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Biographia Literaria by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Part 6 out of 8

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Harsh and of dissonant mood from their complaint.

I thought so at the time; and, (by way, I suppose, of supporting my
newly assumed philosophical character,) I thought too, how closely the
greater number of our virtues are connected with the fear of death,
and how little sympathy we bestow on pain, where there is no danger.

The two Danes were brothers. The one was a man with a clear white
complexion, white hair, and white eyebrows; looked silly, and nothing
that he uttered gave the lie to his looks. The other, whom, by way of
eminence I have called the Dane, had likewise white hair, but was much
shorter than his brother, with slender limbs, and a very thin face
slightly pockfretten. This man convinced me of the justice of an old
remark, that many a faithful portrait in our novels and farces has
been rashly censured for an outrageous caricature, or perhaps
nonentity. I had retired to my station in the boat--he came and seated
himself by my side, and appeared not a little tipsy. He commenced the
conversation in the most magnific style, and, as a sort of pioneering
to his own vanity, he flattered me with such grossness! The parasites
of the old comedy were modest in the comparison. His language and
accentuation were so exceedingly singular, that I determined for once
in my life to take notes of a conversation. Here it follows, somewhat
abridged, indeed, but in all other respects as accurately as my memory

THE DANE. Vat imagination! vat language! vat vast science! and vat
eyes! vat a milk-vite forehead! O my heafen! vy, you're a Got!

ANSWER. You do me too much honour, Sir.

THE DANE. O me! if you should dink I is flattering you!--No, no, no!
I haf ten tousand a year--yes, ten tousand a year--yes, ten tousand
pound a year! Vel--and vat is dhat? a mere trifle! I 'ouldn't gif my
sincere heart for ten times dhe money. Yes, you're a Got! I a mere
man! But, my dear friend! dhink of me, as a man! Is, is--I mean to ask
you now, my dear friend--is I not very eloquent? Is I not speak
English very fine?

ANSWER. Most admirably! Believe me, Sir! I have seldom heard even a
native talk so fluently.

THE DANE. (Squeezing my hand with great vehemence.) My dear friend!
vat an affection and fidelity ve have for each odher! But tell me, do
tell me,--Is I not, now and den, speak some fault? Is I not in some

ANSWER. Why, Sir! perhaps it might be observed by nice critics in the
English language, that you occasionally use the word "is" instead of
"am." In our best companies we generally say I am, and not I is or
I'se. Excuse me, Sir! it is a mere trifle.

THE DANE. O!--is, is, am, am, am. Yes, yes--I know, I know.

ANSWER. I am, thou art, he is, we are, ye are, they are.

THE DANE. Yes, yes,--I know, I know--Am, am, am, is dhe praesens, and
is is dhe perfectum--yes, yes--and are is dhe plusquam perfectum.

ANSWER. And art, Sir! is--?

THE DANE. My dear friend! it is dhe plusquam perfectum, no, no--dhat
is a great lie; are is dhe plusquam perfectum--and art is dhe plasquam
plue-perfectum--(then swinging my hand to and fro, and cocking his
little bright hazel eyes at me, that danced with vanity and wine)--You
see, my dear friend that I too have some lehrning?

ANSWER. Learning, Sir? Who dares suspect it? Who can listen to you
for a minute, who can even look at you, without perceiving the extent
of it?

THE DANE. My dear friend!--(then with a would-be humble look, and in
a tone of voice as if he was reasoning) I could not talk so of prawns
and imperfectum, and futurum and plusquamplue perfectum, and all dhat,
my dear friend! without some lehrning?

ANSWER. Sir! a man like you cannot talk on any subject without
discovering the depth of his information.

THE DANE. Dhe grammatic Greek, my friend; ha! ha! Ha! (laughing, and
swinging my hand to and fro--then with a sudden transition to great
solemnity) Now I will tell you, my dear friend! Dhere did happen about
me vat de whole historia of Denmark record no instance about nobody
else. Dhe bishop did ask me all dhe questions about all dhe religion
in dhe Latin grammar.

ANSWER. The grammar, Sir? The language, I presume--

THE DANE. (A little offended.) Grammar is language, and language is

ANSWER. Ten thousand pardons!

THE DANE. Vell, and I was only fourteen years--

ANSWER. Only fourteen years old?

THE DANE. No more. I vas fourteen years old--and he asked me all
questions, religion and philosophy, and all in dhe Latin language--and
I answered him all every one, my dear friend! all in dhe Latin

ANSWER. A prodigy! an absolute prodigy!

THE DANE. No, no, no! he was a bishop, a great superintendent.

ANSWER. Yes! a bishop.

THE DANE. A bishop--not a mere predicant, not a prediger.

ANSWER. My dear Sir! we have misunderstood each other. I said that
your answering in Latin at so early an age was a prodigy, that is, a
thing that is wonderful; that does not often happen.

THE DANE. Often! Dhere is not von instance recorded in dhe whole
historia of Denmark.

ANSWER. And since then, Sir--?

THE DANE. I was sent ofer to dhe Vest Indies--to our Island, and
dhere I had no more to do vid books. No! no! I put my genius anodher
way--and I haf made ten tousand pound a year. Is not dhat ghenius, my
dear friend?--But vat is money?--I dhink dhe poorest man alive my
equal. Yes, my dear friend; my little fortune is pleasant to my
generous heart, because I can do good--no man with so little a fortune
ever did so much generosity--no person--no man person, no woman person
ever denies it. But we are all Got's children.

Here the Hanoverian interrupted him, and the other Dane, the Swede,
and the Prussian, joined us, together with a young Englishman who
spoke the German fluently, and interpreted to me many of the
Prussian's jokes. The Prussian was a travelling merchant, turned of
threescore, a hale man, tall, strong, and stout, full of stories,
gesticulations, and buffoonery, with the soul as well as the look of a
mountebank, who, while he is making you laugh, picks your pocket. Amid
all his droll looks and droll gestures, there remained one look
untouched by laughter; and that one look was the true face, the others
were but its mask. The Hanoverian was a pale, fat, bloated young man,
whose father had made a large fortune in London, as an army-
contractor. He seemed to emulate the manners of young Englishmen of
fortune. He was a good-natured fellow, not without information or
literature; but a most egregious coxcomb. He had been in the habit of
attending the House of Commons, and had once spoken, as he informed
me, with great applause in a debating society. For this he appeared to
have qualified himself with laudable industry: for he was perfect in
Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary, and with an accent, which forcibly
reminded me of the Scotchman in Roderic Random, who professed to teach
the English pronunciation, he was constantly deferring to my superior
judgment, whether or no I had pronounced this or that word with
propriety, or "the true delicacy." When he spoke, though it were only
half a dozen sentences, he always rose: for which I could detect no
other motive, than his partiality to that elegant phrase so liberally
introduced in the orations of our British legislators, "While I am on
my legs." The Swede, whom for reasons that will soon appear, I shall
distinguish by the name of Nobility, was a strong-featured, scurvy-
faced man, his complexion resembling in colour, a red hot poker
beginning to cool. He appeared miserably dependent on the Dane; but
was, however, incomparably the best informed and most rational of the
party. Indeed his manners and conversation discovered him to be both a
man of the world and a gentleman. The Jew was in the hold: the French
gentleman was lying on the deck so ill, that I could observe nothing
concerning him, except the affectionate attentions of his servant to
him. The poor fellow was very sick himself, and every now and then ran
to the side of the vessel, still keeping his eye on his master, but
returned in a moment and seated himself again by him, now supporting
his head, now wiping his forehead and talking to him all the while in
the most soothing tones. There had been a matrimonial squabble of a
very ludicrous kind in the cabin, between the little German tailor and
his little wife. He had secured two beds, one for himself and one for
her. This had struck the little woman as a very cruel action; she
insisted upon their having but one, and assured the mate in the most
piteous tones, that she was his lawful wife. The mate and the cabin
boy decided in her favour, abused the little man for his want of
tenderness with much humour, and hoisted him into the same compartment
with his sea-sick wife. This quarrel was interesting to me, as it
procured me a bed, which I otherwise should not have had.

In the evening, at seven o'clock, the sea rolled higher, and the Dane,
by means of the greater agitation, eliminated enough of what he had
been swallowing to make room for a great deal more. His favourite
potation was sugar and brandy, i.e. a very little warm water with a
large quantity of brandy, sugar, and nutmeg His servant boy, a black-
eyed Mulatto, had a good-natured round face, exactly the colour of the
skin of the walnut-kernel. The Dane and I were again seated, tete-a-
tete, in the ship's boat. The conversation, which was now indeed
rather an oration than a dialogue, became extravagant beyond all that
I ever heard. He told me that he had made a large fortune in the
island of Santa Cruz, and was now returning to Denmark to enjoy it. He
expatiated on the style in which he meant to live, and the great
undertakings which he proposed to himself to commence, till, the
brandy aiding his vanity, and his vanity and garrulity aiding the
brandy, he talked like a madman--entreated me to accompany him to
Denmark--there I should see his influence with the government, and he
would introduce me to the king, etc., etc. Thus he went on dreaming
aloud, and then passing with a very lyrical transition to the subject
of general politics, he declaimed, like a member of the Corresponding
Society, about, (not concerning,) the Rights of Man, and assured me
that, notwithstanding his fortune, he thought the poorest man alive
his equal. "All are equal, my dear friend! all are equal! Ve are all
Got's children. The poorest man haf the same rights with me. Jack!
Jack! some more sugar and brandy. Dhere is dhat fellow now! He is a
Mulatto--but he is my equal.--That's right, Jack! (taking the sugar
and brandy.) Here you Sir! shake hands with dhis gentleman! Shake
hands with me, you dog! Dhere, dhere!--We are all equal my dear
friend! Do I not speak like Socrates, and Plato, and Cato--they were
all philosophers, my dear philosophe! all very great men!--and so was
Homer and Virgil--but they were poets. Yes, yes! I know all about it!
--But what can anybody say more than this? We are all equal, all Got's
children. I haf ten tousand a year, but I am no more dhan de meanest
man alive. I haf no pride; and yet, my dear friend! I can say, do! and
it is done. Ha! ha! ha! my dear friend! Now dhere is dhat gentleman
(pointing to Nobility) he is a Swedish baron--you shall see. Ho!
(calling to the Swede) get me, will you, a bottle of wine from the
cabin. SWEDE.--Here, Jack! go and get your master a bottle of wine
from the cabin. DANE. No, no, no! do you go now--you go yourself you
go now! SWEDE. Pah!--DANE. Now go! Go, I pray you." And the Swede

After this the Dane commenced an harangue on religion, and mistaking
me for un philosophe in the continental sense of the word, he talked
of Deity in a declamatory style, very much resembling the devotional
rants of that rude blunderer, Mr. Thomas Paine, in his Age of Reason,
and whispered in my ear, what damned hypocrism all Jesus Christ's
business was. I dare aver, that few men have less reason to charge
themselves with indulging in persiflage than myself. I should hate it,
if it were only that it is a Frenchman's vice, and feel a pride in
avoiding it, because our own language is too honest to have a word to
express it by. But in this instance the temptation had been too
powerful, and I have placed it on the list of my offences. Pericles
answered one of his dearest friends, who had solicited him on a case
of life and death, to take an equivocal oath for his preservation:
Debeo amicis opitulari, sed usque ad Deos [75]. Friendship herself
must place her last and boldest step on this side the altar. What
Pericles would not do to save a friend's life, you may be assured, I
would not hazard merely to mill the chocolate-pot of a drunken fool's
vanity till it frothed over. Assuming a serious look, I professed
myself a believer, and sunk at once an hundred fathoms in his good
graces. He retired to his cabin, and I wrapped myself up in my great
coat, and looked at the water. A beautiful white cloud of foam at
momently intervals coursed by the side of the vessel with a roar, and
little stars of flame danced and sparkled and went out in it: and
every now and then light detachments of this white cloud-like foam
darted off from the vessel's side, each with its own small
constellation, over the sea, and scoured out of sight like a Tartar
troop over a wilderness.

It was cold, the cabin was at open war with my olfactories, and I
found reason to rejoice in my great coat, a weighty high-caped,
respectable rug, the collar of which turned over, and played the part
of a night-cap very passably. In looking up at two or three bright
stars, which oscillated with the motion of the sails, I fell asleep,
but was awakened at one o'clock, Monday morning, by a shower of rain.
I found myself compelled to go down into the cabin, where I slept very
soundly, and awoke with a very good appetite at breakfast time, my
nostrils, the most placable of all the senses, reconciled to, or
indeed insensible of the mephitis.

