Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Translation of William Lovell by Ludwig Tieck. Part I.

(For PDF versions of all six parts of my translation of William Lovell, go to The Worldview Annex.)

William Lovell
Book I

Charles Wilmont to his friend Mortimer in London

Bondly in
Yorkshire, May 17

How in the world has it come to pass that you have not written? A hundred conjectures have flown through my mind, but not so much as a single one of them has found a settled perch. Now I suppose you dead, now that you are out of town; now I believe that I have somehow or other made you angry, now that your letter is lost in the post. But as I said, I actually can believe none of these things. Or have you perchance turned traitor, and sworn allegiance to the black flag of tediously lugubrious earnestness? I should then be sorry for you; but if you do not wish to write humorous letters to me, then at least send me something in earnest: and yet, as I said, I do not wish it of you, for you were born to make a single joke out of your entire life, and to live in humor as if in your [natural] element. I have still not discovered in anyone that happy mixture of temperament[s] that carries you along under full sail over the dancing waves, while earthly cares—heavy, awkward and with tattered hawsers—paddle behind you without ever hauling you in.—I am writing you this letter as a petition, or as a declaration of war, answer me in friendship or in fury—but write! Be melancholy, wistful, magnanimous, bellicose, cheerful, earnest; praise, scorn, revile me—but write!
After this pathetic invocation there remains nothing further than to begin my letter proper, which first of all would like to say to you that I am safe and sound here at Bondly, that I am thinking of you, that London is not Bondly and Bondly is not London, and that if I carry on writing this letter in this vein, you will have a hard time reading it through to the end.

In truth can you not fairly see what a tedious life I am living here in the country? My wit had not thus absconded when I was in your merry company in London, where wine, song, dance, and kisses from the most ravishing lips enraptured us, when our humor rolled along [in a coach and] six brisk horses on the level highway of recklessness and oblivion of all the consequences and miseries of this life—well, we shall meet again! Here I fancy myself a kind of snail that only timorously ever quits its dwelling with half its body, and slowly and awkwardly creeps from one blade of grass to the next—to be sure, the neighborhood is quite lovely, the garden pleasant, and heaven arranges many a sumptuous sunset for us—but what is a country neighborhood, be it ever so lovely, without friends to partake of our pleasures with us? Nothing but a frame without a picture: we see in it only the potential cause of our delight. And so I subsist here, from one day to its identical successors; now and then we are paid visits and repay them—and so we live on the whole not unpleasantly. If only it were not for this eternal monotony!

My constant companion is William Lovell, the vivacious youth whom you saw once or twice last year in London; he is visiting his bosom friend Edward Burton here. William is an excellent young man whom I would cherish all the more if he would just once seem to want to establish a firm footing with me; but he flourishes in no [terrestrial] soil. No eagle is on such friendly terms with the ether and all celestial climes as he, he often flies so far from my gaze that he puts me in mind, in all seriousness, of poor Icarus—in a word: he is a dreamer. When such a being once feels the power of his wings flagging, the air that he put so much trust in giving out—then he blindly allows himself to fall, his wings are snapped in two, and must forever after crawl.

On damp evenings it is perfectly permissible, especially for a man in an official position, to wear a warm, full-skirted coat—but if one were never allowed to take it off, and if one were [at the same time] obliged to change into a dressing-gown or hunting clothes...hence I prefer to wear my modest tailcoat at all times. The Hippocrene spring may be quite a fine body of water, but to cool one’s stomach with it, and thereby catch a fever, can hardly be an especially agreeable experience. But there are people who would blow their brains out for sheer contrariety's sake; and William stands well to the fore of their rearmost ranks. We often have our little disputes on the subject, and what is worst about it is that I am driven from the field every time; but quite naturally, for whenever I happen to be content merely to skirmish with light cavalrymen, he fires with 24-pound ordnance on my best troops: if now and then a pair of hussars get the clever idea of trying to have a go at him, he brings in all at once a whole train of heavy infantry, e.g.: Laughter is not the purpose of life, incessant mirth presupposes a lack of all subtlety of feeling, etc. Or he withdraws behind the cannons of his citadel, sighs and says nothing at all in reply.

You will doubtless ask: what has made the free and easy, lighthearted William [of old] into such a melancholy dreamer? I shall discover to you the secret cause wherefore he acts despite himself—he is in love!--love, which makes people gayer, happier; which needs must put into their elbows the strength to lift a hundredweight, so as to shove aside all cares that stand athwart their path: love—Oh, ye heavens! What evil has love not already done in this world?

If there is still a piece of the Mortimer of old in you, you will want to know who this all-powerful sun is; she who with her fiery beams [has seared] the heart of poor William—no one other than my sister. She has indeed observed his love, but he seems not to have observed that this observation has not been displeasing to her, for there is but little to keep her from loving him in her turn. There are the most laughable scenes, as when he repeatedly mollifies her in the garden and diligently searches for her in the nearest avenue, when they spend long hours together while uttering scarcely a syllable; when he sighs and feels miserable beyond belief because she has not spontaneously flung herself into his arms, in short: he is unhappy because he is happy—but also, on the other hand, happy because he has such an abundance of unhappiness; for believe me, he would not sell his poetic suffering for a fortune.
Suddenly there came the news: my sister must depart hence. Her visit to me and to good old Burton was prolonged as slowly as possible from one week to the next; the barometer rose ever higher the nearer the day of her departure approached. Nearly everyone remarked his heaviness of heart; but he struck them as having a kind of brazen, vexed sorrow in his eyes: he had never before been so cut and dry. Now and then he approached me, and went on long walks with me to this place and that; I was afraid all along of being thrust into the role of confidant, and on pain of death--or of the end of the world, or of any such trifle—being officially initiated into some sort of mystery; but no: I had been mistaken, to fulfill that role I should have been obliged, at minimum, to submit my curriculum vitae in sighs and wine-stains. With a markedly forced coldness, such that his eyes were virtually brimming over with tears, he asked me whether my sister might not be escorted on horseback? I now perceived what he was aiming at. He wished for me to escort my sister for a few miles so as to furnish him with a pretext for riding with her himself. It really did strike me that [as] he attached so much importance to this trifle, he [was] a very worthy young man—I immediately said yes, and even begged him for his company. The next day [the three of us] set out. Are human beings not foolish creatures? How many an unhappy soul would not have done with the world and annihilate every last trace of his own epitaph, were it not for [the thought that] everyone would fain providently fling his own pebble or stone on to the great rock heap—to speak plainly for necessity’s sake: were it not for [the thought] that, having at least contributed his fair share, he may not have lived in vain. If only we went straight and early to work, if we did not so willingly allow ourselves to be so duped by unwholesome imaginings, believe me, the world would be much happier, and its inhabitants much more virtuous. But do you think I would venture to say as much to him? Never. Curious that a man can deliberately fall asleep, and afterwards not wish to be awakened from his dreams, because he believes that he is already awake—and I deem it cruel to pour cold water on him.

You see how the atmosphere of the country agrees with me: I, I am beginning to moralize—but that, too, falls under the heading of human failings, and every upright citizen of the earth is obliged to make some individual contribution of tax to the general treasury of humanity.

God grant you the longest of lives, so that I need not reproach myself for having taken up so much of your time with a long letter; but you will wish to remain my friend, nor shall I have much cause to complain, all things considered, that I am

P. S. I am just now reading my letter through once again and noticing to my horror that I am about to send you a bushel of chaff in which, as Shakespeare says, you will not find a single grain of wheat. [See The Merchant of Venice, I.I.115-118 (DR).] I am sitting down to write to you that my sister is returning to London and that hence you cannot help making her acquaintance; that I am not coming to London because Old Burton would be just as loath as his son to see it—the old man seems to relish my company—and who knows whether I myself would have done so otherwise.

"Why?" I hear you asking. Could I not simply close the letter and leave you standing there with your question in your open mouth, and inspect the seal? Have you not had [enough] occasion in a single letter to exhibit your sagacity to me and to remit to me a thousand elucidations without also touching on the truth with one syllable?

Young Burton (who really is a splendid young man; pity that I will not be one in this life)—Young Burton has a sister, who is also the daughter of Old Burton—

--Fear not, I shall never fall into the pit that Lovell has dug for himself!
I have seriously determined that it shall be no amour, for--see how beautifully it all aligns!--for my estate is much too small compared with hers.

Are you laughing? And would not the world laugh at you if you missed out on an alliance here?

William Lovell is also coming to London one of these days--hence, you may imagine why I have seen fit to write so much about him.

I am, once again (for one cannot be such a thing too often), your most affectionate friend.
Charles Wilmont.

William Lovell to Edward Burton

May 18

I am writing to you, Edward, from an inn past York, it is night and Charles is sleeping in the next room--everything around me is solemn and still; the toll of a distant village church bell is carried hither from time to time and sounds like a death knell to my ears.

I sit here alone, like some wretched pauper who has awoken from a golden dream in his own hut. The [final] dulcet chords of the symphony have sounded, the play has ended; one light after another is being extinguished. It is in this state of feeling that I write to you, friend, brother; my soul seeks consolation and finds it at its purest and warmest in you.

I am never so attentive as during these moments upon which, as upon a trivial occurrence, upon one insignificant trifle, a change in our character often depends. An imperceptible blow often repairs and reshapes our spirit; who knows the rules according to which our guardian angel is exchanged for another? Edward, a dark and dubious foreboding has assailed me, as if these present moments were marking one of the epochs of my life; it is as though I were being bidden a tearful farewell by my angel, who now abandons me to the play of relations—as I am thrust into a dark wilderness, wherein I now and then discern the fluctuating forms of malevolent demons among the twilit shadows.

Yes, Edward, I scoff at my weakness; I am at these moments as superstitious as a child; night and solitude have turned my fancy topsy-turvy, I gaze like a seer into the deep waters of the future; I perceive shapes that ascend towards me, friendly and serious, but a whole host of frightful creatures. The straight thread of my life is beginning to twist itself into knots that cannot be untied, and I may perchance sacrifice my existence in vain to the effort to untie them.

Heretofore my life has been an uninterrupted dance of joy; I have innocently frittered away my years and laughingly abandoned myself to the fleeting passage of time; I reveled in the fair present and feasted on dreams of a golden future; in a state of supremely blissful obtuseness I loved God like a father, my fellow men like brothers, and myself as the center of creation, on whom nature showered the full measure of her beneficence. Now I stand at a threshold from which I perchance will be ruthlessly expelled into the school of hardship for the sake of an education that is to make a man out of the child that I am: and will I be any happier upon my return from this severe course of study than I was before?

And do I really have a right to complain of my misfortune? And am I truly unlucky? Does Amalie really love me; is she mine, such that her distance from me is capable of making me sad?Am I not the son of a loving father, the friend of a noble friend? And I [dare] speak of hardship? To what end this obstinacy, that I should imagine that she alone is my salvation? Yes, Edward, I want to withstand my weakness; but longing and desires are not criminal offenses. I do not wish to take fate to task, but human weakness must be suffered to complain; he who does not sigh has never lost.

A fearful constriction presses down on my breast like a weight whenever I think back on those few happy days in Bondly and compare them with my long, long, joyless future. Love showed me the light; dawn unfurled its crimson standard across the heavens; all of the surrounding hills glowed and blazed in joyous incandescence—now the sun has once again set, and bleak night surrounds me. I have lost my beloved comrades and in vain cry their names into the darkened woods; the hollow echo thrown back at me affords no consolation; the vast and solitary void cares not a fig for my wretchedness. A biting wind gloatingly gusts over my [head] and shakes the last leaf from my trees.

Black was the night and darkened stars were shimm’ring,

Through sheets of clouds both dull and pale,
The fields annulled the spiritual vale,
The Fates forsook me, coldly ceased all giving
And angry gods consigned me to the living.

The owl perturbed me with its cradle-singing
And bade me through the tranquil air
A dreadfully fair welcome here!
Wan grief and misery descended
And greeted me like one erewhile befriended.

Thou spok’st of grief in terror’s witching moments
To torments thou art consecrate,
A targe of fate’s ferocity,
The bows are bent, and every hour
New wounds to your frail flesh are foments.

From you all human joys will hasten,
No being in friendly tones will give you speech,
You’ll tread the stony upper reach,
Where crannies loom, where nary a flower is nascent,
Where radiant sunbeams burn, and, burning, chasten.

’Tis Love, whose chime through all creation rings.
The screen of misery and sorrow,
The blossom of the earthly morrow,
That our poor heart to highest heaven sings,
That to thirst’s parchèd gorge refreshment brings,

Eternally your friendship Love forswears,
Behind your steps the gate is closing,
In swift pursuit, e’er nearer nosing,
Wild horses will attend upon despair
And drive you to bleak climes whither no joy repairs.

You’ll sink back into night’s eternal gloom,
A thousand ills will seal your fate,
Pure pain alone attest your state!
You’ll find, indeed, true happiness too soon,
In nature’s last embrace: the tomb.

At many moments I seem to myself like a child that cries without even knowing why he is crying. I returned just now from a short walk in the open country: the moon shimmered in marvelous shapes through the trees, whose shadows chased each other hither and yonder in the moonlight; nocturnal solitude has rocked my heart to sleep; I view myself and the world more equably and can now discover my unhappiness only in myself. I foresee a time in which my present sentiments will be but dimly remembered like empty dreams, when I shall compassionately smile at this heartache that is now my torment and my bliss; and—[dare] I confess it to you, Edward?—this premonition saddens me. If this ardent heart of mine little by little grows cold, this spark of divinity within me burns away to ashes and the world perchance terms me more reasonable, what will take the place of [that] tender love with which I should now wish to encompass the world? Reason will anatomize the beauties whose winsome harmony now intoxicates me: I will better understand the world and mankind, but I will love them less. No sooner has one has found the solution to the most ingenious[ly contrived] puzzle/riddle than it comes to seem [a piece of] inept[itude].

