Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XVIII
FRANKFURT AND HOMBURG (1852)

WHEN Carlyle was shaving at Frankfurt next morning, Tuesday, 14.9.52, looking through the window to the lively square, he caught sight of a face 'among the trees' which he recognised, the face of Goethe. 'Ach Gott! Merely in stone,' he wrote to his wife,--'I had so longed to see that face alive; and here it was given to me at last, as if with huge world irony, in stone, an emblem of so much that happens.'

The Grand Duke of Weimar was in Italy, but his Secretary was a Scot abroad, a Mr. Marshall, and he was now awaiting the travellers here, having arrived the night before to do the honours of Frankfurt. Neuberg and he conducted Carlyle to Goethe's father's house. "Salve!" (Hail!) said Carlyle, taking off his hat as he stood before it. They entered and were shown the inside, and wrote their names in silence. They next inspected the Hall where the 'old Kaisers were all elected,' looked at the fair going on, perhaps also at the Inn, which Goethe's grandfather had kept, and certainly the grim-looking Ghetto, where hung the Red shield, Roth Schild, a sign which supplied a surname to the money-broker whose descendant lately offered Carlyle a blank cheque in vain. At last the three sightseers went to the top of the highest steeple, and sat there sipping beer and smoking, surveying from above.

By 5 p.m. Neuberg and Carlyle had taken leave of Marshall and Frankfurt, and were in the bus which brought them about seven o'clock to quiet quarters known to Neuberg on the fringe of Homburg. The town was within five minutes' walk, and Neuberg and Carlyle surveyed it together that evening. 'The Kursall,' Carlyle told his wife, was 'a public set of rooms, finer than some palaces, all supported by gambling,' and on going through it he beheld such a set of damnable faces--French, Italian, and Russian,

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