272. To Mrs. S. T. Coleridge Address: Mrs Coleridge | Nether Stowey | Somersetshire | England Payed to Cuxhaven [Readdressed in another hand] Mrs Coleridge | No 17 Newfoundland Street | Bristol MS. New York Public Lib. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 277. The manuscript is torn and the words in brackets have been supplied from a transcript made by Thomas Ward. Postmark: Foreign Office, 21 March 1799. (bey dem Rademacher Göring, in der Burg Strasse, Göttingen) March 12th [10], 1799, Sunday Night. My dearest Love It has been a frightfully long Time, since we have heard from each other. I have not written, simply because my letters could have gone no further than Cuxhaven; & would have stayed there, to the [no] small hazard of their being lost. -- Even yet the Mouth of the Elbe is so much choked with Ice, that the Pacquets for England cannot set off. Why need I say, how anxious this long Interval of Silence has made me? I have thought & thought of you, and pictured you & the little ones so often & so often, that my Imagination is tired, down, flat and powerless; and I languish after Home for hours together, in vacancy; my feelings almost wholly unqualified by Thoughts. I have, at times, experienced such an extinction of Light in my mind, I have been so forsaken by all the forms and colourings of Existence, as if the organs of Life had been dried up; as if only simple BEING remained, blind and stagnant! -- After I -470- From a pastel portrait made in Germany in 1799 and now in the possession of Mrs. C. S. Gardner [This page intentionally left blank.] have recovered from this strange state, & reflected upon it, I have thought of a man who should lose his companion in a desart of sand where his weary Halloos drop down in the air without an Echo. -- I am deeply convinced that if I were to remain a few years among objects for whom I had no affection, I should wholly lose the powers of Intellect -- Love is the vital air of my Genius, & I have not seen one human Being in Germany, whom I can conceive it possible for me to love -- no, not one. To my mind, they are an unlovely Race, these Germans! -- We left Ratzeburg Feb. 6th, on a Wednesday Evening, 7 o'clock -- we have no analogy in England for a German Stage Coach, so perfectly wretched is it -- such a Temple of all the Winds of Heaven!! This was not the coldest night in the Century, because the night following was two Degrees colder -- the oldest man living remembers not such a night as Thursday, Feb. 7th. This whole winter I have heard incessant complaints of the unusual Cold; but I have felt very little of it. But that Night -- My God! [Now] I know what the Pain of Cold is, & what the Danger! -- The pious Care of the German Governments that none of their loving Subjects should be suffocated, is admirable! -- On Friday Morning when the Light dawned, the Coach looked like a shapeless Idol of Suspicion with an hundred Eyes -for there were at least so many holes in it! -- And as to rapidity, we left Ratzeburg at 7, Wed. Evening, & arrived at Lunenburg -- i.e. 85 English miles -- at 3 o'clock on Thursday Afternoon -- This is a fair Specimen. In England I used to laugh at the 'Flying Wa[ggons;]' but compared with a German Post Coach the metaphor is perfectly justifiable, & f[or the f]uture I shall never meet a flying Waggon without thinking respectfully of [it's] speed. -- The whole Country from Ratzeburg almost to Einbeck, i.e. 155 English miles, is a flat objectless hungry heath, bearing no marks of cultivation, except close by the Towns -- & the only remarks, which suggested themselves to me, were -- that it was cold -- very cold -- shocking Cold -- 'never felt it so cold in my life['] -- Meine Seele! es ist kalt! -- abscheulich kalt! widernatürlich kalt! ganz erstaunend kalt, &c & & &c. Hanover is 115 miles from Ratzeburg -- we arrived there Saturday Evening, having slept Friday Night at Celle (a large tolerably handsome Town.) -- The Herr von Döring, a Nobleman who resides at Ratzeburg, & distinguished me by constant attentions & civilities, gave me letters to his Brother in law at Hanover -- & by the manner in which his Brother-in-law received me I found that they were not ordinary letters of recommendation. He pressed me exceedingly to stay a week in Hanover, but I refused -- & left it on Monday Noon -- in the mean time however he had introduced me to all the great People, & presented me, 'as an -471- English Gentleman of first-rate Character & Talents,' to Baron Steinberg, the Minister of State, & to Von Brandes, the Secretary of State & Governor of the Gottingen University. -- The