Letter 21

To THOMAS FORBES KELSALL

April 1. A bad omen!
[1826]

MY DEAR KELSALL,–If you had received all the letters which I had wished to write to you, you would have little to complain on the score of slack correspondency, but really we people in Germany have as little to say as we people in England and my thoughts all run on points very uninteresting to you–i.e. on entrails and blood-vessels; except a few which every now and then assumed an Iambic form towards the never-ending Jestbook; it lies like a snow ball and I give it a kick every now & then out of mere scorn and ill-humour. the 4th act & I may say the 5th are more than half done, so that at last it will be a perfect mouse: but such doggeril–ask Procter else whom I lately visited with a rhyming punishment for his correspondential sin. Ask him too what he’s doing? I see nothing about editions of poets &c yet? And I assure you I see a great deal about literature and it’s royal society–to wit the Lit. Gaz. which comes regular & dull to the tutor of the Rothschild’s who live opposite: what a poetical Famine: you must be reduced to Bernard Barton & Hunt’s Blacking Bottles, they are the only classical publications of the season.

However if my friend Death lives long enough to finish his jest book it will come with it’s strangenesses, it contains nothing else, like an electric shock among the small critics, & I hope to have the pleasure here of reading a cunning abuse of it from the pen of Jerdan. I’ll tell you what, if Procter does not write any more we will not any longer believe that he’s Barry C. The spirit of some old picture dealer has got into him; did you see the signs that he picked up & took for Correggios; I remember smoking a pipe under them in Shropeshire; do not you? If he scrapes a little he’ll find the Marquis of Granby underneath.

On the 26th Feby we had the Burschen in all their glory: Blumenbach & Eichhorn–that is to say the stream of flowers & the Squirrel–celebrated the 50th anniversary of their professorships. As soon as it was dark between 5 & 600 of us, horse & foot, assembled each with a torch & formed a two & two procession thro’ the town to the house where they were feasting, drew round the square, and on Blumenbachs appearance at the window a short speech was made by the leader followed by several tremendous “vivats!”

He made his speech; we departed and threw our torches into a bonfire. This however was only the halo, the pale outskirt, now comes the thick dazzling centre of the promised Burschen glory–and that was the commerz, i.e. a general assemblage of all the different Landsmannschaften here to drink and of course smoke together. I went with the Russians; for we few English don’t agree well enough to form a separate club & altogether decline to risk the character of the country by pushing forward as its representatives in this holy alliance. The great ceremony consisted in a long anthem during which half a dozen men with swords took the cap of every one present in rotation off his head and singing the solemn words thrust it on the sword–when the weapons were sheathed to the hilt in their crowns, they were again returned as solemnly to the possessor in state of perforation and replaced on his head as he chaunted an oath “bald ein wahren Bursch zu seyn.”

In the end we came to a general attack upon tables benches windows & heads and about 3 o’clock in the morning the flower of the german youth was as drunk as a fidler: intending to hear a lecture at 8. Blumenbach is one of the cleverest men in Germany; his works are distinguished for nicety, acuteness and the minutest acquaintance with the in: and outside of Nature: but in his lecture-room he would be a capital subject for Mathews: he lectures on Natural History, that is his auditors bring his very capital manual in their hands & sit out: in an instant one hears a noise as of Punch on the stairs & the old powdered professor pushes in grunting amid as much laughter as Liston. He then begins a lecture composed of jokes, good stories, imitations, inarticulate sounds & oaths & this being ended goes as he came–a good clever merry old man.

Then there is Langenbeck the Anatomist who was once a barber, he’s the Kemble of this Munden: during his lecture he throws himself into a thousand attitudes–starts, points and declaims and paces loftily up and down his little stage–he too is a man of firstrate merit as anatomist and surgeon.

Heeren squeaks like Velluti; Hugo is lame and Bouterwek deaf; this is the story about them–quite a provençal tale.