My letter now seems to me [altogether] overwrought, I should like to tear it up, I am annoyed at myself—but no, I will not spare myself this humiliation in your sight. I will accordingly also confess to you that while I am writing, there is a kind of consolation for me in the thought that I shall be obliged all too soon to forsake you as well; hence, my bitterness seems justified in the light of my fate. But now all of these dreams have vanished, now I feel in my heart of hearts that you are indispensable to my existence; but no less acutely I also perceive that my recollection of Amalie will never seem [nothing worse than] a bad dream to me; only once was I deceived by such a misgiving--the reciprocation of my love for her would be tantamount to my attainment of an inexpressible happiness. I shall never forget the look with which she so often used to regard me, the sweetness with which she spoke to me; everything, everything is so intimately interwoven in all my sensations, including even my earliest memories, that I can lose nothing pertaining to them without losing out in point of happiness. Ah, Edward, if only she loved me! My heart is overflowing and fain to burst at the thought—if only she loved me!—why did I not fall into her arms then —why am I sitting here now and recording what I feel and could have felt? As the clearing in the forest where we would bid each other farewell drew nearer—all the hills and trees were reeling round me and towards me—my breast was seized and racked by an indescribable dread—the carriage wished to stop, I let it keep moving and thus in my thoughts I was constantly moving from one tree to the next—constantly winning one more brief interval in which I saw her, in which I heard the sound of her voice—finally the carriage stopped—we alighted. She embraced her brother lingeringly; I approached [them], trembling, I wished this moment in my heart of hearts to be over; she curtsied me; I reeled and gazed at her; I was of a mind to plunge into her arms—I bowed to her and kissed her cheek—an icy coldness swiftly seized me—the carriage rolled onwards.

Why did I not say to her how much she filled my soul? If I did not misconstrue her final glance—was it not sorrow and sadness that spoke therefrom? But perhaps on her brother’s account? But what of the tenderness with which she regarded me? Oh, what a dreadful restiveness drives the eager blood through my veins!

Perhaps she is now sleeping. I must appear to her in [her] dreams; in dreams I can think [about] her and her alone so ardently. Soon she will be coming to London, making new acquaintances and renewing old ones; they will gossip, they will sing her praises, they will worship her, wheedling liars will worm their way into her heart—and I shall be forgotten! No friendly gaze turns back toward me in my loneliness; I remain accordingly in a world devoid of friends, a world like a clock on whose face sorrow is continuously describing the same slow, monotonous circle.

Her brother Charles was smiling as we rode back. I should have preferred to cry. Oh, why must men so gladly make sport of their brothers’ sorrows? Granted that there are sufferings of which these men have no notion or that they regard as unreasonable: they weigh no less heavily on the heart for all that. I required sympathy, a heart capable of feeling—and that sneering smirk, that cold contempt—oh, Edward, it was as though, lost in the forest, I were knocking on the door of a cottage, and receiving no answer save for a dull, faint echo from within the abandoned house.

Farewell. I intend next to visit my aunt Butler at Waterhall for a few days. Pay my regards to your dear sister, and forgive me my foibles: But I know your heart, which sympathizes with all the sufferings of humanity, which can make light of nothing that agitates the soul of his weaker brother, which rejoices with the joyful and weeps with the tearful.

Old Willy to his brother Thomas,
Gardener at Waterhall


If I’ve heard aright, my dear young master is staying at your house now. Be properly hospitable to him, and I want it seen to as if old Willy himself were there in person. He is, as I was saying, either already there or yet to arrive there; the day before yesterday he was on horseback, and looking so nice and handsome as only a man in the three kingdoms who would accompany a lady travelling in a private carriage to London can look. As I was saying, Miss Malchen left here the day before yesterday as well. And so little by little the place is emptying out, but jolly Master Wilmont came back yesterday with his grey horse; he was properly tired and had lost a horseshoe along the way besides.

Old Toby here in the village, whose death we have been prophesying for 20 years now, has finally actually died; and that led me to think of you, good old Tom, for you are almost as old as he was—but I hope God will once again grant you an advance of, say, ten years; as you [once] had a grave illness and I had to pray for you so many nights on end [then]. That is why I am counting only on you to pray for me, now that I am about to go into foreign countries where no one will understand my language.

Yes, dear Tom, you may well be astonished, I was not doing a jot better and I had already known it before. With these old eyes of mine I am yet fated to see foreign parts—Italy, France, I only hope it’s not Turkey; [for] so long as I meet with people of kindred faith, I think myself still among good friends, [but] where the Turks begin, friendship ends; for he who does not love my God cannot love me either; they have their own god unto themselves, and he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Would I ever see my dear brother again? For the other day Master William said something like that the journey would cost a couple of years (apart from the money); and would I not say if I came back [at the end of those two years], and had seen the whole world, [‘What good has this done me now that I can never see my brother Tom again?’]? I have already pictured to myself a black cross standing on a green hillock there in the corner of the churchyard, where the tall walnut-tree grows, and your name, Thomas, in capital letters on it, and that is a sore vexation to me; oh, my dear brother, I would rather have [spent my days supping] with you behind the oven [i.e., in the kitchen, like the other servants?--DR], and trading tales of the Scottish war [i.e., the ’45?--DR]. So you must pay me a visit. I could have almost wept yesterday, and that is hardly good form for such an old man.

Speak no more [to me] of money. You are if nothing else my brother, we are old men; if I could secure your life with the whole of my miserable pittance, do not ask whether I’d do it. Come to Bondly, or let yourself be brought here; for at your age feet are no longer made for walking. My money is yours; you have been ill for a long time, and my master gives me more than I need. How can one brother be guilty in the eyes of another? In God’s eyes we are all guilty, and may He accordingly protect you.

Willy, your brother for ever.

Burton to William Lovell


I expect that you will be staying at Waterhall for a few days, and am therefore sending you this letter, which arrived [here] yesterday. How very much I love[/ed] you I [have] perceived upon reading your letter. I have always envied you the liveliness of your fancy, the susceptibility of your temperament, but I am beginning to be fearful [on your account]. Love, trust, friendship, faith, these are life and happiness, but they flourish only in sound hearts, they demand [peace and courage]. Oh, my dear friend, there are indeed demons, they are that dark dread, that wallowing in unhappiness and melancholy apprehensions, to which our soul is all too fain to surrender itself. Once life has become so dark that no ray of true joy can fall upon it, they reign in that gloom and fairly bring to pass the doom that we earlier beheld from afar with silent dread. Throw yourself into the arms of friendship and love, and let time have its way; it passes and just as often takes a turn for the better in which we cannot believe, as it does for the worse. The more deeply you love, the stronger your confidence needs must be.


Old Lovell to his son
(Enclosure of the preceding)


You have not written in a long time, dear William, and from this I conclude that you are still finding [sufficient] entertainment in the arms of your friend and of fair nature. These years in which you are living are the years of keenest delight, therefore enjoy yourself even if you must forget some part of what you formerly desired: if your spirit is enlarged in your silent contemplation of nature and her treasures, you may in the meantime invest certain of the objects of your remembrance as a principal, which you will subsequently recover with ample interest. Perhaps, too, your health will thereby be so greatly fortified, that you will not, like me, have to suffer a thousand calamities, and will be able to exert all of your powers unimpaired, in the most felicitous activity; whereas one who is weaker must beg leave of a thousand circumambient trifles before [bestirring himself].

For the past few days I have been staying at a country seat not far from London, the same one that I have written to you of more than once--the one that I am thinking of buying. My indisposition seems to be of a lingering sort; I think of the air here in the lowlands as being purer and healthier than up there in the dales. My recent illness, however, has reminded me of the fragility of life; I am becoming quite an old man, in which capacity one is inclined to withdraw from the world and to fashion for himself a precious little circle within whose circumference each and every thought and sensation is a familiar one. Oh, dear William, I have pictured to myself in the fairest colors the life that I shall lead once you have returned, a fully-formed man of the world, from your travels; how my last days will fly by in free and easy luxury; how I shall find a safe and permanent haven from all those storms that have clouded my life's horizon. Now I must be on my guard; I must defer this pleasure too far [into the future]; I must begin to be sparing of my time; a year is already a great sum for me--a year, which the prodigal youth, gloating in his excesses, so often [and so] cavalierly squanders. My hair is turning gray; my strength is breaking to pieces; hence it is my fondest wish that you should set out on your travels as soon as possible, even sooner than we recently determined. Send me your reply to the present letter at once; or, better yet, come to see us in person. In the meantime I shall attend to the health of an elderly companion in your retinue. Farewell, till I may once again press you to my bosom.

William Lovell to Edward Burton


In a few days I shall be returning to you in order to bid you a slow farewell. My father desires that I should set out earlier from England than he did before; he is almost continuously ill and I fear for his life, hence do I anticipate all of his wishes. Besides, it would be best to pass quickly through a period wherein I should very much regret having not entirely reciprocated his affection for me. My father is living hard by London—and, Edward, I shall see her again. My melancholy forebodings are now become nothing but dreams; one laughs at such terrors at sunrise. Hopes are awakening in my breast; I trust in my father’s love. [What i]f I now ventured to sketch for him a picture of happiness, [of] how I would partake of it in her arms; if I led him into the inner sanctum of my heart and showed him that pure and eternal fire that blazes for the sweet[est of] divinities? Would he be so stern as to tear me from the image, to take from me my fairest sensations, to close up the hall of the temple for the sake of building a miserable hut out of its ruins? But I fear my father regards my happiness from an entirely different point of view; he is older and that fair dawn of fancy has fled his quarter of the horizon, he measures the dimensions of the palace with the yardstick of reason; whereas the younger fanatic gazes at it in enraptured astonishment--ah, Edward, he perhaps estimates my happiness, while I would rather that he felt it; he perhaps seeks to prepare a bright future for me and imputes his sentiments to me; he is forming intimacies with others in order to make my reputation, in order to hoist me aloft into the great wide world, little realizing that I prefer the bucolic shadows of the forest and behold in this great wide world nothing but an infinite chaos of misery.

I have spent a few days here in sweet sadness, abandoned to myself alone and to my own sensations; I noiselessly eavesdropped on the wistful melody of my ever-changing moods. The companionable forest consoled me with its solemn rustle; the springs wept in sympathy with me. Nowhere can one wander forsaken; with a motherly step nature follows the ailing heart; love and benevolence address us in every plaint, friendship extends its arm to us from every branch and twig.

Now the heavens laugh with me in their brightest sunshine; the flowers and trees are fresher and lovelier, the grass at the edge of the sea [or is it a lake?--DR] nods smilingly toward me; the waves dance their way toward me and the shore. No, I shall not despair; never will my sorrow contrive to debase me to such a degree that I shall forcibly, and while grimacing like a beast, spurn love and friendship. A noble spirit is obliged to submit with forbearance even to the greatest of injuries.


Edward Burton to William Lovell


I am heartily glad that you are of better cheer; come presently to Bondly, and I shall exact the enjoyment of a few more happy days in your company. Then you will part from me in order to salute as an actuality that dream that we so often have dreamed together; nature and art, people and majestic cities bid welcome to you, and only my most ardent wishes and prayers can attend you [thither].

Would that I could attend you in person! But I have already long since renounced this erstwhile fondest hope of mine; my father would regard any time spent on such an expedition as wasted, and I prefer not to bully his consent out of him. He detests the enthusiasm with which I speak from time to time about the heroes of antiquity, or the divinity of an artist; he looks down upon these childish ebullitions of the blood—as he terms all enthusiasms—with disdain; he spurns all belief in the elevated feelings of friendship; he smiles pityingly at everything that in you is so good and keen, and prophesies in his faithlessness that we will never understand each other and that our so-called friendship can only end in misery for both of us. He loves people who can never extricate themselves from the objects with which they are surrounded; he scoffs at everything that is known as the elevation of thought and feeling. There are perhaps few people who have allowed their beings to be so deeply permeated by the prejudices and received ideas of convention. Is this knowledge of human nature that speaks through him[? If] so, I do not envy him who needs must have paid dearly for what he holds to be so true. But so often we believe we have had a glimpse into the soul of another, when we [have] only heard the whispering of our own mind.

He forgives me the bitterness that occasionally and even now rises in me, but I am too often obliged to suffer from his coldness. He is older than I, he can often be deceived; the fairest sensations have perhaps forsworn themselves to him, he has with effort extirpated from his bosom what once flowered there in such splendor and [abundance]; but he ought not to demand that I should trust in his experience without scrutiny, or if I find it confirmed that I should therefore become hard-hearted and renounce all belief in every harmonic tone, [simply] because all the keys that I strike [happen to] encounter broken strings—no, in me he shall bring up a son who will one day discharge the debt that he is bequeathing to me as my inheritance—it grieves me, because he is my father—but believe me, William, I shall have many a poor man to console and many an orphan’s birthright to restore.

To you and you alone do I dare speak thus. How I envy you your good fortune! You are going to see Raphael and Michelangelo’s paintings, all the great memorials of history—while I sit here imprisoned at Bondly.

Amalie Wilmont to her brother Charles Wilmont


I arrived in London yesterday; the tumult of the city—the clamor of its carriages and its boisterousness—contrasted very much with the calm of the countryside that I had so lately left behind. It was sad to drive once again into the streets that I had left behind in a spirit of such joyousness; it was as though they were the walls of massive prison.

Since then I have often thought about you and about my lovely sojourn at Bondly. The neighborhood was so charming, our little society so cozy; everyone comprised, as it were, a single soul—and everything that [shone] in the radiance of the springtime sun—ah! I shall perhaps not be so happy again for quite a long time indeed!

Present my compliments to Lovell and thank him for [having so kindly escorted us].

London strikes me, unregarded as I am by the multitude, as being a very lonely place; my chambers have become entirely foreign to me; everything is so cramped and gloomy; no fields, no trees, are to be seen; and when, on the other hand, I think upon those charming hills and fair mountain ranges, upon those lakes and waterfalls; on those thick, ever-rustling woods, and on the multifarious life of nature, I am much of a mind to retrace my steps for the sake of leaving this ever-busy but lifeless chaos behind me once again.

Our parents are well; they are heartily glad to see me again.

Dear brother, I really had nothing more to say to you than that you should present my compliments to Lovell—but I have said that once already; the horrible din from the street has put me all in a muddle.


Mortimer to Charles Wilmont

Why have I not written to you in such a long time? You ought to have grown accustomed to the fact that in this mortal [coil] there are a multitude of incidents, influences, actions, and omissions that are without [rhyme] or reason. There are people who are moved to weep by an Allegro, or who at [the liquescent tones of] an Adagio feel an irresistible urge to dance; who here looks for causes? I likewise, for my part, have certain periods of indolence, when every pen is repugnant to me, when a letter I am obliged to write can [positively] terrify me; but I have not yet on that account stooped to penning any weighty philosophical meditations on whether the soul or the body be to blame for these things, [or] on which intervening ideas and combinations [thereof] the latter may hinge.