first was amazingly perpendicular; but civil & polite, & gave me letters to Heyne, the Head-Librarian at Gottingen, &, in truth, the real Governor of Gottingen. -- Brandes gave me letters likewise to Heyne & Blumenbach, 1 who are his Brothers in law. -- I had likewise other letters given me. Baron Steinberg offered to present me to the Prince( Adolphus) who is now in Hanover; but I deferred the honor till my return. -- I shall make Poole laugh, when I return, with the visiting Card which the Baron left at my Inn. -- I reasoned against the doctrine of Rights in the Presence of Brandes, who is an Author & a vehement aristocrat, & so delighted him that he has written me a complimentary letter ---- Description is not my Fort; but descriptions of Towns & Cities -- I abhor even to read them! -Besides, I saw nothing particular in Hanover -- it is a neat town, well-lighted, neither handsome or ugly, about the size of Taunton, (perhaps a little larger) & contains about 16,000 Inhabitants. It being the seat of the Government, the Inhabitants, at least the Gentry, dance and game & commit adultery ---- there is a Tobacco Manufacture & a Library with some curious books. -- (N.b. -- I hold the last line for a master-piece of informative & discriminative Description.) -- The two things worth seeing are -- I. A Conduit representing Mount Parnassus, with statues of Apollo, the Muses, & a great many others, flying Horses, Rhinoceroses, & Elephants -- & 2. A Bust of Leibnitz. -- The first for it's excessive absurdity, ugliness, & indecency -- absolutely, I could write the most humorous Octavo Volume containing the Description of it with a Commentary! -- The second -- i.e. the Bust of Leibnitz -- impressed on my whole soul a sensation which has ennobled and enriched it! -It is the face of a God! -- & Leibnitz was almost more than a man in the wonderful capaciousness of his Judgment & Imagination! ---- Well -- we left Hanover on Monday Noon -- after having payed a most extravagant Bill. We lived with Spartan Frugality & payed with Persian Pomp --. But I was an Englishman & visited by half a dozen Noblemen, & the Minister of State! -- the Landlord could not dream of affronting me by anything like a reasonable charge! -- On the road we stopped with the Postillion always, & our expences were nothing -- Chester & I made a very hearty dinner of cold Beef &c -- & both together payed only fourpence -- Coffee & Biscuits only three pence a piece -- in short -- a man may travel cheap in Germany -- but he must avoid great towns, [& not be ____________________ 1 Johann Friedrich Blumenbach ( 1752-1840), physiologist and founder of anthropology. -472- visi]ted by Ministers of State! -- The country, as I said, was dreary; but the Inhabitants were, one & all, warmly clothed -- I must say, that I have seen very few objects of misery in the whole Hanoverian Dominions. -- In the little Pot houses & Cottages where we stopped was a wonderful uniformity ---- their Diet consisted generally of Potatoes (always very small, but extremely good) soup, and a sort of sausage made of Grits (Grits or Gerts, I don't [know] how to spell the word) pigs' fat, and pigs' blood. -- These were universal & form a very nutritious & very economic food. -- The most frequent soups which we observed in the cottages were 1 -- a soup of Water, Barley or Buckwheat, Onions & Potatoes. 2 -- of water, and vetc[hes, w]ith clumps of the above described sausage. -- The Bread is every where [a blac]k sour Bread, of which I am grown very fond, & prefer it to [any other]. -- White Bread is so uncommon, that at a fair in a little Vi[llage,] instead of Sweetmeats & Gingerbread, as in England, there were in Trays, covered with nice white napkins, Rolls & Twists of White Bread. -- There was in the whole fair neither Gingerbread or Sweetmeat. -- Vetches are eaten all over Germany, by Rich as well as Poor -- I like them very much. In good truth, my Taste & Stomach are very catholic, & adapt themselves with great ease to all sorts of [Diets -- In a] village, some four miles from Einbeck we stopped about 4 o clock in the morning -- it was pitch dark, & the Postillion led us into a room where there was not a ray of Light -- we could not see our hands --! but it felt extremely warm. -- At length & suddenly, the Lamp came -- & we saw ourselves in a Room, 13 Strides in length, strewed with straw -- & lying by the side of each other on the straw twelve Jews -- I assure you, it was curious. -- Their dogs lay at their Feet -there was one very beautiful Boy among them, fast asleep, with the softest conceivable opening of the