Monday, September 17th, I had a long conversation with the Swede, who
spoke with the most poignant contempt of the Dane, whom he described
as a fool, purse-mad; but he confirmed the boasts of the Dane
respecting the largeness of his fortune, which he had acquired in the
first instance as an advocate, and afterwards as a planter. From the
Dane and from himself I collected that he was indeed a Swedish
nobleman, who had squandered a fortune, that was never very large, and
had made over his property to the Dane, on whom he was now utterly
dependent. He seemed to suffer very little pain from the Dane's
insolence. He was in a high degree humane and attentive to the English
lady, who suffered most fearfully, and for whom he performed many
little offices with a tenderness and delicacy which seemed to prove
real goodness of heart. Indeed his general manners and conversation
were not only pleasing, but even interesting; and I struggled to
believe his insensibility respecting the Dane philosophical fortitude.
For though the Dane was now quite sober, his character oozed out of
him at every pore. And after dinner, when he was again flushed with
wine, every quarter of an hour or perhaps oftener he would shout out
to the Swede, "Ho! Nobility, go--do such a thing! Mr. Nobility!--tell
the gentlemen such a story, and so forth;" with an insolence which
must have excited disgust and detestation, if his vulgar rants on the
sacred rights of equality, joined to his wild havoc of general grammar
no less than of the English language, had not rendered it so
irresistibly laughable.

At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves, a single
solitary wild duck. It is not easy to conceive, how interesting a
thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters. I had
associated such a feeling of immensity with the ocean, that I felt
exceedingly disappointed, when I was out of sight of all land, at the
narrowness and nearness, as it were, of the circle of the horizon. So
little are images capable of satisfying the obscure feelings connected
with words. In the evening the sails were lowered, lest we should run
foul of the land, which can be seen only at a small distance. And at
four o'clock, on Tuesday morning, I was awakened by the cry of "land!
land!" It was an ugly island rock at a distance on our left, called
Heiligeland, well known to many passengers from Yarmouth to Hamburg,
who have been obliged by stormy weather to pass weeks and weeks in
weary captivity on it, stripped of all their money by the exorbitant
demands of the wretches who inhabit it. So at least the sailors
informed me.--About nine o'clock we saw the main land, which seemed
scarcely able to hold its head above water, low, flat, and dreary,
with lighthouses and land-marks which seemed to give a character and
language to the dreariness. We entered the mouth of the Elbe, passing
Neu-werk; though as yet the right bank only of the river was visible
to us. On this I saw a church, and thanked God for my safe voyage, not
without affectionate thoughts of those I had left in England. At
eleven o'clock on the same morning we arrived at Cuxhaven, the ship
dropped anchor, and the boat was hoisted out, to carry the Hanoverian
and a few others on shore. The captain agreed to take us, who
remained, to Hamburg for ten guineas, to which the Dane contributed so
largely, that the other passengers paid but half a guinea each.
Accordingly we hauled anchor, and passed gently up the river. At
Cuxhaven both sides of the river may be seen in clear weather; we
could now see the right bank only. We passed a multitude of English
traders that had been waiting many weeks for a wind. In a short time
both banks became visible, both flat and evidencing the labour of
human hands by their extreme neatness. On the left bank I saw a church
or two in the distance; on the right bank we passed by steeple and
windmill and cottage, and windmill and single house, windmill and
windmill, and neat single house, and steeple. These were the objects
and in the succession. The shores were very green and planted with
trees not inelegantly. Thirty-five miles from Cuxhaven the night came
on us, and, as the navigation of the Elbe is perilous, we dropped

Over what place, thought I, does the moon hang to your eye, my dearest
friend? To me it hung over the left bank of the Elbe. Close above the
moon was a huge volume of deep black cloud, while a very thin fillet
crossed the middle of the orb, as narrow and thin and black as a
ribbon of crape. The long trembling road of moonlight, which lay on
the water and reached to the stern of our vessel, glimmered dimly and
obscurely. We saw two or three lights from the right bank, probably
from bed-rooms. I felt the striking contrast between the silence of
this majestic stream, whose banks are populous with men and women and
children, and flocks and herds--between the silence by night of this
peopled river, and the ceaseless noise, and uproar, and loud
agitations of the desolate solitude of the ocean. The passengers below
had all retired to their beds; and I felt the interest of this quiet
scene the more deeply from the circumstance of having just quitted
them. For the Prussian had during the whole of the evening displayed
all his talents to captivate the Dane, who had admitted him into the
train of his dependents. The young Englishman continued to interpret
the Prussian's jokes to me. They were all without exception profane
and abominable, but some sufficiently witty, and a few incidents,
which he related in his own person, were valuable as illustrating the
manners of the countries in which they had taken place.

Five o'clock on Wednesday morning we hauled the anchor, but were soon
obliged to drop it again in consequence of a thick fog, which our
captain feared would continue the whole day; but about nine it cleared
off, and we sailed slowly along, close by the shore of a very
beautiful island, forty miles from Cuxhaven, the wind continuing
slack. This holm or island is about a mile and a half in length,
wedge-shaped, well wooded, with glades of the liveliest green, and
rendered more interesting by the remarkably neat farm-house on it. It
seemed made for retirement without solitude--a place that would allure
one's friends, while it precluded the impertinent calls of mere
visitors. The shores of the Elbe now became more beautiful, with rich
meadows and trees running like a low wall along the river's edge; and
peering over them, neat houses and, (especially on the right bank,) a
profusion of steeple-spires, white, black, or red. An instinctive
taste teaches men to build their churches in flat countries with
spire-steeples, which, as they cannot be referred to any other object,
point, as with silent finger, to the sky and stars, and sometimes,
when they reflect the brazen light of a rich though rainy sun-set,
appear like a pyramid of flame burning heavenward. I remember once,
and once only, to have seen a spire in a narrow valley of a
mountainous country. The effect was not only mean but ludicrous, and
reminded me against my will of an extinguisher; the close
neighbourhood of the high mountain, at the foot of which it stood, had
so completely dwarfed it, and deprived it of all connection with the
sky or clouds. Forty-six English miles from Cuxhaven, and sixteen from
Hamburg, the Danish village Veder ornaments the left bank with its
black steeple, and close by it is the wild and pastoral hamlet of
Schulau. Hitherto both the right and left bank, green to the very
brink, and level with the river, resembled the shores of a park canal.
The trees and houses were alike low, sometimes the low trees over-
topping the yet lower houses, sometimes the low houses rising above
the yet lower trees. But at Schulau the left bank rises at once forty
or fifty feet, and stares on the river with its perpendicular facade
of sand, thinly patched with tufts of green. The Elbe continued to
present a more and more lively spectacle from the multitude of fishing
boats and the flocks of sea gulls wheeling round them, the clamorous
rivals and companions of the fishermen; till we came to Blankaness, a
most interesting village scattered amid scattered trees, over three
hills in three divisions. Each of the three hills stares upon the
river, with faces of bare sand, with which the boats with their bare
poles, standing in files along the banks, made a sort of fantastic
harmony. Between each facade lies a green and woody dell, each deeper
than the other. In short it is a large village made up of individual
cottages, each cottage in the centre of its own little wood or
orchard, and each with its own separate path: a village with a
labyrinth of paths, or rather a neighbourhood of houses! It is
inhabited by fishermen and boat-makers, the Blankanese boats being in
great request through the whole navigation of the Elbe. Here first we
saw the spires of Hamburg, and from hence, as far as Altona, the left
bank of the Elbe is uncommonly pleasing, considered as the vicinity of
an industrious and republican city--in that style of beauty, or rather
prettiness, that might tempt the citizen into the country, and yet
gratify the taste which he had acquired in the town. Summer-houses and
Chinese show-work are everywhere scattered along the high and green
banks; the boards of the farm-houses left unplastered and gaily
painted with green and yellow; and scarcely a tree not cut into shapes
and made to remind the human being of his own power and intelligence
instead of the wisdom of nature. Still, however, these are links of
connection between town and country, and far better than the
affectation of tastes and enjoyments for which men's habits have
disqualified them. Pass them by on Saturdays and Sundays with the
burghers of Hamburg smoking their pipes, the women and children
feasting in the alcoves of box and yew, and it becomes a nature of its
own. On Wednesday, four o'clock, we left the vessel, and passing with
trouble through the huge masses of shipping that seemed to choke the
wide Elbe from Altona upward, we were at length landed at the Boom
House, Hamburg.


To a lady.

Meine liebe Freundinn,
See how natural the German comes from me, though I have not yet
been six weeks in the country!--almost as fluently as English from my
neighbour the Amtsschreiber, (or public secretary,) who as often as we
meet, though it should be half a dozen times in the same day, never
fails to greet me with--"---ddam your ploot unt eyes, my dearest
Englander! vhee goes it!"--which is certainly a proof of great
generosity on his part, these words being his whole stock of English.
I had, however, a better reason than the desire of displaying my
proficiency: for I wished to put you in good humour with a language,
from the acquirement of which I have promised myself much edification
and the means too of communicating a new pleasure to you and your
sister, during our winter readings. And how can I do this better than
by pointing out its gallant attention to the ladies? Our English
affix, ess, is, I believe, confined either to words derived from the
Latin, as actress, directress, etc., or from the French, as mistress,
duchess, and the like. But the German, inn, enables us to designate
the sex in every possible relation of life. Thus the Amtmann's lady is
the Frau Amtmanninn--the secretary's wife, (by the bye, the handsomest
woman I have yet seen in Germany,) is die allerliebste Frau
Amtsschreiberinn--the colonel's lady, die Frau Obristinn or
Colonellinn--and even the parson's wife, die Frau Pastorinn. But I am
especially pleased with their Freundinn, which, unlike the amica of
the Romans, is seldom used but in its best and purest sense. Now, I
know it will be said, that a friend is already something more than a
friend, when a man feels an anxiety to express to himself that this
friend is a female; but this I deny--in that sense at least in which
the objection will be made. I would hazard the impeachment of heresy,
rather than abandon my belief that there is a sex in our souls as well
as in their perishable garments; and he who does not feel it, never
truly loved a sister--nay, is not capable even of loving a wife as she
deserves to be loved, if she indeed be worthy of that holy name.

Now I know, my gentle friend, what you are murmuring to yourself--
"This is so like him! running away after the first bubble, that chance
has blown off from the surface of his fancy; when one is anxious to
learn where he is and what he has seen." Well then! that I am settled
at Ratzeburg, with my motives and the particulars of my journey
hither, will inform you. My first letter to him, with which doubtless
he has edified your whole fireside, left me safely landed at Hamburg
on the Elbe Stairs, at the Boom House. While standing on the stairs, I
was amused by the contents of the passage-boat. which crosses the
river once or twice a day from Hamburg to Haarburg. It was stowed
close with all people of all nations, in all sorts of dresses; the men
all with pipes in their mouths, and these pipes of all shapes and
fancies--straight and wreathed, simple and complex, long and short,
cane, clay, porcelain, wood, tin, silver, and ivory; most of them with
silver chains and silver bole-covers. Pipes and boots are the first
universal characteristic of the male Hamburgers that would strike the
eye of a raw traveller. But I forget my promise of journalizing as
much as possible.--Therefore, Septr. 19th Afternoon. My companion,
who, you recollect, speaks the French language with unusual propriety,
had formed a kind of confidential acquaintance with the emigrant, who
appeared to be a man of sense, and whose manners were those of a
perfect gentleman. He seemed about fifty or rather more. Whatever is
unpleasant in French manners from excess in the degree, had been
softened down by age or affliction; and all that is delightful in the
kind, alacrity and delicacy in little attentions, etc., remained, and
without bustle, gesticulation, or disproportionate eagerness. His
demeanour exhibited the minute philanthropy of a polished Frenchman,
tempered by the sobriety of the English character disunited from its
reserve. There is something strangely attractive in the character of a
gentleman when you apply the word emphatically, and yet in that sense
of the term which it is more easy to feel than to define. It neither
includes the possession of high moral excellence, nor of necessity
even the ornamental graces of manner. I have now in my mind's eye a
person whose life would scarcely stand scrutiny even in the court of
honour, much less in that of conscience; and his manners, if nicely
observed, would of the two excite an idea of awkwardness rather than
of elegance: and yet every one who conversed with him felt and
acknowledged the gentleman. The secret of the matter, I believe to be
this--we feel the gentlemanly character present to us, whenever, under
all the circumstances of social intercourse, the trivial not less than
the important, through the whole detail of his manners and deportment,
and with the ease of a habit, a person shows respect to others in such
a way, as at the same time implies in his own feelings an habitual and
assured anticipation of reciprocal respect from them to himself. In
short, the gentlemanly character arises out of the feeling of Equality
acting, as a Habit, yet flexible to the varieties of Rank, and
modified without being disturbed or superseded by them. This
description will perhaps explain to you the ground of one of your own
remarks, as I was englishing to you the interesting dialogue
concerning the causes of the corruption of eloquence. "What perfect
gentlemen these old Romans must have been! I was impressed, I
remember, with the same feeling at the time I was reading a
translation of Cicero's philosophical dialogues and of his epistolary
correspondence: while in Pliny's Letters I seemed to have a different
feeling--he gave me the notion of a very fine gentleman." You uttered
the words as if you had felt that the adjunct had injured the
substance and the increased degree altered the kind. Pliny was the
courtier of an absolute monarch--Cicero an aristocratic republican.
For this reason the character of gentleman, in the sense to which I
have confined it, is frequent in England, rare in France, and found,
where it is found, in age or the latest period of manhood; while in
Germany the character is almost unknown. But the proper antipode of a
gentleman is to be sought for among the Anglo-American democrats.