We therefore wish to make a clean break with all of that; expect no apologies [from me], for I have none; I cannot even [/moreover] beg your pardon, for I know that you have not taken anything amiss; I wish to say only this much in the way of recompense: that this indolence is among those qualities that I wish over time to cure myself of.

Your supposition is otherwise not entirely incorrect; that I have become, if you absolutely must so term it, more earnest. With you the spirit of our jolly fellowship forsook us, and [as] one may go only so far in contravening one’s [own nature, I own] that there is something inherently superficial in the so-called pleasure-seeking way of life, a [certain] prosiness, that often puts me quite vividly in mind of the boredom of Tantalus. I am therefore at present keeping myself more withdrawn from such company; I am more [often] alone and—you will perhaps laugh—I have often begun to recommence my studies and to recollect what I learned in the course of my travels.

But do not take me for a weakling of the sort who, starting from an attack of boredom, straight away pitches himself head over heels into such a stony seriousness that the dogs in the street bark at him; think not by any stretch of the imagination that I am now sitting here with a sour countenance and believing myself to be keeping my spirit wondrously busy, while I yawn with philosophical seemliness and broodingly pulverize a pinch of snuff between my fingers. Take me not for a being that spoils for himself all enjoyment of his own age, while setting himself a thousand useless tasks and working himself up to the pitch of admiration at the sheer quantity of his labors. No, Charles, I am ever still the same free and easy Mortimer who laughs ever yet as willingly as before, and who desires nothing more passionately than to be able to laugh once again with you in a hearty duet. Oh, I should like to pour forth my [Dinte] in black dirges, or plagiarize the choicest passages in Young’s Night Thoughts, that I might make you fully sensible of how much I miss you.

If everything you write to me about William Lovell is true, he is in a bad way; it always saddens me to see a young man denying himself the joys of existence. Is there anything more tasteless than to sigh, to weep, and to drive the joys of the world from one metaphor into the next—and to be sure, how supremely clever and judicious!—because another being is not also whining and complaining [?]—and to be sure, moreover, because I am doing so [?] For I have indeed already seen lovers who were so loved that to be a grain short was a burden to them—who were perpetually the unhappiest creatures in the world; [who] because their mistress had come up to them laughing, and they had thought she was actually crying, because they were obliged to take leave of each other for two eternally long hours [so that she could] make a lengthy journey to the next street over, to her uncle, who wanted to sign a bill of exchange over to them. There are actors who have buckled on a yard-tall buskin that only served to make them fall over at every second; they are infinitely above all tedious sensual phenomena, and sit there and are [quite] capable of spending all the livelong day learning about the color of a ribbon from their beloved; their mistress’s lapdog is worth more to them than half the human race, they run riot in all regions of the fancy, only to return at length thence, when they again find themselves among the residual rank and file of mortal humanity; for I hope mankind may claim credit for the fact that none of these moonstruck souls has yet contrived to see his beloved without eyes, and to see her without ears; albeit they have forgotten that it is their senses that allow them to discern the first floor of the house they live in—up there in the end they are exposed to the wind, and they come back down.

Mercutio is right [Where (assuming this is, after all, the Mercutio of Romeo and Juliet)?—DR] when he says that the most tedious conversation has more meaning than the self-lacerations of these lost sons of nature, who happen upon the dregs of the vintage and in their deplorable madness take them for ambrosia.

I have already visited your sister; she is lovely, and likewise seems to be sound of mind—apart from the fact that she is sad, and, indeed, on account of Lovell–I am sorry for her.

It would besides be entirely possible for you in your solitude to fall quite seriously in love. Your eyes meet no other object capable of distracting you, and herein habit is pretty much second nature. This almighty divinity moreover arranges it so that many a man is content with his wife, whom he would [otherwise] exchange for a starling/cataract. For that purpose Emily, the sister of your friend Burton, is both [suitably] fair and [suitably] amiable, and like all young girls, [she] is enamored of sentimental suspense; therefore, there can be no doubt but that your mood can shape hers to its will or vice versa.

Accordingly, I next expect [to receive from you] a letter brimful of sighs and sealed with a tear; until then I am your faithful friend

William Lovell to Edward Burton


I am at my father’s country house hard by London, I [can] see the spires of the city where Amalie lives; I [can] hear their bells in the distance—oh, how anxiously and tumultuously my heart beats, knowing as I do how near I am to her and that I have not yet seen her—indeed, [that] I must still speak to her today.

My father was uncommonly cheerful when he saw me again; his joy was tinged with a melancholy that touched me; he looked pale and ill; he embraced me with an affection that I had never before seen in him; after all, he finds his happiness in mine and in the future that he wants to make straight and level for me; he spoke so many times of the intimacies that he would seek for my sake; he seemed to want to declare to me how very much he desired my eventual marriage to the only daughter and heiress of Lord Bentink. Who knows the magnitude of unhappiness that the dreary future has in store for me? I intermittently abandon myself with inconceivable inertia to time, that it might unravel the skein that seems too tangled to me [at present].

Have I therefore now taken a long leave of you? Soon cities and oceans will pitch themselves between us; soon a letter from you to me will require a week for its journey. The evening before my departure from Bondly I walked once more through those gardens that are still so familiar to me; I took leave of every spot that time or any sort of remembrance had made dear to me. From the treetops came cascading upon me the intimation that I would never again wander there, or in the loss of all of those grand sensations that urge the soul onwards into the infinite and raise us out of our own natures.

If I someday returned to you, my heart brimming over with the fairest emotions, my spirit nourished by experiences of bygone ages and by my own observations, if I had endeavored to cherish the beauties of nature’s entirety within me [only] in order thenceforth to lead a life of quotidian dullness, harrowed by tedium, bereft of all of my grand intimations—as a prisoner who escapes from his fetters wanders in giddy delirium through the sun-burnished forest, and then, led back, is chained once again to the cold, insensible wall [of his cell]—

—But I see you laughing—well then: I bid my fancy and these black forms to set, along with their nocturnal darkness, against the backcloth, and a lovely sunrise dawns above—then the whole landscape rises fair and majestic from the chaotic mist[s], as nature stands there in her enticing beauty, touched by the hand of a god; and fancy fades in the mountains, the frontier of the horizon. Nature is already busying herself towards the realization of all of my ideals in faraway countries; I can already fairly see every landscape that I once marveled at in a painting or by which I was enchanted in a description; before me stand the artworks of the golden age, which the fell hand of inexorable time itself has not dared to annihilate, lest the most glorious period of world history should be extinguished.

Oh, if Amalie loved me! Edward, yes, I shall see her yet today!

William Lovell to Edward Burton


Edward, oh rejoice with me, my friend, with your brotherly soul; all doubts are lifted, all mysteries resolved—Amalie loves me! This new awareness has snatched me aloft of all petty, miserable emotions up to the high relish of a god, I have attained to sensations of which nary an intimation had spoken to me; I am situated in a world where the benevolent creator lets joy and delight bloom from every branch and shine upon every hill. Everything I see, everything I hear, everything that lives, is imbued with the breath of love, with the breath of God.

How much everything below me, which I once held to be so mighty and serious, has shrunk! I am more than a match for the future and all of its occurrences.

How dully and indifferently the whole world met my gaze only yesterday; today everything is my friend, everything smiles upon me. Edward—how shall I describe to you the feeling as I now walked the streets in which she lived—as I stood before her house—it was already evening, a pallid moon shone through gray clouds—my heart was audibly pounding as I said my name to the servant and ascended the stairs. She was alone; I entered the room. Heavens! Was it not as though an angel were coming to meet me in order to welcome me into paradise; the air that she breathed wafted over me like a holy fragrance—I do not know what I said to her; I do not know what she replied, but she spoke my name once or twice with an ineffable sweetness. We sat down, I was in a wistful, joyous humor—she spoke of the happy prospect of so fair a journey—I had difficulty holding back my tears—Oh, heavens!, how kindly she spoke to me; how every sound reverberated in the innermost recesses of my soul, every syllable bade me to discover this kindness so lovely—I sank into her bosom and stammered to her the confession of my love.

I was prepared for everything, but not for this shining angel’s indulgence, with which she silently pressed me ever more closely to her bosom. At this moment I doubted my existence, my consciousness—everything. My joy had brought me almost to the point of fainting.

Our lips met; her mouth was burning against mine; my heart swelled, struck by the first sunbeams; like flowers all of my senses opened up to imbibe the radiance that she cheerfully shone upon me. I pressed her tenderly to my breast, I felt in the throbbing of her heart the Infinite, the Inexpressible that at this moment was united with my eternal soul and that we mortals stammeringly term love.

Edward! I must write to her; she is willing to answer me! Oh, she is an angel! She would give her life in order to make me happy!

I shall be staying here for more than another week with my parents. I shall often again see her; since yesterday it has been as though this alone could [ever] be the business of my life. I also have to become acquainted with the man who is to accompany me on my travels; his name is Mortimer. He is hardly likely to become my friend; he is of a truly cold and mordant disposition, which has rendered him repellent to me. He must know a great deal—he has already undertaken this journey once before; he is older than me; all of this taken together has persuaded my father to choose him as my companion. He seems amusing to me, but I do not care for these sorts of characters; his satirical streak is not pleasing to me, this elevation of oneself above other people, this bitterness, leads by an easy transition to misanthropy; I love most [people], would like to love all of them, and can deride none of them; each of them keeps watch over his own weakness[/nurses his own form of weakness].

Mortimer to Charles Wilmont

London, June 4

If I had ever been remotely inclined to meditations on the wondrous ways of providence, I should have had the perfect occasion to begin them today. For truly nothing is so curious, no road traces as astonishing a succession of tortuous and crooked curves and zigzags en route back to its own point of origin, as do so often the events and occurrences of this world. The shilling that I give to my servant today I shall perhaps recover from my Lord Parton tomorrow, only to bestow it upon a beggar. You are desirous of knowing what the sequel of [all] this confusion must ultimately be; hearken ye well then and marvel (not that you will marvel, and in this I frankly confess you to be a truly marvelous being):

Who would then have breathed so much as the rumor to you, when you were writing to me the other day your letter, that letter of which William Lovell was the subject, that you were writing to the estimable governeur of this promising élève?: I am traveling with William to Italy and France and returning as a twice-well traveled man to that fatherland of mine that has missed me so much, in order to shed my light even [there]. I shall see yet one more time all the parts and places that have heretofore enchanted me. I have nothing to do here; I shall be neglecting nothing; Lovell is more tolerable, nay, more agreeable, than I had imagined him to be, and I have accordingly accepted his father’s proposal.

William is, so far as I could immediately gather at our first meeting, not entirely pleased with me; I am too cheerful for him—too lacking in what he calls earnestness. Which one of us will first drive the other out of his trenches is the big question. We shall leave in around a week. I am willing to take the greatest conceivable pains to make him my friend.

My old uncle nearly wept when I broke the news of my departure to him; he is more kindly disposed to me than I thought; he has as good as promised to name me his heir if he should die during my absence.

If I could travel via Bondly, the journey would be even more appealing to me, but certain people who consider geography le fait maintain that it is situated in the opposite direction.

Your sister is, to be sure, a splendid young woman, apart from the fact that she is without a doubt in love with Lovell; but perhaps he will, under the direction of a man of good sense, become a different sort of person, a better sort, according to my lights.

What astonishes me is that they think me erudite enough to serve profitably as the companion of a young man who is not without learning himself; Lovell Senior, though, is a sagacious man who knows what usually lies behind habitual earnestness; perhaps my gaiety has even tipped his choice in my favor because he is not entirely pleased with his son’s excessively sensitive sentimentality and enthusiasm—
And if many miles will presently lie between us, I shall nevertheless be, even in those warmer climes—admittedly not actually warmer, but at any rate, just as warm as these—your friend, and if I don’t drown in the channel, you will presently receive a letter from France and

Your Mortimer.

Willy to his brother Thomas at Waterhall

I don’t know, dear brother, why I should write to you, except that I’m obligated to: for here I am quite hard by London, and yet still not in London, so that I’d rather not write to you of any of the particulars of the place in case I confuse you, because I know that you cannot easily find out towns and estates when they lie a mile from your garden at Waterhall—and London, or this country house here hard by London, is not so close to Waterhall as you think, on account of the fact that it really is situated real close to London, so that you can hear the bells chiming when they don’t go off at different times, as is only now and then the case in a big city, where things seldom go off all at the same time: it’s owing to the quantity.

Master William is as good a master as a servant could wish for, if he doesn’t want to become the master himself. He said he had taken me along with him more out of old friendship than as a servant; only he is admittedly not quite as old as me, but however old he may be, I really have been his friend since birth. You know what I mean, Tom: that I really have known him since before he was born, as I was already in old Master Lovell’s service long before then.

What’s more, Tom, you wouldn’t believe how many human beings there are in the world; I would like to see the man who could have counted all the people I came across every second of the way down here. But Reverend Winter is right, as he is about everything, when he cries out in church, “There are many human beings in the world!”. Because even what I have already seen of the world is so tolerably big that how else could they find all the places in it, unless new arrangements were made? Until then I am

Your loyal brother Willy.

Because that bit—Until then I etc.—was so splendidly fitting just now, I let myself be led astray by it, so that the letter really must end here, but I had so many things I still wished to say to you, among others, that we are leaving very soon; come what may, I will write to you many a time; good Master William has allowed me, as often as I have something to say to you, to enclose my things in his letters; so it will cost you and me nothing and I’ll be spared the trouble of finding out your address, and you needn’t even read the address; instead you’ll know just by the sight of one that every letter sent from me that you get hold of is intended for you. Your eternal, distant brother

William Lovell to Edward Burton

London with all of its happiness lies behind me; France, ahead of me! I have just returned from the lofty cliffs at whose description in the titanic works of the immortal Shakespeare we both have marveled. I felt as though from there I could look yonder into the future, as if the veils that otherwise hang before this scene were fairly on the point of falling away; far below me the sea was rushing and surging and feebly beating against the imperturbable cliff-banks; clouds rose from the water and strode through the placid blue of the boundless vault; without joy, without sorrow, I saw into nature’s infinity; the wind blew hither over the sea, the hawthorn flowers amongst the rocks trembled, I stood peacefully still. The waves of high tide rushed [inwards and] upwards; a thousand suns danced in the to-and-fro motion of the looking glass that was the sea—yea, my friend: man himself holds the reins of his destiny; if he governs them wisely, he will be happy; but if he leads them in an attitude of despondency, an angry demon will take hold of them and chase him into the terrible valley of darkness, where all of the progeny of Misfortune lie in wait for him. This is why we wish to be men, Edward, and to govern our destiny without trepidation, even though thousandfold Misfortune threatens to hurl our carriage into the abyss.

