October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN STUART BLACKIE; 28 April 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340428-TC-JSB-01; CL 7:135-137.


Craigenputtoch, 28th April, 1834—

My Dear Sir,

I must no longer delay to thank you for the welcome present of your Faust; the more welcome from your kind manner of bestowing it. I have been so busy that time for a “patient comparison with the original” would never yet offer itself: meanwhile in looking over your work, many spirited passages have struck me; and as yet only one Error: that vague couplet, Die Gegenwart von einem braven Knaben [The presence of a brave boy]; in which it is much easier to say that you and others are wrong than who or what is right. I advised Hayward1 to make it, in his second Edition: “The present time by (in the hands of) a fellow of ability”; but that also only satisfies me on the ground that with Goethe himself rhyme would sometimes have its way.

For rhymes the rudder are of verses,
With which like ships they steer their courses.2

The Newspapers, I perceive, acknowledge your merits and endeavours in a hearty style; which is all one can expect of Criticism at present. Let us hope your labours in the German vineyard, which has much lack of honest hands, are but beginning yet, and will lead you to richer and richer results.

Of your Preface and prose Notes I can speak deliberately; and in terms of great commendation. There is a spirit of openness, of free recognition and appropriation which I love much, which I reckon far more precious than any specialty of talent or acquired skill; inasmuch as that is the root of all talent and all skill. Keep an “open sense”; an eye for the “offne Geheimniss [open secret],” which so few discern! With this much is possible; without it as good as nothing.3

For the rest, that I must dissent from you somewhat both in regard to the First and the Second Part of Faust, is but a small matter. We agree in spirit; this itself is an agreement to let each take his own way in details. Could you but have as much tolerance for me in this new heresy, which I, alas, feel growing upon me of late years: That Faust is intrinsically but a small Poem, perhaps the smallest of Goethe's main works; recommending itself to the sorrow-struck sceptical feeling of these times, but for Time at large of very limited value! Such, I profess not without reluctance, is the sentiment that has long lurked in me: moreover of the two I find considerably more meaning in the Second Part. Favete linguis [Attention please]. At the same time I can well enter into your enthusiasm, and again read Faust along with you like a new Apocalypse, for in that way I read it once already. Ten years hence you shall tell me how it is.

We are leaving this boggy Patmos, and getting under way for London. It will give me true pleasure to hear of you; to hear that you advance successfully in all kinds of welldoing. There is no young literary man about Edinr, from whom more is to be expected. When you come southward, you will see us? Do not fail, if you would please us.

With the heartiest good-wishes and thanks, / I remain always, / My Dear Sir, / Faithfully Yours,

[Signature cut out]