I owe this digression, as an act of justice to this amiable Frenchman,
and of humiliation for myself. For in a little controversy between us
on the subject of French poetry, he made me feel my own ill behaviour
by the silent reproof of contrast, and when I afterwards apologized to
him for the warmth of my language, he answered me with a cheerful
expression of surprise, and an immediate compliment, which a gentleman
might both make with dignity and receive with pleasure. I was pleased
therefore to find it agreed on, that we should, if possible, take up
our quarters in the same house. My friend went with him in search of
an hotel, and I to deliver my letters of recommendation.

I walked onward at a brisk pace, enlivened not so much by anything I
actually saw, as by the confused sense that I was for the first time
in my life on the continent of our planet. I seemed to myself like a
liberated bird that had been hatched in an aviary, who now, after his
first soar of freedom, poises himself in the upper air. Very naturally
I began to wonder at all things, some for being so like and some for
being so unlike the things in England--Dutch women with large umbrella
hats shooting out half a yard before them, with a prodigal plumpness
of petticoat behind--the women of Hamburg with caps plaited on the
caul with silver, or gold, or both, bordered round with stiffened
lace, which stood out before their eyes, but not lower, so that the
eyes sparkled through it--the Hanoverian with the fore part of the
head bare, then a stiff lace standing up like a wall perpendicular on
the cap, and the cap behind tailed with an enormous quantity of ribbon
which lies or tosses on the back:

"Their visnomies seem'd like a goodly banner
Spread in defiance of all enemies."

The ladies all in English dresses, all rouged, and all with bad teeth:
which you notice instantly from their contrast to the almost animal,
too glossy mother-of-pearl whiteness and the regularity of the teeth
of the laughing, loud-talking country-women and servant-girls, who
with their clean white stockings and with slippers without heel
quarters, tripped along the dirty streets, as if they were secured by
a charm from the dirt: with a lightness too, which surprised me, who
had always considered it as one of the annoyances of sleeping in an
Inn, that I had to clatter up stairs in a pair of them. The streets
narrow; to my English nose sufficiently offensive, and explaining at
first sight the universal use of boots; without any appropriate path
for the foot-passengers; the gable ends of the houses all towards the
street, some in the ordinary triangular form and entire as the
botanists say; but the greater number notched and scolloped with more
than Chinese grotesqueness. Above all, I was struck with the profusion
of windows, so large and so many, that the houses look all glass. Mr.
Pitt's window tax, with its pretty little additionals sprouting out
from it like young toadlets on the back of a Surinam toad, would
certainly improve the appearance of the Hamburg houses, which have a
slight summer look, not in keeping with their size, incongruous with
the climate, and precluding that feeling of retirement and self-
content, which one wishes to associate with a house in a noisy city.
But a conflagration would, I fear, be the previous requisite to the
production of any architectural beauty in Hamburg: for verily it is a
filthy town. I moved on and crossed a multitude of ugly bridges, with
huge black deformities of water wheels close by them. The water
intersects the city everywhere, and would have furnished to the genius
of Italy the capabilities of all that is most beautiful and
magnificent in architecture. It might have been the rival of Venice,
and it is huddle and ugliness, stench and stagnation. The Jungfer
Stieg, (that is, Young Ladies' Walk), to which my letters directed me,
made an exception. It was a walk or promenade planted with treble rows
of elm trees, which, being yearly pruned and cropped, remain slim and
dwarf-like. This walk occupies one side of a square piece of water,
with many swans on it perfectly tame, and, moving among the swans,
shewy pleasure-boats with ladies in them, rowed by their husbands or

(Some paragraphs have been here omitted.)------thus embarrassed by sad
and solemn politeness still more than by broken English, it sounded
like the voice of an old friend when I heard the emigrant's servant
inquiring after me. He had come for the purpose of guiding me to our
hotel. Through streets and streets I pressed on as happy as a child,
and, I doubt not, with a childish expression of wonderment in my busy
eyes, amused by the wicker waggons with movable benches across them,
one behind the other, (these were the hackney coaches;) amused by the
sign-boards of the shops, on which all the articles sold within are
painted, and that too very exactly, though in a grotesque confusion,
(a useful substitute for language in this great mart of nations;)
amused with the incessant tinkling of the shop and house door bells,
the bell hanging over each door and struck with a small iron rod at
every entrance and exit;--and finally, amused by looking in at the
windows, as I passed along; the ladies and gentlemen drinking coffee
or playing cards, and the gentlemen all smoking. I wished myself a
painter, that I might have sent you a sketch of one of the card
parties. The long pipe of one gentleman rested on the table, its bole
half a yard from his mouth, fuming like a censer by the fish-pool--the
other gentleman, who was dealing the cards, and of course had both
hands employed, held his pipe in his teeth, which hanging down between
his knees, smoked beside his ancles. Hogarth himself never drew a more
ludicrous distortion both of attitude and physiognomy, than this
effort occasioned nor was there wanting beside it one of those
beautiful female faces which the same Hogarth, in whom the satirist
never extinguished that love of beauty which belonged to him as a
poet, so often and so gladly introduces, as the central figure, in a
crowd of humorous deformities, which figures, (such is the power of
true genius!) neither acts, nor is meant to act as a contrast; but
diffuses through all, and over each of the group, a spirit of
reconciliation and human kindness; and, even when the attention is no
longer consciously directed to the cause of this feeling, still blends
its tenderness with our laughter: and thus prevents the instructive
merriment at the whims of nature or the foibles or humours of our
fellow-men from degenerating into the heart-poison of contempt or

Our hotel DIE WILDE MAN, (the sign of which was no bad likeness of the
landlord, who had ingrafted on a very grim face a restless grin, that
was at every man's service, and which indeed, like an actor rehearsing
to himself, he kept playing in expectation of an occasion for it)--
neither our hotel, I say, nor its landlord were of the genteelest
class. But it has one great advantage for a stranger, by being in the
market place, and the next neighbour of the huge church of St.
Nicholas: a church with shops and houses built up against it, out of
which wens and warts its high massy steeple rises, necklaced near the
top with a round of large gilt balls. A better pole-star could
scarcely be desired. Long shall I retain the impression made on my
mind by the awful echo, so loud and long and tremulous, of the deep-
toned clock within this church, which awoke me at two in the morning
from a distressful dream, occasioned, I believe, by the feather bed,
which is used here instead of bed-clothes. I will rather carry my
blanket about with me like a wild Indian, than submit to this
abominable custom. Our emigrant acquaintance was, we found, an
intimate friend of the celebrated Abbe de Lisle: and from the large
fortune which he possessed under the monarchy, had rescued sufficient
not only for independence, but for respectability. He had offended
some of his fellow-emigrants in London, whom he had obliged with
considerable sums, by a refusal to make further advances, and in
consequence of their intrigues had received an order to quit the
kingdom. I thought it one proof of his innocence, that he attached no
blame either to the alien act, or to the minister who had exerted it
against him; and a still greater, that he spoke of London with
rapture, and of his favourite niece, who had married and settled in
England, with all the fervour and all the pride of a fond parent. A
man sent by force out of a country, obliged to sell out of the stocks
at a great loss, and exiled from those pleasures and that style of
society which habit had rendered essential to his happiness, whose
predominant feelings were yet all of a private nature, resentment for
friendship outraged, and anguish for domestic affections interrupted--
such a man, I think, I could dare warrant guiltless of espionnage in
any service, most of all in that of the present French Directory. He
spoke with ecstasy of Paris under the Monarchy: and yet the particular
facts, which made up his description, left as deep a conviction on my
mind, of French worthlessness, as his own tale had done of emigrant
ingratitude. Since my arrival in Germany, I have not met a single
person, even among those who abhor the Revolution, that spoke with
favour, or even charity of the French emigrants. Though the belief of
their influence in the organization of this disastrous war (from the
horrors of which, North Germany deems itself only reprieved, not
secured,) may have some share in the general aversion with which they
are regarded: yet I am deeply persuaded that the far greater part is
owing to their own profligacy, to their treachery and hardheartedness
to each other, and the domestic misery or corrupt principles which so
many of them have carried into the families of their protectors. My
heart dilated with honest pride, as I recalled to mind the stern yet
amiable characters of the English patriots, who sought refuge on the
Continent at the Restoration! O let not our civil war under the first
Charles be paralleled with the French Revolution! In the former, the
character overflowed from excess of principle; in the latter from the
fermentation of the dregs! The former, was a civil war between the
virtues and virtuous prejudices of the two parties; the latter,
between the vices. The Venetian glass of the French monarchy shivered
and flew asunder with the working of a double poison.

Sept. 20th. I was introduced to Mr. Klopstock, the brother of the
poet, who again introduced me to Professor Ebeling, an intelligent and
lively man, though deaf: so deaf, indeed, that it was a painful effort
to talk with him, as we were obliged to drop our pearls into a huge
ear-trumpet. From this courteous and kind-hearted man of letters, (I
hope, the German literati in general may resemble this first
specimen), I heard a tolerable Italian pun, and an interesting
anecdote. When Buonaparte was in Italy, having been irritated by some
instance of perfidy, he said in a loud and vehement tone, in a public
company--"'tis a true proverb, gli Italiani tutti ladroni"--(that is,
the Italians all plunderers.) A lady had the courage to reply, "Non
tutti; ma BUONA PARTE," (not all, but a good part, or Buonaparte.)
This, I confess, sounded to my ears, as one of the many good things
that might have been said. The anecdote is more valuable; for it
instances the ways and means of French insinuation. Hoche had received
much information concerning the face of the country from a map of
unusual fulness and accuracy, the maker of which, he heard, resided at
Duesseldorf. At the storming of Duesseldorf by the French army, Hoche
previously ordered, that the house and property of this man should be
preserved, and intrusted the performance of the order to an officer on
whose troop he could rely. Finding afterwards, that the man had
escaped before the storming commenced, Hoche exclaimed, "HE had no
reason to flee! It is for such men, not against them, that the French
nation makes war, and consents to shed the blood of its children." You
remember Milton's sonnet--

"The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus when temple and tower
Went to the ground"------

Now though the Duesseldorf map-maker may stand in the same relation to
the Theban bard, as the snail, that marks its path by lines of film on
the wall it creeps over, to the eagle that soars sunward and beats the
tempest with its wings; it does not therefore follow, that the Jacobin
of France may not be as valiant a general and as good a politician, as
the madman of Macedon.