William Lovell to Amalie Wilmont

Tearfully my gaze stretches backward; weeping, yours follows me. But no, no despair, no faint-heartedness, shall be engendered in our breast; I wish to hope, and to hope with courage. O yes, Amalie, order, harmony, is the great charter of all infinite nature, she is the essence, the original substance, of happiness, the prime motive force—even we are actuated by the spokes of the great wheel, we are the children of nature and have rights under her charter. And could there be any happiness for me without Amalie? Fare you well; the sails are swelling; the wind is crying for our departure; fare you well! Your picture shall be the tutelary spirit that attends on me at the very moment when you are forgetting me; I am resigned to all hazards; until then I feel the strength of a god in my heart.

Book Two

Mortimer to Charles Wilmont

I am now once again in the city that the French call the capital of Europe, where one lives in a perpetual whirlwind of visits and amusements, where one can live the longest time without coming to one’s senses, and where, as William Lovell daily affirms, one is bored and vexed to death when sound judgment awakens from its stupor for even a single day. Otherwise we are well and healthy, and the journey hither was quite pleasant; moreover, William is getting used to my company; we are becoming mutually closer, as I foresaw; I must only take care not to touch a certain [nerve of] headstrongness in him, not to contradict him too much, so paradoxically is he inclined to philosophize from the darkness of his feelings; as this would estrange us afresh and give rise in him to the passionate disinclination to acknowledge me to be in the right on any point; and then all of our conversations would become quarrels, which would lead to a bitterness that would ultimately deteriorate into a state of absolute irreconcilability.

I could almost envy him; could, indeed, almost merely laugh at human beings and their shortcomings! At many moments I feel a kind of inexplicable jealousy. He is drunk on the happiness of his first love; this feeling has unlocked [the gates of] paradise to him, and truly, for the first time now, after having seen such manifold beauties, I know how beautiful your sister is; I do not wish to speak of her mind, of her kindness, [both of] which I miss all too keenly here amid this superabundance of wit and frigidly brilliant coquetry. But then again, it grieves me to see him oftentimes lost so deeply in daydreaming; then yet again, I fancy to myself that he is sailing across a broad river that affords him a divine prospect; he feels himself blessed as he feasts his eyes on the landscape; but the fare for his passage is too dear, as he himself will observe when the journey has ended and he is setting foot on the [opposite] bank.

Old Willy presents the most curious contrast to him; he is more our friend than our servant, and William has brought him along solely for affection’s sake. A being so natural and so artless as if Mother Nature had sprung him loose upon the world only seconds ago. He gapes and stares at everything and often afterwards communicates his observations to me in lengthy conversations.

In the headstrongness of his emotions, William would rather have nothing whatsoever to do with the brisk and changeable atmosphere of the crowd; in the streets he is stupefied; in company he is prattled to death; at tragedies he becomes angry; at comedies he yawns; at the opera he has even fallen asleep once or twice. He is tactless enough to communicate his observations to the French; and the latter consequently think that he is playing the eccentric, that his taste is still uncultivated: in a word, that he is not French. I am finding these disputes increasingly tedious; each regards the arguments of the other as trivial, and neither understands the other completely, and both are in the right and in the wrong.

Among our multitude of acquaintances we have made a few [new ones] who are quite interesting; a few I have renewed from my previous tour. It is often infinitely easier to form a kind of confidential bond with a completely unknown family than with a circle in which one was previously well known, when time has caused the remembrance thereof and its colors to fade. Everything is weather-beaten, the newly applied colors will not stay, nothing is in a certain essential [state of] symmetry: One fears at every moment to overplay [the role of] the confidant or of the stranger grown cold; one has in the meantime forgotten the fugues of the soul and is constantly striking false notes on one’s instrument. I have again called on old Count Melun; his niece, who then was a pretty [little] child, has become a very lovely woman; her understanding is no less improved. Last year she married a certain Count Blainville, who died a few months ago; as a widow she has the semblance of an obliging girl, and she would be even more dangerous if her coquettishness were not so obvious. The old count is still very much the man that he used to be, as befits those who, if they were obliged to change, must perforce lose; that is to say: they have arrived at a certain point of development towards which they have been moving with an undeviating stride throughout their lives; happily, they have arrived at the harbor with their understanding and all of their ideas intact, and they do not care to stake everything on a second voyage. His house is always as agreeable as it was before; he assembles ready wits, free spirits, scholars, and politicians around him; of sundry beams a luster is ultimately made, and thus many of our doctors would take him to be quite an intelligent man for three whole months running. There I have also met an Italian, Rosa, whose closer acquaintance I shall seek out. I have as yet seen few faces whose lips are so exquisitely striking, that are as equally inclined to compose themselves into the friendliest smile as into the furrows of the bitterest [frown of] ridicule—I have so far spoken with him but little, but everything that he said attracted me to him; without [my] wishing it too [much], he has transfixed my attention entirely on himself. He is no fanatic, but neither is he cold or reserved; he is highly susceptible to beauty without being [at all] susceptible to rant [about it]. I am glad that he is within reach of William; from such people the latter may learn much, provided he can first set aside the secret hatred he feels towards individuals who are superior to him.

We have become acquainted with an ebullient and curious young German to whom William has positively and totally surrendered himself; his name is Balder, and he has also been in Paris only a short time. Two harmonically identical tones could not as easily commingle as these two souls do: both are fanatics, both are of a poetic bent; both concur in the same love. For the present I refrain from observing that such a friendship, sealed between such mutually concordant beings, needs must soon consume itself: it is a flame that blazes up quickly but that wants intensity and is without longevity; for when one cannot discern unfamiliar virtues and defects, one cannot admire and cannot love. But William would believe nothing from me to that effect, and so I prefer to hold my tongue, and if over time he makes this discovery on his own, he will certainly defy his own emotions in order to deny this unlooked-for occurrence.

Farewell, and write back to me soon.

William Lovell to Edward Burton

Paris, dear friend, is highly displeasing to me; I often think back on you and the solitude of Bondly when I am skulking about here in these splendid milieus; then my soul was in a delightfully constant state of vibration; here I am forsaken, pent up in walls of solid stone; a squalid indolence is [now] my [sole] occupation, [I am] stupefied by idle prattle, [and] understood by not a single soul. But no, I do not wish to sin against fate; I have found here one person when my heart needed him; I even have here a friend who compensates for the abundance of wasted hours. I have made the acquaintance of a young German; his name is Balder; he is a youth whose soul satisfies almost all of the demands that my overactive sensibility makes on a friend; he is good-natured and affectionate, his heart is easily warmed by beauty and sublimity, in virtually all things our kindred minds meet at a single central point; and yet our natures do not want for those [nuances of difference] that, as they say, are indispensable to the simultaneous endurance of friendship and love. Unlike him, I lack that deep proneness to dire ecstasy, that childlike innocence with which he clings to every character that he loves; I am colder and more retiring; my fancy is more at home in sweet and lovely dreams; he is more conversant with the underworld and its horrors. Everything makes a deep and lasting impression on him; once he has managed to hunt out [the] dismal side [of something], joy can give light to him only from afar, like [the] gentle, fading glow of twilight. Hence, his external mien has at first glance something [shy and flinching] about it, but no sooner had I taken the first step towards him, than he immediately pulled down that wall that stands between two people, the wall that so often separates even the most intimate friends at many moments. I am complementarily alienated by Mortimer; he cannot have a heart capable of sympathy; he is constantly laughing or smiling in his [habitually] cold fashion at my fanaticism; he also seems to dislike Balder. I do not doubt his high-mindedness; he often speaks, I think, with considerable understanding, he is older than I am and better acquainted with the world; but I doubt that he understands that sweet emotion that manifests itself only to sensitive souls. From time to time he even harasses me, when I am simply wandering among dreams of the future and the past, [or smiling] at your face, and at Amalie's sweet form--he along with another malevolent being, an Italian, a so-called refined and educated man [of the world]; my heart cannot beat in confidential sympathy with his; I always feel anxious and stifled in his presence; I prefer to while away my hours in old Willy's company; his good-natured prattle comes from the heart; I know that he is not making fun of me, that he is not studying me in order to improve his knowledge of human nature.
You will perhaps once again reproach me with bitterness and exaggeration--so be it! but I desire nothing so ardently as the day when I quit Paris. I find nothing at all here that interests me. The town is a desolate, amorphous pile of stones; throughout Paris, one has the sense of a prison; the pomp of the court and of the people of rank contrasts unfavorably with the misery of the common people; everything reminds one of slavery and oppression. The architecture is bombastic and over-ornamented to the point of pedantry; one encounters no work of art that reflects [a] sublimity of spirit; the mirthful goddesses of whim and wit have debased all greatness into winsomeness; and accordingly the mighty, manly archetypes of Greece and Rome have been transformed into foppish and monstrous hermaphrodites. Of [those] great [and noble] purposes, of [that] sublime destiny of the arts, of that emotion that impelled the Greeks to apotheosize their Homer and Phidias as demigods--of these, here even the last suspicion has disappeared; one laughs, one dances--and has lived. Ah, the golden age of the muses is everywhere and for ever vanished! When the gods in the fullness of their clemency still deigned to stoop to the earth; when beauty and terror, still attired in equally fetching garments, danced intertwined through particolored meadows; when the horae with the golden key of Aurora still unlocked her course; when consecrating divinities roamed through the whole of their smiling creation with the beneficent horn of plenty--ah, then was the great and beautiful not yet debased into the winsome! Noble wisdom took its symbolic place among human creatures capable of feeling; the prayers of suppliants reached the sympathetic hearts of the gods; gods stood watch over the camp of the sleeping poor, no wilderness wanted inhabitants--voyagers who had been blown off course would disembark on its foreign shores attended by its native deities; storm-winds and springs spoke in intelligible tones; in fair nature's presence man stood unembarrassed like a beloved child in the bosom of his affectionate family--but now, Oh, Edward, I have already often desired it and I am telling you so now unabashedly--I deplore the fact that we have been bewitched into drawing so near to the fair images of painting, that their illusory perspectives are so evanescent: we laugh at this, we who were once deceived by these crudely daubed colors, by this welter of streaks and shadows, and found life on lifeless canvas; we have puzzled out this trickery in a single stroke of audacity, but what have we thereby gained? The forms have vanished, but our gaze does not yet penetrate the curtain--and if it could do so, would we perceive anything with these corporeal eyes of ours? Is not man with his senses created for the deception?--How is it possible that it should ever cease? I love the rainbow even if I have been shown that it exists only in my eyes--Is my eye not a real entity, and is not the appearance also real for me? I hate the people who shone the beams of their little artificial suns into every cosy twilight, and [drove] away the lovely shadow-phantoms that so securely dwelt under the vaulted bower. In our age a day of sorts has dawned, but the romantic illumination of pitch night and broad day was fairer than this gray light of the[se] overcast heavens; we must await the first bursting forth of the sun and the clear blue of the ether in futurity.

How everything here disgusts me! One talks and chatters all day long without even once saying what one actually thinks; one goes to concerts in the absence of any intention to listen to music; one kisses and embraces others and wishes these kisses were poisoned. It is a world full of actors where, moreover, the roles are most wretchedly performed, where the queer machinations of vanity, dissimulation, or envy are so clearly seen through that many [of its denizens] are impossible to deceive.

Out of boredom I have gone to the theater a few times. Tragedies full of epigrams, without incident or emotion, tirades that remind me exactly of those words that come out of the mouths of figures in old paintings so that one will know what they mean--this carried off in such a fashion that one is tempted to laugh; the further the actor deviates from nature the more he is held to be a great artist; kings and queens, heroes and lovers have never before appeared to me in such a pitiful light as on the Parisian stage--no heart is moved, no emotion is roused; one hears the rhyme ringing and the curtain lets one know that the play is over, and without quite knowing how, one has seen a chef d'oeuvre of one of the greatest tragic geniuses. Oh, Sophocles!--and divine Shakespeare!-when one's bosom is filled with your emotions, imbued with your spirits--and one contemplates these marionette shows!

And then there are the cold, tedious comedies! Where a so-called witticism affects the whole [crowd in] the pit like an electric shock, where not people, but rather pictures make [their] entrances [and exits], where the poet hides himself in his own wit! A vapid, empty verbal rigmarole; everything [amounting to] a single essence, a single recurring, quotidian idea; but to such buffoonery, the jingling of the rhymster's fool's cap is somewhat better suited.

In the great, world-famous Paris Opera I have fallen asleep. Arms and feet of a giant stuck on to the body of a dwarf make up a such a superb whole! Musicians, painters, dancers, poets work themselves to death in order to bring to term a wretched monster that will never even be worth its care and feeding.

But enough of such trivia! As I become better acquainted with France, I am beginning to have a higher opinion of my native country--there dwell friendship and love, there people are not ashamed to have a heart and acknowledge what they feel--oh, Amalie! I think of you incessantly! A thousand bittersweet, gay and melancholy sensations are joined to this name: this hope is a sun that gilds my [gloomiest {=neblichten}] days; in Amalie's bosom lies the treasure that needs must someday make me happy.

I have meanwhile seen many a feminine form that is fairer than Amalie's, but I have always effortlessly vanquished these women in my heart, for in my fancy she towers above all of them. She belongs not among those beauties that immediately captivate the eyes and leave the soul cold and insensible. The niece of a certain Countess Melun is also here, perhaps the most charming feminine creature that I have ever seen, but her fiery and vivacious impressiveness is of [a]very different [character] from that sweet authority that emanates from Amalie's eyes. All comparisons that my thoughts undertake serve only to lead her conquering self ever more ineluctably into my arms.

