Letter 50


Direct under cover to
Monsr A. Frey Med Dr
à l’Hopital, Basle
Wednesday Novr 8 1848

MY DEAR A—-,–Do not think me incapable of appreciating your offer of visiting me here, if I resolve not to avail myself of it. In the first place I object to the journey, which is free neither from difficulty nor danger in the present state of Germany, at this time of year &c 2ndly You must remember that I am in a hospital, (a very pleasant one, with a large garden into which my window looks,) that strange visitors are only admitted during the day, and you know how short that is; besides I do not wish to remain here a very long time: & when you arrived I might very likely be preparing to leave. I therefore beg you to allow me to decline your proposal without suspecting me of being ungrateful. I am going on well, sit up during the day, and am just beginning to learn to walk.

One feels rather uncertain about Ranke’s merit or demerits as a writer, because perhaps what appears worthy either of praise or censure may not be properly attributable to him. One of his earliest works was a critical survey of the Italian Epic poets, in which an English reviewer (Ed. or Quarterly?) detected an extensive series of acknowledged quotations from Panizzi’s introductory volume to his London Edition of the till then rare Orlando of Bojardo. I do not know whether the criticism was taken notice of in Germany, but it appeared rather a shabby affair; and I have felt a disinclinn to read anything of that writer since.

Lately there have been some audacious instances of plagiarism among the younger German authors, wh. have been sufficiently blamed. The learned were sufficiently abusive of Wagenfeld when he published his false Janchoniathon, because that ingenious literary forgery had been considered genuine by some of their most celebrated philologians. But surely a literary theft is at least equally reprehensible.

Who are now living at Edgeworth’s town? St. Paul’s ranks higher than Christ’s Hospital, I believe, and Emmeline is therefore fortunate in obtaining a presentation for her boy, if she is at as little expense as at the latter school. A clever, diligent youth has a fair chance of a scholarship, I believe, at Oxford.

A new collection of letters from Goëthe to a Frau v. Stein has just issued; they were written during the last century & appear to be interesting. The great superiority of the Germans in their poetical literature consists however in their translations. Voss’s Homer, particularly the Odyssee, (read if possible the first edition of that, or a reprint of the same, because he injured it afterwards by improvements & corrections) Griess’ Ariosto, Tasso & Calderon, Regiss’ Bojardo, Rabelais, Cid, Droyssen’s Æschylus &c are vastly preferable to any translation I know in English, excepting perhaps Motteux’ (who by the way was French by birth & education)
continuation & revisal of Sir I. Urquharts Rabelais.

An acquaintance of mine has taken the trouble to translate Uhland’s Poems, but in want of a London publisher was obliged to print at Frankfort o/m; with the exception of a very few gross blunders his version is correct as well as his versification; and he was wise enough to keep to the metres of his original, even where the hexameter was before him: but he has too much of the conventional poetical language of the fashionable modern potters to please me. It was a difficult and no doubt tedious task, for Uhland’s poetry is nothing but language well coloured, phraseology drearily deserted by ideas.

                                                    Yours truly

Novr 10.

I am getting on very well.

Addressed to
Miss —-
West Town

[Gosse, 1894]