Mouth, with the white Beard of his Grandfather upon his right cheek, a fair rosy cheek! ---- I asked the Landlord how much they payed for their night's Lodging -- he told me, a Metier a piece -- that is -- an halfpenny. The Jews are horribly, unnaturally oppressed & persecuted all throughout Germany. ---- The Cottagers every where in Germany use little Lamps instead of Candles -- if it be cheaper here, where all make their own Candles, surely it must be vastly cheaper in England. ---- We were frequently obliged to stop in the night -- the road & track being completely lost in the Snow. In these cases the Postillions smoked on with undisturbed Phlegm, & simply said -- Schwer Noth! -- that is -- the Epilepsy! -- This oath is universal in Germany -- 'a curious fact, Tom'! Bye the bye, Swearing is almost unknown among genteel People here. -- It is a general Prejudice here, that the English are monstrous Eaters -- in England, that the Germans are Devils -473- for Drinking! -- The fact is, that a German eats more than any two Englishmen, but is exceedingly sober -- and I have reason to believe that no Country in God's Earth labours under the tremendous curse of Drunkenness equally with England. -- About Einbeck the country becomes Hilly & amphitheatrical -- & the Hills are cleft, woody, & run into each other / but there is neither stately River nor Lake. -- The country soon ceases to be beautiful -- however it continues tolerable, till we arrived at Gottingen, a most emphatically ugly Town in a plain surrounded by naked Hills, that are neither high or interesting -- 175 miles from Ratzeburg. -- We arrived in the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 12th. -- That my Descriptions of the Country are so uninteresting, is owing, partly to the intense Cold which obliged us to fasten up the Coach as much as possible -- & partly, to the Depth of the Snow, which not only concealed the shapes of Things, but by the Glitter & by the Sameness checked & discouraged me from watching them. ---- I forgot to say, that Schwer Noth is pronounced exactly Swear not! -- & at first this equivocation has an odd effect to an English Man who is ignorant of the Language. ---- / -- While we were drinking Tea, we heard a loud, very very loud Smacking of Whips -- ran to the Window, & lo! 30 Sledges full gallop, one after the other, each with one or two Ladies -- I must draw the Sledge. a the Student who sits [or) rather stands astride behind the Sledge, & (the reins running each side the [sledge) &] so manages the first Horse --. -- b. -- the Ladies in the Sledge. c c c -- the Reins -- (N.B. No[t in] the Sledge, as in the Picture.) d d. the first Horse. -c. c. c. c. c. the Reins -- aga[in -- ] d d d. the second Horse, at least 10 yards from the first. e e the Postillion [who] rides on the second Horse. -- All, Ladies, Student, Sledge, Horses, & Postillion, a[re] drest in all imaginable Pomp -- the Horses have Bells, & the Noise of the Whips is [inconceivable -- ] This is a darling [amuse]ment of the Students; but a very expensive one. I found afterw[ards] that young Parry, [Hobhous]e's Nephew, was at the head of this Party -- & he to[ld me] that his share [alone cost] him 85 dollars -- somewhat more than 5 gui[neas -- ] N.b. They gave refre(shments &c su]ch as Wine, Cakes &c. ---- Wednesday Morning we sought out Lodgings & took four very neat Rooms, [at the] rate of 25 Shillings a month, the Landlord to find us Plates, Knives, & [Forks] & our Tea Things -- We likewise agreed with the House opposite to us [for] a Dinner Portion, for 19 Shillings a month. This is amply sufficient for us Bo[th,] both -474- for dinner & Supper. Consequently for lodging & boarding for both we only pay two guineas & 2 Shillings, a month -- to these expences you must add bread, butter, wood, tea, & washing, & a trifle for the maid. Coffee is half a crown a pound, but it [is] not good. The Tea is very good; but you give 13 Shillings a pound for [it -- Sugar is) half a crown a pound -- Butter a Shilling, or 11d -- Washing somewhat cheaper than in England -- fire wood very expensive; but in the course of a week or so we shall be able to do without it -our rooms are so warm. -- In the lodgings we were a little cheated -we might have had four magnificently furnished Rooms in the best House in Gottingen at the Rate of fourteen Louis a year -- A Louis is about 16s & 3d. -- In short, you may live very cheap at Gottingen; but one must be always on the watch against being cheated. Every human Being from the highest to the lowest is in a conspiracy against you -- commercial Integrity is quite