From Professor Ebeling's Mr. Klopstock accompanied my friend and me to
his own house, where I saw a fine bust of his brother. There was a
solemn and heavy greatness in his countenance, which corresponded to
my preconceptions of his style and genius.--I saw there, likewise, a
very fine portrait of Lessing, whose works are at present the chief
object of my admiration. His eyes were uncommonly like mine, if
anything, rather larger and more prominent. But the lower part of his
face and his nose--O what an exquisite expression of elegance and
sensibility!--There appeared no depth, weight, or comprehensiveness in
the forehead.--The whole face seemed to say, that Lessing was a man of
quick and voluptuous feelings; of an active but light fancy; acute;
yet acute not in the observation of actual life, but in the
arrangements and management of the ideal world, that is, in taste, and
in metaphysics. I assure you, that I wrote these very words in my
memorandum-book with the portrait before my eyes, and when I knew
nothing of Lessing but his name, and that he was a German writer of

We consumed two hours and more over a bad dinner, at the table d'hote.
"Patience at a German ordinary, smiling at time." The Germans are the
worst cooks in Europe. There is placed for every two persons a bottle
of common wine--Rhenish and Claret alternately; but in the houses of
the opulent, during the many and long intervals of the dinner, the
servants hand round glasses of richer wines. At the Lord of Culpin's
they came in this order. Burgundy--Madeira--Port--Frontiniac--
Pacchiaretti--Old Hock--Mountain--Champagne--Hock again--Bishop, and
lastly, Punch. A tolerable quantum, methinks! The last dish at the
ordinary, viz. slices of roast pork, (for all the larger dishes are
brought in, cut up, and first handed round and then set on the table,)
with stewed prunes and other sweet fruits, and this followed by cheese
and butter, with plates of apples, reminded me of Shakespeare [76],
and Shakespeare put it in my head to go to the French comedy.

Bless me! why it is worse than our modern English plays! The first act
informed me, that a court martial is to be held on a Count Vatron, who
had drawn his sword on the Colonel, his brother-in-law. The officers
plead in his behalf--in vain! His wife, the Colonel's sister, pleads
with most tempestuous agonies--in vain! She falls into hysterics and
faints away, to the dropping of the inner curtain! In the second act
sentence of death is passed on the Count--his wife, as frantic and
hysterical as before: more so (good industrious creature!) she could
not be. The third and last act, the wife still frantic, very frantic
indeed!--the soldiers just about to fire, the handkerchief actually
dropped; when reprieve! reprieve! is heard from behind the scenes: and
in comes Prince Somebody, pardons the Count, and the wife is still
frantic, only with joy; that was all!

O dear lady! this is one of the cases, in which laughter is followed
by melancholy: for such is the kind of drama, which is now substituted
every where for Shakespeare and Racine. You well know, that I offer
violence to my own feelings in joining these names. But however meanly
I may think of the French serious drama, even in its most perfect
specimens; and with whatever right I may complain of its perpetual
falsification of the language, and of the connections and transitions
of thought, which Nature has appropriated to states of passion; still,
however, the French tragedies are consistent works of art, and the
offspring of great intellectual power. Preserving a fitness in the
parts, and a harmony in the whole, they form a nature of their own,
though a false nature. Still they excite the minds of the spectators
to active thought, to a striving after ideal excellence. The soul is
not stupefied into mere sensations by a worthless sympathy with our
own ordinary sufferings, or an empty curiosity for the surprising,
undignified by the language or the situations which awe and delight
the imagination. What, (I would ask of the crowd, that press forward
to the pantomimic tragedies and weeping comedies of Kotzebue and his
imitators), what are you seeking? Is it comedy? But in the comedy of
Shakespeare and Moliere the more accurate my knowledge, and the more
profoundly I think, the greater is the satisfaction that mingles with
my laughter. For though the qualities which these writers pourtray are
ludicrous indeed, either from the kind or the excess, and exquisitely
ludicrous, yet are they the natural growth of the human mind and such
as, with more or less change in the drapery, I can apply to my own
heart, or at least to whole classes of my fellow-creatures. How often
are not the moralist and the metaphysician obliged for the happiest
illustrations of general truths and the subordinate laws of human
thought and action to quotations, not only from the tragic characters,
but equally from the Jaques, Falstaff, and even from the fools and
clowns of Shakespeare, or from the Miser, Hypochondriast, and
Hypocrite, of Moliere! Say not, that I am recommending abstractions:
for these class-characteristics, which constitute the instructiveness
of a character, are so modified and particularized in each person of
the Shakesperian Drama, that life itself does not excite more
distinctly that sense of individuality which belongs to real
existence. Paradoxical as it may sound, one of the essential
properties of geometry is not less essential to dramatic excellence,
and, (if I may mention his name without pedantry to a lady,) Aristotle
has accordingly required of the poet an involution of the universal in
the individual. The chief differences are, that in geometry it is the
universal truth itself, which is uppermost in the consciousness, in
poetry the individual form in which the truth is clothed. With the
ancients, and not less with the elder dramatists of England and
France, both comedy and tragedy were considered as kinds of poetry.
They neither sought in comedy to make us laugh merely, much less to
make us laugh by wry faces, accidents of jargon, slang phrases for the
day, or the clothing of commonplace morals in metaphors drawn from the
shops or mechanic occupations of their characters; nor did they
condescend in tragedy to wheedle away the applause of the spectators,
by representing before them fac-similes of their own mean selves in
all their existing meanness, or to work on their sluggish sympathies
by a pathos not a whit more respectable than the maudlin tears of
drunkenness. Their tragic scenes were meant to affect us indeed, but
within the bounds of pleasure, and in union with the activity both of
our understanding and imagination. They wished to transport the mind
to a sense of its possible greatness, and to implant the germs of that
greatness during the temporary oblivion of the worthless "thing, we
are" and of the peculiar state, in which each man happens to be;
suspending our individual recollections and lulling them to sleep amid
the music of nobler thoughts.

Hold!--(methinks I hear the spokesman of the crowd reply, and we will
listen to him. I am the plaintiff, and he the defendant.)

DEFENDANT. Hold! are not our modern sentimental plays filled with the
best Christian morality?

PLAINTIFF. Yes! just as much of it, and just that part of it, which
you can exercise without a single Christian virtue--without a single
sacrifice that is really painful to you!--just as much as flatters
you, sends you away pleased with your own hearts, and quite reconciled
to your vices, which can never be thought very ill of, when they keep
such good company, and walk hand in hand with so much compassion and
generosity; adulation so loathsome, that you would spit in the man's
face who dared offer it to you in a private company, unless you
interpreted it as insulting irony, you appropriate with infinite
satisfaction, when you share the garbage with the whole stye, and
gobble it out of a common trough. No Caesar must pace your boards--no
Antony, no royal Dane, no Orestes, no Andromache!

D. No: or as few of them as possible. What has a plain citizen of
London, or Hamburg, to do with your kings and queens, and your old
school-boy Pagan heroes? Besides, every body knows the stories; and
what curiosity can we feel----

P. What, Sir, not for the manner?--not for the delightful language of
the poet?--not for the situations, the action and reaction of the

D. You are hasty, Sir! the only curiosity, we feel, is in the story:
and how can we be anxious concerning the end of a play, or be
surprised by it, when we know how it will turn out?

P. Your pardon, for having interrupted you! we now understand each
other. You seek then, in a tragedy, which wise men of old held for the
highest effort of human genius, the same gratification, as that you
receive from a new novel, the last German romance, and other dainties
of the day, which can be enjoyed but once. If you carry these feelings
to the sister art of Painting, Michael Angelo's Sixtine Chapel, and
the Scripture Gallery of Raphael can expect no favour from you. You
know all about them beforehand; and are, doubtless, more familiar with
the subjects of those paintings, than with the tragic tales of the
historic or heroic ages. There is a consistency, therefore, in your
preference of contemporary writers: for the great men of former times,
those at least who were deemed great by our ancestors, sought so
little to gratify this kind of curiosity, that they seemed to have
regarded the story in a not much higher light, than the painter
regards his canvass: as that on, not by, which they were to display
their appropriate excellence. No work, resembling a tale or romance,
can well show less variety of invention in the incidents, or less
anxiety in weaving them together, than the DON QUIXOTE of Cervantes.
Its admirers feel the disposition to go back and re-peruse some
preceding chapter, at least ten times for once that they find any
eagerness to hurry forwards: or open the book on those parts which
they best recollect, even as we visit those friends oftenest whom we
love most, and with whose characters and actions we are the most
intimately acquainted. In the divine Ariosto, (as his countrymen call
this, their darling poet,) I question whether there be a single tale
of his own invention, or the elements of which, were not familiar to
the readers of "old romance." I will pass by the ancient Greeks, who
thought it even necessary to the fable of a tragedy, that its
substance should be previously known. That there had been at least
fifty tragedies with the same title, would be one of the motives which
determined Sophocles and Euripides, in the choice of Electra as a
subject. But Milton--

D. Aye Milton, indeed!--but do not Dr. Johnson and other great men
tell us, that nobody now reads Milton but as a task?

P. So much the worse for them, of whom this can be truly said! But
why then do you pretend to admire Shakespeare? The greater part, if
not all, of his dramas were, as far as the names and the main
incidents are concerned, already stock plays. All the stories, at
least, on which they are built, pre-existed in the chronicles,
ballads, or translations of contemporary or preceding English writers.
Why, I repeat, do you pretend to admire Shakespeare? Is it, perhaps,
that you only pretend to admire him? However, as once for all, you
have dismissed the well-known events and personages of history, or the
epic muse, what have you taken in their stead? Whom has your tragic
muse armed with her bowl and dagger? the sentimental muse I should
have said, whom you have seated in the throne of tragedy? What heroes
has she reared on her buskins?

D. O! our good friends and next-door neighbours--honest tradesmen,
valiant tars, high-spirited half-pay officers, philanthropic Jews,
virtuous courtezans, tender-hearted braziers, and sentimental rat-
catchers!--(a little bluff or so, but all our very generous, tender-
hearted characters are a little rude or misanthropic, and all our
misanthropes very tender-hearted.)

P. But I pray you, friend, in what actions great or interesting, can
such men be engaged?

D. They give away a great deal of money; find rich dowries for young
men and maidens who have all other good qualities; they brow-beat
lords, baronets, and justices of the peace, (for they are as bold as
Hector!)--they rescue stage coaches at the instant they are falling
down precipices; carry away infants in the sight of opposing armies;
and some of our performers act a muscular able-bodied man to such
perfection, that our dramatic poets, who always have the actors in
their eye, seldom fail to make their favourite male character as
strong as Samson. And then they take such prodigious leaps!! And what
is done on the stage is more striking even than what is acted. I once
remember such a deafening explosion, that I could not hear a word of
the play for half an act after it: and a little real gunpowder being
set fire to at the same time, and smelt by all the spectators, the
naturalness of the scene was quite astonishing!

P. But how can you connect with such men and such actions that
dependence of thousands on the fate of one, which gives so lofty an
interest to the personages of Shakespeare, and the Greek Tragedians?
How can you connect with them that sublimest of all feelings, the
power of destiny and the controlling might of heaven, which seems to
elevate the characters which sink beneath its irresistible blow?

D. O mere fancies! We seek and find on the present stage our own
wants and passions, our own vexations, losses, and embarrassments.

P. It is your own poor pettifogging nature then, which you desire to
have represented before you?--not human nature in its height and
vigour? But surely you might find the former with all its joys and
sorrows, more conveniently in your own houses and parishes.

D. True! but here comes a difference. Fortune is blind, but the poet
has his eyes open, and is besides as complaisant as fortune is
capricious. He makes every thing turn out exactly as we would wish it.
He gratifies us by representing those as hateful or contemptible whom
we hate and wish to despise.

P. (aside.) That is, he gratifies your envy by libelling your

D. He makes all those precise moralists, who affect to be better than
their neighbours, turn out at last abject hypocrites, traitors, and
hard-hearted villains; and your men of spirit, who take their girl and
their glass with equal freedom, prove the true men of honour, and,
(that no part of the audience may remain unsatisfied,) reform in the
last scene, and leave no doubt in the minds of the ladies, that they
will make most faithful and excellent husbands: though it does seem a
pity, that they should be obliged to get rid of qualities which had
made them so interesting! Besides, the poor become rich all at once;
and in the final matrimonial choice the opulent and high-born
themselves are made to confess; that VIRTUE IS THE ONLY TRUE NOBILITY,

P. Excellent! But you have forgotten those brilliant flashes of
loyalty, those patriotic praises of the King and Old England, which,
especially if conveyed in a metaphor from the ship or the shop, so
often solicit and so unfailingly receive the public plaudit! I give
your prudence credit for the omission. For the whole system of your
drama is a moral and intellectual Jacobinism of the most dangerous
kind, and those common-place rants of loyalty are no better than
hypocrisy in your playwrights, and your own sympathy with them a gross
self-delusion. For the whole secret of dramatic popularity consists
with you in the confusion and subversion of the natural order of
things, their causes and their effects; in the excitement of surprise,
by representing the qualities of liberality, refined feeling, and a
nice sense of honour, (those things rather which pass among you for
such), in persons and in classes of life where experience teaches us
least to expect them; and in rewarding with all the sympathies, that
are the dues of virtue, those criminals whom law, reason, and religion
have excommunicated from our esteem!

