Letter 18


Gottingen Decr 4 [1825]

MY DEAR KELSALL,–Up at 5 Anatomical reading till 6–translation from English into German till 7–Prepare for Blumenbach’s lecture on comp. Anaty & breakfast till 8–Blumenbach’s lecture till 9–Stromeyer’s lecture on Chemistry till 10. 10 to 1/2 p. 12. Practical Zootomy–1/2 p. 12 to 1 English into German or German literary reading with a pipe–1 to 2 Anatomical lecture. 2 to 3 anatomical reading. 3 to 4 Osteology. 4 to 5 Lecture in German language. 5 to 6 dinner and light reading in Zootomy, Chem. or Anaty. 6 to 7 this hour is very often wasted in a visit sometimes Anatomical reading till 8. Then coffee and read Greek till 10. 10 to 11. write a little Death’s Jest book wh is a horrible waste of time, but one must now & then throw away the dregs of the day; read Latin sometimes or even continue the Anatomy–and at 11 go to bed.

I give you this account of my week day occupations that you may collect from it how small a portion of time I can save for correspondence &c  A few words in answer to your last letter. I will frankly confess to you that I have lost much if not all of my ambition to become poetically distinguished: & I do NOT think with Wordsworth that a man may dedicate himself entirely or even in great part to the cultivation of that part of literature, unless he possesses far greater powers of imagination &c than even W. himself, and, (I need not add;) ergo, than I do: or bodily ill-health or mental weak prevents him from pursuing to any good purpose studies in useful sciences.

At the same time I think you will not fear that I shall become at any time a bare & barren man of science, such as are so abundant & so appallingly ignorant on this side of Chemistry or Anatomy. Again, even as a dramatist, I cannot help thinking that the study of anaty phisol-psych: & anthropology applied to and illustrated by history, biography and works of imagination is that wh is most likely to assist one in producing correct and masterly delineations of the passions: great light wd be thrown on Shakspeare by the commentaries of a person so educated. The studies then of the dramatist & physician are closely, almost inseparably, allied; the application alone is different; but is it impossible for the same man to combine these two professions in some degree at least?

The science of psychology, & mental varieties has long been used by physicians, in conjunction with the corresponding corporeal knowledge, for the investigation & removal of immaterial causes of disease; it still remains for some one to exhibit the sum of his experience in mental pathology & therapeutics, not in a cold technical dead description, but a living semiotical display a series of anthropological experiments developed for the purpose of ascertaining some important psychical principle–i.e. a tragedy.

Thus far to show you that my studies, pursued as I pledge myself to pursue them, are not hostile, but rather favourable to the developement of a germ wh I wd fain believe within me. You will say, “this may be theoretically true, but no such physician has ever yet appeared.” I shall have great satisfaction in contradicting you, as Dr. Johnson did the man who denied motion. You talk about too much practice & so forth. I believe that is what is least to be feared; I am very nearly unconnected, am not apt at flattery or the social humiliations to wh the fashionable physician is bound; am perhaps somewhat independent, & have a competence adequate to my philosophical desires–There are reasons why I should reject too much practice, if it did intrude; really I am much more likely to remain a patientless physician.

And now I will end this unnecessary subject, by telling you that Death’s Jest-book goes on like the tortoise slow & sure; I think it will be entertaining, very unamiable, & utterly unpopular. Very likely it may be finished in the spring or summer; I shall not if I can help it return to England, but shall send it to you or Procter to see what can be done about printing it with the Pygmalion & the other thing whose name I forget, as it will have a certain connection in a leading feature with them: of wh I believe the former is much the best.

As yet I have hardly any German acquaintance here, as I cannot speak the language very tolerably; from one or two specimens, with wh I am more intimate & a general external knowledge of the body of students, I can decidedly say of those here at least that they have been causelessly and disgracefully ridiculed in our ignorant & flippant travels & periodicals: There is an appetite for learning, a spirit of diligence, and withal a goodnatured fellow-feeling wholly unparallelled in our old Apoplectic & paralytic Almae Matres; 9 students out of 10 at this time of the year rise at 5 or 6, study the whole day & night, & saturday night & sunday morning are set aside for social communication. I never was better employed, never so happy, never so well self-satisfied. I hope to remain here three years at least, I shall then probably visit Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, some of the Italian curiosities, & finally Paris, for I intend to devote 8 or 10 years to these studies, combined with the languages necessary and a slender thread of practical literature. You see I will not fail of being something by not exercising what talent I have. I feel myself in a measure alone in the world & likely to remain so, for from the experiments I have made I fear I am a non-conductor of friendship, a not-very-likeable person so that I must make sure of my own respect & occupy that part of the brain wh should be employed in imaginative attachments in the pursuit of immaterial & unchanging good.

I am ashamed of having scribbled a letter so full of myself but I send it because it may entertain you & I think you require some explanation of my way of studying medicine. Shame on you for having anticipated a regular M.D. to arise out of my ashes after reduction in the crucible of German philosophy. Apollo has been barbarously separated by the moderns, I would endeavour to unite him. Of German literature, professors here, Anecdote and news in our next, wh will not appear before the receipt of your next.

Yours truly


As P. will certainly not have answered my letter when you are in town at Xmas scold him in your best German. I really will answer him in a German letter if he is so bad again.

Could you find a Prometheus unbound and a Cenci and send them straight and fearlessly to bey Keil Juden Strasse?

Keil is my landlord. bey is Chez.

Addressed to
3 Houndwell Lane

[Gosse, 1894]