unknown in Germany, & cheating in business is a national, & therefore not an individual crime / for a German is educated to consider it as right. This day I called with my Letters on the Professor Heyne, a little, hopping, over-civil, sort of a Thing who talks very fast & with fragments of coughing between every ten words -- however, he behaved very courteously to me. -- The next day I took out my Matricula & commenced Student of the University of Gottingen -- for which I payed 15 Shillings -- without this I could not have used the Library &c --. Heyne has honoured me so far, that he has given me the Right, which properly only the Professors have, of sending to the Library for an indefinite number of Books, in my own name. 1 -- He told me that he wished the English had never been at Göttingen -- they had introduced expensive habits &c ---Friday Afternoon 3 Englishmen called on me, who gave me a melancholy picture of Gottingen -- of it's dullness -- of the impossibility of being introduced into mixed societies, &c &c -- I went with them & visited the Library, which without doubt is the very first in the World both in itself, & in the management of it. -- It consists of two immense large Rooms, ornamented with busts & Statues -- some Antiques, some Copies of Antiques -- there are very fine Copies of all the best ancient Statues -- but of the Library more hereafter. -- On Saturday Evening I went to the Concert where a Student declaimed a Monodrama to Music -- at first, it struck me as if a Parson was preaching during the chimes --; but after a little while I liked it. It was declaiming -- i.e. impassioned Reading -- not like Recitativo -- but Reading -- the Music sometimes ____________________ 1 For Coleridge's borrowings between 21 Feb. and 16 June 1799 see Alice D. Snyder, 'Books borrowed by Coleridge from the Library of the University of Göttingen, 1799', Modern Philology, Feb 1928, pp. 877-80. -475- accompanying, but more up the pauses of the Voice. -Here the other Englishmen introduced themselves -- three had known my Friends at Cambridge & were eager to make my acquaintance --: for they were Cambridge men -- two others were the Parries, 1 the Nephews of Mr Hobhouse, & acquaintances of Mr Estlin --. -- After the Concert Hamilton, 2 a Cambridge man, took me, as his Guest, to the Saturday Club -- where what is called the first Class of Students meet & sup once a week -- Here were all the nobility, & three Englishmen, Hamilton, Brown, & Kennet. -- Suchan Evening I never passed before -- roaring, kissing, embracing, fighting, smashing bottles & glasses against the wall, singing -- in short, such a scene of uproar I never witnessed before, no, not even at Cambridge. -- I drank nothing -- but all, except two of the Englishmen, were drunk -- & the party broke up a little after one o/clock in the morning. I thought of what I had been at Cambridge, & of what I was -- of the wild & bacchanalian Sympathy with which I had formerly joined similar Parties, & of my total inability now to do aught but meditate -- & the feeling of the deep alteration in my moral Being gave the scene a melancholy interest to me! -- There were two Customs which I had never seen before -- the one they call Smollets [Schmollis], & consists in two men drinking a glass of wine under each other's arm, & then kissing & embracing each other -- after which they always say Thou to each other. The other custom was this -- when all were drunk & all the Bottles smashed, they brought a huge Sword, sung a Song round it, then each fixed his Hat on the sword, Hat over Hat, still singing -- & then all kissed & embraced each other, still singing. -- This Kissing is a most loathsome Business -- & the English are known to have such an aversion to it, that it is never expected of them. -We are quite well. Chester will write soon to his Family -- in the meantime he sends Duty, Love, & Remembrances to all to whom they are due. -- I have drank no wine or fermented liquor now for more than 8 months -- in consequence of which I am apt to be costive & wakeful; but then I never feel any oppression after dinner & my Spirits are much more equable -- blessings which I deem inestimable! -- My dear Hartley! -- My Berkley -- how intensely I long for you! -- My Sara -- O my dear Love! To Poole -God bless him! -- To dear Mrs Poole, & Ward kindest Love -- & to all Love & Remembrance. S. T. Coleridge (Mr Coleridge, in der Burg Strasse, Göttingen, Germany.) ____________________ 1 Charles and Frederick Parry, brothers of Sir William Parry, the arctic explorer. 2 Anthony Hamilton of St. John's College, Cambridge. -476-