Your eternal friend

Willy to his brother Thomas


The reason I’m only just now writing to you is that I don’t actually know where I should begin, so full is my head of remarkable things to write about, and I’d like to take the quill in both hands in order to let you really properly learn about them. That Master William is a worthy man you will manage to piece together with your tiny bit of sense; but that he treats me so well, as a father does his child that has the smallpox—that you will perhaps never be willing to believe.

Have you ever seen an ordinary puppet show with real live people in it? There are lots of such shows here, and they’ve [even] built strange houses for people who actually want to look at them. You’d never think that so many people had such a curiosity [for such a thing] in them. It is always very fine on such occasions, namely on account of all the lights that—Thomas, you must understand this—that burn all around you throughout the house, for otherwise the people who want to see the show would see little, and the acting troops seem to be ashamed to put on their shows during the day; I for one wouldn’t act in the evening, even if they wanted to give me the most distinguished role. There’s a kind of play where you always have to be crying, but I haven’t yet managed to make that happen; the most distinguished ladies are more skilled at it, but good Master William is going to take me there with him again many more times: he has even wept there not a few times himself: I think it’s because we are still only strangers here.

In another large house people are always laughing their heads off: It’s really saying a lot that the acting folk don’t take it amiss. I can’t stand the young Italian gentleman that my master has visited quite a number of times; he has started to laugh a couple of times when I was beginning a serious conversation with my master William; I can’t stand being made fun of, Thomas; you know already how we really pounded the life out of each other [a few times] in our younger years because you wanted to make fun of me; but that’s all in the past, and I have forgiven you for it.

What I most want to tell you about is the thing I like the most, what they call here the opera; there you don’t need to act as if you understood it, for there everything is sung to you at length; and it’s a really sensible idea that when they get tired of singing certain sentences, they can pass them on to the next person. The music is always shared among a great many instruments for you, so that the noise will be louder and [so that] the acting-singers don’t lose heart, because it’s no joke when some of them get shot, or a lot of times it’s also usual for them to get stabbed and to die. What’s really splendid here are the pictures, which show you houses or gardens or whatever else; you’d oftentimes like to step into them, so natural do they look from a distance. Recently there was quite a great row here; I think it was a battle fought by the famous Alexander. It was good.

In Paris there are also a lot of poor people; Thomas, I always think of the poor French people as my brothers also, even if at bottom I am an Englishman; I have many times given them a little of my extra money, and they have thanked me ever so much, as if I had done something wonderful! To what end can our dear God have created such completely poor people in this world?—Whenever I first give one of them something, a whole a crowd of them surrounds me right away, and they look at me with such compassionate eyes that I can’t even bear to give them anything; then one of them squeezes my hand, the next one looks up at the sky, the third one weeps—oh, then I oftentimes wept with them, and forced myself not to; the tears came to my eyes totally without warning—ah, these are right good folk; if only they had their portion of bread in the world!

The distinguished people drive around here in the city really quickly, much too quickly, like a hunter. A lot of people are even run over, and they don’t even make much of a fuss about it; they just run right over people completely calm-like. Thomas, I just finished weeping over how a poor old man was run over, who had just bought his little children some bread: it was going to be a celebration, and he had bought himself some white bread, so as to give himself a little extra joy, and then they ran him over so cruelly that he was dead by nightfall. It’s not right, Thomas; I don’t know how I’m ever going to sleep peacefully again, but that’s neither here nor there. Neither of us has ever run anybody over, because we’ve always gone by foot, apart from since I’ve been traveling with my master. Anyhow, remain my brother, as I remain

your worthy brother Willy.


Thomas to his brother Willy

I have received your letter, Willy, and I’m glad that you’re always thinking about your brother even in the midst of the great wide world; that’s mighty fine of you. I have already heard of such foolish stuff and even of such horrible deeds that what you want to write to me about is nothing new under the sun. I don’t know if you’ve heard that I now live at Bondly and am now in old Lord Burton’s service. Lady Butler died and so I came here. My old Lord is by a long chalk not the man he could be if he were a proper and virtuous Christian, you’ll remember him, of course; but the young master is so much the better master; if he’ll only get hold of the lordship, then the vassals—of which I’m one now—will be set free. I really hope I live to see it, and that you, Willy, visit me at Bondly, or even stay here; young Master Burton would surely take you into his service; then we’d live our last days together quite enjoyably. Best regards to your master from me and tell him, if he would like to be my good friend, I will likewise be

his, Thomas.

P. S. Write to me as often as you can, Willy; only I have to tell you, that your way of writing is none too pretty; it's all so dark that if a man didn’t have at least [a bit more than a tiny bit] of sense, he’d never make sense of any of it. [Demohnerachtet] I am

your affectionate brother,

Burton to William Lovell


Your letters give me more pleasure the happier and more courageous you are. I share your longing for a fair and bygone antique age; but may there not inhere a kind of profit for us in this very longing? Antiquity’s courageous disposition towards life has indeed fled us, but it is perhaps vouchsafed to us to love and apprehend nature and art with more ardor; for surely the human spirit, the understanding of things, must also have a history, and in no history is an uninterrupted regression possible: those peoples that serve as our exemplar have also lost their history. The state of animal savagery is no longer a human state. All great memorials of ancient times are valuable because in themselves they illuminate our soul, and likewise illuminate in us the powers of hindsight and foresight, the intimation of a miraculous but indispensable interconnection among things—in short, a true history of spirit. That is also why you, unlike most tourists, will not indifferently shun the monuments and memorials of the so-called Middle Ages; for everything that [we] moderns may allow ourselves to call authentic art and poetry seems to shine on us only as the most recent metamorphosis of those still fairly obscure and unrecognized centuries. The arts find it difficult to acknowledge their very heavy debt to the Greeks and the Romans, as they would always prefer to flatter themselves, and perhaps [on this account] more misunderstanding than understanding has arisen from the classical authors. With philosophy and science it is admittedly a different matter, and in this respect no age can possess an art that derives no influence from science[;] poetry and its sister[ art]s also have their treasures, but have acquired them secondhand, from those bygone ages.

I reside here in the solitude and monotony of Bondly without [a single] friend. At the worst and all too frequent moments, I am spiritually harassed and tormented by my father’s misanthropic sulks, and by my perception in him of that mournful despair that he calls knowledge of human nature.

Your aunt in Waterhall has died; her estate has passed to you. Dare I dream, William, of a fair future in which you will be living there, so close to me? I consign all of my desires to that time, but an evil intimation all too often denies me the prospect of their fulfillment.

William Lovell to Amalie Wilmont


Oh, Amalie, if only I could hasten, along with this letter, back to my native country, and fly into your arms; if only I could conjure away the days and bring forward to the present all of the happiness of the past! I am now sitting here yearning and brooding, and feeling so powerfully the pain of separation. Oh, how I thank thee, thou happy genius who first discovered the means of imparting thoughts and feelings to a lifeless substance and of speaking so far into distant lands; indeed it was a lover, a beloved, who first strung together these symbols and thereby cheated separation. And yet what can I say to you? That you alone are my waking thoughts and the image I dream on in my sleep? That my imagination often so beguiles me that I fancy I see your form in those of strangers? That I tremble when even the most outlandish individual in these parts pronounces the name Amalie? With what words can I express the feeling that enlarges and constricts my heart? No written characters are adequate to the living, glowing fire in my soul; oh, he who only felt by halves, who still searched for words and still found them—I am unable, I cannot stand [merely] to prattle on to you about [this and that]—only one desire, only one request: Do not forget your sincere and loving William, who can never forget you.

Amalie Wilmont to William Lovell


With a sad and heavy heart I am sitting down to write to you; I had so many things to say to you, so many replies to beg of you, and yet I am at a loss as to how I ought to say them to you. As suddenly as I saw you again in London, you have just as abruptly departed again; all of my feelings, sad and gay alike, have rocked me into a dreamy slumber in which I can lay hold of no specific idea or emotion, in which I can sustainedly neither think nor feel. Ah, William, during the brief time in which I knew you, I felt so free, so brave and (I do not know what other word I can use), so grand, that I looked forward to the future cheerfully and without dread—but now an ineffable apprehension grips my breast; my courage is deserting me; I feel myself alone and forsaken, I am once again a child. I do not even know what I desire of myself; the future and the whole world lie before me in vast and ominous prospect, I suspect that the joys of this life are perhaps its most fragile flowers; woe betide that heart in which spring arrives too soon; a single recurring winter day can make every blossom wither, then no [amount of] sunshine can restore them to life, no tears shed upon them [can] revive them. William, if this eternal winter awaits mine? But let you break us off [?], destiny is not at our command, but wishes are excusable.

Your father has once again fallen ill, he looks very pale, I saw him the other day in London; but do not worry yourself on that account; in the meantime he has already got somewhat better. With what joy he spoke of you! Oh how I loved him for this love’s sake! I felt so honored myself through his praise of you and—I don’t know whether I should write any further—ah, William!—and then he spoke of his plans for you, of certain bonds that were as good as sealed, he mentioned several times the name of young Miss Bentink—I could no longer love him; all friendliness in his countenance was suddenly transformed for me into a dreadful earnestness.

Fare you well. But I know that I have felt and lived the fairest part of my life in Bondly; this remembrance will remain with me always, and it will be my happiness when perchance in the future I have lost everything.

Old Lovell to his son


I am writing to you immediately after having recovered from a new illness that was not without its perils. Now I am better; but I am suffering from a depression of spirits in which I often cannot rid myself of the melancholy thought that I have seen you for the last time, at the moment of your departure. From time to time I vividly recall your face, and at such moments I would relinquish everything in order to see you; I have often already been on the point of writing to bid you to return with all possible speed; but no, remain there where you are enjoying and educating yourself, make acquaintances and improve yourself; I desire first to summon all of my forces in resistance to death, next to clasp my beloved son to my heart, and finally to feast my eyes on the spectacle of his good fortune and die in peace. All pleasures have turned traitor on me, but my pleasure in being a father will endure. Your happiness is now the only hope that chains me to this world; in your fulfillment I wish to rest at the evening of my days, away from the toils and burdens of my journey. I have suffered much, oh William, make the acquaintance of everyone who does not make you absolutely miserable: do not greet each of them with your warmest love, lest you come eventually to hate the entire species; be frugal with your confidences, lest you eventually waste away of perpetual mistrust. If you should undergo, in the present heat of your fancy, such experiences as I was obliged to endure, whence will you now derive the strength not to let your morality, your humanity, perish? The combustibility of your emotions has often pained me on your account; trust without scrutiny every individual whom you do not dislike, confide all of your feelings in them, discover an echo of these feelings in foreign souls; but now if you are mistaken in three friends, you will renounce all belief in friendship; you are capable of casually misconstruing the noblest of men whenever that blazing flame—on the evidence of which you would now distinguish the passionate from the coldhearted, the worthy from the unworthy—has subsided into a tranquil, inner glow; rashly you trust in the empty fanaticism of a single other person, and will ultimately find yourself lost in a dark, solitary tomb, whose opening you will grope for in terror. People of your character can be swindled out of their will to live in a trice; they are putty in the hands of every student of human nature. In my illness I thought back on many scenes from my life: perhaps I shall very soon send you a leaf or two from my own history; perhaps you will learn more by example than from a plain setting forth of the results of my dearly-bought experience. I was often close to becoming a universal misanthrope; my affections were everywhere traduced by everyone; human beings, whom I had regarded as exalted spirits, disclosed to me all at once a glimpse into their inner selves, and I saw petty, imperious self-interest sitting on that selfsame throne that I had expected to find occupied by benevolence and love: I was already on the point of despairing of my own worth, and yet I ultimately salvaged my esteem for humanity and my regard for myself. What is at present even more irksome to me than my illness is that I am involved in a complicated lawsuit with Lord Burton. You know that one of my ancestors purchased the lands of one of his Lordship's grandfathers; he now doubts that the sums were ever paid and the contract signed, hence that [the sale] was ever concluded; the suit has already begun and it will make for much grief on my end perhaps, much work at the very least. Even now it makes me sad to find myself prosecuted by him because he was once, in the happiest days of youth, my friend; it is a gloomy feeling indeed when I summon up remembrance of those times and compare them with these present ones. The prospect of your firm and lasting friendship with Edward Burton consoles me somewhat. Edward is a noble youth; he is firmly devoted to you; you may trust him unreservedly, or I am still ignorant of the ways of men.

Louise Blainville to Rosa


What occasion in the world can there be for my having not seen you for so long? You are indeed beginning to be colder to me than my late husband ever allowed himself to be; [what] if in punishment I were now to indulge my fancy for the young traveling Englishman and to cast you off completely? Or are you perchance even already jealous on his account? If such were the case, you would be making needless work for yourself, for it seems to me as though some tedious duenna of a first love is keeping watch over his heart.

Old Count Melun must bear some sort of image on his coat of arms; perhaps he even has the idea of talking me into remarrying—specifically—at least I think so, and you will laugh with me [at this]—into marrying himself! But more of this viva voce; only take care that I see you soon, otherwise in punishment you shall learn nothing of these incidents. Adieu.

Rosa to Countess Blainville

If I had any inclination to jealousy your letter would hardly diminish it; I have already recently observed that Lovell does not displease you. But—why have I not called on you in so long? An indisposition—an acquaintance—you see that I know how to take my revenge—but more of this, too, viva voce.

If you can convert the curious Lovell, I wish you and him happiness; it seems to me almost impossible, for his prejudices are too deeply engrained; and yet, what is impossible for women? You solve the most difficult problems and in the simplest and easiest fashion in the world. I shall rejoice in dragging the young Englishman along in a single triumphal car; do not suffer so criminal a trespasser against your beauty to go unpunished; rebuke his coldness, which at this point may be either simulated or genuine, in an exemplary fashion, and I shall more and more be

the ardent admirer of your understanding and

your charms.


William Lovell to Edward Burton

Yes, Edward: in my soul, too, has lately been forming many a dream of living happily with you as I once did. So close to you, perhaps at Amalie’s side, in the bosom of rural solitude; I have so often lost myself in this dream since [reading] your dear letter, as a thousand projects spin themselves out ever effortlessly in my soul. With a childish relish I linger over my plans, and wish that the future were already arrived, that I might realize them.

