Friday, December 10, 2010

A Translation of Two Essays on Shakespeare by Ludwig Börne

For Michael Goldfarb
Shakespeare's Hamlet

Among those of the English poet's plays that do not unfold within the context of British history or legend, Hamlet is the only one set on northern soil and under northern skies.  Qua natural historian, Shakespeare fully understood and paid due heed to the matter of pairing each nation he treated of with the climate best suited to it.  To the parti-colored sallies of mirth, to the streaming effusions of joy, to peremptory passions, to clear and sharply circumscribed actions, he bequeathed the sunny, azure-vaulted south, where night is but a dormant day; the wistful, brooding, dreamy Hamlet he set in a land of fog and long nights, under an overcast sky, in a region where day is but an insomniac night.  From the beginning, this tragedy holds us captive as inmates of the dank prison of nature, and we are refreshed, as by a ray of sunlight shining through a chink in the wall, when we encounter in its course—as we do on one occasion apiece—the warmth of the name "Rome," and the brightness of "France."

The most exacting connoisseurs of the drama, together with the Bard's most ardent champions, have maintained that Hamlet is his masterpiece.  We must test the limits of this assertion.  Hamlet is not the most admirable of Shakespeare's works, but Shakespeare is at his most admirable in Hamlet.  To wit: we marvel at exceptional ability not when it begins to become effectual, but when it ceases to remain so; for it is from its persistence alone that an ability derives its greatness.  Such is the case here.  We travel the full length of the poet's shining path and, having reached the goal of our admiration, we turn round and make our weary way back towards our starting point, only to encounter Hamlet en route, to our great surprise.  Shakespeare was obliged to redouble his steps; he was obliged to step outside himself in order to call this play into being, and in so doing he overtook himself.  I say this not in the hyperbole of encomiastic rhetoric, but rather in the coolness of deliberation.  Hamlet is a colony of Shakespeare's mind that is situated at a different latitude, possessed of a different natural history, and governed by completely different laws from those of the mother country.  Shakespeare is a nature-worshiper, a shaman of nature-worship.  His God is a manifest God; the reflection of the world in the mind of man is his shamanistic wisdom.  Whatever he may show us—heaven and earth, hell and paradise, life and death—he allows it to take the form of a genial human face.  Everything breathes, everything lives, and death is merely the ledger wherein are recorded the credits and debits of life.  Hamlet is completely different; in it everything is mystical.  Everywhere else, heroism is at center stage; in Hamlet dim-witted ingenuity remains in the background.  In Hamlet resides the nocturnal side, the feminine essence, of life; the receptive, the parturient; in Hamlet we hear the labor pains of creation.  Elsewhere in Shakespeare philosophy appears on the scene and takes shape as experience; in Hamlet, experience vanishes, and philosophy ascends to the cloudy skies as vapor.  All other characters are concave and constitute points of focus; Hamlet is the only convex character, the only one whose rays diverge.  Elsewhere everything, however abominable, however execrable it may be, appears in the light of day.  In Hamlet even the jokes appall, for they are blenched by moonlight.  The ghost of the murdered king is hardly the most terrifying apparition in the play; he shows himself at night, in that tenebrous residence of spirits, where we are but unassuming guests.  Much more shocking is the daytime ghost at large in our own house—the ghost of young Hamlet.
Shakespeare is a king, and he is not subject to laws.  If he were like anybody else, one could get away with saying, "Hamlet is a lyrical character, he resiles from all dramatic structuring; Hamlet is the Unthing that is worse than death; he is the Unborn."  But this is Shakespeare!  We must obey him and hold our peace.
Over the canvas hangs a veil.  We would like to pull it away to contemplate the painting more closely, but the veil itself is painted.  The proximity of the eye must compensate for the dimness of the light.  We first take a look around the neighborhood of our hero of suffering.  Hamlet is not the central point, we must make him into one; we intend first to trace his circle and only then to set him inside it.  But above all we shall manfully fortify ourselves against the error that so often worsts us in life as it does in the theater.  In life we judge people by their reputations; in the theatre we believe in the figures portrayed there without scrutinizing everything said and thought about them by the virtuous members of the dramatis personae.  This is not the right way of going about it; we must observe them and analyze then on our own.  Hamlet is hardly as noble and likeable as he appears in the eyes of his sweetheart; the king is not by a long shot as worthless as Hamlet's aspersions against him suggest; indeed, we cannot but be seriously mistaken in our preference of the good nephew to the evil uncle.
The scene is a northern court, half clad in the unwrought iron of ancient times, half in the ordinary cloth worn by the heroes of our own day, who use their swords to cut quills backstage.  The rust of politics is already beginning to mottle the army's stable.  Straight flights of stairs and tortuous passageways [are laid out] in parallel; barbaric rudeness converges with civilized flattery.  The courtiers have already caught the scent of the eighteenth century and know where the rub is.  We have intelligence enough, but are lacking in spirit, in wit, and in breeding.  The two students, Hamlet and Horatio, are [oral] oracles, and their book-learned erudition is bottled up inside them.  The jokes are somewhat loutish and bawdy; the pricking out of the meter is characteristic of the jousting exercises of the literati of that age.  The people are revolting: the queen addresses them as "You false Danish dogs."
The king has murdered his brother, married his brother's sister, and crowned himself.  He is uncommunicative; we cannot see into his breast, but it would appear that he is sincerely devoted to the queen, and we are allowed to believe that his love is older than his ambition and his crime.  He has done the deed; he has sold his soul to the infernal powers, but he is aware of how much he owes; he knows how much he has spent and also how much he has obtained.  The king is just like the rest of Shakespeare's villains, in that—to put it in good, old-fashioned pedestrian terms—his morals are none too sound.  It is hard to hold a proper grudge against any of Shakespeare's villains; they are not bad for their own sakes alone; they bear on their foreheads the mark of Cain, the title-page of mankind's book of sins, which page is not answerable for the contents that are betokened by it.  The king, after his great offence, does no further evil than is needful to his own self-interest and security, and even that not until he is as close as can be to both danger and the means of avoiding it.  Even when he is harmful, he is unmoved by untoward suspicion of being done harm to by others.  He is extremely patient, extremely forbearing, towards Hamlet, whose true frame of mind he and he alone manages to discern, the first time he observes him in secret.  He is a noble spirit who allows his ignoble conscience to confide in him only at moments of silent seclusion.  On one occasion, he is overwhelmed by this conscience and bends his sinewy knees before God; we are moved, and it pains us that he cannot manage to pray, and that his sense of guilt is not outweighed by his capacity to repent.  He is a grand seigneur, both awe-inspiring and politically shrewd, both eloquent and good-natured.  He treats the old and no longer-serviceable Polonius with genuine respect, Laertes and the other courtiers with ingratiating consideration.  Like his countrymen he drinks heartily; it comes naturally to him, and for political reasons he makes no secret of it.  He has a truly miraculous presence of mind that never fails him.  It is not because he cannot quell his inner tumult that he abruptly walks out of Hamlet's play, for if that were the problem, he would have left immediately after the dumb-show, which could not but have made an overwhelming first impression on him.  He withdraws only to save himself, for he fears that this play will have a very serious ending, and that Hamlet's unstinting sentence will be all too summarily executed.  In this he misjudges Hamlet; he fails to consider that a man of strength who has firmly resolved to do something never makes threats.  His pacific equanimity and regal bearing are unruffled by Laertes's invasion of the palace at the head of a rebellious mob; by Hamlet's unexpected homecoming and frustration of his plans; by the slumping to the floor of the poisoned queen, whose unconsciousness he explains away as an attack of nerves induced by the sight of blood; and even by his own descent into death, whose irremediability he dissembles in calling for help.  In this final, terrible moment, on the verge of death, the king does not forsake his fellow human beings, grateful as he is for the sacrifices that they have made.  They escort him across the border into the next world, and aloft into the presence of that eternal judge, before whom he must attempt to vindicate himself.  We are suffered to hope that our gracious Lord will forgive the king his trespasses; it was a crime to be king, but it was a crime committed not by him but, rather, by his nation.

The queen is frail; she is Hamlet's mother.  Her share in the crime is twofold: she purchases cheap stolen goods, and she never even asks whether there has been a theft.  The king's manly comportment has overpowered her; the lamp of conscience within her, lit for the first time by her son at midnight, burns out before dawn, and she awakes flush with the sins of the day before.

In juxtaposition with the heir apparent the poet has circumspectly placed Fortinbras and Laertes, Hamlet's contemporaries, so that his shadow may have some light thrown on it.  With wonderful impudence Fortinbras reaches out his hand towards Hamlet's patrimony, and being caught in the act, placidly wends his way to a more pillageable purse.  He keeps up an almost laughably steady tattoo throughout Hamlet's otherwise silent slumbers, and when Hamlet wakes up and dies, he is once again ready to hand, primed to ascend in broad daylight to that throne towards which he had formerly been obliged to creep furtively in the darkness.  Laertes, the reckless youth, precipitously forsakes the flagitious debauchery of Paris to avenge his father's death and is more than happy to have the interest of his impatience repaid in the form of a crown; while the serious, virtuous Hamlet, whose father has also been murdered, who has been deprived of his kingly birthright, slinks on to the scene from out of the pristine chastity of Wittenburg, and creeps forth and dreams and ponders and accomplishes nothing.  With Laertes's vociferous lamentations over Ophelia he strives only to compete; he has no desire to share his silent sorrow with any fellow-mourners.

