270. To Mrs. S. T. Coleridge Address: Mrs Coleridge | Nether Stowey | Somersetshire | England pay'd to Cuxhaven [Readdressed in another hand] No 17 Newfoundland Street | Bristol MS. New York Public Lib. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 271. Small parts of this letter were revised and published in Satyrane's Letters, ii and iii. See TheFriend -458- Friend, Nos. 16 and 18, 7 and 21 December 1809, and Biog. Lit., 1817, ii. 213-14 and 284-6. Postmark: Foreign Office, 6 March 1799. Monday, Jan. 14th, 1799. Ratzeburg My dearest Love -- Since the wind changed & it became possible for me to have Letters, I lost all my tranquillity. Last evening I was absent in company, & when I returned to Solitude, [was] restless in every fibre. A novel, which I attempted to read, seemed to interest me so extravagantly, that I threw it down -- & when it was out of my hands, I knew nothing of what I had been reading. This morning I awoke long before Light, feverish & unquiet -- I was certain in my mind, that I should have a Letter from you; but before it arrived my restlessness & the irregular pulsation of my Heart had quite wearied me down -- & I held the letter in my hand like as if I was stupid, without attempting to open it. -- 'Why don't you read the letter?' said Chester -- & I read it. -- Ah little Berkley -- I have misgivings-but my duty is rather to comfort you, my dear dear Sara! -- I am so exhausted that I could sleep. -- I am well; but my spirits have left me -- I am completely home-sick. I must walk half an hour -- for my mind is too scattered to continue writing. ---- I entreat & entreat you, Sara! take care of yourself -- if you are well, I think I could frame my thoughts so that I should not sink under other losses --. You do right in writing me the Truth -- Poole is kind -- but you do right, my dear! In a sense of reality there is always comfort -- the workings of one's imagination ever go beyond the worst that nature afflicts us with -- they have the terror of a superstitious circumstance. -- I express myself unintelligibly -- / Enough, that you write me always the whole Truth. Direct your next letter thus -- An den Herrn Coleridge, a la Post restante, Gottingen, Germany. -- If God permit, I shall be there before this day three weeks -- and I hope, on May day, to be once more at Stowey. My motives for going to Gottingen, I have written to Poole --. I hear as often from Wordsworth as letters can go backward & forward in a country where 50 miles in a day & night is expeditious Travelling! -- He seems to have employed more time in writing English [tha]n in studying German -- No wonder! -- for he might as well have been in England as at Goslar, in the situation which he chose, & with his unseeking manners ---- He has now left it, and is on Journey to Nordhousen. His taking his Sister with him was a wrong Step -- it is next to impossible for any but married women or in the suit of married women to be introduced to any company in Germany. Sister [here] is considered as only a name for Mistress. -- Still however male acquainta[nce] he might have -459- had -- & had I been at Goslar, I would [have] had them -- but [W., God] love him! seems to have lost his spirits & [almost his] inclination [for] it. In the mean time his expences have been almost less than [if he had] been in England. / [Mine have been . . . 1 very great; but I do not despair of returning to England, with somewhat to pay the whole. -- O God! I do languish to be at home! -- I will endeavor to give you some idea of Ratzeburgh; but I am a wretched Describer. -- First, you must conceive a Lake, running from South to North, about 9 miles in Length, and of very various breadths -- the broadest part may be perhaps two or three miles, the narrowest scarce more than half a mile. -- About a mile from the southernmost point of the lake, i.e. from the beginning of the Lake -- is the Island-town of Ratzeburgh. • is Ratzeburghr is our House / on the Hill -- from the bottom of the Hill there lies on the lake a slip of Land, scarcely two stone throws wide, at the end of which is a little Bridge with a superb military Gate -- and this Bridge joins Ratzeburgh to the slip of Land -- You pass thro' Ratzeburgh up a little Hill & down the little Hill, and this brings you to another Bridge, narrow but of an immense length, which communicates with the other shore. The water to the South of Ratzeburgh is called the little Lake, & the other the large Lake, tho' they are but one piece of water. -This little Lake is very beautiful -- the Shores just often enough green & bare to give the proper effect to the magnificent Groves, which mostly fringe them. The views vary almost every ten steps, such & so beautiful are the turnings & windings of the Shore -- they unite beauty & magnitude, & can be best expressed by feminine Grandeur! -- At the north of the great Lake, and peering over, you see the seven church-towers of Lubec, which is twelve or 14 miles from Ratzeburgh -- yet you see them as distinctly as if they were not 3 miles from you. The worse thing is that Ratzeburgh is built entirely of bricks & tiles -- & is therefore all red -- a clump of brick dust red -- it gives you a strong idea of perfect neatness; but it is not beautiful. -- In the beginning or middle of October, I forget which, we went to Lubec in a boat -- For about two miles the shores ____________________ 1 MS. blurred; two or three words obliterated. -460- of the Lake are exquisitely beautiful, the woods now running into the water, now retiring in all angles. 1 After this the left shore retreats,1the lake acquires it's utmost breadth & ceases to be beautiful -- at the end of the lake is the River, about as large as the River at Bristol -- but winding in infinite Serpentines thro' a dead flat, with willows & reeds, till you reach Lubec -- an old fantastic Town. We visited the churches at Lubec -- they were crowded with gawdy gilded Figures, & a profusion of Pictures, among which were always portraits of the popular Pastors who had served the Church. The Pastors here wear white ruffs, exactly like the pictures of Queen Elizabeth. There were in the Lubec Churches a very large attendance; but almost all women. The genteeler people dress'd precisely as the English; but behind every Lady sat her maid, the caps with gold & silver cawls. All together a Lubec Church is an amusing sight. In the evening I wished myself a painter, just to draw a German Party at Cards -- One man's long Pipe rested on the Table, smoking half [a y]ard from his mouth by the fish-dish; another who w[as] shuffling, and of course had both hands employed, held his pipe in his Teeth, and it hung down between his Thighs even to his ancles -- & the distortion which the attitude & effort occasioned made him a most ludicrous Phiz. -- . . . 2 [I would, had] it been possible, have loitered a week in those churches; & found incessant amusement. Every picture, every legend cut out in gilded wood-work, was a history of the manners & feelings of the ages, in which such works were admired & executed. -- The Sun both rises & sets over the little Lake by us / & both rising & setting presents most lovely spectacles -- In October Ratzeburg used at Sunset to appear completely beautiful -- A deep red light spread over all, in complete harmony with the red town, the brown red woods, & the yellow red Reeds on the skirts of the Lake & on the Slip of Land. A few boats paddled by single persons used generally to be floating up & down in the rich Light. But when first the Ice fell on the Lake, & the whole Lake was frozen, one huge piece of thick transparent Glass, O my God! what sublime scenery I have beheld. -- 3 Of a morning I have seen the little [lake] covered with Mist; when the Sun peeped over the Hill, the Mist broke in the middle; and at last stood as the waters of the red Sea are said to have done when the Israelites passed -- & between these two walls of Mist the Sunlight burnt upon the Ice in a strait road of golden Fire, all across the lake -- intolerably bright, & the walls of Mist ____________________ 1 Two small sketches at these points have not been reproduced. 2 8½ lines inked out in manuscript. 3 See The Friend, No. 19, 28 Dec. 1809, for a revised version of this passage, entitled Christmas out of Doors. -461- partaking of the light in a multitude of colours. -- About a month ago the vehemence of the wind had shattered the Ice 1 -- part of it, quite smattered, was driven to shore & had frozen anew; this was of a deep blue & represented an agitated sea -- the water, that ran up between the great islands of Ice, shone of a yellow green (it was at sunset) and all the scattered islands of smooth ice were blood; intensely bright Blood: on some of the largest Islands the Fishermen were pulling out their immense nets thro' the Holes made in the Ice for this purpose, & the Fishermen, the net-poles, & the huge nets made a part of the Glory! O my God! how I wished you to be with me! -- In skating there are three pleasing circumstances -- the infinitely subtle particles of Ice, which the Skate cuts up, & which creep & run before the Skater like a low mist, & in sun rise or sun set become coloured; 2nd the Shadow of the Skater in the water seen thro' the Transparent Ice, & 3rd the melancholy undulating sound from the Skate not without variety; & when very many are skating together, the sounds and the noises give an imp[ulse to] the icy Trees, & the woods all round the lake tinkle! -It is a plea[sant] Amusement to sit in an ice-stool (as they are called) and be driven along [the ice] by