And now--good night! Truly! I might have written this last sheet
without having gone to Germany; but I fancied myself talking to you by
your own fireside, and can you think it a small pleasure to me to
forget now and then, that I am not there? Besides, you and my other
good friends have made up your minds to me as I am, and from whatever
place I write you will expect that part of my "Travels" will consist
of excursions in my own mind.


No little fish thrown back again into the water, no fly unimprisoned
from a child's hand, could more buoyantly enjoy its element, than I
this clean and peaceful house, with this lovely view of the town,
groves, and lake of Ratzeburg, from the window at which I am writing.
My spirits certainly, and my health I fancied, were beginning to sink
under the noise, dirt, and unwholesome air of our Hamburg hotel. I
left it on Sunday, Sept. 23rd, with a letter of introduction from the
poet Klopstock, to the Amtmann of Ratzeburg. The Amtmann received me
with kindness, and introduced me to the worthy pastor, who agreed to
board and lodge me for any length of time not less than a month. The
vehicle, in which I took my place, was considerably larger than an
English stage-coach, to which it bore much the same proportion and
rude resemblance, that an elephant's ear does to the human. Its top
was composed of naked boards of different colours, and seeming to have
been parts of different wainscots. Instead of windows there were
leathern curtains with a little eye of glass in each: they perfectly
answered the purpose of keeping out the prospect and letting in the
cold. I could observe little therefore, but the inns and farmhouses at
which we stopped. They were all alike, except in size: one great room,
like a barn, with a hay-loft over it, the straw and hay dangling in
tufts through the boards which formed the ceiling of the room, and the
floor of the loft. From this room, which is paved like a street,
sometimes one, sometimes two smaller ones, are enclosed at one end.
These are commonly floored. In the large room the cattle, pigs,
poultry, men, women, and children, live in amicable community; yet
there was an appearance of cleanliness and rustic comfort. One of
these houses I measured. It was an hundred feet in length. The
apartments were taken off from one corner. Between these and the
stalls there was a small interspace, and here the breadth was forty-
eight feet, but thirty-two where the stalls were; of course, the
stalls were on each side eight feet in depth. The faces of the cows,
etc. were turned towards the room; indeed they were in it, so that
they had at least the comfort of seeing each other's faces. Stall-
feeding is universal in this part of Germany, a practice concerning
which the agriculturist and the poet are likely to entertain opposite
opinions--or at least, to have very different feelings. The woodwork
of these buildings on the outside is left unplastered, as in old
houses among us, and, being painted red and green, it cuts and
tesselates the buildings very gaily. From within three miles of
Hamburg almost to Molln, which is thirty miles from it, the country,
as far as I could see it, was a dead flat, only varied by woods. At
Molln it became more beautiful. I observed a small lake nearly
surrounded with groves, and a palace in view belonging to the King of
Great Britain, and inhabited by the Inspector of the Forests. We were
nearly the same time in travelling the thirty-five miles from Hamburg
to Ratzeburg, as we had been in going from London to Yarmouth, one
hundred and twenty-six miles.

The lake of Ratzeburg runs from south to north, about nine miles in
length, and varying in breadth from three miles to half a mile. About
a mile from the southernmost point it is divided into two, of course
very unequal, parts by an island, which, being connected by a bridge
and a narrow slip of land with the one shore, and by another bridge of
immense length with the other shore, forms a complete isthmus. On this
island the town of Ratzeburg is built. The pastor's house or vicarage,
together with the Amtmann's Amtsschreiber's, and the church, stands
near the summit of a hill, which slopes down to the slip of land and
the little bridge, from which, through a superb military gate, you
step into the island-town of Ratzeburg. This again is itself a little
hill, by ascending and descending which, you arrive at the long
bridge, and so to the other shore. The water to the south of the town
is called the Little Lake, which however almost engrosses the beauties
of the whole the shores being just often enough green and bare to give
the proper effect to the magnificent groves which occupy the greater
part of their circumference. From the turnings, windings, and
indentations of the shore, the views vary almost every ten steps, and
the whole has a sort of majestic beauty, a feminine grandeur. At the
north of the Great Lake, and peeping over it, I see the seven church
towers of Luebec, at the distance of twelve or thirteen miles, yet as
distinctly as if they were not three. The only defect in the view is,
that Ratzeburg is built entirely of red bricks, and all the houses
roofed with red tiles. To the eye, therefore, it presents a clump of
brick-dust red. Yet this evening, Oct. 10th, twenty minutes past five,
I saw the town perfectly beautiful, and the whole softened down into
complete keeping, if I may borrow a term from the painters. The sky
over Ratzeburg and all the east was a pure evening blue, while over
the west it was covered with light sandy clouds. Hence a deep red
light spread over the whole prospect, in undisturbed harmony with the
red town, the brown-red woods, and the yellow-red reeds on the skirts
of the lake. Two or three boats, with single persons paddling them,
floated up and down in the rich light, which not only was itself in
harmony with all, but brought all into harmony.

I should have told you that I went back to Hamburg on Thursday (Sept.
27th) to take leave of my friend, who travels southward, and returned
hither on the Monday following. From Empfelde, a village half way from
Ratzeburg, I walked to Hamburg through deep sandy roads and a dreary
flat: the soil everywhere white, hungry, and excessively pulverised;
but the approach to the city is pleasing. Light cool country houses,
which you can look through and see the gardens behind them, with
arbours and trellis work, and thick vegetable walls, and trees in
cloisters and piazzas, each house with neat rails before it, and green
seats within the rails. Every object, whether the growth of nature or
the work of man, was neat and artificial. It pleased me far better,
than if the houses and gardens, and pleasure fields, had been in a
nobler taste: for this nobler taste would have been mere apery. The
busy, anxious, money-loving merchant of Hamburg could only have
adopted, he could not have enjoyed the simplicity of nature. The mind
begins to love nature by imitating human conveniences in nature; but
this is a step in intellect, though a low one--and were it not so, yet
all around me spoke of innocent enjoyment and sensitive comforts, and
I entered with unscrupulous sympathy into the enjoyments and comforts
even of the busy, anxious, money-loving merchants of Hamburg. In this
charitable and catholic mood I reached the vast ramparts of the city.
These are huge green cushions, one rising above the other, with trees
growing in the interspaces, pledges and symbols of a long peace. Of my
return I have nothing worth communicating, except that I took extra
post, which answers to posting in England. These north German post
chaises are uncovered wicker carts. An English dust-cart is a piece of
finery, a chef d'auvre of mechanism, compared with them and the
horses!--a savage might use their ribs instead of his fingers for a
numeration table. Wherever we stopped, the postilion fed his cattle
with the brown rye bread of which he eat himself, all breakfasting
together; only the horses had no gin to their water, and the postilion
no water to his gin. Now and henceforward for subjects of more
interest to you, and to the objects in search of which I left you:
namely, the literati and literature of Germany.

Believe me, I walked with an impression of awe on my spirits, as W----
and myself accompanied Mr. Klopstock to the house of his brother, the
poet, which stands about a quarter of a mile from the city gate. It is
one of a row of little common-place summer-houses, (for so they
looked,) with four or five rows of young meagre elm trees before the
windows, beyond which is a green, and then a dead flat intersected
with several roads. Whatever beauty, (thought I,) may be before the
poet's eyes at present, it must certainly be purely of his own
creation. We waited a few minutes in a neat little parlour, ornamented
with the figures of two of the Muses and with prints, the subjects of
which were from Klopstock's odes. The poet entered. I was much
disappointed in his countenance, and recognised in it no likeness to
the bust. There was no comprehension in the forehead, no weight over
the eye-brows, no expression of peculiarity, moral or intellectual, on
the eyes, no massiveness in the general countenance. He is, if
anything, rather below the middle size. He wore very large half-boots,
which his legs filled, so fearfully were they swollen. However, though
neither W---- nor myself could discover any indications of sublimity
or enthusiasm in his physiognomy, we were both equally impressed with
his liveliness, and his kind and ready courtesy. He talked in French
with my friend, and with difficulty spoke a few sentences to me in
English. His enunciation was not in the least affected by the entire
want of his upper teeth. The conversation began on his part by the
expression of his rapture at the surrender of the detachment of French
troops under General Humbert. Their proceedings in Ireland with regard
to the committee which they had appointed, with the rest of their
organizing system, seemed to have given the poet great entertainment.
He then declared his sanguine belief in Nelson's victory, and
anticipated its confirmation with a keen and triumphant pleasure. His
words, tones, looks, implied the most vehement Anti-Gallicanism. The
subject changed to literature, and I inquired in Latin concerning the
history of German poetry and the elder German poets. To my great
astonishment he confessed, that he knew very little on the subject. He
had indeed occasionally read one or two of their elder writers, but
not so as to enable him to speak of their merits. Professor Ebeling,
he said, would probably give me every information of this kind: the
subject had not particularly excited his curiosity. He then talked of
Milton and Glover, and thought Glover's blank verse superior to
Milton's. W---- and myself expressed our surprise: and my friend gave
his definition and notion of harmonious verse, that it consisted, (the
English iambic blank verse above all,) in the apt arrangement of
pauses and cadences, and the sweep of whole paragraphs,

"with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,"

and not in the even flow, much less in the prominence of antithetic
vigour, of single lines, which were indeed injurious to the total
effect, except where they were introduced for some specific purpose.
Klopstock assented, and said that he meant to confine Glover's
superiority to single lines. He told us that he had read Milton, in a
prose translation, when he was fourteen [77]. I understood him thus
myself, and W---- interpreted Klopstock's French as I had already
construed it. He appeared to know very little of Milton or indeed of
our poets in general. He spoke with great indignation of the English
prose translation of his MESSIAH. All the translations had been bad,
very bad--but the English was no translation--there were pages on
pages not in the original--and half the original was not to be found
in the translation. W---- told him that I intended to translate a few
of his odes as specimens of German lyrics--he then said to me in
English, "I wish you would render into English some select passages of
THE MESSIAH, and revenge me of your countryman!". It was the liveliest
thing which he produced in the whole conversation. He told us, that
his first ode was fifty years older than his last. I looked at him
with much emotion--I considered him as the venerable father of German
poetry; as a good man; as a Christian; seventy-four years old; with
legs enormously swollen; yet active, lively, cheerful, and kind, and
communicative. My eyes felt as if a tear were swelling into them. In
the portrait of Lessing there was a toupee periwig, which enormously
injured the effect of his physiognomy--Klopstock wore the same,
powdered and frizzled. By the bye, old men ought never to wear powder
--the contrast between a large snow-white wig and the colour of an old
man's skin is disgusting, and wrinkles in such a neighbourhood appear
only channels for dirt. It is an honour to poets and great men, that
you think of them as parts of nature; and anything of trick and
fashion wounds you in them, as much as when you see venerable yews
clipped into miserable peacocks.--The author of THE MESSIAH should
have worn his own grey hair.--His powder and periwig were to the eye
what Mr. Virgil would be to the ear.

Klopstock dwelt much on the superior power which the German language
possessed of concentrating meaning. He said, he had often translated
parts of Homer and Virgil, line by line, and a German line proved
always sufficient for a Greek or Latin one. In English you cannot do
this. I answered, that in English we could commonly render one Greek
heroic line in a line and a half of our common heroic metre, and I
conjectured that this line and a half would be found to contain no
more syllables than one German or Greek hexameter. He did not
understand me [78]: and I, who wished to hear his opinions, not to
correct them, was glad that he did not.