Horatio has also studied at Wittenburg and has returned thence with a willing spirit and weak flesh.  He has been molded into a perfect Latinist and can retail all the famous stories about Rome and the mighty Julius Caesar.  The younger courtiers will surely have poked a great deal of fun at him behind his back.  In a world bereft of Hamlet, Horatio avers, he would not be a Dane, but an antique Roman, and follow his friend into the grave; but in the end he does nothing of the sort.     
Polonius in his youth was a clever fellow.  In his old age, he has come to find thoughts heavy and unwieldy things, and he can no longer manage to unsheathe them at will.  He is fond of displaying them, as if he still had them at his command, and he delights in brandishing the tried-and-true, combat-tested weapon.  Only unseasonably sarcastic natures will find it in their hearts to laugh at this poor old man.  He is admittedly none too well acquainted with love, madness, or enthusiasm; for his practical experience of life at court has not presented him with any cases of these maladies.  But he is equally unacquainted with underhanded maneuvering, and in his gullible integrity he allows himself to be struck dead in place of his master the King.  The much-lauded wisdom of old age he possesses in abundance.  He gives his son excellent rules to live by during his travels; he is a loving father and has nothing about him of the cantankerous oldster.  He remonstrates sternly but not unkindly with his daughter regarding her association with Hamlet, and he is never tempted by ambition to countenance a liaison that offends his sense of the decorum of political hierarchy.  And yet this liaison would certainly not have been an inauspicious one, for as we learn from the queen, she has seriously entertained the thought of her son's marrying Ophelia.  Polonius is a loyal servant of his master, an honest fellow, and no mean courtier.  If he humors Hamlet's spleenish meteorology, he does so not out of fatuous sycophancy, but because he thinks he is being mocked by a madman.  We are glad for his sake that he does not live to see the demise of the royal dynasty and the attendant extinction of his own family line.
Ophelia is sweet-tempered and as unsophisticated as the average middle-class girl.  She has been neither spoiled by the court nor refined by it.  Hamlet seduced her, and she never noticed what she had lost until, with the murder of her father, she lost all possibility of recovering it.  Luckily for her virtue, the etiquette of piety, the policy of morality, came to the rescue.  She loses both her mind and her life without knowing why.  The little creature was trampled underfoot in one of fate's broad strides; the tiny violet was crushed by the mighty oak felled by the rainstorm.

Is the ghost really as sublime as it is so often made out to be? It enters togged out in a complete suit of armor, but it seems to me that all this iron-plating is but skin-deep; the ghost's inner soul is tender and pure. The ghost's familial resemblance to his son Hamlet is downright uncanny. He is a weak, philosophical, winged ghost most at home in the sky. Such beings are like birds that sing a song whose words have no bearing on the flesh. Hamlet's father talks willingly, at length, and with great rhetorical artistry; one almost fancies one is listening to a transfigured actor. The time granted him to wander is so very brief, and he almost completely wastes it. Instead of beginning with the most important things—with the facts of the case, with his murder—he first tells of the infernal torments he is obliged to endure, and evinces immense delight in producing a lengthy poetic description of them. He wants to build to a proper dramatic climax and end with the fratricide, but this is a mistake. The most nightmarish thing about a ghost is the fact that it appears and talks; next to this, what it says and does, be it ever so terrible, is mere childish tomfoolery. This ghost seems, moreover, not to have improved his knowledge of human nature a jot in the next world; otherwise, he would have chosen anybody but Hamlet as his avenger. Perhaps this was not even his reason for appearing. He roamed around haphazardly in search of someone to avenge him, but unfortunately Hamlet was the only Sunday's child in the entire court. The ghost is desperately keen to have Horatio and his fellow witness sworn never to speak of what they have seen, but he neglects the much more needful task of advising his son to keep his secret. This son gabs and blabs about the whole thing, and thereby confounds his father's desire and his own enterprise. To be sure, the king eventually perishes, but he is targeted as his nephew's murderer, not as his brother's. The old mole was blind.

Back into this country, into this court, into the midst of these people, comes Hamlet, still warm with the air of Wittenberg, and instantly catches a cold complete with the snuffles that so often afflict tender souls. He is plucked from the school playground and set down in the great wide world, whereupon he begins to waste away. Having been brought up for a soldier and a hunter like every king's son, once at Wittenberg he did nothing but practice disputing outlandish theses and marshalling hare-brained sophistries. To be sure, the nimble-minded prince wears this heavy German philosophy gracefully, but only to his own detriment: whereas a simple and inflexible philosophy blocks only the principal veins of life, a subtle, pliant one works its way into the pettiest artures and impedes the circulation of the most eager blood. Among the arts he has picked up at the prestigious university, the only one of any use in dirty everyday life—that of fencing—proves his bane. He is farsighted enough to perceive the danger that menaces him in distant England, and yet he fails to see the glint of the sharply honed rapier-point only an inch away from his eye. Hamlet is a man who lives for holidays only, and he is entirely irreconcilable with this working-day world. He lampoons the vain hustling and bustling of human beings, who in turn reprehend his vain inactivity. A night-watchman, he observes and announces the time when other people are asleep and wish to have nothing to do with him, and he sleeps while others are awake and going about their business. Like a Fichtian, he thinks nothing but "I am I," and does nothing but position his ego. He lives in words, and as the historian of his own life he keeps a notebook in his pocket. He is all feeling, and the heart that ought to warm him incinerates him. He is well-acquainted with humanity in the abstract; individual human beings nonplus him. He is far too philosophical to love and hate. He cannot love other people, and he cannot hate them; accordingly, he feels neither sympathy towards his friends nor antipathy towards his enemies. As for courage, that bailsman of immortality—for who but a man who believes himself immortal can be courageous?—he, the son of the king, is entirely lacking in it. Because he descries the supergargantuan human race in every human being, he is timorous, as others are not because with their beady little eyes they can discern only particulars in particulars. In his mother's guilt he perceives the frailty of woman; in his uncle's misdeed the smiling villainy of the world. He is expected to involve himself in this dangerous and foolish strife; he is trembling. He is not wanting in intellectual courage, by which a doughty master of ideas is engirded; he is wanting in the courage of the heart, that heart in whose cause only its own blood fights. This is why he is audacious in devising schemes and timid in carrying them out. Hamlet is very well acquainted with the exorbitance of corruption, and his tragic flaw demoralizes him all the more because he is aware of it.
Hamlet is a philosopher of death, a student of the school of night. When the night is cloudy, he stands there irresolute, unbudgeable; when it is clear, it never serves as anything but a moon-dial indicating the shadows of the passing hours; he acts at untimely moments and wanders erringly by the light of a deceptive source. For him life is a grave, the world a churchyard. Hence the churchyard is his world; it is his kingdom; in it he is king. How likeable he seems there! Elsewhere sorrowful, there he is cheerful; elsewhere murky, there he is clear; elsewhere agitated, there he is calm. How penetrative, ingenious, and witty he there proves himself to be! Otherwise dejected by thoughts of death, when standing amidst the graves he becomes our consoler. While he scoffingly belittles life as a dream, he also scornfully disparages death as nothing.  In the churchyard he is not weak—[and] who[, after all,] is strong in the face of death? In the churchyard, all power, all merit ends; there all calculation, all appraisal, all contumely, every comparison, ceases. There Hamlet is suffered to forget his father’s command without rebuke; there he need not avenge his father’s death. Is he required to drag on to the scaffold a felon who is in the midst of the last throes of a mortal illness? How barbarous! To slay a man who is within sight of death—how risible, and what a manifestation of childish impatience! One might as well expect a snail to overtake a windward squall!
In this iniquitous world, virtue must be forceful if it is to be effectual; it must be presumptuous enough to take on presumption, and to fight for heaven’s sake using the weapons of hell. Hamlet’s virtue has none of the vitality of violence. Such a tender youth with such an eternally youthful heart can never flourish in a royal castle, where people are born old. Hamlet has the titled pride of nobly-born souls, and he is incapable of stooping to the level of anyone of base spiritual constitution. Nimble-minded and exquisitely polite as he is, he will never be comfortable in a nation of drunkards. As he has shown himself to be of a gloomy and dreamy disposition, he despises and derides everyone who happens to be cheerful; he will even be a full-time derider, which goes unpunished by anyone; but on the king, against whom such weapons may not be openly brandished, he avenges himself in secret, and in the most perilous manner. Hamlet upbraids the court for its bibulousness, makes a mockery of Polonius’s loyal obsequiousness, and scoffs at the abject mopping and mowing of the courtiers. He finds his uncle insufferable, and would hate him even if he were not his father’s murderer. Intellect without character is squared off against character without intellect, with the latter being ever inimical to the former. Hamlet feels overwhelmed by the silent, placid, authoritarian demeanor of the king. He knows full well that he is pitted against nothing more material than empty fencemanship, but he is incapable of engaging with it; he has never even taken a stab at learning how; whence his savage animosity, that animosity by which self-conscious weakness is invariably attended. In the king’s presence he is shy and ill-at-ease, and out of the entire horde of scorn and spite encamped around his heart, there seldom emerges one of those mighty words by means of which Hamlet is so hell-bent on provoking the pacific king. How merry Hamlet will be upon discovering that his uncle is a villain; how relieved he will feel when his hatred acquires a rational pretext, when his aversion is transformed into an obligation! The murder of his father is not Hamlet’s true affliction; it is merely the receptacle of his suffering; now he grasps the source of his torment. But even otherwise, he would have been unhappy.

Hamlet is summoned homeward by the death of his father. In the midst of his mourning, he takes in the news of his mother’s marriage. If Hamlet knows anything better than anyone, it is that all men are mortal. But the realization that feelings—which the youth has always regarded as eternally durable entities—are also mortal, that love can end, that it is possible for a person to love twice, and to decline from loving nobly to loving ignobly—this realization grievously overwhelms and bewilders him; even his broad circle of despondency is too narrow to encompass this new discovery. Hamlet’s imaginative faculty is intrepid; it overcomes everything in its path. His uncle has received a crown from Hamlet’s mother’s hands; he has profited from Hamlet’s father’s death; he wished him dead; he murdered his brother.  Hamlet suspected all this before the ghost revealed it to him. The ghost appears and says aloud what his son has already said silently to himself, and he calls upon this son to avenge him. Hamlet is horrified—not by the murder, but by his obligation to avenge it. Accustomed to thinking and feeling completely ad libitum, he is now obliged to cogitate purposively and to act; nature has made him transparent, and he is now obliged to practice artifices and to conceal them; he was born to forbear and to suffer, and now he is expected to act. Crammed between his father’s sacred prescription and the exacting proscriptions enjoined by his own nature, he is repulsed hither and thither; all freedom of movement vanishes; and so we witness him being dragged along by schemes that make a mockery of his powerlessness, by attempts that miscarry, by mighty words that render him laughable, and trivial acts that render him contemptible; and so at length we witness him perishing in a common brawl, and all and sundry around him perish not at the hands, but, rather, at a single thumb and forefinger, of fate.