When young in their travels Heeren fell in love with the wife of a very fierce grenadier; and one evening when the husband was out, went to enjoy a tete a tete with the lady–to prevent interruption he placed his friends as centinels, Bouterwek at the bottom, Hugo at the top of the stairs: the man comes in drunk, gives Bouterwek a box on the ear that knocks him over and deafens him for life, runs up, kicks Hugo all the way down stairs & breaks his leg: breaks into the room and does to Heeren what Bowdler does to Shakspeare. Had the friend of Dr. Johnson who wrote a tragedy the catastrophe of which was castration heard this story he might have produced a noble Gaeteo.

You’d be quite delighted to see how I disguise myself here: no human being wd imagine that I was anything but the most stoical, prosaic, dull anatomist: I almost outwork the laborious Lauerkrauss–and to tell you truly I begin to prefer Anatomy &c to poetry, I mean to my own, & practically besides I never cd have been the real thing as a writer: there shall be no more accurate physiologist & dissector. Now you must tell me all about the Last Man; I am very glad that Mrs. S[helley] has taken it from the New Monthly Fellow–and am sure that in almost every respect she will do much better than either of us: indeed she has no business to be a woman by her books. Remember I wrote twice & don’t remember that No 2 was a rankly selfish effusion.

How I envy you the pleasure of dissecting & laughing at such a grotesque fish as the Improvisatore. Don’t be malicious & give it to the reviewers, else I will publish “The Southampton Bowwindow a Satire on Kelsall.” You may look out for some entertainment in “Bristol Macaronics”–it is written by Eagles a very clever fellow, author of a translation of the Batrachomyomachia published by Elton in Lond. Mag.

Benecke who taught Coleridge German here, says that he has a very superficial knowledge of it. From what I know of Kant, i.e. his Anthropology–a very sensible acute man-of-the-world book–I suspect C. has never read him, at all events he has given the English a totally absurd opinion of him. Thank you for the box, because it never came. Do what you will or can with the other things: you are very welcome to Schiller to enrich your upper shelves: I shall not read him ever again. Ask me about poets? &c talk of Anatomists & I’ll tell you something. I have left off reading Parnassian foolery? I can bear a satire still tho’ and write one as Jest-book shall show. Tell me about the last Man. I am very much obliged to Mrs. S. she has saved me the trouble of spreading the secret of Campbell’s ears: direct now.

An Herrn &c

bey Straus. 484. Buch Strasse

& give this direction to the late Barry Cornwall, I send his dead body, wh has the impudence to pretend to live still & does not write even to me,–a wrong man

This is the true S. Pure.–

Does Procter write in Kellsall’s Magazine? At the end of my next book shall be Arion (A: wry: one)–a monody on the Death of B.C. with proposals for an edition of his works in usum Delphini–Did I ever pun before? It is anatomy that works in me so wittily. Adieu. T.L.B.

Thank you for the box to day–because it has come. You’re right the Cenci is best, because truest. Your inventory was most capital, a legal exercise I presume, particularly the logical division of Woollen stuffs–I for the throat II for the neck III for the wrist. If I had room I could find in my heart to be as tedious as the two kings of Brentford all over again. Why did you send me the Cenci? I open my own page, & see at once what damned trash it all is. No truth or feeling. How the deuce do you, a third & disinterested person, manage to tolerate it? I thank heaven that I am sitting down pretty steadily to medical studies. Labour then can do almost all. Only think of growing old under the laurels of the literary Gazette or Campbell’s Mag. Have you seen the Monthly Mag. since its resurrection? Tomorrow I electrify Benecke, who has a considerable indifference to Ld Byron, with Shelley. It will give him a new idea of Englishmen. I shd like to see your agony on this Cross–it being Easter week. You dont study Anatomy, Botany, Physiology? Chemistry &c. Come write me.

How many pipes do you smoke every day? I’m quite a novice only three, I will bring Procter a magnificent Meerschaum Kopf if he’ll promise to smoke it yellow or you either. Depend on it tis the great help to Metaphysics? Have you seen Leigh Hunt since his return? & what is Elia about? And Darley?

Addressed to
“T.F. KELSALL Esqre
3 Houndwell Lane
Southampton
England”

[Gosse, 1894]