To A RELATIVE
Basel Oct 9 1848
MY DEAR A—-,–I should have written to you sometime ago, if I had not unfortunately rather unpleasant news regarding myself to report. Do not, I beg of you, regard the matter on its melancholy side alone, for myself I am quite reconciled to my situation and only dread comforters and condolers.
Late in the summer, in July, I fell with a horse in a precipitious part of the neighbouring hills and broke my left leg all to pieces. In spite of the very best treatment part of the fractured limb was obliged to be sacrificed: (I beg your pardon for this style, but I am writing on my back;) and a month ago the lower part of the leg (below the knee joint) was taken off. Thanks to the power of beneficial Chloroform I felt not the least twitch of pain during the operation, and since then I have been slowly but with sure steps advancing in the way of recovery; and before long hope to dot and go one. As soon as I am quite well I shall return to England, but I fear the winter may intervene.
You ask me to recommend you a German book, but do not say on what kind of subject or in what department of literature: & even if you had, I shd find it hazardous, because tastes & habits, or trains of thought and study render such different things interesting to different individuals. Dreary & dull is dear Mr. Schopenhauer, and Henrik Steffens tells as little truth as possible, I wot in his erlebtend. He has writ some tolerable novels though, sketches of Hyperborean Norwegian life, “Die 4 Norweger” and “Malcolm and Walseth,” (or “Walseth and Leith,” I forget which,) but if you wish to read goodish Memoirs, very well written, ask for Varnhagen von Ense. Have you not read his book about his wife, the wonderful Berlin Jewess, Rahel, (that is the title of his work,)?
This Rahel Robert was really a woman of great talent, and never printed anything during his [sic] life, without the affectation and mendacious vanity of the ginger bread Bettine Brentano. I think Sternberg is one of the best novelists, (a Tieckianer) and then you can read the rather lengthy but well laboured novels (in 3 vols accordg to the English Canon) of the late Frau von Paalzaw–Thomas Thyrnan, St. Roche, Godwic Castle & others. Besides there is Auerbach with Schwarzrwalder Dorpgeschichten, very good, but some black-forest dialect, tho’ not enough to bore you much.
Did you ever enquire for the reisenden Maler by Ernest Wagner, a contemporary of old Wolfgang Goethe? It is one of the best German novels. I do not know why people are always a reading new books. Like new bread ’tis not always the most digestible stuff they are baked of; especially, as you say, in French literature, but the French have nothing since the settling of their language in its present form, (for of course I do not deny the genius of Cl. Marot, Jodelle, Rabelais, Montaigne &c) but Moliere, Le Sage, Beaumarchais &c and the Memoirs, Sevignè included, which are interesting and delightful reading.
I am just employed on St. Simons Mems of Louis XIV and the Regent, and learn ten-times more about the former than from Voltaire. As to Harbers Innocent III, pray recollect that I think of it as a most learned work as opposed to the light manufactures of Ranke on similar subjects. You must not forget either that H. became privately Catholic while he was Antistes (so the Zwinglians call their Bishops) of Schaffhausen, a protestant see; I believe that his con- or per-version was occasioned by his researches for his work on that great Pope, and you allmost trace his growing inclination for Rome thro’ the volumes. They are rather hard reading, being packed so closely with facts, and the style is overladen & J. Müllerish. Read also Gervinus ‘Geschichte d. National-literatur der Deutschen.’