The direful moment is when Hamlet is waiting to see his father’s ghost. And if he had a thousand souls, they would not suffer themselves to stir; and if he had a thousand hearts, they would be obliged to fall silent and pay heed.  But in the midst of this disquietude, in which even we, the indifferent auditors of a fairy tale, are blind of eye and deaf of ear, what does Hamlet do?  He pads out the interval with pointless twaddle.  He delivers an anthropological lecture, inveighs like a preacher against the odiousness of sinful habits by which the primmest of goody-goodies are routinely tainted, and retails banal observations on excessive drinking.  The ghost startles him; he had quite completely forgotten about him.  The ghost utters words of fire; Hamlet burns; he is an ember.  A minute later, the ember has burnt out, and the ashes of his enthusiasm are blowing in the wind.  He plans to attend to his fair deed with expedition; he wishes he could fly; the way back to the palace is too long by a world’s breadth.  But in advance of taking so much as a step in that direction, he has discovered the means of uniting his vendetta with his deliberative habitus, his duty with his frailty.  He plans to use wit to begin what can be initiated only by intelligence and completed only by courage.  He plans to act subtly, to be politic, to feign madness.  What does he expect to achieve by this?  Is madness meant to facilitate his access to the king?  It will only make him more vigilant.  Is he trying to conceal his dejection?  He must lay it bare; he must avenge it.  Is Hamlet playing dead?  He is dead.  There are some lunatics who have periods of lucidity, and there are others who have spaces of lucidity within which they confine themselves at all times, and from them they are able to contemplate their own lunacy.  Hamlet is a lunatic of the second type.  He fancies that he is toying with his lunacy, and his lunacy is toying with him.

Hamlet begins his mad game and makes his first test move against the most innocent person in his circle, the affectionate and credulous Ophelia. There is something ineffably loathsome about such conduct. Earlier on, he should have let the girl in on his secret instead of imposing its outward manifestation on her. Hamlet’s derangement does not go unnoticed; the observant king sends Hamlet’s boyhood friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern after him to descry the cause of his dejection. Hamlet is conceited; he is playing dumb, but at the same time he wants to show off his fancy brain and let it be seen that he is only putting on an act. He will not allow himself to be pumped for answers, but he is happy to let everyone know he has a secret. The spies are naturally obliged to return from their mission empty-handed, but this is only because as courtiers they are not particularly good at interpreting visionary ramblings. Hamlet stays his course of ignominious inactivity; instead of mounting counteroffensives against attacks from without, he resists them by digging himself in and staying put. Although he is a man and a son, he may not on any account forget that he is also a prince; in punishing the murder of his father he must also punish the murder of his crown. He is determined not to kill the king by stealth like an assassin; he is determined to make a loud and clear announcement of the king’s crime and to set himself at the head of the mass of the people, that same mass that is so ill-disposed to the king and so ductile to leadership by other powers, as the example of Laertes’s rebellion proves. But Hamlet peaks like John-a-dreams. He realizes this upon seeing the players; he wakes up; he lives again. He is a sound judge of the art of acting; he is an aficionado of it. One of the actors declaims a speech about Hecuba; he works himself into a lather reciting this fustian rubbish, and turns color and weeps. Hamlet is abashed, overloads himself with abusive reproaches and gets drunk on words to give himself courage. It does not last long, and he talks himself back into a skeptical frame of mind so that he can keep deferring the moment of action. Perhaps he has been deceived by a damnèd ghost; perhaps his uncle is innocent. He will administer to him a psychological test; he will carry out a chemical experiment; the players shall reveal the king’s true colors. He gives them a play in which a murder takes place; he writes original lines for it, and he evinces less worry about his father than about the possibility of the players’ defacing his fine verses with lousy elocution. He tutors them with such placidity, with such circumspection, with such ceremoniousness, as though he were all set for life and had not a care in the world. The king is caught; Hamlet is positively delighted that his cunning has paid off; he gives not a thought to making any use of the knowledge he has just acquired. His mother sends for him; on his way to her he makes a lengthy stop in the antechamber; there, he philosophizes. He recites a soliloquy that, for all its beauty, sounds atrociously amiss in the mouth of a prince. Life is odious to him, not on account of its suffering, but on account of the things that it requires one to do. There is no other means of defending oneself against the vexations of the world apart from flight, suicide; the fear of death must be healed by death. He happens upon the king unobserved; now he could cover him in crimson, but he is praying. Hamlet intends to be inhumanly ferocious; he will send him to hell when he is in his cups; now he has a talk with his mother; in her company he is contented and comfortable; there duty and pleasure are in harmony. The ghost himself evinces some consideration for him: he is permitted to speak daggers, but to use none. Something is stirring behind the arras; Hamlet is courageous; he cannot see his adversary; he stabs the soft, defenseless tapestry and alights on good, old, worthy Polonius.             

Hamlet’s lunacy mounts; half of his player’s mask falls away, the other half he pulls off himself. The king has been brought to an extreme pass; he must either perish himself or destroy Hamlet. At this point he resolves to send him to England, where he is to meet his end. He gives him an entirely friendly account of the necessity of his removal to such a distance. Hamlet is quite content to go along with the plan; that niggling little word “no” is not in his vocabulary; he says, “good,” and allows himself to be sent off. He is thinking of nothing; he distances himself from everyone. Aboard ship, he plays a rascally trick, commits a poltroonish outrage, against his escorts, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. These young men simply want to make their fortunes; they have shown themselves to be complaisant to the king, but they are oblivious of his perfidy; they know nothing of the contents of the message that they are bearing to England. Like a petty fraudster, he forges letters with new instructions, substitutes them for the originals, and consigns his escorts and boyhood chums to the end that was fixed for him. He does this not out of depravity, nor out of vindictiveness; he does it out of vanity. So far he has never managed to accomplish a single thing; now he will do something to be proud of twice over; he will indulge himself with a single clever stroke.

Chance wafts him back to Denmark. But now he is brooding over something, the nature of which he does not betray. He is challenged to a fencing match with Laertes. No sooner has he accepted the challenge than all is ill about his heart; it is merely a premonition that he will have to do something that ails him. He shall act; he shall die. Before the match he makes his peace with Laertes in a moving and dignified manner; once again the noble swan emerges from the water cleansed of the grit and grime of this earth. Hamlet fences, is mortally wounded, and finally, when he has nothing more to lose, when he has no more need of courage, he slays the king. This is the audacity of a thief who is already standing at the gallows and calumniates God, the world, and his judge. Thus ends a noble human being, the son of a king! He who cursed the spite that he had ever been born to set right the joints of time, treads the wheel of fortune like a blind horse until he tumbles to his destruction, a poor piece of livestock worsted by the whips and scorns of his taskmaster!

Such is the lot of the fair in this world.

Much has been said on the subject of Shakespeare’s irony.  Perhaps I have not properly understood what [is meant by that], but I have looked for irony everywhere [in the Shakespearean corpus] in vain. Irony is limitedness of conception, or self-limitation. For the latter Shakespeare was too regal, for the former he had too clear a philosophical worldview: he sees no contradiction between being and seeming; he perceives no fallacy there. He often shows up life’s pretentiousness for us with a smile, but never shows up its risible seriousness with a sneer. But in Hamlet I detect irony, and irony of a none-too pleasant sort. The poet who elsewhere unfailingly instructs us in such a friendly spirit, who resolves all our doubts for us, abandons us here amid insuperable dubieties and terrible apprehensions. Those that perish are not the just and the virtuous, but even worse, justice and virtue. Nature rebels against her creator and triumphs; the present moment reigns supreme with the moment to come as its successor; infinity is subordinate to space; eternity to time. In vain our own heart warns us not to respect evil because it is strong, not to despise the good because it is weak; we put more trust in our eyes. We see that he who has endured much has lived little, and we falter. Hamlet is a Christian tragedy.

The world gazes [awestruck] at Shakespeare’s marvels. Why? Are they really as marvelous as all that? Nothing is required but genius; the rest is easy. Shakespeare chooses a seed of a given species, casts it on to the ground; it germinates, sprouts, shoots up, produces leaves and flowers, and when the fruits appear, the poet returns and picks them. He has not done any tending of any sort; the air and sunshine of his spirit have taken care of everything, and the species has to its own self remained true. But at Hamlet I do gaze [awestruck]. Hamlet follows no course, describes no vector, belongs to no genre. It is impervious to inspection, to criticism, to analysis. Just think of what it means never to forget oneself! To be constantly thinking about oneself, so that one has nothing to think about! To let that self be nothing and everything simultaneously! To allow it constantly to temporize and never to act, to allow it to be constantly moving and never progressing! To allow it to be constantly spun like a top without letting it turn! That was difficult. And Shakespeare was an Englishman! If a German had written Hamlet, I would not be impressed by it in the least. Any German with a fair and legible hand could have done it. A German dictates himself to himself, and the result is Hamlet, complete and ready for performance.

Shylock the Jew in The Merchant of Venice

When the women got home from the theater, they remarked that the actor from out of town who was playing Shylock had been granted a curtain call, had uttered the usual elegant formulas of thanks, and had said among other things that fortunately one never met with monsters like Shylock in real life. On hearing this, I was sincerely glad that a terrible cough had prevented me from attending the performance. But perhaps the philanthropic gentleman had said this out of mere good-naturedness. In this city live many rich Jews who are hated and chaffed by their Christian fellow-citizens. Because the out-of-towner took it for granted that the Schadenfreude of the Christian segment of the community had been responsible for the selection of The Merchant of Venice as his benefit play, he wished to say something complimentary to the Jews who were helping to fill the house. But the actor had not been permitted to be serious in this whimsical speech of his; if he had been, he would have demonstrated that he had absolutely no understanding of his role. Understanding Shylock requires one not to have an opinion on whether there really are such creatures as Jewish vampires and cannibals, but to realize that the great poet had no intention of presenting us, à la Hundt-Radowsky, with a Pocket-Mirror of Judaism in exchange for a lump [i.e., Jewry en masse? (DR)]. When heaven sends us ignorant men and women a prophet like Shakespeare, it is surely for a greater purpose than simply teaching us how to read. Preaching and teaching is the last thing Shakespeare is interested in doing. But even supposing that in The Merchant of Venice he wanted to be a schoolmaster for a change, he certainly had Christians rather than Jews in mind as his pupils.

