Craigenputtock Blog

Goethe's Favourite House

Is Rousseau's place of refuge not portrayed enough for his admirers? Rousseau would have liked it at Craigenputtock almost as well as on his own island of St Pierre.

Goethe and Carlyle corresponded in many letters sent between Weimar and Craigenputtock. Goethe greatly desired to see the remote surroundings where Thomas and Jane Carlyle lived and thus three images of Craigenputtock were commissioned and sent to Goethe in Germany.

I sought to obtain a picture of the surroundings of my distant friends, and I was the more desirous to have one of Craigenputtock, the dwelling of Mr. Thomas Carlyle, because he had chosen this abode, under the 55th degree of Latitude, in an almost wild, mountainous region.

The images were drawn by George Moir and two were selected by Goethe to be printed in the German translation of Carlyle's Life of Schiller (Leben Schiller). Goethe describes these images in the publication to Carlyle as:

The frontispiece picture represents your Craigenputtock house from a near point of view and the vignette on the title-page is a second taken from a distance, — I hope that they cannot fail to please you as they have pleased me.

On receiving a copy of the German translation of his book from Goethe and seeing the two images of Craigenputtock that Goethe had chosen:

Concerning the Box and its Books, I must first mention that wonderful Life of Schiller, with its proud Introduction, 1 fitter to have stood at the head of some Epic Poem of my writing than there. That I should see myself, before all the world, set forth as the Friend of Goethe, is an honour of which, some few years ago, I could not, in my wildest flights, have dreamed ; of which I should still desire no better happiness than to feel myself worthy. For the rest the book is nearly the most beautiful I have ever seen ; the Preface graceful and pertinent, as well as highly flattering : these House-pictures themselves seem more appropriate than I could have fancied. On the whole, as one of our rhymers says : " Tis distance lends enchant-ment to the view"; had this Craigenputtock mansion stood among the Harz Mountains or the Vosges, this authentic image of it would have interested me as well as another. But that our remote Scottish Home should stand here, faithfully represented by a German burin under your auspices, this is a fact which we shall never get to understand. The King's palace of Holy roodwas not dealt with so royally ; and that our rough-cast Dwelling, with its humble Sycamores and unfrequented hills, should have such preferment ! We repeat often : a House, like a Prophet, save in its own country, is not without Honour.

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