We now took our leave. At the beginning of the French Revolution
Klopstock wrote odes of congratulation. He received some honorary
presents from the French Republic, (a golden crown I believe), and,
like our Priestley, was invited to a seat in the legislature, which he
declined. But when French liberty metamorphosed herself into a fury,
he sent back these presents with a palinodia, declaring his abhorrence
of their proceedings: and since then he has been perhaps more than
enough an Anti-Gallican. I mean, that in his just contempt and
detestation of the crimes and follies of the Revolutionists, he
suffers himself to forget that the revolution itself is a process of
the Divine Providence; and that as the folly of men is the wisdom of
God, so are their iniquities instruments of his goodness. From
Klopstock's house we walked to the ramparts, discoursing together on
the poet and his conversation, till our attention was diverted to the
beauty and singularity of the sunset and its effects on the objects
around us. There were woods in the distance. A rich sandy light, (nay,
of a much deeper colour than sandy,) lay over these woods that
blackened in the blaze. Over that part of the woods which lay
immediately under the intenser light, a brassy mist floated. The trees
on the ramparts, and the people moving to and fro between them, were
cut or divided into equal segments of deep shade and brassy light. Had
the trees, and the bodies of the men and women, been divided into
equal segments by a rule or pair of compasses, the portions could not
have been more regular. All else was obscure. It was a fairy scene!--
and to increase its romantic character, among the moving objects, thus
divided into alternate shade and brightness, was a beautiful child,
dressed with the elegant simplicity of an English child, riding on a
stately goat, the saddle, bridle, and other accoutrements of which
were in a high degree costly and splendid. Before I quit the subject
of Hamburg, let me say, that I remained a day or two longer than I
otherwise should have done, in order to be present at the feast of St.
Michael, the patron saint of Hamburg, expecting to see the civic pomp
of this commercial Republic. I was however disappointed. There were no
processions, two or three sermons were preached to two or three old
women in two or three churches, and St. Michael and his patronage
wished elsewhere by the higher classes, all places of entertainment,
theatre, etc. being shut up on this day. In Hamburg, there seems to be
no religion at all; in Luebec it is confined to the women. The men
seemed determined to be divorced from their wives in the other world,
if they cannot in this. You will not easily conceive a more singular
sight, than is presented by the vast aisle of the principal church at
Luebec, seen from the organ loft: for being filled with female
servants and persons in the same class of life, and all their caps
having gold and silver cauls, it appears like a rich pavement of gold
and silver.

I will conclude this letter with the mere transcription of notes,
which my friend W---- made of his conversations with Klopstock, during
the interviews that took place after my departure. On these I shall
make but one remark at present, and that will appear a presumptuous
one, namely, that Klopstock's remarks on the venerable sage of
Koenigsburg are to my own knowledge injurious and mistaken; and so far
is it from being true, that his system is now given up, that
throughout the Universities of Germany there is not a single professor
who is not either a Kantean or a disciple of Fichte, whose system is
built on the Kantean, and presupposes its truth; or lastly who, though
an antagonist of Kant, as to his theoretical work, has not embraced
wholly or in part his moral system, and adopted part of his
nomenclature. "Klopstock having wished to see the CALVARY of
Cumberland, and asked what was thought of it in England, I went to
Remnant's (the English bookseller) where I procured the Analytical
Review, in which is contained the review of Cumberland's CALVARY. I
remembered to have read there some specimens of a blank verse
translation of THE MESSIAH. I had mentioned this to Klopstock, and he
had a great desire to see them. I walked over to his house and put the
book into his hands. On adverting to his own poem, he told me he began
THE MESSIAH when he was seventeen; he devoted three entire years to
the plan without composing a single line. He was greatly at a loss in
what manner to execute his work. There were no successful specimens of
versification in the German language before this time. The first three
cantos he wrote in a species of measured or numerous prose. This,
though done with much labour and some success, was far from satisfying
him. He had composed hexameters both Latin and Greek as a school
exercise, and there had been also in the German language attempts in
that style of versification. These were only of very moderate merit.--
One day he was struck with the idea of what could be done in this way
--he kept his room a whole day, even went without his dinner, and found
that in the evening he had written twenty-three hexameters, versifying
a part of what he had before written in prose. From that time, pleased
with his efforts, he composed no more in prose. Today he informed me
that he had finished his plan before he read Milton. He was enchanted
to see an author who before him had trod the same path. This is a
contradiction of what he said before. He did not wish to speak of his
poem to any one till it was finished: but some of his friends who had
seen what he had finished, tormented him till he had consented to
publish a few books in a journal. He was then, I believe, very young,
about twenty-five. The rest was printed at different periods, four
books at a time. The reception given to the first specimens was highly
flattering. He was nearly thirty years in finishing the whole poem,
but of these thirty years not more than two were employed in the
composition. He only composed in favourable moments; besides he had
other occupations. He values himself upon the plan of his odes, and
accuses the modern lyrical writers of gross deficiency in this
respect. I laid the same accusation against Horace: he would not hear
of it--but waived the discussion. He called Rousseau's ODE TO FORTUNE
a moral dissertation in stanzas. I spoke of Dryden's ST. CECILIA; but
he did not seem familiar with our writers. He wished to know the
distinctions between our dramatic and epic blank verse. He recommended
me to read his HERMANN before I read either THE MESSIAH or the odes.
He flattered himself that some time or other his dramatic poems would
be known in England. He had not heard of Cowper. He thought that Voss
in his translation of THE ILIAD had done violence to the idiom of the
Germans, and had sacrificed it to the Greeks, not remembering
sufficiently that each language has its particular spirit and genius.
He said Lessing was the first of their dramatic writers. I complained
of NATHAN as tedious. He said there was not enough of action in it;
but that Lessing was the most chaste of their writers. He spoke
favourably of Goethe; but said that his SORROWS OF WERTER was his best
work, better than any of his dramas: he preferred the first written to
the rest of Goethe's dramas. Schiller's ROBBERS he found so
extravagant, that he could not read it. I spoke of the scene of the
setting sun. He did not know it. He said Schiller could not live. He
thought DON CARLOS the best of his dramas; but said that the plot was
inextricable.--It was evident he knew little of Schiller's works:
indeed, he said, he could not read them. Buerger, he said, was a true
poet, and would live; that Schiller, on the contrary, must soon be
forgotten; that he gave himself up to the imitation of Shakespeare,
who often was extravagant, but that Schiller was ten thousand times
more so. He spoke very slightingly of Kotzebue, as an immoral author
in the first place, and next, as deficient in power. At Vienna, said
he, they are transported with him; but we do not reckon the people of
Vienna either the wisest or the wittiest people of Germany. He said
Wieland was a charming author, and a sovereign master of his own
language: that in this respect Goethe could not be compared to him,
nor indeed could any body else. He said that his fault was to be
fertile to exuberance. I told him the OBERON had just been translated
into English. He asked me if I was not delighted with the poem. I
answered, that I thought the story began to flag about the seventh or
eighth book; and observed, that it was unworthy of a man of genius to
make the interest of a long poem turn entirely upon animal
gratification. He seemed at first disposed to excuse this by saying,
that there are different subjects for poetry, and that poets are not
willing to be restricted in their choice. I answered, that I thought
the passion of love as well suited to the purposes of poetry as any
other passion; but that it was a cheap way of pleasing to fix the
attention of the reader through a long poem on the mere appetite.
Well! but, said he, you see, that such poems please every body. I
answered, that it was the province of a great poet to raise people up
to his own level, not to descend to theirs. He agreed, and confessed,
that on no account whatsoever would he have written a work like the
OBERON. He spoke in raptures of Wieland's style, and pointed out the
passage where Retzia is delivered of her child, as exquisitely
beautiful. I said that I did not perceive any very striking passages;
but that I made allowance for the imperfections of a translation. Of
the thefts of Wieland, he said, they were so exquisitely managed, that
the greatest writers might be proud to steal as he did. He considered
the books and fables of old romance writers in the light of the
ancient mythology, as a sort of common property, from which a man was
free to take whatever he could make a good use of. An Englishman had
presented him with the odes of Collins, which he had read with
pleasure. He knew little or nothing of Gray, except his ELEGY written
in a country CHURCH-YARD. He complained of the fool in LEAR. I
observed that he seemed to give a terrible wildness to the distress;
but still he complained. He asked whether it was not allowed, that
Pope had written rhymed poetry with more skill than any of our
writers--I said I preferred Dryden, because his couplets had greater
variety in their movement. He thought my reason a good one; but asked
whether the rhyme of Pope were not more exact. This question I
understood as applying to the final terminations, and observed to him
that I believed it was the case; but that I thought it was easy to
excuse some inaccuracy in the final sounds, if the general sweep of
the verse was superior. I told him that we were not so exact with
regard to the final endings of the lines as the French. He did not
seem to know that we made no distinction between masculine and
feminine (i.e. single or double,) rhymes: at least he put inquiries to
me on this subject. He seemed to think that no language could be so
far formed as that it might not be enriched by idioms borrowed from
another tongue. I said this was a very dangerous practice; and added,
that I thought Milton had often injured both his prose and verse by
taking this liberty too frequently. I recommended to him the prose
works of Dryden as models of pure and native English. I was treading
upon tender ground, as I have reason to suppose that he has himself
liberally indulged in the practice."

The same day I dined at Mr. Klopstock's, where I had the pleasure of a
third interview with the poet. We talked principally about indifferent
things. I asked him what he thought of Kant. He said that his
reputation was much on the decline in Germany. That for his own part
he was not surprised to find it so, as the works of Kant were to him
utterly incomprehensible--that he had often been pestered by the
Kanteans; but was rarely in the practice of arguing with them. His
custom was to produce the book, open it and point to a passage, and
beg they would explain it. This they ordinarily attempted to do by
substituting their own ideas. I do not want, I say, an explanation of
your own ideas, but of the passage which is before us. In this way I
generally bring the dispute to an immediate conclusion. He spoke of
Wolfe as the first Metaphysician they had in Germany. Wolfe had
followers; but they could hardly be called a sect, and luckily till
the appearance of Kant, about fifteen years ago, Germany had not been
pestered by any sect of philosophers whatsoever; but that each man had
separately pursued his inquiries uncontrolled by the dogmas of a
master. Kant had appeared ambitious to be the founder of a sect; that
he had succeeded: but that the Germans were now coming to their senses
again. That Nicolai and Engel had in different ways contributed to
disenchant the nation; but above all the incomprehensibility of the
philosopher and his philosophy. He seemed pleased to hear, that as yet
Kant's doctrines had not met with many admirers in England--did not
doubt but that we had too much wisdom to be duped by a writer who set
at defiance the common sense and common understandings of men. We
talked of tragedy. He seemed to rate highly the power of exciting
tears--I said that nothing was more easy than to deluge an audience,
that it was done every day by the meanest writers.

I must remind you, my friend, first, that these notes are not intended
as specimens of Klopstock's intellectual power, or even "colloquial
prowess," to judge of which by an accidental conversation, and this
with strangers, and those too foreigners, would be not only
unreasonable, but calumnious. Secondly, I attribute little other
interest to the remarks than what is derived from the celebrity of the
person who made them. Lastly, if you ask me, whether I have read THE
MESSIAH, and what I think of it? I answer--as yet the first four books
only: and as to my opinion--(the reasons of which hereafter)--you may
guess it from what I could not help muttering to myself, when the good
pastor this morning told me, that Klopstock was the German Milton--"a
very German Milton indeed!!!"

Heaven preserve you, and S. T. COLERIDGE.


Quid quod praefatione praemunierim libellum, qua conor omnem
offendiculi ansam praecidere? [79] Neque quicquam addubito, quin ea
candidis omnibus faciat satis. Quid autem facias istis, qui vel ob
ingenii pertinaciam sibi satisfieri nolint, vel stupidiores sint, quam
ut satisfactionem intelligant? Nam quemadmodum Simonides dixit,
Thessalos hebetiores esse, quam ut possint a se decipi, ita quosdam
videas stupidiores, quam ut placari queant. Adhaec, non mirum est
invenire quod calumnietur, qui nihil aliud quaerit, nisi quod
calumnietur. ERASMUS ad Dorpium, Theologum.

In the rifacimento of THE FRIEND, I have inserted extracts from the
CONCIONES AD POPULUM, printed, though scarcely published, in the year
1795, in the very heat and height of my anti-ministerial enthusiasm:
these in proof that my principles of politics have sustained no
change.--In the present chapter, I have annexed to my Letters from
Germany, with particular reference to that, which contains a
disquisition on the modern drama, a critique on the Tragedy of
BERTRAM, written within the last twelve months: in proof, that I have
been as falsely charged with any fickleness in my principles of
taste.--The letter was written to a friend: and the apparent
abruptness with which it begins, is owing to the omission of the
introductory sentences.