To give it its due, Shylock’s Jewishness—this lovely morality that contemns all non-numismatic passions—constitutes despite itself a kind of genuine interior greatness, a kind of sublimity that is suffered to cast a haughty eye down on his abjection. Shylock is a spiritual Jew, an avenging angel; he has felt his way up to a height at which he is capable of doing something besides breeding interest in his own purse, of doing something for everybody. He intends to avenge his abused, downtrodden people by attacking its tormenter, Christendom. We abhor Shylock’s moneybags; we tolerate Shylock the long-sufferer, but we adore and marvel at Shylock the avenger of the victims of inhuman persecution. Let it not be supposed that it is a trifle to cut a pound of flesh out of the breast of a worthy Christian gentleman! It is admittedly a trifle for a wicked Christian, but not for a Jew. The Jew can be ferocious in spirit, but he can never be ferocious at heart; he has a pure, weak heart; he is compassionate; he cannot stand the sight of blood.  Who knows whether Shylock would have carried out the act, who knows whether the knife that he whet[ted] so gloatingly on the sole of his foot would not have fallen out of his hand with the shedding of the first drop of blood; Antonio would have been allowed to take his chances.  And what a sacrifice Shylock brings to the altar of his revenge!  Three thousand, six thousand, nine thousand ducats!  And Jews’ ducats are no ordinary ducats; they are worth much more; the Jews’ love for them increases their value in their eyes.  And he ventures not only this bare sum; he ventures more, namely the interest on it, for acquisition is more important than possession for the Jew.  Might not Antonio manage to repay his debt by the appointed day?  But Shylock puts his trust in the furies, in sea-tempests and the destructive winds of spiteful rumors, and they do not let him down.  Moreover, one is hardly deceived by Shylock’s assertion that he hates Antonio because in low simplicity he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance in Venice, and that were he out of town Shylock can make what merchandise he will.  No, this is not the reason why Shylock hates Antonio.  Christian commerce in Venice cannot be sustained entirely by honest, simple, noble Antonio; and one man, no matter how rich he is, cannot devalue the local currency on his own.  Shylock is a Jew; he blushes to sacrifice ready cash to a figment of his imagination, and so he tries to behave sensibly.  The Jew also fancies—fancies, not knows—on one occasion that he is not well.  But Shylock really is unwell; it is not the scourge of trade but the scourge of faith that he is persecuting in Antonio, and in his fevered delirium he remits solid, weighty ducats in exchange for a figment that is as light and insubstantial as air.

Any actor who undertakes to play Shylock will want to get a firm purchase on how to tackle the role.  The Jew’s bloodthirsty hatred should horrify us like any form of madness or religious zeal, but it ought not to arouse loathing and disgust after the manner of a physical disease.  Shylock’s accursed avarice and the convulsions into which his demented selfishness throws him should outrage us to the core, but we ought not to find them laughable: when the Devil appears before us in the flesh, it is certainly no time to laugh.   Simply revealing the divine within the Devil, simply trudging through a desert of sins all the way to the trickling headwaters of love that rise so far away and flow so inconspicuously, gives the expressive thespian plenty to work on.  For Shakespeare, unlike ordinary people and ordinary poets, does not, after the manner of an analytical chemist, dissolve living, multifariously constituted things into their lifeless constituent elements in order to make them more palatable to his sensibility or artistic practice, and thereby produce and present chemically pure characters—some of them specializing exclusively in hate, others in love; some of them wholly attractive, others wholly repellent.  He never takes sides; he grants no legal charter to anything but a morality that never appears in unadulterated form in life; rather, he lets the phenomena of life fight it out amongst themselves and holds himself aloof of their squabbles.  The poet has done everything possible to justify the Christian’s hatred of the Jew, and taken equally exacting pains to excuse the Jew’s hatred of the Christian.  Why should Shylock not hate rather than love Antonio for his nobility?  Antonio is good, noble, and charitable—but not towards the Jew.  He reviles him in public; he maltreats him whenever he encounters him.  Indeed, at the very moment when he has need of his complaisance, of his money, he cannot manage to conceal his hatred, his contempt; and the worthy, noble Antonio, who sacrifices everything for his friend, is not noble enough to speak courteously to the Jew for this friend’s sake.  Then a coxcomb of a Christian runs off with Shylock’s daughter, who steals from and abandons her old father; and it is only upon resolving to become a Christian, only upon her conversion, that she begins to contemn her father, because he is a Jew.  Thus might a dove’s blood very well metamorphose into a dragon’s.  The Christian hates the Jew; the Jew repays him in kind, and in so doing, Shylock avenges derided virtue even at his own expense.  He gives away money to avenge his people, and he learns that gold is not the master of the world, as the Jew believes; that indeed love is more powerful than gold, even for Jews. 

Whenever I read Shakespeare, I am genuinely sad that he is not alive to enlighten us today.  When there is no genius around to narrate historical events properly, it is as if they have never taken place.  An historical type, a relation between such types, that has not been portrayed by this great poet, because he was unaware of it, is like a book without a title, whose contents we are obliged to gather by reading it all the way through.  It often happens that great ages lack great historians, poets, or artists who are capable and worthy of describing them, of portraying or figuratively depicting them.  The most illustrious events are too proud, too restless, or too busy, to hold a pose for mediocre artists.  Such artists can only snatch at their features on the fly, or they must wait until the age is dead, when they can take its death mask, a mask that is as lifeless as the corpse from which it is taken.  But for a painter like Shakespeare the ages sit still, knowing well as they do that nature has art alone to thank for its immortality.   How Shakespeare would have depicted our Shylocks, the Shylockian grandees, with their Christian ribbons and medals pinned to the breasts of their Jewish gowns!  How he would have limned the paper-plying gownless Shylocks, who possess the flesh and blood of entire peoples in semblance and who make, not paper out of rags, but rags out of paper!   How he would have painted the reprobates for whom God is a finance minister, who says, “Let there be a world!”; and a paper world comes into being, with Adam as its first banker; Paradise, a blissful [Pari-Stand] of government securities; the Fall of Man, the first stock-market crash; [a world] in which the pages of history are precious metals, banknotes, shares; in which Judgment Day is the closing trading day of the month; the god Mars, a bearish speculator who [has] sacrificed the peace of the exchange to glory, honor, the happiness of nations, religion, justice, and other such despicable things; Sultan Mahmud, the guardian of the Christian newspapers, a great man, a mightily great man, a second Joshua; the Austrian Observer, the sixth book of Moses!  Oh, how Shakespeare, that great discount broker between nature and art, who barters the specie of one for the paper of the other, would have laid bare the secrets of the hearts of financiers!  How he would have incorporated into his composition our denizens of the exchange, whom the Greeks depreciated as a “race of rags”!  Do you hear Cato’s ashes laughing?  Of what was the Venetian Shylock guilty?  Sacrificing three thousand ducats for a wretched pound of Christian flesh; at least a craving was to be satisfied at such a dear rate.  But our Shylocks, men of the combined Old and New Testament, drown the entire Hellenic world like a blind kitten to obtain one tiny octavo volume!  The Venetian Shylock was a lamb, a child, a worthy soul; and yet the actor [from] up [there] in Frankfurt says that there are no such monsters as Shylock and that Shakespeare is a libeler!  Oh, worthy actor!  History lies if it calls people Christians because their forefathers ate pork sausage, but Shakespeare does not lie.

Translation © 2010 by Douglas Robertson

Monday, November 08, 2010

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

William Lovell

Book Nine

Adriano to Francesco


I have been planning to write to you ever since I left Rome; indeed, I planned to talk to you in person before my departure, only I was restrained from doing so by a kind of [shyness or] timidity. I am really most unfortunate in this regard: that I put too little trust in my own understanding and too much in other people's; I must first be brought to a certain pitch of enthusiasm, and then in contrast I trust my own convictions perhaps a bit too much; such that if I have hitherto been somewhat reserved in your presence, you must blame it on this habitual indecisiveness of mine rather than on any sort of mistrust, which I am least capable of harboring towards you of all people.

Andrea has written to me, and his letter is a proof of his resentment of my departure from Rome; but how can he care much about me one way or the other, when he has other friends with whom he consorts more often and more gladly?

I have known both you and Andrea for one year, and initially I regarded my acquaintance with Andrea as the greatest piece of good fortune in my life. He imparted to my mind a certain enthusiastic orientation that until then I had never known. My soul seemed to have attained its majority in virtue of him, and it took fright at the enormous means that suddenly lay at its disposal; and this very fear was the cause of my overestimating those means; I had attained much, but not yet the art of self-observation and judicious self-appraisal. Andrea cleared away [many of my] prejudices and erroneous notions; I had until then accepted many things as givens without having thought about them beforehand; my own soul had always been, as it were, a stranger to me; I had never become acquainted with the vast field of thought, or even felt any kind of a longing to become acquainted with it. Andrea taught me the great art of referring everything to myself and hence of drawing the entirety of nature nearer to the center of my being. How I worshiped this man in those days! With what ardent affection I clung to him initially!

Accordingly I found the notion of doubt as the prime mover of thought very worthy of veneration [in itself], but I balked at the idea of being perpetually incapable of anything but doubting, of never managing to wrest a single, solid conviction from the almighty chaos of conflicting thoughts. If the mind cannot help doubting—and any genuine apotheosis of skepticism presupposes as much—then ultimately this selfsame mind requires a resting-point, a conviction, and I can just as easily argue for the necessity of convictions on such grounds.

But must we be faced with the consoling prospect of thinking out the rest of our lives, of incessantly weighing thoughts against thoughts and doubt against doubt, while the scales remain eternally fixed in a state of wearisome equipoise? Must our mind never do anything but survey the array of its thoughts like a row of colorful pictures, without recognizing itself in a single one of them?

Once my vanity ceased to be fed principally by my association with Andrea, I fancied that I detected in the man himself a certain imperfection, a mania for treating his thoughts as a means less of seeking the truth and the soul's ultimate needs than of showing off and intimidating other people. He despises other people just as he does himself, and so he finds nothing worthy of veneration in his own inner being; he toys with people as [insouciantly] as he toys with his own thoughts; he is nothing but a dangerous philosophical charlatan for whom a facetious flash of wit is interchangeable with a noble and penetrating idea; who fancies that he knows himself from top to bottom, whereas he has merely noted what he is capable of and inclined to accomplish. He is, if I may express myself in such terms, the sketch of a colossal statue, but in the end he remains unfinished, lacking entirely as he does the proper distribution of light and shadow.