I am frightened, Edward: My father is ill and has written me a very melancholy letter; he loves me indeed with the warmest affection, but I cannot think of Amalie without remembering my father with sadness: so often his image floats by; I cast a heavyhearted glance at the swiftly succeeding one of Amalie; these juxtaposed ideas are riving my soul into shreds. I hate myself, Edward, when I think that [through Amalie’s possession of my father’s death fewer would grieve]—but I swear to you, it must, it shall not be. To such ignoble self-seeking your friend will never descend.

An evil demon is pursuing me in the shape of an angel in order to tear Amalie’s image from my heart; but this attempt will never be successful; I remain loyal to her and to my first and fairest feelings. I am speaking of the Countess Blainville, Count Melun’s niece; she is the very picture of one of the classical Greek Graces, a magic charm attends each of her movements, she need only smile in order to be [transformed into] the goddess of love; a gentle look from her eye, and she [becomes] the fairest image of sadness. I cannot contemplate her without blushing, and whenever her gaze meets my own, she lowers it shyly; she seeks out my company yet seems to wish to avoid it; I have never found so much kindheartedness, gentleness, and understanding in any young woman. Her beauty is striking; her eyes large and expressive, and her entire demeanor has, I should like to say, a certain magic in virtue of its eccentricity and sumptuousness; whereas Amalie’s silent beauty as it were withdraws into the shadows. But in my heart she will never win even the most trifling victory over that heavenly apparition; but it is for this very reason that I am able to acknowledge that she is [so] charming, that she is among the preeminent individuals of her sex. She is, moreover, capable of genuine depth of feeling; her tender soul has not been spoiled by that clever French society tone; she is a simple child of nature, utterly free of pretension and dissimulation; I have seen her moved by the sight of poverty [and distress].

I shall close now; Mortimer has just brought me a letter. Oh, Edward, it is from Amalie! No, I am a wretch if I could ever forget her! What delight will the garden have yet to offer if this fairest tree within me withers? I remain eternally hers, and likewise yours.

Charles Wilmont to Mortimer


I must at last write to you, and even so my letter may end up consisting of nothing but a reiteration of the sentence, “I can’t think of anything to write to you about.” I am ashamed of my remissness, and my clumsy fingers have meanwhile unlearned the art of writing; I have forgotten oratorical turns of expression, tropes, metaphors, and all other types of figures of speech, and even sitting here at my writing desk I cut a pretty sorry figure, nibbling my pen and scratching my head with my left hand in order to try to think of what I could possibly have to say to you. I would even much prefer to throw this letter into the fire, but then I should regret that I had begun it; and after all, you must have a letter from me at some time or other; therefore I lack nothing but the will to dash forward at a brazen trot, without bothering with any of those tricks of the riding school. If it’s only a matter of words, I have discharged my share of the reckoning; and I have just undertaken to see to it that this thing that I have begun becomes a letter, and now it shall indeed really and truly become that very thing; and I may find myself obliged to throw in every now and then a few pathetic meditations on the distance between two friends.

I am beginning to like it here at Bondly in part less, in part more, than I did formerly. Total idleness is not quite to my taste, and yet I would find it hard to set it aside [for good]. Man is a true child; he never quite knows what he really wants; he cries and howls and a tin rattle can pacify him and make him happy; the next instant it is thrown away, and he starts to think of what other things he can wish for. Nevertheless, happy is he who can [at least] get hold of a rattle or a raisin: but beloved boredom, along with a certain empty feeling that so often burdens one in life, meddles with his play; and if one is unable to raise any [fresh] hope [or] desire in one’s memory; if one’s hobby-horse is lame or even ridden permanently ragged—woe is thee, then, wretched mortal! Then you must either become a philosopher or hang yourself. This [selfsame] boredom has brought more misfortune into the world than all of the passions taken together. The soul shrivels up of it like a prune; the understanding gradually scabs over and [becomes] as useless as a spiked gun; all that is spiritual evaporates, then one sits down behind the oven and counts on his fingers the number of hours left till dinner; time for such a man passes more slowly than for someone in the pillory, at whom one throws apples; one is not of a mind to think about anything, for one knows that only nonsense will come of thinking; one is disinclined to get up, [for] one knows that one will only sit down again straight-away; this oppressive feeling accompanies one everywhere, like a shell on a snail. Oh, Mortimer, by comparison push-pin [literally: "throwing pendulum bobs through the eye of a needle"--DR] is an intellectual pursuit—and how many people on this earth do not yawn their way through life thus? The [lodestone’s] magnetic attraction attenuates if it is not exercised, steel emits no spark if it is not struck, the pane of glass exhibits no electric properties if it is not rubbed; [there is no] no understanding, no feeling among people without activity, communication, and friends[hip]. These are the conductors that guide one spark to the next one, into the flask, until finally a great spark springs out in a mighty show of light—then Don Quixote or some Paradise Lost turns up, etc. ad libitum.

Do not think, though, that because I have been whining in such plaintive tones I am now pining away and starving in such a lion’s den, or that I have gone truly and utterly bankrupt of friends, that I may be numbered among those dull, artless individuals who cannot even fathom what sort of a mood they are in, or who are so persistently settling themselves, over and over again, into the same sort of leaden unsettledness, that at first glance one cannot tell them apart from the Elephant[s] and Castle [i.e., the chess piece?; or, rather, the South London district/public house?--DR]; who can drown themselves in the coldest of cold blood, [merely and] precisely because it is Thursday; no, my dear Mortimer, take me always, [despite] my idle prattle, for a man in strict and full possession of his five senses; who if need be, when he is vexed by boredom, will go hunting, or take a ride to the next town, or play whist, or read novels, or write you a letter, as, for example, he is doing right now; at these moments I am, to be sure, somewhat peevish and out of sorts.

Ah, my dear friend, what splendid things are said about the omnipotence of love, about that little youth who stumbles blindfolded through the world and with his golden arrows shoots down people everywhere like so many hares. Yes, my friend, here or nowhere in my life it is fitting to show you that I have been reading my Ovid and Horace with profit; here would be the fairest opportunity for adverting your attention to me via a lyrical poem in the high style. But to be perfectly frank, Mortimer, nothing further would thereby come to light than that I was a fool; and inasmuch as I can make myself almost as intelligible to you in prose, we might as well keep going in that medium.

You are already laughing in advance. You are rejoicing that your recent prophecy has been fulfilled so precisely—but not so very precisely as you are now perhaps imagining. Yes: Solitude, the lack of occupation—oh, a hundred causes, that one ought not even bother trying to seek out, for the phenomenon is as natural as the situation of the sun in the sky—all of this is little by little making me fall in love. I observe it happening, and am even sickened by it, but there is nothing I can do to stop it. My gaiety is much diminished and now stands, indeed, at a mere quarter of its usual level; I am beginning to be as grave as a man who has just been elected to Parliament; I am becoming as sentimental as a young girl who is reading her first novel with genuine comprehension. Is not the mere observation of these splendid progressions in oneself enough to make one’s hair stand on end? And yet one must submit to the will of destiny, and I am now fully persuaded that one is within one’s rights to call falling in love an inevitabile fatum.

I am often obliged to read aloud to her, viz. Emily Burton (it is a linguistic convention among us lovers to omit names) and reading aloud, especially on matters rousing and sentimental, is certainly the deadliest angel that can be sprung on a body. In so doing, I have on more than one occasion declaimed with such pathos that I myself was subsequently terrified. But that I should swear allegiance to the flag of those sigh-breathing and tear-drinking fools who seem to live only to complain about their lives—of that you will [never have cause to fear]. I shall never forsake the temperate zone for long. Emily herself is a lovely, gentle creature who grieves and rejoices with an artless [transparency of] feeling, exactly as circumstances require; I am inclined to love neither an Arria, nor a Ninon, nor a Clementine. But lest I go so far as to sketch a picture of her for you, I simply must speak of something else; for I perceive that I was succumbing just now to the temptation to bore you.

I shall therefore perhaps soon be obliged to renounce my love; I am not inclined to impose upon her father, any more than I am to have her bestowed upon me by him—nay, I would go so far as to say to earn her from him—in any sort of fashion. He is a vulgar man. I often reproach myself for still being here and for so often keeping his company. Many people who must see everything from either a good or a bad point of view might think this the most abject, the most insidious sort of flattery; but in life one must never allow oneself to be vexed overmuch by these insects; [and yet] at the [very] least one is obliged to inconvenience oneself on their behalf. His son, who is the noblest of young men, is acquainted with me; he has become my bosom friend and he is at present the principal reason that I am detaining myself here at Bondly. I fancy that Emily does not loathe me.

You will perhaps have already learned that old Burton/Burton senior has also begun legal proceedings against the father of his [son’s] young friend; it makes me sad that things do not look very promising [there]. His son is himself much distressed on account of it.

Farewell for now, for in my haste I do not know what else to say to you, so little even in general am I inclined to have said anything to you.

William Lovell to his father


Your letter distressed me very much, most affectionate father; oh how I should hasten back to see you, were it not for my fear of your prohibition and your displeasure. You are ill, and am I not obliged to tend you? [You are] sad, and am I not obliged to console you? Do you yourself insist that I shall not discharge my duties as a son? You desire me to be happy, and at present I can turn my thoughts to no other happiness. [That] you [should be] in danger, and I [should be] so far from you! Until I receive from you another letter containing news of your recovery, there will be no other joy, no image of anything else for me; I see nothing but you languishing on your sickbed; I hear your sighs, and I would seem a criminal in my own eyes if I could manage to be cheerful now. Oh, I beseech you to send me news immediately and again, with every post. With trembling hands I shall tear open my next letter from you even before [I touch] the[/a] letter from my friend.

You will not be left anticipating tidings from me; I am well, insofar far as one can be while aware that one’s beloved father is ill. In a few weeks, I shall be leaving Paris; I have found one friend here, a young man with an excellent heart, Balder, a German. He will be coming with me on my tour to Italy. You need not fear; I can safely confide in him; moreover, Mortimer thinks highly of him. An Italian, Rosa, will also be joining us; my acquaintance with him will procure me many advantages in Italy, but he will find it hard work to become my friend. I hope from your next letter to learn that you are completely recovered; until then I shall live in constant dread.

P. S. Old Willy is very sad about your illness; he insisted on enclosing a page for you, and I would not refuse the honest old man.

Willy to Mr. Walter Lovell


I am heartily sorry you still have to suffer from sicknesses in your old days; but truth be told they come on the best then, because then a person doesn’t have as much strength to make himself healthy. I’d much rather comfort you and even much rather help you; but if God himself can’t do his best on such occasions, human aid might as well hold its peace. Still, it’s a pity that such a good Christian gentleman, as your worship is in the fullest sense, which even your enemies can’t deny, should have to put up with so much misfortune and suffering in this world; if this isn’t made good in the hereafter, when [your] life is done and finished, then things just aren’t quite right and proper. I wish I could lend you some portion of my excessive health, because I’ve been hale and healthy all the while I’ve been traveling, and my master Mr William, I mean your son, has been too. But just rest yourself assured it will soon get better; as old as I am, I’d still go on foot to London to see you, only my feet are weak, and in between there’s this sea that the French for fun’s sake (since they make nonsense out of everything) call a canal [not a sleeve?—DR]; if there were many such canals among us in England, then there wouldn’t be much land left to spare. Remain in good health, my dear, worshipful master, so I can see you once again with my old, weak eyes. I would cry a great deal if I once again got to look on the spires of London and at the same time you were nowhere to be found anywhere in our whole wide neighborhood except in the churchyard, and there only as a dead man: it would be a sorry thing for me and for every other honest man, but especially for my master; if you can, stay healthy, like me.

Your Willy

Countess Blainville to


As you now call on me so rarely, I find myself obliged to converse with you by letter, loath as I am to do so, for to renounce your companionship entirely would be too hard a penance for me.

Since your visit the other day a few not-insignificant incidents have occurred. The count is becoming ever more friendly and hopeful; ten times already, in a roundabout way, he has been on the point of making me a proposal of marriage, but his evil genius always curbs him in the end. Such people become very tiresome when they subsequently do one of their embarrassed about-faces; they have tripped themselves up and in their terror lost their foothold in the stirrup.

Lovell is for all his naivety delightful; the nonsense that he occasionally speaks suits him to the ground, and I have now found a means of securing him. He is headstrong enough not to be captivated by the customary tokens of regard; a Frenchman would laugh at the role he is now playing. To be sure, we women are condemned to recite our parts from memory; so, too, are many men, perhaps; but my present part is so remote that I must mind my cues most attentively if do not wish to ruin the entire play from time to time. I am so sentimental, like Rousseau’s Julie, a bit melancholy, a tincture of something out of Young with one of those insufferably sententious, windbaggish heroines of the English novels. You would hate me if you saw me in one of my tragic moods; but Lovell is [positively] enchanted by them; in his mind he takes me for a Richardsonian ideal, for a creature of divine and super-terrestrial essence. We sympathize with each other so delicately and feelingly that I am oftentimes overcome by a fit of yawning that I manage to suppress only with great effort; now, after a hundred [interviews] things have come to such a pass that he is actually in love; to be sure, he himself does not wish to confess this feeling, but I brace myself every day for a truly pathetic declaration; he has already often been on the point of it, but every time his mistress’s image has apparently held him back.

Yesterday he was walking glumly back and forth in the garden; I met him, as if by chance. He was glad and startled at the same time, my presence was welcome to him, but he was annoyed at having had his reverie interrupted, even by me; he became somewhat flustered. It was a fine evening; we were alone; I heard little of what he said; his features, his fine physique, his blazing eyes distracted me: he is one of the handsomest men I have so far ever seen. We came to a bower and sat down. The evening and the solitude invited all sorts of reveries; I saw that William was sighing and that a secret was weighing on his heart.

“I suspect,” he finally began, “that in the future I shall often think back on this evening with sorrow.”

“With sorrow? Are you so reluctant to leave us?”

“Can you really still ask such a question?”

“You will discover new friends and haunts, and among the newest ones forget the oldest.”

“You are torturing me!” he cried, somewhat indignantly, after a brief pause.

“I have reason to complain”—I moved slightly away from him so as not to fall into any sort of a quarrel, which can so easily become boring for and inimical to both parties involved, if one is not absolutely certain of an affectionate reconciliation; and this was not the case here—“I have reason to complain,” said I, “for I shall be left behind here in this dull and empty world; I am losing a friend who in so short a time has become very dear to me.”