You remember, my dear Sir, that Mr. Whitbread, shortly before his
death, proposed to the assembled subscribers of Drury Lane Theatre,
that the concern should be farmed to some responsible individual under
certain conditions and limitations: and that his proposal was
rejected, not without indignation, as subversive of the main object,
for the attainment of which the enlightened and patriotic assemblage
of philodramatists had been induced to risk their subscriptions. Now
this object was avowed to be no less than the redemption of the
British stage not only from horses, dogs, elephants, and the like
zoological rarities, but also from the more pernicious barbarisms and
Kotzebuisms in morals and taste. Drury Lane was to be restored to its
former classical renown; Shakespeare, Jonson, and Otway, with the
expurgated muses of Vanbrugh, Congreve, and Wycherley, were to be
reinaugurated in their rightful dominion over British audiences; and
the Herculean process was to commence, by exterminating the speaking
monsters imported from the banks of the Danube, compared with which
their mute relations, the emigrants from Exeter 'Change, and Polito
(late Pidcock's) show-carts, were tame and inoffensive. Could an
heroic project, at once so refined and so arduous, be consistently
entrusted to, could its success be rationally expected from, a
mercenary manager, at whose critical quarantine the lucri bonus odor
would conciliate a bill of health to the plague in person? No! As the
work proposed, such must be the work-masters. Rank, fortune, liberal
education, and (their natural accompaniments, or consequences)
critical discernment, delicate tact, disinterestedness, unsuspected
morals, notorious patriotism, and tried Maecenasship, these were the
recommendations that influenced the votes of the proprietary
subscribers of Drury Lane Theatre, these the motives that occasioned
the election of its Supreme Committee of Management. This circumstance
alone would have excited a strong interest in the public mind,
respecting the first production of the Tragic Muse which had been
announced under such auspices, and had passed the ordeal of such
judgments: and the tragedy, on which you have requested my judgment,
was the work on which the great expectations, justified by so many
causes, were doomed at length to settle.

But before I enter on the examination of BERTRAM, or THE CASTLE OF ST.
ALDOBRAND, I shall interpose a few words, on the phrase German Drama,
which I hold to be altogether a misnomer. At the time of Lessing, the
German stage, such as it was, appears to have been a flat and servile
copy of the French. It was Lessing who first introduced the name and
the works of Shakespeare to the admiration of the Germans; and I
should not perhaps go too far, if I add, that it was Lessing who first
proved to all thinking men, even to Shakespeare's own countrymen, the
true nature of his apparent irregularities. These, he demonstrated,
were deviations only from the accidents of the Greek tragedy; and from
such accidents as hung a heavy weight on the wings of the Greek poets,
and narrowed their flight within the limits of what we may call the
heroic opera. He proved, that, in all the essentials of art, no less
than in the truth of nature, the Plays of Shakespeare were
incomparably more coincident with the principles of Aristotle, than
the productions of Corneille and Racine, notwithstanding the boasted
regularity of the latter. Under these convictions were Lessing's own
dramatic works composed. Their deficiency is in depth and imagination:
their excellence is in the construction of the plot; the good sense of
the sentiments; the sobriety of the morals; and the high polish of the
diction and dialogue. In short, his dramas are the very antipodes of
all those which it has been the fashion of late years at once to abuse
and enjoy, under the name of the German drama. Of this latter,
Schiller's ROBBERS was the earliest specimen; the first fruits of his
youth, (I had almost said of his boyhood), and as such, the pledge,
and promise of no ordinary genius. Only as such, did the maturer
judgment of the author tolerate the Play. During his whole life he
expressed himself concerning this production with more than needful
asperity, as a monster not less offensive to good taste, than to sound
morals; and, in his latter years, his indignation at the unwonted
popularity of the ROBBERS seduced him into the contrary extremes, viz.
a studied feebleness of interest, (as far as the interest was to be
derived from incidents and the excitement of curiosity); a diction
elaborately metrical; the affectation of rhymes; and the pedantry of
the chorus.

But to understand the true character of the ROBBERS, and of the
countless imitations which were its spawn, I must inform you, or at
least call to your recollection, that, about that time, and for some
years before it, three of the most popular books in the German
language were, the translations Of YOUNG'S NIGHT THOUGHTS, HERVEY'S
combine the bloated style and peculiar rhythm of Hervey, which is
poetic only on account of its utter unfitness for prose, and might as
appropriately be called prosaic, from its utter unfitness for poetry;
we have only, I repeat, to combine these Herveyisms with the strained
thoughts, the figurative metaphysics and solemn epigrams of Young on
the one hand; and with the loaded sensibility, the minute detail, the
morbid consciousness of every thought and feeling in the whole flux
and reflux of the mind, in short the self-involution and dreamlike
continuity of Richardson on the other hand; and then to add the
horrific incidents, and mysterious villains, (geniuses of supernatural
intellect, if you will take the authors' words for it, but on a level
with the meanest ruffians of the condemned cells, if we are to judge
by their actions and contrivances)--to add the ruined castles, the
dungeons, the trap-doors, the skeletons, the flesh-and-blood ghosts,
and the perpetual moonshine of a modern author, (themselves the
literary brood of the CASTLE OF OTRANTO, the translations of which,
with the imitations and improvements aforesaid, were about that time
beginning to make as much noise in Germany as their originals were
making in England),--and as the compound of these ingredients duly
mixed, you will recognize the so-called German drama. The olla podrida
thus cooked up, was denounced, by the best critics in Germany, as the
mere cramps of weakness, and orgasms of a sickly imagination on the
part of the author, and the lowest provocation of torpid feeling on
that of the readers. The old blunder, however, concerning the
irregularity and wildness of Shakespeare, in which the German did but
echo the French, who again were but the echoes of our own critics, was
still in vogue, and Shakespeare was quoted as authority for the most
anti-Shakespearean drama. We have indeed two poets who wrote as one,
near the age of Shakespeare, to whom, (as the worst characteristic of
their writings), the Coryphaeus of the present drama may challenge the
honour of being a poor relation, or impoverished descendant. For if we
would charitably consent to forget the comic humour, the wit, the
felicities of style, in other words, all the poetry, and nine-tenths
of all the genius of Beaumont and Fletcher, that which would remain
becomes a Kotzebue.

The so-called German drama, therefore, is English in its origin,
English in its materials, and English by re-adoption; and till we can
prove that Kotzebue, or any of the whole breed of Kotzebues, whether
dramatists or romantic writers, or writers of romantic dramas, were
ever admitted to any other shelf in the libraries of well-educated
Germans than were occupied by their originals, and apes' apes in their
mother country, we should submit to carry our own brat on our own
shoulders; or rather consider it as a lack-grace returned from
transportation with such improvements only in growth and manners as
young transported convicts usually come home with.

I know nothing that contributes more to a clearer insight into the
true nature of any literary phaenomenon, than the comparison of it
with some elder production, the likeness of which is striking, yet
only apparent, while the difference is real. In the present case this
opportunity is furnished us, by the old Spanish play, entitled
Atheista Fulminato, formerly, and perhaps still, acted in the churches
and monasteries of Spain, and which, under various names (Don Juan,
the Libertine, etc.) has had its day of favour in every country
throughout Europe. A popularity so extensive, and of a work so
grotesque and extravagant, claims and merits philosophical attention
and investigation. The first point to be noticed is, that the play is
throughout imaginative. Nothing of it belongs to the real world, but
the names of the places and persons. The comic parts, equally with the
tragic; the living, equally with the defunct characters, are creatures
of the brain; as little amenable to the rules of ordinary probability,
as the Satan Of PARADISE LOST, or the Caliban of THE TEMPEST, and
therefore to be understood and judged of as impersonated abstractions.
Rank, fortune, wit, talent, acquired knowledge, and liberal
accomplishments, with beauty of person, vigorous health, and
constitutional hardihood,--all these advantages, elevated by the
habits and sympathies of noble birth and national character, are
supposed to have combined in Don Juan, so as to give him the means of
carrying into all its practical consequences the doctrine of a godless
nature, as the sole ground and efficient cause not only of all things,
events, and appearances, but likewise of all our thoughts, sensations,
impulses and actions. Obedience to nature is the only virtue: the
gratification of the passions and appetites her only dictate: each
individual's self-will the sole organ through which nature utters her
commands, and

"Self-contradiction is the only wrong!
For, by the laws of spirit, in the right
Is every individual character
That acts in strict consistence with itself."

That speculative opinions, however impious and daring they may be, are
not always followed by correspondent conduct, is most true, as well as
that they can scarcely in any instance be systematically realized, on
account of their unsuitableness to human nature and to the
institutions of society. It can be hell, only where it is all hell:
and a separate world of devils is necessary for the existence of any
one complete devil. But on the other hand it is no less clear, nor,
with the biography of Carrier and his fellow atheists before us, can
it be denied without wilful blindness, that the (so called) system of
nature (that is, materialism, with the utter rejection of moral
responsibility, of a present Providence, and of both present and
future retribution) may influence the characters and actions of
individuals, and even of communities, to a degree that almost does
away the distinction between men and devils, and will make the page of
the future historian resemble the narration of a madman's dreams. It
is not the wickedness of Don Juan, therefore, which constitutes the
character an abstraction, and removes it from the rules of
probability; but the rapid succession of the correspondent acts and
incidents, his intellectual superiority, and the splendid accumulation
of his gifts and desirable qualities, as co-existent with entire
wickedness in one and the same person. But this likewise is the very
circumstance which gives to this strange play its charm and universal
interest. Don Juan is, from beginning to end, an intelligible
character: as much so as the Satan of Milton. The poet asks only of
the reader, what, as a poet, he is privileged to ask: namely, that
sort of negative faith in the existence of such a being, which we
willingly give to productions professedly ideal, and a disposition to
the same state of feeling, as that with which we contemplate the
idealized figures of the Apollo Belvidere, and the Farnese Hercules.
What the Hercules is to the eye in corporeal strength, Don Juan is to
the mind in strength of character. The ideal consists in the happy
balance of the generic with the individual. The former makes the
character representative and symbolical, therefore instructive;
because, mutatis mutandis, it is applicable to whole classes of men.
The latter gives it living interest; for nothing lives or is real, but
as definite and individual. To understand this completely, the reader
need only recollect the specific state of his feelings, when in
looking at a picture of the historic (more properly of the poetic or
heroic) class, he objects to a particular figure as being too much of
a portrait; and this interruption of his complacency he feels without
the least reference to, or the least acquaintance with, any person in
real life whom he might recognise in this figure. It is enough that
such a figure is not ideal: and therefore not ideal, because one of
the two factors or elements of the ideal is in excess. A similar and
more powerful objection he would feel towards a set of figures which
were mere abstractions, like those of Cipriani, and what have been
called Greek forms and faces, that is, outlines drawn according to a
recipe. These again are not ideal; because in these the other element
is in excess. "Forma formans per formam formatam translucens," [80] is
the definition and perfection of ideal art.

This excellence is so happily achieved in the Don Juan, that it is
capable of interesting without poetry, nay, even without words, as in
our pantomime of that name. We see clearly how the character is
formed; and the very extravagance of the incidents, and the super-
human entireness of Don Juan's agency, prevents the wickedness from
shocking our minds to any painful degree. We do not believe it enough
for this effect; no, not even with that kind of temporary and negative
belief or acquiescence which I have described above. Meantime the
qualities of his character are too desirable, too flattering to our
pride and our wishes, not to make up on this side as much additional
faith as was lost on the other. There is no danger (thinks the
spectator or reader) of my becoming such a monster of iniquity as Don
Juan! I never shall be an atheist! I shall never disallow all
distinction between right and wrong! I have not the least inclination
to be so outrageous a drawcansir in my love affairs! But to possess
such a power of captivating and enchanting the affections of the other
sex!--to be capable of inspiring in a charming and even a virtuous
woman, a love so deep, and so entirely personal to me!--that even my
worst vices, (if I were vicious), even my cruelty and perfidy, (if I
were cruel and perfidious), could not eradicate the passion!--to be so
loved for my own self, that even with a distinct knowledge of my
character, she yet died to save me!--this, sir, takes hold of two
sides of our nature, the better and the worse. For the heroic
disinterestedness, to which love can transport a woman, can not be
contemplated without an honourable emotion of reverence towards
womanhood: and, on the other hand, it is among the miseries, and
abides in the dark ground-work of our nature, to crave an outward
confirmation of that something within us, which is our very self, that
something, not made up of our qualities and relations, but itself the
supporter and substantial basis of all these. Love me, and not my
qualities, may be a vicious and an insane wish, but it is not a wish
wholly without a meaning.