I flatter myself that you know me and are aware of how willingly I defer to the superior parts of a more exalted soul; I shall never be taken aback when a friend demands of me a certain amount of indulgence and forbearance towards his views, for opportunities for my asking the same of him will certainly not be wanting; but what kind of friend deliberately tyrannizes other people as Andrea incessantly did? Did he not regard us as an army of minions who were sworn to second his every word, whose office it was to humor the queerest and most outlandish of his whims? Indeed, has it never occurred to you that he may have intended to misuse our services in the achievement of even more vicious designs? Oh, but to be sure, you were too good-natured to yield in any real sense to suspicion, and your disinclination [to become involved in these schemes] was [but] a by-product of my own.

What was the purpose of all those queer nocturnal gatherings in which he tried to put us into a state of heightened suspense? At a few of them I was foolish enough to do a bit of declaiming for the sake of winning the admiration of a passel of blockheads who [were] bound to Andrea in a condition of the basest servitude. For what [reason or] reasons did Andrea chain young Lovell so firmly to himself? What was the purpose of those conjuring tricks and magic-lantern shows, by which you were as little taken in as I was, and which practically drove the young Englishman insane? I stood off to the side [during these performances], and with the first of them a contemptuous grudge towards Andrea began to insinuate itself into my heart. What was the point of Lovell's mysterious departure? What does he want of this young man; and why can he not realize his plans, whatever they are, without using us as mechanical intermediaries?

All of these thoughts occurred to me a long time ago indeed, but I did not trust myself. I had revered Andrea for so long before that I thought it more likely that I was simply incapable of comprehending his greatness than that he was in fact not especially great, but now that I am here and living a less eventful life amid simpler and more simpleminded people, everything back in Rome seems to me as queer as a dream. I now see Andrea in a new light, and everything that formerly seemed to me nothing but a far-fetched hunch has by now been transformed into a dead certainty. And so for the sake of gradually and ever further alienating myself from Andrea and his society, I shall not be returning to Rome; for call it simplemindedness or whatever else you will, I now have a positive dread of both him and his opinions; for I should like to attain some peace of heart and mind, and he would do everything in his power to destroy both.

I could easily by a new twist be smitten by some possibly even more pernicious form of adoration; who knows what weaknesses he has already detected in me and could yet manage to exploit to his advantage! Admittedly there is something foolish about being afraid of oneself and of something one has not even encountered yet; but many of my most foolish feelings are also my most consummately human—and therefore perhaps the worthiest —ones, and for this reason I intend to act in accordance with my present apprehension. I am not reckless enough to turn into a Rosa, or fanatical enough to turn into a Lovell, and both of them are perhaps already very unhappy [men].

Please give me your sincere opinion of my letter.
Francesco to Adriano


I am pleased by the confidence you evince in your letter; to this I can add by way of reply to it only that I believe that you are right, and that I would even go so far as to swear as much. You [show how] well you know me when you conjecture that I have been silently thinking the very same thoughts as yours about Andrea, but I did not admit what I was thinking even to myself; I felt exactly like someone happily pretending to himself that he was not ill for the sake of sparing himself a long and arduous cure. But now that I have taken my first dose of medicine, it is impossible for me to turn back without spoiling everything.

As one can get used to admiring everything under the sun, I got used to admiring our Andrea; accordingly I shifted the blame on to myself whenever he struck me as queer and [excessively] adventuresome, as he often did. One may readily suppose that we, just like Andrea and the rest of mankind, are to a certain extent mad or insane; but we regard as insane only those in whom this madness contains such a degree of consistency that we can contemplate it as we would some eldritch work of art. But everybody has something within himself that categorically refuses to be integrated into his ordinary so-called intelligence. I have known people with [impeccable literary] taste who bought up bundles of trashy novels with such zeal that one would have thought they were the masterpieces of their favorite authors; other people who praised philosophical writings above everything else and maintained of certain philosophical texts that one could not read them enough—and yet they had never read them; there are freethinkers who tremble in the presence of shadows, and superstitious old women who behave as if there is no God. It is as if the creature that we term an ordinary man has been begotten by the rebellion of this alien creature within us; whoever deviates from this composition runs riot in one direction or the other and stifles all madness or all reason within himself; he is one of those anomalous individuals at whom we certainly marvel but whom we are incapable of comprehending, one of those terrible magi whom we visit in mountain-caves or madhouses; the rest of us stand at the crossroads between a holy man and a lunatic. And so through Andrea I sought to dabble in this form of folly bordering on madness, and I found him only too happy to oblige me; it was this that threw his glory into the shade: the cap and bells of a true fool, upon donning which one can distinguish men from beasts and angels alike.

Andrea mercilessly exposed to ridicule anyone who was simple and even-tempered. He consorts with his so-called friends in a decidedly curious manner; he seems wantonly to distance himself from anything smacking of trust or benevolence, but only for the sake of finding his way back to it by an alternative and more difficult route; he leaves us wondering whether to regard his apparitions as party tricks or as genuine supernatural phenomena; but I am writing all this in the light of all the repeatedly aforementioned foolishness, which little by little spread within me like an infection, such that in the end it no longer struck me as being in the least bit strange, however odd I may have found it initially. But now I am entirely of your opinion; I can sense that plans are afoot and machinery is in motion, and this surmise will induce me to withdraw from Andrea. If only [a definitive break] is possible! I am too good-natured to take large steps, and small ones serve only to bring a man like Andrea even closer in the long run. We should write to Rosa; perhaps from him we would receive the best hint how to proceed, seeing that he has come to be on more intimate terms with Andrea than anybody else. Lovell has always struck me as a fool; but his folly is of a distinctly tragic sort, which makes me all the sorrier that I am on such friendly terms with him.

Francesco to Adriano


I have followed your advice, and I am finding that even good-natured people are not by a long chalk as good-natured as one originally fancied. Andrea has remarked on the change in my behavior, but he manifests no apparent concern about it.

It is most fortunate that in your recent letter you explained everything to me. Really, why may we not be suffered to be reasonable people under our own supervision instead of constantly awaiting the endorsement of this Andrea? Is he really to be suffered to grant our brains an exclusive charter to think? I could never find it in my heart to lord it over any person whatsoever in such a fashion; I would be ashamed of myself.

Is there not after all something truly contemptible about every sect and every school? Must every founder and every leader be like a bear trainer who drills his subordinates in certain tricks that they repeat at his pleasure? Why may I not think in the way my brain is cut out to think?

I have written to Rosa, and I am eagerly looking forward to his reply.
Rosa to Francesco


Your letter has pained me very much, dear Francesco. Am I supposed to tell you that you are right; am I supposed to prove to you the contrary? I dare do neither. For a long time now I have been surrounded on all sides by doubts and errors; I cannot move forwards or backwards without making a false step. How fortunate you and Adriano are, inasmuch as you feel unshackled thanks to your belief in your convictions!

I doubt that you can really put yourself in my position. [I am in such a state of] incertitude, that I should like to decide what to think of Andrea by a roll of the dice—now [I am] ravished by a profound veneration [of him], now seduced by a base mistrust; I am aware of how much I have lied to myself and of how much I have to thank him for—O Francesco, [even] to try to dwell upon these thoughts would drive one mad. What have I ever thought that did not originate as the progeny of Andrea's brain? I feel and acknowledge my frailty. If I were to renounce him I would be giving up along with him everything that holds me together; I have done so much to become like him, and all of it would now have been in vain!

And in any case, it is impossible! I cannot tell you why, but believe me: it is impossible. If man knew what taking an apparently ordinary footstep could lead to, he would never dare to budge from his starting point.

 At least I can forgive myself for those lies that I told myself; in a certain state of tension one goes in search of the miraculous and views even quotidian phenomena in a bizarre light. This [spirit of] exaggeration weighs down my heart very heavily, [such that] I am [constitutionally] incapable of [adopting] your view that Andrea is unworthy of the highest degree of veneration; even if we cannot comprehend him, we are by no means on this account entitled to discard him altogether.

I have left off writing many times in the course of this letter, and I have even more often wondered whether or not I should send it. Take it however you will; in the eyes of a just man it will suffice as an excuse for my conduct.

William Lovell to Rosa


I am on my way back to Italy; I am writing to you from Paris. I feel much better now that I am here than I did during the journey hither; when one beholds mankind crammed together chock-a-block in a crowd, they are much more bearable. When one sees them in isolation, they look so lonesome and dilapidated, and each of their most wretched features seems magnified. How single-mindedly do they relate everything to themselves and themselves alone! How [egomaniacally] does the most wretched peasant imagine that his house and his fallow garden are envied; how [foolishly] does everybody [rail against] the folly and vice of his neighbor, and eye him up [and down] as if from an infinitely exalted height!

How [little does anyone] think that he will someday be transformed into the worms and wild flowers of the churchyard—ah! how [assiduously] do they adorn and glorify their repellent bodies, [jeglicher] in its/his own way.

Here in these stupefying assemblies, wherein every machine is in a state of the liveliest agitation, and everyone uses his wit, wealth, or beauty to thrust aside everyone else; here in these ever-shifting parti-colored scenes, I feel much better. One bestirs oneself among the animated dolls; one laughs, drinks, and gambles, and by this means one forgets that one is a human being; indeed, the more time one spends among them, the more one forgets that one is one of them oneself.

I gamble a great deal, and I am not having anything like the kind of luck I enjoyed in England. Do not chastise me, for does not everything that we term spiritual or intellectual enjoyment amount to the same thing? Regardless of whether I am playing with words or cards; definitions, dice, or verses, is not what really matters the fact that I am playing with something? The whole scale of human emotions can be attached to cards and their marvelous, unexpected transformations; one's luck ebbs and flows like the tides; with the start of every game a new destiny begins to unfold, and our innermost self moves in harmonic tandem with the alternations of the colorful pictures of kings, queens, and knaves. The soul takes a sympathetic interest in these colored lines [and spots], and enters into intimacies with them; and life is perpetually in a state of merry vivacity; passions subside; joy and terror change places and chase the blood ever faster and faster through the arteries—what is mere oafish money by comparison with the full tally of such sensations? Everybody needs to be shaken up by something; one person finds this something in the theater, another in some hobby-horse or other to which he surrenders himself with the most ardent affection; another [is a projector]and forms schemes, another [falls] in love; for me playing cards does duty for everything [else]; it removes me from [all] consciousness of my self and immerses me in tenebrous emotions and marvelous reveries. One often feels that one is on the trail of the stubborn course of contingency, as if one has surmised the rule according to which the chaotically interpenetrating circles are actuated.