He kissed my hand with great passion. “Countess!” he exclaimed. “Do you not wish to forget me?”

“Forget you?” I sighed gently. My part here was extremely true to life, and I played it with a deceptive facility. He was affecting me, genuinely; I am not indifferent to him. My hand lay in his; I squeezed it very gently; he reciprocated with vehemence; our lips met—

I stood up, as if in annoyance; he tried to placate me. We soon recommenced a melancholy and sentimental conversation, in the course of which our altercation was forgotten. After we returned to the assembled company, he often stood immersed in thought.

On parting he pressed a most passionate kiss to my hand. This is now the decisive epoch in his heart; meanwhile, I promise myself a victory over my unknown rival.

William Lovell to Balder

I have roamed through the whole town without finding you; the evening is so lovely, I would have liked so much to tell you of everything that is weighing on my heart; and so I am writing to you, because I apparently will not see you again today. Reply to me all the same tonight, or at least by early tomorrow morning, if you are constrained from paying me a visit.

Oh Balder, if only my soul could speak to you without recourse to words, and hence surrender to you wholeheartedly everything, everything that is burning in my breast and tormenting me with [a thousand] joys and agonies.

Yes, my friend, now I feel it: How very correct Rosa was in maintaining, as he did when he said, “The bosom of the man of feeling has room for a thousand emotions; why does man insist on confining his own delight within [such] narrow limits?[”] This is the delight of the fool who swears that he will never love again! Can he [thus] forsake his [own] soul?

You know of Amalie. Should I tell you that I have been unfaithful to her? Unfaithful? The word has no meaning; she is as indispensable to my heart as she has ever been. But can I resist this selfsame heart, which is now pulling me towards Mme. Blainville? Must I be blind, and not see her beauty? What power is it that is leading us to each other?

It was a lovely evening; I was with her in Count Melun’s garden; the two of us walked up and down for a long time alone together. Balder, she is the noblest feminine creature I have ever yet met! So much nature and kindheartedness! In a twilit bower I sat beside her in silent rapture; the flowers exuded the fragrance of love; the birds sang songs to the goddess; she wandered in zephyrous breezes through the garden and flitted amongst the lime-blossoms; it was as though under the golden luster of the firmament I could see a rose wreath-crowned angel who poured forth his thousand-fold benediction upon nature; how innocently the whole of animate and inanimate nature pressed towards him in joy and welcome—Oh, it was one of the most ecstatic moments of my life.

A hundred times I was on the point of confessing my feelings to her, of pressing her to my heart in an access of blind enthusiasm, of boldly pulling myself up to her exalted heights—but my recollection of Amalie held me back in deadly earnest. But I wish, I must confess to her what I feel; caught completely unawares, my bosom is [fairly] bursting with this emotion.

Am I on this account sinning against Amalie? Answer me forthwith; I do not believe that I am; I love her, I shall [continue to] love her; but must this love be a statute mandating [my] indifference to every excellence? Love enhances emotions; it ennobles them, else let me desire never to have loved.

Balder to William Lovell

I would so very much prefer not to reply to you—for I am just getting home, [laden] with a thousand dejected dreams, a thousand irksome emotions, from the vapid world of society—and now I see your letter—and yet I should like to devote a few moments to replying to you; I am disinclined to visit you in my present mood; we would only quarrel, and tomorrow I have a heap of businesses to attend to: in short, I do wish to write to you, only do not let me repeat myself on this subject hereafter, for we shall never be of one mind on it.

The entire world often seems to me to be nothing but a boring, worthless marionette show; the crowd is deceived and pleased by the semblance of life; but when one sees the wires that set the wooden figures in motion, one becomes so sad that one would fain weep among the multitude that are duped [by it] and willingly let themselves be [thus] duped. In our foolish pride, we ennoble all of our emotions; we marvel at the soulfulness and lofty spirituality of our feelings, and altogether refuse to look behind the curtain, when the most fleeting glimpse behind it would reveal to us the whole contemptible play of the machinery. I see nothing but sensuality in your new love; your fancy requires a charming play at all times, and you will very soon find it in all respects; that exalted, peerless emotion of love, which can neither be described nor felt a second time, has never visited your bosom; for you, love dies with [the death of] the presence of the beloved. Why must you desecrate this noble word?

I vividly recall the few golden days of my life, when my entire soul became but a peerless emotion of love, when every other thought, every other feeling in the world had withered away for me; I had wandered so deeply astray into the gloomy vault of a romantic grove that only twilight surrounded me, that no sound from the rest of the world reached my ears. The whole of nature alluded to my love; every tone proclaimed to me a salutation from my beloved. She died and like a shower of meteors all of my bliss came crashing down; it sank as though on the far side of a gloomy and distant forest; since then nary a glimmer from that time has been reillumined in my sight.

And never again will a ray [therefrom] return to me! I sit on the monument of my friend’s tomb, and decline even to receive alms from the hand of transient circumstance; my misery is my consolation.

I am afraid, William, that you will not understand me; our emotions are at variance here. But if Amalie loves you, her love is her ruination, for you will in that case never surrender to her what she has bestowed upon you in the full measure of her feelings. She is sighing over you, and you are forgetting her; she suffers, and you are welcomed by new joys; do not christen your orgy of sensuality with the name of love; you are insulting this lofty divinity: for is not love love precisely in virtue of the fact that it fills our bosoms entirely? Our soul is too confined a space to encompass two beings with a single strong emotion; and he who is capable [of such twofold love] has become poor [and cold] of heart [indeed].

Countess Blainville to


Since my letter of the other day many quite important events have taken place, and yesterday I was kept so [constantly] under siege by Lovell that it was impossible for me to tell you anything about them; and so I must once again have recourse to writing.

I am as good as engaged to my dearest uncle; finally his confession has sprung from his lips.

The count visited me the other day, as he often does. I was just then in the middle of a piece of embroidery. Naturally he admired what was hardly worthy of admiration, and sang the praises of what was only a source of ordinary boredom; one gets used to this sort of thing, and I paid no especial attention to any of it. The chambermaid left us and now the conversation took a different turn.

“You are so often alone, my dear niece; do not the hours pass slowly for you at times?”

“Never—besides, you have granted me the use of your library.”

He took up a visitor’s card that was lying on the table, and examined it indifferently.

Rosa?” he began, “How comes it that I have not seen him in such a long time?”

“I do not know the nature of the business that must be keeping him from us.”

“If he does not make amends for his incivility, he will incur your displeasure.”

“He is the master of his own time.”

“I believe you are already angry at him.”

“What leads you to that conclusion?”

“Really!” He placed the card back on the table and pretended to be meditating on my needlework while furtively, attentively, and closely observing me. “You have singled him out, and he repays your hope with ingratitude.”

“Singled him out?” [I asked] while I corrected [my needlework] with the utmost coldness. “You mean that he has singled me out, and often to my utmost chagrin.”


“Have I not since taken a high tone with my little friend Cécile? Has not the foolish Belfort, who used so often to make me laugh, not since fallen out with me? I am glad that this Rosa is less often here to bore me.”

“If Rosa bores you, such must be even more so the case with the rest of your friends.”


“And you make no exceptions?” He looked at me with a faint smile.

One visitor I always make an exception for.”

A sudden terror convulsed his lips like a flash of lightning; all at once he looked extremely earnest. “And this one visitor?” he asked, while bursting for no reason into laughter which, for all that, gradually began to sound passably unaffected, “might I know him?”

“Oh yes,” I answered him gaily, “Surely you did not seriously fail to infer that I meant you?”

“Me? I was certainly unprepared for this compliment.”

“It is certainly no compliment.”

“[Are you] in earnest?”

“What else [should I be]?”

“You would perhaps soon regret this protestation if I were tempted to see you more often.”

“You will see how great my enjoyment will be.”

“If I dared to take you completely at your word?”

“And why should you doubt it?”

“Louise, do you not attach any importance to your young, witty, amiable male companions?”

“I find them tiresome.”

“On the whole you dislike the great world and its pleasures.”

“They bore me.”

“You were born for a quiet, happy, domestic life.”

“I desire no other and shall find nothing wanting therein.”

“Happy is the man whom you some day take as a husband.” He stood up and paced up and down without saying a word; I was silent and continued with my needlework.

“One acquires nothing in this so-called great world,” he finally continued, “one squanders one’s life on a tedious game, one becomes acquainted with no [new] joys of the heart; one finds in privation one’s pride and a suppositious, conventional happiness. I have lived in this world for a long time, Louise, and have known no happiness.”

“Because perhaps you have not sought it.”

“A deplorable vanity deceives us with fraudulent promises; each day we are ashamed to be better than we were [the day before]; we [allow] everything to vanish in a single [access of] boredom, because the austerity of fashion requires it—but I wish now to unmoor myself from this prejudice. If I found a heart that felt exactly as mine felt, that had an intimation of true happiness, and suffered no loss of its tedious dream—”

“Can this heart be so rare a thing?”

“You are [this heart], Louise. One does not presume to follow nature and her allurements—if I found a soul that loved me, that would not find it hard to repudiate her dull prejudices—Oh, Louise, if [only] you were that soul!”

I could say nothing in reply.

“If [only] you were that soul!” he continued with ardor, but also with unflagging earnestness.

“And if—”

“I do not wish to rush you; I do not wish to [have to] persuade you; ask your heart and give me an answer in a few days. I am weary of the way I have hitherto been living. I have brought you up; I know you; you have already vouchsafed me much joy; my foresight has yielded the fairest fruit; I take pleasure in you as I would in an embellished mirror.”

I have written to you of these encomiums thus far and so unabashedly because more than half of them reflected back on to him; but of the remainder I shall say nothing, because they concerned only me. At length, he left me.

Need I confess to you, Rosa, that I was in a strange mood when he left me? He had become so serious, as I had never seen him; he had spoken with great feeling. The entirety of his present existence seems shallow and uninteresting to him; an autumn wind has shaken the leaves from his trees, the present has become barren and empty, and he takes in at a single glance those vacant spaces in the garden that were once filled by secret passages that afforded him the keenest temptation. He is in search of a destiny rich in pleasures; he has made an appeal to my heart, and wishes to procure from me a new, more joyous existence—and can I deceive him?

I had actually become tender-hearted; my weakness had so completely overtaken me that I could not help (I am ashamed to be writing this, Rosa) taking refuge in those childish ideas and emotions of my earliest years, disowning all of the thoughts and experiences of my maturer years, and calling you a liar. In short, I was on the point of becoming one of those excellent matrons from the provinces who give their daughters a thorough drilling in the catechism or gush pious tears over a passage in the Bible; oh, weakness is so peculiar to feminine nature that perhaps without it we would cease to be women: one lover agitates us with his beauty, another with presents, a third with tenderness, a fourth with his display of moralizing maxims and soul-stirring supplications, and has to turn out to be our very own uncle.

I recovered from my distraction; my vanity, my pride awoke; I was ashamed of myself. Am I so easily to be persuaded to prefer the most disagreeable of lovers to the most agreeable of them? How paltry must my understanding be that it costs so little [effort] to bring me to give up a life of [sumptuousness and] splendor so casually? It occurred to me that perhaps the Count was prompted more by vanity than by love [to take] this step.

My own vanity was wounded by this last thought; in the end it seemed to me that he really loved me. I was perhaps yet once again on the point of recommencing my struggle with myself when Mortimer and Lovell had themselves announced; and as I had no more time, I prorogued all of my musings and feelings on the subject to a more suitable time.

Lovell was very serious and reserved; I do not know what notions could have taken him unawares with such entirely unprecedented force; he was silent and even cold. We were alone together for a few moments, and I availed myself of them by trying to drive him decisively out of his fortifications. He became confused; he wanted to speak and could not; by and by, considerably agitated, he left me.

No later than yesterday morning he had himself announced; immediately upon his entrance I surmised that he had a great coup in mind for the day, and I was not mistaken. He was in a constant state of embarrassment; all the while he had something to say to me and dared not say it; he turned [alternately] red and pale.

At length, as he was leaving me, he made his great resolution; he kissed my hand with extraordinary fervor; gave me a piece of paper, and hurried out of the room. I intend to enclose this sheet for you.

Two such triumphs in succession must flatter my vanity, no?

I see that my letter has got quite long; I am beginning to tire of writing; farewell.

William Lovell to Countess Blainville
No longer do I wish, am I able, to keep silent. If these words take you unawares, I am lost; but no, even in the absence of words, you must have felt for some time what you are to me; and why should I not acknowledge what I do not have the strength to conceal: hear now by means of a terrestrial cry that I love you and love you inexpressibly. If you are angry at me, I have seen you for the last time.

Andrea Cosimo to
How comes it that you have not given us any intelligence whatsoever of yourself and your commission? Have you forgotten me and the rest of your friends? Do not by delaying place any obstacles in the path of our designs, and never forget that for us there is but a single step from suspicion to pursuit and punishment.

Willy to his brother Thomas

I believe what you say there regarding my letters; I even know that they are not by any means the prettiest that the postman can bring a person; but still you can take me at my word that they come from the very best of hearts. And besides I also know that you have a solid and honest understanding that always knows straight away what a person is trying to say, otherwise, I might expect my letters to be ill received indeed; but it is good to preach to a scholar. What I had written to you in my [last] letter is truer every day here, and I can report to you no other particular news except that we shall soon be leaving Paris. The Italian that I wrote to you a couple of words about the other day is traveling with us, and I am none too happy about that; the man is very disagreeable to me, but I myself don’t know why. You’ll know full well, Thomas, that a person will be put off by other people from time to time without being able to work out how in the world it happened; and that’s the way it is for me with Master Rosa, who was born in Italy. We have a new acquaintance in one Master Balder, who is from somewhere near Germany, and who I can better put up with: even if he often seems a bit peevish, he is nonetheless always quite friendly; he is a very good friend of my Master William, who when he has the chance [will] again send you his best wishes. We both pity [with all our strength] his worthy aunt who died at Waterhall, but it is no longer any use; it is merely our duty, and yours too, Thomas, and I credit you with enough Christian charity to suppose that you are bearing your share of this pity in silence [even] if you haven’t written a thing about it in your letter.

