Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

V
THE ASHBURTONS, HERR TAUCHNITZ, &c. (1851)

NEUBERG was in London in the first week of March,1 perhaps to save Carlyle, when he was busy at John Sterling, from any bother over a pretty thing that Lord Ashburton and his wife were doing. As soon as they saw that Carlyle intended to go deeper into European history, they started procuring, as if for their own amusement, quantities of 'biographical prints, portraits of distinguished men of the eighteenth and earlier centuries.' Of course, 'the affair was wholly entrusted to Carlyle to bring into order,' and the engraver Doyle was joined with him, to save him trouble. On the German side Neuberg and by and by Professor Magnus co-operated, while 'Thiers was employed to collect for her ladyship in France.'1 The mere collecting took over a year. Besides getting engravings, Ashburton had some copies of pictures made, particularly one of a fine portrait at Charlottenburg of Frederick and his sister Wilhelmina as children. This copy being given to Carlyle became the best ornament of the drawing-room at Cheyne Row.

The rules Carlyle followed in this matter were:--I.-- 'The best possible likeness' was preferred. 2.--Indispensable that the artist 'have actually seen the individual,' so that even an Erasmus by a Vandyke was not wanted. 3.--'No grudge of fair cost.'

Writing to Neuberg after he went home to Bonn, Carlyle had an interesting item of news. ' Herr Tauchnitz, a huge eupeptic man in showy apparel, with the cross of some Legion of Honour or Dishonour at his buttonhole,' called and promised to pay £25 for printing the French Revolution. There was no legal obligation to pay anything for copies to be sold abroad, and that was why he gave himself airs. He 'affected to have a soul above ducats,' but rashly boasted of having paid Thackeray £100,--which made Carlyle think £25 too little, but he said nothing.

____________________
1
Neuberg letters, partly unpublished.

-337-

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