During the passage from Southampton to Guernsey we had a violent storm. The lightning splintered our only mast, and the waves thundered and roared in the most fearsome manner. We all struggled with the fear of death, and thick night lay all around us. The whistling wind swept towards us from across the lonely, indignant sea, and with every lightning-flash we beheld the insurrection of the surge; between [them we heard] the sailors calling out [to each other], the lamentations of [our] terrified [fellow-passengers]—that was a frightening hour or two! Never have I felt so forsaken and exposed to the blind hazard of chance. With the sang-froid of despair I awaited the [onslaught of] the gigantic waves that would pound the ship [flat], the thunderbolt that would shatter it into pieces, the hurricane that would dash it against a reef. A strange force, the love of life, the [governing] instinct of all living things—a force unknown to me until then—rose in my breast and dominated [my person] and my consciousness. I became acquainted for the first time with the fear, the dread, of death; I clung to the mast as tightly as if I intended to keep the ship afloat with my own physical strength alone.

All I now wanted was to live, and I forgot about every other triumph and calamity under the sun; death was now to me a gargantuan, execrable monster that was coldly and remorselessly stretching its hand towards me; I was hemmed in on all sides by his henchmen, and escape was impossible! How fond I became of the arm that bound me to the mast during those moments; how exceedingly fond I was of myself!

At length the weather calmed down and everyone woke up as if from a bad dream; the shoreline that we were approaching seemed to us so new and at the same time like an old friend.

I have no wish to live through such an hour ever again, and [yet] it is entirely possible that I shall [once more] be suddenly taken unawares by one. Ah, and yet the solitary sickbed into which death little by little creeps, and under whose counterpane it then nestles so snugly and intimately alongside us, is far more horrible. At many moments I recoil with horror from the thought that I must someday die; one so rarely gives any serious thought to this, and yet it is true. How the sinner trembles in anticipation of the day of his execution—and can any of us elude this selfsame fate? Ah, life is contemptible and terrible, but death is horrible and abominable; poor, harried man stands between them and knows not towards which of them he should reach out. How cold-bloodedly the poets are forever apostrophizing us as ye mortals!, and how faint for the most part is our own sensation of our mortality!
Edward Burton to Mortimer


How goes it with you, dear Mortimer? I have had no news from you in a long time. Old Sir Ralph and his daughter, of whom you wrote to me recently—the woman you hoped would turn out to be Emily—now live in my neighborhood, and he seems to be quite at home in his solitary house. I revive my spirits and discharge a debt each time I help these people. I visit them often, and I must admit to you that their company has effectively and almost completely assuaged my grief.

The old man [der] was born and bred a gentleman and is now half blind [and teetering] at the edge of the grave in the most terrible poverty; he was familiar with all of the comforts of life, and he has now been suddenly divested of [all of] them; he would happily be a stoic if only he could; he feels his misery so keenly and yet is ashamed to speak of it, much as he craves assistance; I have little by little become so interested in him that I feel as though something is missing if I have not seen him for a single day.

His daughter is a charming picture of innocence, completely devoid of pretentiousness. She is as little taken aback by terrestrial happiness as by terrestrial unhappiness, not out of force of will, but because she is so naïve that she believes that things must be as they are. She is a child of larger growth who toys with every object that she can get her hands on. Oh, long may you thrive, happy creature! How colorful and gay the world looks to you even in your misery; you go through [it] with inquisitive eyes and devotedly contemplate every trifle as though it is something remarkable. She enjoys life as other people [can] enjoy only a work of art; it is for her an oversized year-round county fair [full] of ingratiatingly turned-out curiosities.

Ah, I am thinking back to Emily. I remember all of my cares, all of those sleepless nights, whenever I see an agreeable face. Whenever I am on the point of feeling glad, a black memory crosses my path, and if from time to time I forget myself, I reproach myself for my thoughtlessness all the more mercilessly afterwards. As her intoxication gradually subsided, what must she have suffered, as she acknowledged to herself the discoveries she had made within the depths of her soul, and saw everything that she had regarded with such reverence now exposed as a minuscule and tawdry plaything. She had regarded her exalted sensibility as something unique; she had surmised noble qualities in the rough therein, and regarded herself as a person who with all of her great and manifold abilities was [languishing in] obscurity. This is the most dangerous form of human pride; it makes a person insolent and confident about gifts that he does not possess, and unhappy when the soul attempts to fly with those phantom wings. If dying is an awakening from life, then she was already awake at the threshold of death; this is proved by her last letter. She must have sincerely felt that she had only been dreaming and not living; how terrified must she have felt upon awakening to find herself once again in such a remote and strange place?

Ah, Emily! Your name resonates so sweetly in my ears; my entire childhood resides within the sound of it. I often wax rhapsodic and imagine that she can hear me, that she can see me kissing her papers and bathing them in my tears. I have sketched her portrait from memory, and it is in my opinion a very good likeness; with my achievement of every lineament fresh floods of tears cascaded from my eyes; it was as if she were about to burst forth from the paper in person and tell me that she would tell me that everything, the whole thing, had been a big pother about nothing, that she would then shake her head as she had used to do as a child, and [that] I would have to laugh at the whole impishly atrocious practical joke.

What dispirited me the most in the midst of my sorrow was the fact that nature and all of the inanimate objects around me seemed so cold and unfeeling. The center of all feeling was within me, and the farther I ventured outside of myself, the more thinly dispersed were the feelings that dwelt in such intimate proximity to each other within my heart. This is the reason why an unhappy person feels so foreign among all of the creatures of the world, for nobody can ever evince enough consideration for his sorrow; nobody ever accords it as much respect as he would like. The people in my immediate vicinity soon dried their eyes; others had never wept at all; those in yet more distant places had never even met Emily. I railed against all of them, and I was wrong to do so. For this diversity and incommensurability of interest among humanity en masse should actually be a source of consolation in our misfortune.
Mortimer to Edward Burton

Roger Place

There is nothing else in life; everything alternates like the sun and the moon, like light and darkness. Hope combined with fear is the vital force that keeps our heart in motion, and at every moment of passion we should religiously count on this alternation. Life is nothing more than an eternal session of being washed between rocks and sandbanks; joy spoils our heart as thoroughly as does pain, and any state of solid repose and uniform gaiety is impossible. Unhappiness makes one misanthropic, mistrustful, secretive; a person by this agency becomes a lowering egoist; and while resigning himself to everything, he is proud enough to enjoy himself. Happiness is the mother of vanity; even the most rational soul will privately think himself more important than he is; perhaps vanity and selfishness never leave a person entirely free [of their influence]; his reward ultimately consists in an incessant struggle with them.

I am speaking from the heart, my dear Burton. I am one of the colder people whom one might ever meet, and yet I have always risen and fallen with the waves. If I could be melancholy for a change, I would echo Hamlet, thus:

I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. [III.i.125 (DR)]

When I was happy I was proud and headstrong; at the touch of the most trifling misfortune, I believed that nothing of the kind had ever happened to anybody else; then I suspected everybody of stalking me and hating me; I immediately regarded other people as being much better and much worse than me; I exaggerated everything in the most childish fashion in order to make myself properly unhappy; occasionally even to make myself look simply and properly evil in my own eyes. I considered myself different from other people only in virtue of talking less and dissembling more than them; in virtue of [being able to] recite a few philosophical maxims that stood me in reasonably good stead as rules to live by and screened me from the gaze of mankind. Truly, in the end we are all brothers by the same mother.

Can you really believe that I was capable of thinking, as I did think for a long time, that Lovell had burned my house down out of sheer envy of my contentment? I had absolutely no grounds for this suspicion apart from my mistrustful heart. But I have also [subsequently] begged his forgiveness with this selfsame heart.

Ah, I must put down my pen, for is not all this talk about myself perchance yet another instance of vanity? There are certain thoughts that should be reckoned among the bric-a-brac of the soul.

I pray every night for Amalie's safe delivery of our child—and is it not once again hope that is putting me into this mood that is perhaps mounting a sufficiently ruthless assault on your melancholy? But pardon me and [the rest] of humanity, and farewell.
Edward Burton to Mortimer

Your letter did not offend me; to the contrary: it consoled me. Why did I not understand the one that first incensed me against Lovell as well as I understood this one? After all, am I not guilty of all of the same failings—ah!—and plenty of others besides? Our heart, which ennobles and improves us from within, while feelings ascend and descend to warm it and cleanse it—this very heart again in the end impels us to regard these feelings as something entirely unique; to place far too high a value on them [and] on ourselves, and thereby to erect a partition between ourselves and the rest of mankind. In Lovell's avowals I am now rediscovering myself—only he [was inclined to] exaggerate, for after all, everything that man exudes for the sake of isolating it, in order to get a different purchase on it and comprehend it, is exaggerated. Our [human] speech consists in isolating entire masses of thoughts and images as a single concept; we make use of fantasy in order to elucidate this foreign being, the soul, which is only half intelligible to us; and in this manner there originate certain tableaux, which to colder, less inquisitive spirits look like freaks of nature.

It is a curse on the language of man that no human being can understand his fellows, and this is the source of all discord and all persecution; language is a lethal instrument that is given to us as to careless children so that we may injure one another. Ah, is not language to blame for my having lost both Emily and Lovell?

I see Sir Ralph and his daughter every day. She is most worthy of admiration in her innocence, and these two people are little by little reconciling me once again to the world and its inhabitants. I want to greet you again soon as a new father. But it is most gratifying when everyone regards the tiny spot on which he is standing as the grandest on earth.

Mortimer to Eduard Burton

Roger Place

At last it is definite, my dear friend: Amalie is out of danger, and I am the father of a promising young son. It is impossible to see into the future; otherwise I should perhaps be even gladder than I am; Amalie is very happy.