Without power, virtue would be insufficient and incapable of revealing
its being. It would resemble the magic transformation of Tasso's
heroine into a tree, in which she could only groan and bleed. Hence
power is necessarily an object of our desire and of our admiration.
But of all power, that of the mind is, on every account, the grand
desideratum of human ambition. We shall be as Gods in knowledge, was
and must have been the first temptation: and the coexistence of great
intellectual lordship with guilt has never been adequately represented
without exciting the strongest interest, and for this reason, that in
this bad and heterogeneous co-ordination we can contemplate the
intellect of man more exclusively as a separate self-subsistence, than
in its proper state of subordination to his own conscience, or to the
will of an infinitely superior being.

This is the sacred charm of Shakespeare's male characters in general.
They are all cast in the mould of Shakespeare's own gigantic
intellect; and this is the open attraction of his Richard, Iago,
Edmund, and others in particular. But again; of all intellectual
power, that of superiority to the fear of the invisible world is the
most dazzling. Its influence is abundantly proved by the one
circumstance, that it can bribe us into a voluntary submission of our
better knowledge, into suspension of all our judgment derived from
constant experience, and enable us to peruse with the liveliest
interest the wildest tales of ghosts, wizards, genii, and secret
talismans. On this propensity, so deeply rooted in our nature, a
specific dramatic probability may be raised by a true poet, if the
whole of his work be in harmony: a dramatic probability, sufficient
for dramatic pleasure, even when the component characters and
incidents border on impossibility. The poet does not require us to be
awake and believe; he solicits us only to yield ourselves to a dream;
and this too with our eyes open, and with our judgment perdue behind
the curtain, ready to awaken us at the first motion of our will: and
meantime, only, not to disbelieve. And in such a state of mind, who
but must be impressed with the cool intrepidity of Don john on the
appearance of his father's ghost:

"GHOST.--Monster! behold these wounds!

"D. JOHN.--I do! They were well meant and well performed, I see.

"GHOST.------Repent, repent of all thy villanies.
My clamorous blood to heaven for vengeance cries,
Heaven will pour out his judgments on you all.
Hell gapes for you, for you each fiend doth call,
And hourly waits your unrepenting fall.
You with eternal horrors they'll torment,
Except of all your crimes you suddenly repent. (Ghost sinks.)

"D. JOHN.--Farewell, thou art a foolish ghost. Repent, quoth he!
what could this mean? Our senses are all in a mist sure.

"D. ANTONIO.--(one of D. Juan's reprobate companions.) They are not!
'Twas a ghost.

"D. LOPEZ.--(another reprobate.) I ne'er believed those foolish tales

"D. JOHN.--Come! 'Tis no matter. Let it be what it will, it must be

"D. ANT.--And nature is unalterable in us too.

"D. JOHN.--'Tis true! The nature of a ghost can not change our's."

Who also can deny a portion of sublimity to the tremendous consistency
with which he stands out the last fearful trial, like a second

"Chorus of Devils.
"STATUE-GHOST.--Will you not relent and feel remorse?

"D. JOHN.--Could'st thou bestow another heart on me I might. But
with this heart I have, I can not.

"D. LOPEZ.--These things are prodigious.

"D. ANTON.--I have a sort of grudging to relent, but something holds
me back.

"D. LOP.--If we could, 'tis now too late. I will not.

"D. ANT.--We defy thee!

"GHOST.--Perish ye impious wretches, go and find the punishments laid
up in store for you!

(Thunder and lightning. D. Lop. and D. Ant. are swallowed up.)

"GHOST To D. JOHN.--Behold their dreadful fates, and know that thy
last moment's come!

"D. JOHN.--Think not to fright me, foolish ghost; I'll break your
marble body in pieces and pull down your horse.
(Thunder and lightning--chorus of devils, etc.)

"D. JOHN.--These things I see with wonder, but no fear.
Were all the elements to be confounded,
And shuffled all into their former chaos;
Were seas of sulphur flaming round about me,
And all mankind roaring within those fires,
I could not fear, or feel the least remorse.
To the last instant I would dare thy power.
Here I stand firm, and all thy threats contemn.
Thy murderer (to the ghost of one whom he had murdered)
Stands here! Now do thy worst!"
(He is swallowed up in a cloud of fire.)

In fine the character of Don John consists in the union of every thing
desirable to human nature, as means, and which therefore by the well
known law of association becomes at length desirable on their own
account. On their own account, and, in their own dignity, they are
here displayed, as being employed to ends so unhuman, that in the
effect, they appear almost as means without an end. The ingredients
too are mixed in the happiest proportion, so as to uphold and relieve
each other--more especially in that constant interpoise of wit,
gaiety, and social generosity, which prevents the criminal, even in
his most atrocious moments, from sinking into the mere ruffian, as far
at least, as our imagination sits in judgment. Above all, the fine
suffusion through the whole, with the characteristic manners and
feelings, of a highly bred gentleman gives life to the drama. Thus
having invited the statue-ghost of the governor, whom he had murdered,
to supper, which invitation the marble ghost accepted by a nod of the
head, Don John has prepared a banquet.

"D. JOHN.--Some wine, sirrah! Here's to Don Pedro's ghost--he should
have been welcome.

"D. LOP.--The rascal is afraid of you after death.
(One knocks hard at the door.)

"D. JOHN.--(to the servant)--Rise and do your duty.

"SERV.--Oh the devil, the devil! (Marble ghost enters.)

"D. JOHN.--Ha! 'tis the ghost! Let's rise and receive him! Come,
Governour, you are welcome, sit there; if we had thought you would
have come, we would have staid for you.

* * * * * *

Here, Governour, your health! Friends, put it about! Here's
excellent meat, taste of this ragout. Come, I'll help you, come
eat, and let old quarrels be forgotten. (The ghost threatens him
with vengeance.)

"D. JOHN.--We are too much confirmed--curse on this dry discourse.
Come, here's to your mistress, you had one when you were living:
not forgetting your sweet sister. (devils enter.)

"D. JOHN.--Are these some of your retinue? Devils, say you? I'm
sorry I have no burnt brandy to treat 'em with, that's drink fit
for devils," etc.

Nor is the scene from which we quote interesting, in dramatic
probability alone; it is susceptible likewise of a sound moral; of a
moral that has more than common claims on the notice of a too numerous
class, who are ready to receive the qualities of gentlemanly courage,
and scrupulous honour, (in all the recognised laws of honour,) as the
substitutes of virtue, instead of its ornaments. This, indeed, is the
moral value of the play at large, and that which places it at a
world's distance from the spirit of modern jacobinism. The latter
introduces to us clumsy copies of these showy instrumental qualities,
in order to reconcile us to vice and want of principle; while the
Atheista Fulminato presents an exquisite portraiture of the same
qualities, in all their gloss and glow, but presents them for the sole
purpose of displaying their hollowness, and in order to put us on our
guard by demonstrating their utter indifference to vice and virtue,
whenever these and the like accomplishments are contemplated for
themselves alone.

Eighteen years ago I observed, that the whole secret of the modern
jacobinical drama, (which, and not the German, is its appropriate
designation,) and of all its popularity, consists in the confusion and
subversion of the natural order of things in their causes and effects:
namely, in the excitement of surprise by representing the qualities of
liberality, refined feeling, and a nice sense of honour (those things
rather which pass amongst us for such) in persons and in classes where
experience teaches us least to expect them; and by rewarding with all
the sympathies which are the due of virtue, those criminals whom law,
reason, and religion have excommunicated from our esteem.

This of itself would lead me back to BERTRAM, or the CASTLE OF ST.
ALDOBRAND; but, in my own mind, this tragedy was brought into
connection with THE LIBERTINE, (Shadwell's adaptation of the Atheista
Fulminato to the English stage in the reign of Charles the Second,) by
the fact, that our modern drama is taken, in the substance of it, from
the first scene of the third act of THE LIBERTINE. But with what
palpable superiority of judgment in the original! Earth and hell, men
and spirits are up in arms against Don John; the two former acts of
the play have not only prepared us for the supernatural, but
accustomed us to the prodigious. It is, therefore, neither more nor
less than we anticipate when the Captain exclaims: "In all the dangers
I have been, such horrors I never knew. I am quite unmanned:" and when
the Hermit says, that he had "beheld the ocean in wildest rage, yet
ne'er before saw a storm so dreadful, such horrid flashes of
lightning, and such claps of thunder, were never in my remembrance."
And Don John's burst of startling impiety is equally intelligible in
its motive, as dramatic in its effect.

But what is there to account for the prodigy of the tempest at
Bertram's shipwreck? It is a mere supernatural effect, without even a
hint of any supernatural agency; a prodigy, without any circumstance
mentioned that is prodigious; and a miracle introduced without a
ground, and ending without a result. Every event and every scene of
the play might have taken place as well if Bertram and his vessel had
been driven in by a common hard gale, or from want of provisions. The
first act would have indeed lost its greatest and most sonorous
picture; a scene for the sake of a scene, without a word spoken; as
such, therefore, (a rarity without a precedent), we must take it, and
be thankful! In the opinion of not a few, it was, in every sense of
the word, the best scene in the play. I am quite certain it was the
most innocent: and the steady, quiet uprightness of the flame of the
wax-candles, which the monks held over the roaring billows amid the
storm of wind and rain, was really miraculous.

The Sicilian sea coast: a convent of monks: night: a most portentous,
unearthly storm: a vessel is wrecked contrary to all human
expectation, one man saves himself by his prodigious powers as a
swimmer, aided by the peculiarity of his destination--

"PRIOR.------All, all did perish

FIRST MONK.--Change, change those drenched weeds--

PRIOR.--I wist not of them--every soul did perish--
Enter third Monk hastily.

"THIRD MONK.--No, there was one did battle with the storm
With careless desperate force; full many times
His life was won and lost, as tho' he recked not--
No hand did aid him, and he aided none--
Alone he breasted the broad wave, alone
That man was saved."

Well! This man is led in by the monks, supposed dripping wet, and to
very natural inquiries he either remains silent, or gives most brief
and surly answers, and after three or four of these half-line
courtesies, "dashing off the monks" who had saved him, he exclaims in
the true sublimity of our modern misanthropic heroism--

"Off! ye are men--there's poison in your touch.
But I must yield, for this" (what?) "hath left me strengthless."

So end the three first scenes. In the next (the Castle of St.
Aldobrand,) we find the servants there equally frightened with this
unearthly storm, though wherein it differed from other violent storms
we are not told, except that Hugo informs us, page 9--

"PIET.--Hugo, well met. Does e'en thy age bear
Memory of so terrible a storm?

HUGO.--They have been frequent lately.

PIET.--They are ever so in Sicily.

HUGO.--So it is said. But storms when I was young
Would still pass o'er like Nature's fitful fevers,
And rendered all more wholesome. Now their rage,
Sent thus unseasonable and profitless,
Speaks like the threats of heaven."

A most perplexing theory of Sicilian storms is this of old Hugo! and
what is very remarkable, not apparently founded on any great
familiarity of his own with this troublesome article. For when Pietro
asserts the "ever more frequency" of tempests in Sicily, the old man
professes to know nothing more of the fact, but by hearsay. "So it is
said."--But why he assumed this storm to be unseasonable, and on what
he grounded his prophecy, (for the storm is still in full fury), that
it would be profitless, and without the physical powers common to all
other violent sea-winds in purifying the atmosphere, we are left in
the dark; as well concerning the particular points in which he knew
it, during its continuance, to differ from those that he had been
acquainted with in his youth. We are at length introduced to the Lady
Imogine, who, we learn, had not rested "through" the night; not on
account of the tempest, for

"Long ere the storm arose, her restless gestures
Forbade all hope to see her blest with sleep."

Sitting at a table, and looking at a portrait, she informs us--First,
that portrait-painters may make a portrait from memory,

"The limner's art may trace the absent feature."

For surely these words could never mean, that a painter may have a
person sit to him who afterwards may leave the room or perhaps the
country? Secondly, that a portrait-painter can enable a mourning lady
to possess a good likeness of her absent lover, but that the portrait-
painter cannot, and who shall--

"Restore the scenes in which they met and parted?"

The natural answer would have been--Why the scene-painter to be sure!
But this unreasonable lady requires in addition sundry things to be
painted that have neither lines nor colours--

"The thoughts, the recollections, sweet and bitter,
Or the Elysian dreams of lovers when they loved."

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