Letter 17


Cassel. Septr 29 [1825]

DEAR KELSALL,–If you ever received a shabby small letter from Hamburg you know that I am a Göttingen student; it is likely that I shall remain so for some time. This university is a handsome likeness of the caricature given of it in all works of the day which exhibit Germany to the delight of you people in that island, but if there is more harm, I believe there is also more good in it than in
our own.

Blumenbach who is my best friend among the professors, is I fancy of the first rank as mineralogist, phisologian, geologist, botanist, natural historian & physician, over and above which he possesses an exuberant fancy & a flow of wit wh is anything but German; indeed I suspect that he is the first living writer in Deutschland, for a nearer acquaintance with Goethe has inclined me to rate him much lower than I had anticipated; out of his works wh fill pretty fatly some 30 vols–not like Mr. Colburns in capacity of page–3 at most contain what is really good. As a poet is he inferior to his late lordship and in the novel line somewhere about Mackenzie. The hasty Germans have betrayed their literature & delivered it to the enemy by exalting him to the supreme godship thereof–but ere his bones are cool probably they will pull down his statue from it’s high pinnacle on the poetic temple and make it a step to the high altar of some new pen-deity–

They treat their poets as the Romans did their emperors–alive they are golden heavenly fellows for whom reviews ascend like triumphal arches–they die a weeping willow & an elegy stick over their graves, and as the tree draws nourishment out of their decaying corporeal substance, a younger rival sets the roots of his fame in their literary remains and flourishes as fast as these latter rot; so Goethe has done with regard to Klopstock & Wieland. Their follies about his sitting between Shakespeare & Sophocles are laughed at every where but in the university–pothouses when they grow glorious on the fumes of smallest ale & rankest tobacco: Nevertheless learn you German if you are not already master of it, as I suppose: for the solider literature deserves it–History I mean & criticism of the true sort–

Ludwig Tieck is just about to publish in English & German a number of the Elizabethan fellows–the young folk will then become acquainted with our literary commoners, the steps up to Shakespeare, & if they do not grow giddy on the ascent will have an opportunity of contemplating from the sides & terraces of this mountainous poetry the molehill wh Goethe & Schiller have thrown up & called the German Parnasso–

I am preparing for deep & thorough medical studies: for I find literary wishes fading pretty fast–however I have writ two acts of an affair wh if ever consummated will be tolerably decent–better I hope than Campbell &c I gave the thing I sent you about Pygmalion to the poor Oxford magaziners but don’t know whether they ever intended to print it–No one will read it if they do for their pages are the shortest cut to oblivion one can think of. And now how do you get on in England: has cousin John calved any more Epicisms? Have Darley, C. Lamb, Mrs. Shelley &c printed? In a word have you anything worth reading? or that you can read without many struggles?

I am here at Cassel a pretty little Capital of a pretty great rascal, the Elector of Cassel, whose father sold some thousands of his wretched subjects to England that he might expend the price of their heads in making a fine garden & building a palace in wh he can’t live. You see what sort of letters I write, & you may bless your stars that they are only quarterly apparitions–I am going to write to Procter just such another, so you may comfort yourself with the thought that there’s fellowship in your post-office misery–

Whenever your pen is unemployed on sheepskins favour me with a line addressed to Herr B–bey Keil. Juden Strasse. Göttingen–Hannover. There are two of the great Rothschild’s sons studying here just opposite me. At Leipsic they have printed a Shakspeare in one vol. very decently & the first edit. of Hamlet. Noehden is right as to the pronunciation of eu–it is oi–& a very broad one too in Hannover where they speak German best.

T.L. B

Addressed to
3 Houndwell Lane

Oct 4

[Gosse, 1894]