Who knows whether I shall not succumb to that species of vanity that I have often found so irritating in other fathers? One can make no guarantees about anything, at least about any kind of human frailty, but I really do think it highly unlikely. I have been keeping an extremely watchful eye on myself, but I must admit to you that my child's crying sounds every bit as unharmonious to me as that of other babies, that based on the way he has looked up until now I do not find him particularly handsome, that I have as yet to detect the faintest spark of understanding or genius in him; I have known more than one father who was infinitely more perspicacious in these matters; who took it amiss whenever people covered their ears at the sound of his son's shrieking, or who, when the child did not understand a question, maintained that this was entirely because he did not [wish] to understand it.

I am not nearly as merry as new fathers generally are; the very sight of the child puts me in a serious mood indeed. Can I know upon which contingencies—contingencies that are already coming into play and that I am failing to observe—his future depends? The whole boundless horde of emotions and experiences is lying in wait for him, to take possession of him little by little. Good fortune and bad [will] alternate; he [will be] initiated into all species of folly and imagine that he is intelligent enough to cope with each of them. Thus he will swim down the river of life and finish up by going under like all of us who have preceded him.

No: life cannot be the acme and telos of everything, inasmuch as we so often perceive nothing but emptiness and chaos therein. Whenever our thoughts take a serious turn without our knowing why, perchance we are dimly recalling some earlier and better state of affairs. Perhaps the visionary is permitted to hold on to these fleeting memories, and by their agency slips farther and farther away from quotidian existence with each passing day.

Via such a slippage one could go a quite sensible version of mad; and yet be this condition ever so intrinsically excellent, from back here where I am standing, it looks far too intimidating for me to want to come any closer to it.

Adriano to Rosa

You [were] mistaken, Rosa, if perchance you fancied that you could provoke me with your derisive joking; but you were even more mistaken if you intended to convince me with it. I am neither desirous nor capable of setting forth here at length all of the reasons why I still have no plans to return to Rome. All my life I have wanted to have a straight path ahead of me, a path into which I could see ahead, a path from which I could learn whither it was leading me. I would rather not have to take a chance on even a single uncertain footstep.

You will perhaps find my metaphor ridiculous—but so be it! Perhaps we need the contempt of multitudes of other people in order to respect ourselves anew. Admittedly, I am incapable of instantly comprehending and making myself at home in every [conceivable] opinion; I am sufficiently uncouth to regard many things as nonsensical because I cannot comprehend them; but I beg you to pardon me my frailty as heartily as I marvel at your grandeur. I am not joking now, Rosa—to the contrary: I have never been more serious; I have reflected upon myself and discovered that, perhaps like everybody else's, all of my weaknesses are intimately bound to my better qualities; every forcible change is always an unpleasant undertaking; there is no hand so skillful as to avoid pulling up the good plants along with the weeds. With this in mind, let me remain as I am; [if you tried to do] otherwise you would utterly destroy me.

You will deride my fear of this destruction as yet another one of my prejudices. But divest a man completely of his prejudices, my dear friend, and see what you are left with. In the end, any obsessive insistence on behaving like a completely free agent leads one either back to the most deplorable prejudices, or to madness. I am happy to accept a host of things on faith merely for the sake of making peace with myself. Can you in all candor say that this is possible by your route?

But allow me to leave off this entire disquisition, for it really can lead to nothing.

Bianca to Laura

Do come to see me, dearest friend; I have been weeping all day long. The doctor finally informed me this morning that I had consumption. I cannot sit still for grief. I have gone to confession, but I feel only slightly consoled; do come and cheer me up with a merry tale or two.

Whom do you have for a declared lover now? Oh, just tell me all about as many of his stupid blunders as you can, if only for the sake of making life seem at least a bit merry to me once again. But can consumption really always be as dangerous as they say? Ah, dear friend, the thought of death is a very bitter one. If you do not come, I do not know how I shall be able to get through the evening. Then I shall start weeping and praying again. But do come; I adjure you.

Laura to Bianca
I cannot possibly visit you today, but [I can] tomorrow. All of our acquaintances abandoned me, and for a long time I was living completely on my own; but yesterday I finally met another worthy gentleman friend. With time, things will get better with your sickness; but you must not lose hope, for hope is the best medicine. But if you actually had consumption, this disease could be really contagious; at least that is what they say. But I shall come to see you tomorrow, but you must be really nice and cheerful; because whenever I see anyone crying I start getting sad too, and there is nothing in the world more tiresome for me than sadness. A person ought not to be sad if she can possibly avoid it; it is not all that possible in this world [to begin with], and so we must not go out of our way to make ourselves bitter.  Young Lovell with his sour face used to cause me many a disagreeable hour, and I do not know why seriousness in a man is even more fatal to [my mood] than in a woman. But send me some of your make-up; mine has run out, and I cannot get any more yet. But it is really unpleasant that it has made my skin so yellow; I first noticed it three weeks ago. On [every] jar of make-up it [states that the contents] are safe, but when you try using it, this turns out not to be true. What kind of a doctor do you have? Poor child, I can really easily imagine how sad you must be feeling, and you have a good reason for it; nevertheless, you must comfort yourself, because complaining and weeping only make things worse. If you are allowed to go out, come to me before evening.
William Lovell to Rosa


I do not know why in the world I am still here. I ought at long last to return. My continuing absence from Rome is [a manifestation of] inconceivable indolence on my part. How can one be so entirely forsaken by all one's strength, by all of one's inner forces?

My luck at cards has run out, and yet I remain glued to the table as if by magic. When I see a pack of cards, my blood starts running faster and I begin dreaming of nothing but good and bad luck at play. I now understand what is meant by a passion for gambling. I have already lost pretty much all of the money I brought with me from England along with a good portion of Burton's banknotes; this has made me angry not at myself, but rather at the unabashed jubilation of the miserable individuals to whom I have been losing.

The concept of time now terrifies me. If I have a day ahead of me and do not know what I am supposed to start doing in it…to say nothing—oh!—of the sight of a tedious wasteland [of inertia] stretching ahead for week after week! And on top of that to go begging Time for one hour after another, cowering [all the while] before the thought of death! How wretched is man in that he must die, and how supremely unhappy would he perforce be if he lived for ever! What a crazy and senseless [farrago] do these incessant contradictions make of our life!

How contemptible is everything around me here, on account of our sensuality, which implacably binds us to wretched trifles. Everything answering to the name of Joy, Beauty, Pleasure, [or] Wit has unbrokered dealings with the coarsest sensuality; the human species never wearies of [reperpetrating] the same insipid japes; the imagination is never disgusted by the sight of itself. Oh, my heart often trembles when I see the people around me here laughing at me, when I contemplate young people feeling so content in their scornful arrogance. Nary a thought elevates this species above its miserable parochialism. Oh, when I step out of their company and into the open sky, and the eternal host of infinite worlds twinkle above my head; when I vertiginously lose myself in these millions of globes and surmise the existence of other and yet more exalted ones; when I contemplate the moon and dream of discovering cities, mountains and forests on its surface—and then return to myself and to the quotidian homeland of my [native] thoughts! Cards, dice, and bawdy talk. The soul voluntarily disavows its wings and complacently takes up residence in a filthy church, because the ether and the sun and every clear and shining path exact[s] of it a strict reckoning.

O Rosa! How often childlike feelings stir in my breast, feelings that like unthought-of, infinitely long-forgotten friends stop to dine with me and bring with themselves the breath of yesteryear's spring. Images of places that once lugubriously delighted me enter my soul and make me melancholy once again. Gentle voices reach out to me across all abysses and longingly and alluringly mention my name. Oh, how ineffably happy everything makes me! And then I return to my cards and my mean gambling partners.

Oh, when I lose myself in empty dreams and the earth with all of its treasures lies before me like burnt-out clinker, Amalie's name swells in my heart like the first flower after winter. How I am then greeted by flights of angels, how I am surrounded by the red of sunrise, which laboriously climbs over me! Then I am inclined to forget the infinitude of the celestial realm and to return to the earth as to a cherished cottage. Ah, my dreams are worth more than reality! And must I thus first become acquainted with reality, in order to be able to dream in such a fashion?
Charles Wilmont to Mortimer


I have no peace [of mind], and I also cannot find him. I often feel as though I am impelled to go into a building because I know that he must be inside it, but when I enter it, he is nowhere to be seen. An indescribable impatience torments me day and night; I dream of nothing but him, and [upon awaking] in the morning I often believe that he is in the room and walking towards me. Blind and deaf to the world, I roam about public places. Then my rage wells up anew in my heart, and this tension is succeeded by a total atony of all of my vital forces.

Ah, how does this life strike me [at the moment]? It is a tissue of follies that in cohering prevent its collapse; the older and weaker a person becomes, the greater number of these follies fail him, and ultimately death consists in the absconding of the last of these follies, which in its exit makes way [for the soul's departure]; and perhaps this is how I shall die when I renounce my vendetta. For what can I do with it, or how can it help me? From time to time one is inclined to see the whole thing as nothing but a joke.

I despair of myself; I should like this dolorous life to end immediately, so that I might be happier and more at peace. And yet [first] I must look for him and find him; then I shall die!
Edward Burton to Mortimer


What will you say, my dear friend, if I [dare to] open my heart to you completely? But do I not already know your opinion in advance? And perhaps this is the very reason why I am asking anyway.

I see old Sir Ralph and his daughter every day; Betty has taken possession of my heart; I cannot deny it to myself; my blood is once again flowing more alacritously through my veins; I am once again fond of the world and life. If I now offer her my hand, and subsequently lead a tranquil and happy life with her—will I be able to ask for anything more or other than this? It was the image of your domestic happiness that first led me to this wish. I do not care to append anything to what I have already written; farewell!
Mortimer to Edward Burton

Roger Place

What can I say to you? You may expect no tiresome ribbing from me, for I now regard plenty of things in this world in a genuinely serious light; once upon a time, I was given to the injurious habit of making fun of sundry forms of human happiness, but those days are over. Marry the girl, and do not trouble yourself about the rest of the world; that is my advice. It cheers me to think that by means of this marriage the people I pitied so heartily the first time I saw them will now be happy.