two Skaters -- I have [done] so, faster than most horses can gallop. ---- As to the customs here, [they are] nearly the same as in England -- except that [the men) never sit after dinner, [but dri]nk at dinner, which often lasts three or four hours; & in noble families is divided into three Gäng[e] -- that is -- walks. When you have sat about an hour, you rise up, each Lady takes a Gentleman's arm, and you walk about for a quarter of an Hour -- in the mean time another course is put upon the table; & this in great dinners is repeated 8 times. A man here seldom sees his wife till dinner -- they take their coffee in separate rooms, & never eat at breakfast; only as soon as they are up, they take their coffee -- & about 11 o clock eat a bit of bread & butter; & with the coffee, the men at least take a pipe. (Indee[d, a] pipe at Breakfast is a great addition to the comforts of Life: I shall [smoke] at no other time in England. Here I smoke four times a day -- 1 at breakfast, 1 half an hour before dinner, 1 in the afternoon at Tea, and one just before bed time -- but I shall give it all up, unless, as before observed, you should happen to like the smoke of a pipe at Breakfast.) Once when I first came here, I smoked a pipe imme- ____________________ 1 In The Friend Coleridge inserted the following beautiful passage: 'During the whole night, such were the thunders and howlings of the breaking ice, that they have left a conviction on my mind, that there are Sounds more sublime than any Sight can be, more absolutely suspending the power of comparison, and more utterly absorbing the mind's self-consciousness in it's total attention to the object working upon it.' -462- diately after dinner; the Pastor expressed his surprize: I expressed mine that he could smoke before breakfast -- 'O -- Herr Gott! (i.e. Lord God) quoth he -- it is delightful -- it invigorates the frame, & it cleans out the moutt so!' A common amusement at the German Universities is for a number of young men to smoke out a Candle -i.e. to fill a room with Tobacco-smoke till the Candle goes out. -Pipes are quite the rage -- a pipe of a particular kind, that has been smoked for a year or so, will sell here for twenty Guineas -- the same pipe, when new, costs about four or five. They are called Meerschaums. Price of Provisions &c at Hamburgh, & the same holds good, with very little variation of Ratzeburgh, & Lubec. Beef per pound -- from 3d to 5d -- that is, in summer the best beef is about 3d, about Christmas 5d Mutton ditto Veal from 5d to 7d Pork -- 4d to 6d A fat goose 4 Shillings A Turkey 7 to 9 Shillings Fowls 14 pence a couple Bread nearly the same as in England. Cheese / 4d a pound English Cheese / 16d. Eggs -- 6d a dozen. Vegetables & Fruit, dearer than in London. Soap 6d a pound Candles 8d a pound N.B. Most Housekeepers make their own Soap & Candles. Coffee 22 pence a pound. Sugar, two Shillings a pound Tea execrable and adulterated -- 8 Shillings, pnd Ordinary wine, 7d or 8d a bottle, when bought in the cask. Good Claret, 16d Best Claret 2 Shillings Old Hock from 2 to 9 Shillings Best Brandy 20d the bottle Rum 16d Gin 10d Common Spirit 6d or 7d. Fish cheap in Spring. -- Game, sold in the markets; but I could not hear the price. Salt, excessively cheap -- cheap as dirt. English Cloth more than one third as dear as in England; but the making up is cheaper. -- German Cloth comes cheap, as cheap again. -463- Firing, extravagantly dear --. The Amtman here in his house has six stoves, & the Kitchen fire, and besides two large loads of Turf he uses more than an hundred pounds' worth (sterling) of wood. Wood is 14 dollars the fathom: a dollar is 8 marks, & a mark is sixteen pence. House Rent in Lubec is much of a muchness with the House rent at Bristol; but there are no taxes -- at Ratzeburg the same as at Stowey; but at Hamburgh, O my God! the meanest House in any part of the town lets for 100£ a year, & some (nothing very handsome either) for 300£. -- Servants' wages here are very small -- if there are two Servants, the upper has about 50 Shillings a year, the under-maid not thirty -- & they eat but little flesh, & never taste Tea or Coffee or Beer. A man can keep a Coach, Coachman, & two Horses, for 40£ a year, including all expences. -- In short, with 1 or 200 a year you cannot live better, in Germany than in England; but if you [have] 1000£ a year you can live twice as well: on account of no Taxes, & servants. God bless you, my dear Love! -- I will soon write again -- My dear Love to Poole & his Mother -- S. T. Coleridge Perhaps, you are in Bristol / however, I had better direct it to Stowey. -- My love to Martha & your Mother, & your other Sisters. -- Once more, my dearest Love, God love & preserve us thro' this long absence! -- O my dear Babies! -- my Babies! --