe sound through your voice, through your heart; you can actually translate Goethe, which (quietly, I reckon) is what hardly three people in England can. And so let me heartily wish you all manner of success; and scientifically promise you as much as in these strange days almost any Book merely artistic in character can hope for.6 Finally, I said several times in words, and here again say in ink, that you may find a higher task one day, than Translating; though I praise and honour you much for adhering to that as you now stand, and keeping far from you all ambition, but the highest, that of living faithfully. Das weitere wird sich geben [The rest will follow]. Stand by that; there is nothing else will abide any wearing, let the voice of the Reviewer be high or low, and millions of caps or none at all leap into the air at your name.

I have very little time this evening; and no business to devote so much of it even to you; but the Pen must on. We shall eagerly expect news within these three weeks; Jane says, the Letter is to be hers.7 She farther declares, with that promptitude which so well beseems the female intellect, that you ought to come hither! There is an excellent house and garden to be let (for almost nothing) within few miles of us; and no cheaper country can be found in the whole world. Then there is such abundant room in this house of ours; and it were so easy for you to come and investigate the whole matter and see us to boot. In this latter part of the proposition, I too must heartily give assent and encouragement; it is all literally true about the room; about the welcome there is still less doubt; and then the journey were no unpleasant thing; the rather if you held John Mill to his word, who has as good as promised to see us here this autumn.8 After all, what if you should really take thought of it?

In the meantime, again accept my thanks and friendliest wishes; may all Good be with you and Lucykin and the heart to conquer all Evil!

Ever affectionately, /

T. Carlyle.