I’m sure I’ll be surprised by how Italy looks; the map of it looks silly enough; in some places it’s so skinny that two carts could hardly get past each other [there]; I want to write to you plenty about it, so you’ll know it comes from a man who has seen everything with his own eyes, and what’s more from your own brother, who on that account would never lie to you about anything. They must know lots of arts in Italy, but I think nothing tops English racing; at least I’ve not seen anything finer yet.

The hours have started to hang oftentimes mighty heavily on me here in Paris; the people, the Parisians, and the French in general aren’t quite to my liking; they could be better. In England, the people look healthier and stronger; we also have cripples that would make a fair showing alongside these French ones, but they aren’t so starved and meek.

Write back to me when you have the time; at least remain my faithful brother.

Countess Blainville to


The other day you had doubts about my victory; I am writing to inform you that it has since been achieved.

I had fixed an appointment with Lovell for a tête-à-tête yesterday evening. He arrived punctually; the Count will be out of town for a few days; my chambermaid has her most express orders. His face had something quite seductively dejected about it; he had so much to say to me, and yet we spoke but little; kisses, embraces, [and] tender sighs did duty for speech. I was obliged to play for him a few things on the fortepiano; the moon shed a romantic light upon us through the red curtains; the notes deliquesced into the room in faint accents. You are of course well acquainted with the sensation we feel when emotions of the highest pitch send us into ethereal and superterrestrial raptures that are so nearly akin to sensuality; the most illustrious person fancies himself ennobled; and all the while he is ecstatically sinking down to his knees before the altar of terrestrial Venus. Lovell passed through all of the secret shades of sensual lust; at length, [and] in my arms, he recanted his coldness and insensibility; I am happy to have made a convert of him.

Farewell; I am tired and sleepy.
Louise Blainville

P. S. Apropos! What is that little Blondine you told me about the other day up to? Are you still of a mind to take her along with you as a jockey on your trip?

William Lovell to Balder


Balder, I am writing to you once again; I am entitled to write to you, for you yourself will acknowledge the rightness of my feelings. Oh, my friend I have emerged from a gloomy, deathlike night, a blazing aurora is dawning in the heavens and resplendently shining into my eyes. Louise is mine, eternally mine; [of this] she has convinced me with warmest of love’s kisses. I bid defiance to your disdain, to a world of disdain; indissolubly chained to love with radiant fetters [as I am], no paltry emotion of [mere] mortality dares venture within the circumference of my paradise; with a single blazing sword my guardian angel stands [guard] at its border and repulses every profane feeling, the jubliant anthem of love in its triumphal roar is drowning out every reverberation of the terrestrial bustle.

I fear that I am speaking mad gibberish to you, but I must communicate my emotion; be a simple friend if you are attending to me—afterwards you may admonish me [if you like]: but I pity the man who admonishes me without envying me; I pity the fools who incessantly prattle of the contemptibility of sensuality; in a lamentable state of blindness they offer up sacrifices to a feeble divinity whose gifts [can] gratify no heart; they laboriously clamber over barren rocks in search of flowers and deludedly pass by the greensward in full bloom. No, I have sworn allegiance to that higher divinity before whom the whole of vital nature deferentially bows down, who within herself unites every discrete feeling of the heart; who is everything, sensual lust, love; to that for which language has no words the tongue can find no utterance. In Louise’s arms I have known love for the first time; my remembrance of Amalie seems a hazy image in the nocturnal distance; I have never loved her.

I’d sworn to her a love unending,
Fool that I was, in love untaught;
To bliss my life was never tending;
To earthly dregs 'twas e’er descending,
To rocky beaches burnt to naught.

Immersed in torpid depths unwholesome,
All round me lay night’s void confine;
A golden gleam then bade me welcome;
I cried out “Ha!” in frenzy gladsome:
“A hint of Phoebus’ majesty divine!”

Now all my chains have burst asunder;
The east’s emitting fiery rays;
My mighty struggles have gone under;
Victorious I bask in wonder;
Heracles puts on heaven’s bays!

May lightning take on wings of fire
And issue in a serried line;
May thunder its own heir inspire;
By fate or death I’ll ne’er expire,
For she alone will e’er be mine!

The following morning

I am waking up—and on reading this through again, Balder, I am terrified. The recollection of yesterday attacks me like a fit of vertigo. My remembrance of Amalie approaches me in all of the holiness of innocence, with heartrending sadness—O, Balder, I should like to flee from [the sight of] myself. What is human strength? I am a wretch; console me if you can.

I must be gone, gone from Paris—I must! I feel as though the houses were collapsing in on me; the sky hangs darkly and drearily over me. We intend to leave and to tarry no longer. Oh, Balder, you are right; I am a worthless individual, my heart is too small for those divine feelings—do not despise [me], do not forget me—and do not tear up this paper; keep it, and whenever you see me on the point of forgetting Amalie and my vows, present it to me secretly and silently, and it will be for me as though a thunderbolt had come crashing down in front of me.

Amalie Wilmont to William Lovell


Why have I not received a letter from you in such a long time? I am on this score like a child, in that a thousand ills that might have befallen you are constantly occurring to me; tear me free of my unrest soon. I am often alone and occupy myself in my daydreams with my memory of you; often my heart is pierced by this thought: Perhaps he has already forgotten me! And then I weep—and then I reproach myself with the wrong I am doing you, and I beg the little picture of you that you left with me to forgive me for my precipitancy. Oh, write to me, even if you are ill; since I stopped receiving letters from you, I have seen nothing but robbers and bandits falling upon you and murdering you, I see you struggling helplessly against the surge [of the sea]; or hear you crying in vain for help in a burning house—oh, write to me at once, cold tears of horror often come into my eyes. Your father is now better again, but he is now embroiled in a lawsuit with Lord Burton that is costing him a great deal of time and causing him [much] vexation. It seems that there are more wicked people in this world than I ever would have believed. But of course you are my friend, my desire; to you alone do I wish to direct all of my timorous thoughts. A new mere smattering of words from you, and soon, and I shall be gay and happy.

William Lovell to Amalie Wilmont

How your tender concern soothes and wrings my heart! Am I to forget you? Nevermore! No, do not take my heart for so pitiful a thing that it could ever forsake the emotions that it has you to thank for; no, in the innermost chamber of my soul they lie in safekeeping as a pledge of my worth. Oh, Amalie, I yearn and hope for the day of my return; I yearn for the moment when I see you again; this good fortune after so long a separation will intoxicate me; the long empty interval will make me feel this joy all the more forcefully. I often think with sorrow of my cruel and affectionate father. Oh, may love forgive me this sacrilege!—on your account I often wish that he loved me less, for then I should have a greater right to be a disobedient son. But now! And yet who knows what joys niggardly futurity has yet in store for me, in order to bring me good fortune through its omnifaceted kindnesses! Lady Hope shall be my friend; this very love of father’s is my consolation; he allows me every pleasure life has to offer; he does not begrudge me that which is the foundation of my existence, [and] to which every other happiness can but be a sequel; you see how I am [managing to snatch {a} joy] even out of my suffering; for in the certainty of my good fortune, without this hope, our separation would seem to me even longer. Be of better cheer; I sincerely wish you to be so; forgive your friend a remissness through which he has merited your anger. I intended to set aside my fairest hours for writing to you; but for one reason or another, I was always in a bad humor, and so writing of every sort was always being postponed. Oh, dearest, dearest Amalie, I regret the words I have written; lifeless symbols can never express my heart’s feeling; everything is cold and insensible; I bid you let love read this letter; read it with longing; I am writing it in a spirit of gloomy and frolicsome melancholy; when you feel the beating of your heart, the compression of your bosom by some inexplicable dread, the acceleration of your pulse, the striving of your soul to burst forth from its corporeal integument in order to fly into the embrace of a kindred spirit—oh then you will feel as I do now; then I bid you tear up this paper and our spirits will confer in the sweetest exaltation of unmediated rapture.

William Lovell to Edward Burton

We have finally left Paris and I am the better for it. The journey hither has made me happy once again; fair nature has chased away all of the gloomy fantasies that [hitherto] tormented me; I am once again thinking joyfully about you and Amalie; I have made peace with my soul. Ah, Edward, it is a sad commentary in my view that our much-vaunted human strength should be so wanting in consistency; in the absence of temptation, one believes oneself possessed of the strength of Hercules; but how soon the [mighty] hero is overpowered on the battlefield. In Louise’s arms I forgot both you and Amalie; I blush as I write these words from one friend to another; indeed, the very thought of you makes me blush, [and] because it torments me, I try to flee it—but in vain. But my fairer emotions soon returned to me; I soon made my peace with my dearest sweetheart[s]; my mental frenzy subsided to its present disdain into which it flung the purer feelings of my heart. And so, Edward, I am extending you my hand as if towards the establishment of a new [friendship]; forgive me, forget my weakness, now I can no longer be so easily deceived by external appearances and base hypocrisy; in Louise Blainville I have gone astray, but no second lapse will befall me / [I shall make no second mistake]; Amalie alone now lives, for me there is now only one happiness. I must trust less in the superficies of people, lest their impostures too easily succeed; I intend to learn [the art of] prudence so as not to have to buy it again.

Balder and Rosa, of whom I have written to you [already], are accompanying me to Italy. I like Rosa much more than I did earlier; there are many people with whom one must become well enough acquainted that the strangeness in them disappears, and one discovers them to be entirely different than initially; I have also had this same experience in connection with Mortimer, whose mood[s] I now often find quite entertaining. Yes, Edward, I promise to be more clear-sighted, not to let myself be taken unawares so often by dark emotions, but to think more and to act of my own free will. Balder is a very amiable young man; only his melancholy makes him very unhappy. Farewell; you will be receiving yet another letter from me very soon, before I can have a reply from you.

Walter Lovell to his son


Your friend Mortimer’s uncle is on his deathbed and desires nothing more ardently than to see his nephew before he dies: You must therefore in all likelihood part from him and continue your journey without him. I know that you require no overseer and that two [of your] other friends will be accompanying you to Italy, [and] so you will feel his absence less keenly. I do not wish him to allow himself to be detained out of scrupulousness or any idea of an obligation to you, for here in London there seems to be awaiting him a lawsuit that, in view of his inheritance, may cause him many difficulties should he not be present at it [in person]; for this reason I advise him not to place any fancied obstacles in the way of his departure.

My health seems still to be more robust than ever; but my lawsuit with Burton is causing me much uneasiness. He denies that the sum for the estates of Orfield and Bosring was ever paid; he has produced writings of his grandfather’s that seem to substantiate [this assertion]; my wretched memory, the journey hither, and my new household prevent me from finding those documents that would persuade him to the contrary; his lawyer is the craftiest in London. But I yet [maintain a] hope that matters will turn out well, for a multitude of circumstances are conspiring against Burton.

By way of allaying all of Mortimer’s scruples, I have enclosed a letter to him.

Mortimer to Charles Wilmont


My uncle is fully resolved to die and I am fully obliged to come back to England. The poor old man has much moved me in a letter; he wishes to see me again; he cannot be at peace until he does. I now repent of the recklessness with which I dealt with him; but he never betrayed anything of his love for me, or at least any greater part of it than one is within one’s rights to demand of an average uncle. I shall therefore soon be saluting once again my native soil, and then I intend altogether to renounce the wild, unsettled life I have hitherto been leading. I have already devised for myself a very fine plan; I shall establish myself in a charming country seat, [and] live there with myself and my fancy; you will abide with me as long as it pleases you to be in my company; we shall read, talk, ride, [and] hunt together. Solitude has very many charms when one has first seen and enjoyed the world; one then encompasses the entirety of existence within a tiny circle that one can take in at a single glance; one learns to understand everything around oneself in its minutest proportions. But in order to settle down into this mode of living, I must first find a young woman who is willing to share this enjoyment with me. Whether I shall find her is the great question; for I have yet to meet the woman in connection with whom every thought of marriage would not have [absolutely] terrified [me].

Try to arrange things so that I can meet you in London; moreover, your parents would be very glad to see you again. So if Burton’s sister is not detaining you, make for London with all speed; but if you are in love, I do not wish to invite you down, inasmuch as to do so would be tantamount to committing a sacrilege.

I now leave William Lovell to continue his journey in the company of Rosa and Balder. He is much livelier and more human than formerly; he is beginning to emerge somewhat from the unnatural regions of fancy and to condescend [to mingle] with other human beings; I hope someday to see him again, in England, [transformed into] a proper, sensible [young] man; and Rosa is exactly the companion who can make him into one.

Old Willy is exceedingly distressed at my departure; he has become melancholy about the journey in general and has endeavored to prove on the evidence of a dream that a misfortune will befall [both] Lovell and me as a consequence of it, [and] that I am now leaving him behind [for good].

Farewell; either I shall see you in London, or you will receive a letter thence from me.

William Lovell to Edward Burton

I am already drawing near to places where the greatest delights await me. Mortimer left me at Lyons and is now bound back for England; his uncle has summoned him thither; Rosa and Balder are my associates. In precise proportion to their dissimilarity of character do I love them both with an equal steadfastness: I am beginning to become reconciled to [certain] feelings and the external manifestations thereof that I formerly hated; I prize people for their talents without overlooking their flaws; I am but seldom taken unawares by my quondam prejudice in virtue of which a single flaw [can] make a person thoroughly odious to me.

The journey hither has afforded me an extraordinary degree of enjoyment; so many happy faces, so many celebrations in the villages; I have thought back with great warmth on the years of my childhood [, on] all those country games [I played] with the young people in [our] village. [I have been] surrounded everywhere by superlatively fair Nature, who cannot abide gloomy or [merely] human feelings; [a] fine climate, sunshine—all of it has sent me into a state of voluptuous intoxication, in which I have often quite forgotten myself and, like a child of nature, felt the refreshing sensation of sheer, naked being.

How often have I wished you at my side! To enjoy oneself by oneself and unbosom oneself in solitude are instantly tedious; Balder is too melancholy, too stolid, for the expression of joy; Rosa’s feeling[s are] too fugitive and unsuited to any actual enthusiasm. Oh, Edward, I miss you so very often; I have been welcomed nowhere else by that fraternal spirit [of yours]; I shall seek it [elsewhere] in vain. If only I could press you and Amalie to my throbbing heart; I have atoned for my transgression against Amalie in a perpetual meditation on the memory of your love; I am once again worthy of it [“your love”] / her [“Amalie”].

Your next letter will reach me in Genoa. Farewell.


Translation © 2009 by Douglas Robertson