My little George is bouncing and healthy. Amalie sends her regards.
Ralph Blackstone to Edward Burton

Your lordship disclosed to me your gracious opinion yesterday; and now subsequent to the interval allotted for consideration, I intend to give you my answer to your gracious proposal. You are herewith receiving it in writing, as we had agreed. I can say nothing of the honor and the worthy offer; I can object [to them], my lord, only on the grounds that we do not deserve [them]. And yet man never deserves happiness, and yet again I do not deserve the misfortune I have hitherto suffered. I am moved to tears even as I write, my eyes hurt, and writing this is becoming extremely painful because I have not held a pen in my hand in such a long time. Then let it come to pass according to the will of heaven; my daughter worships you, but she is as yet unaware of a syllable of your plan. In her joy she will pitch over as if from a celestial height; she will be unable to find herself amidst her own happiness. But that is quickly learned, more easily than poverty; human nature is more strongly inclined to happiness, and that is only natural. But I myself am living as if in a dream; for admittedly, I often entreated God to alleviate my poverty; but not to such an honorable and joyful extent as this; no such impertinent thoughts have ever crossed my mind. I believe that many people still living on this earth have already been transformed into angels, and you are most certainly and unquestionably one of them. Such people must exist if anyone is to believe in God and His mercy. Please do not take my scribbling amiss, my lord; in my youth I knew well enough how to shoot a rifle, but not at all how to express myself in words; and you know how it goes; in old age one only rarely gets a chance to catch up on that sort of thing; but you will surely accept my good will in place of the thing itself, and I sincerely wish with all my heart that I had here with me a really fine and graceful answer that had hands and feet, as they say, and bespoke the good-breeding of the replier, and was couched in genuinely respectful turns of phrase. But such an answer has not been granted to me, and I shall style myself in my simple fashion

Your most obedient friend and servant,
Ralph Blackstone.
William Lovell to Rosa


Even if I were to stake and lose my last penny, I would have to play again and either pocket my zero balance or win back my losses! Round is the wheel of the goddess Fortune, and she is blind. I intend to take on chance and all the devils [in hell]; but I still have you, and I still have Andrea. What [are] fear and circumspection? Weak props of weak people! I can get by without their help, and I have done so until now. I will drink, drink until every contingency accommodates itself to my frenzied desires, and if everything goes awry, why, I have only to write to you and the sums of gold will come flying towards me at my bidding. And then I shall be able to snap my fingers at the rest of miserable humanity, shall I not?
Death and hell! I have always silently assumed that Andrea possesses great wealth, and yet I am, as you will know, his best friend! If I ever have need of him, he had better not fail me, or I shall publicly expose him as a scoundrel! Publicly, do you hear? That means a great deal.

I have already made some inroads towards the discovery of the dark and mysterious rules governing games of chance; they certainly boil down to something quite simple and trivial, but I cannot quite manage to figure them out. Well, anyway, so be it! Someday I shall discuss these rules with Andrea.

And so I am glad that I shall see him again. He will quote to me the works of many a great mind who has been beyond my comprehension until now; that will be a merry life [indeed]. On a single bet I won two bottles of champagne, and they are now almost empty; I must now wager decidedly paltry sums because, between you and me, I do not have all that much money left. That's the way it goes in this world!

What are you up to now? I have heard nothing from you in a long time. Why is that? You are a much lazier correspondent than I am, and that is a great shortcoming in someone who wishes to be a good friend. Speaking of good friends: I have not a single one of them left in Paris now that people have started noticing that I no longer have any money; this is a magnetic property of metals that has hitherto gone undiscovered; [thanks to it] natural history could undergo a mighty improvement. For what is it that people often term love, instinct, sympathy, domestic felicity—what are they more often than not but the [mutual] attraction of numismatic metals?

I must be off. They are waiting for me at the gaming-table. It would be a great [tragedy] indeed if luck could not be mastered. I would rather die than lose: they say that it is [pure] superstition to devote any amount of thought to strategy at cards, but I have worked out a heap of stratagems that are undoubtedly useful and not at all superstitious. [Why] do we call [it] superstition anyway? Do we possess any other kind of wisdom? A kind free of superstition? In the end it is a superstition that I exist; a proposition that I accept entirely at a venture, because it seems [plausible] to me. But who is this I whose existence seems so plausible to me? No one can provide me with an answer to that question, and yet such an answer would doubtless be absolutely indispensable [to proving the proposition.]

Farewell, Rosa, and do send me some money when you get a chance; for even if I win, it never hurts to have some [extra] cash, as I hope you will agree. What are the rest of our friends up to? I can well imagine how Andrea is longing to see me; do please console him, for I shall be coming back soon.

Betty to Amalie


O my dearest, dearest friend! I shall never be able to describe to you the way I feel. We really wished you could have come here and were really sorry about your illness—I mean during the wedding. My father says that I must not overstrain myself in my happiness, but that is easier said than done. I really do not know how I am feeling; I often yank myself by the arm to wake myself up. When I go for a walk in the garden or in the village, all the people greet me very warmly and regard me as their mistress; I am allowed to address Edward by his Christian name and as thou; this is the same man whom I have hitherto worshiped only from a distance, as one worships a divinity. My father is cheerful and has been moved to tears on more than one occasion; with his weak eyes he could not even [see] me in my new clothes yesterday—ah, my dearest friend, can one ever thank heaven enough for such a transformation? Surely not. If only my mother were still alive and beheld all this splendor! She died of sorrow and hardship, and I would now be able to console her so perfectly. But it was not to be, and things are as they are, and that is quite fortunate enough. Who would have thought back then that you would come to the relief of my father and me in our distress with such heavenly munificence? Oh, and Edward is a heavenly man; he never lets me feel as though I would be nothing without him; he talks to me as though I am the one who has made him happy. There are certainly not many people as worthy as he is. You should have seen the outlay on the wedding; now, Mr. Mortimer can tell you whether it was sumptuous or not. Do visit us as soon as you can.
Betty to Amalie


How glad I shall be to see you again and to show you everything around here! I often still do not dare to behave as I would do if I were [truly] at home here. Give me your advice on how to hold on to Edward's love for ever, on the way to be [truly] deserving of his benevolence and affection. He does everything to please me whenever he believes that there is anything that could amuse me; he is so good that I am perpetually ashamed of not being a better person; but from him I will learn how to concentrate [my better qualities]. My father warmly commends himself to you; the old man now busies himself mainly with gardening and hunting; the hunt is something entirely new to him, and he is not a bad shot considering how weak his eyes are. Maybe his sight will actually improve now that he is living a more cheerful life and he doesn't need to grieve as much as he used to. Farewell, my dearest friend, and do not make fun of my letter.
William Lovell to Rosa


My dear Rosa, I have completely, totally gambled away all of my funds. I dimly recall my recent letter and its contents; please pardon me; whatever it contains is its own affair, for I wrote it in a mood wherein I scarcely recognized myself. It so happens that from time to time, against our will, we say or do something that a friend is obliged to regard as never having been [said or] done at all. I do not know how I am to come to you in Italy; I now rue my madness and contemn myself on account of this very ruefulness. Would that I now had back but half, but a quarter, of those sums that I gave away like a blockhead's blockhead in England! Nobody has been more magnanimous than I; everybody else is cleverer, and regards his winnings as his [inalienable] property. Oh, in what a world is one forced to live! Everyone and everything is withdrawing from me; my most intimate friends no longer acknowledge me when they encounter me on the street, and yet a short time ago they were courtesy and humility personified. At bottom the human species, including especially the subspecies of cultivated humans, is a huge herd of cannibals. In quotidian social life one sees people bowing to each other and devoting to each other the most scrupulous attention, such that nobody offends or slights anybody else in any way whatsoever; everybody behaves as though he could live happily on glances and compliments alone. Oh, and if it stood to make them rich, these [selfsame] individuals would tear this selfsame object [?] to pieces and to death with their bare hands—nay, with tooth and nail. There were fellows here who, if I dropped a pen or a halfpenny, would hand it back to me with the greatest deference; at the gaming-table ten of them vied to be the first to lend me money, and now not one of these ten would lend me a single thaler even to save me from starving to death. Until now, I have never felt the oppression of poverty, and its agonies are terrifying; it is easy to despise people when they throng to us with their veneration, but now I am beginning to find it difficult. I hardly dare to look wealthy people in the eye; I evince a slavish awe in the presence of aristocrats; I feel as though I do not belong in the world, as if it is merely out of courtesy that I am allowed to live and breathe; I feel degraded to the basest level of subjection. Do not allow your friend to suffer thus, dear Rosa; make it possible for me to see you and Italy once again. Should it prove necessary, reveal my present condition to Andrea, and he will [come to my aid] without hesitating for an instant or giving any reflection to the matter. Shall I be obliged to tarry here even longer? I am already living in inns amongst the very dregs of the people and dining in taverns with mean companions who are as civil to me as my rich ones recently were; now that I have spent the little money I had left, they will likewise contemn me and cut me loose. Every attestation of civility now heartily offends me in reminding me of my condition. Save me, my friend, and without delay, I adjure you! You have no notion of my difficulties! Those petty sums that we used to give to those wretched trollops Bianca and Laura would now be a fortune to me; I envy many a beggar the pittance I gave him in better times; I have never before felt such an awful reverence of money. Just try to imagine what a friend could say to you in the way of persuasion—but I am forgetting to whom I am speaking; I know that I am addressing Rosa; all of my apprehensions are unnecessary; it is only here that common, vulgar people live. I now keenly regret not having left town earlier, but am I [perhaps] even better off for having delayed my departure? Farewell; I longingly await your reply.

Rosa to William Lovell


Your letter, my dear William, has aroused my keenest sympathy. There is no more pitiful scene for me than that of a friend so near to our heart so completely losing sight of himself and his resolutions. All of your letters are evidence of a certain state of [mental] fragmentation that is preventing you from [re]gaining possession of yourself. I would gladly extricate you from your present disagreeable circumstances if to do so in any sense lay in power, but I do not know whether you observed or not when you were here (if you did not, then I must frankly confess it to you now) that I live in a state of the most unqualified dependence upon Andrea. He actually endeavors to keep me in permanent [financial] perplexity for reasons that I admittedly cannot comprehend. He is [imperiously] self-willed, however generally well-disposed towards me he may appear, and I am not readily allowed to do anything of any importance or even conspicuousness without his consent. Although I have sought him out on several occasions, I have not seen him in a long time; accordingly, it has been impossible for me to acquaint him with your condition; and besides, I cannot guarantee that he would be able to do much or indeed anything on your behalf, as I myself am already a considerable burden to him, as he has always regarded you as being wealthy, and as it is possible that you have not carried out his orders in the most felicitous manner. But I am no adequate judge of any of this even as I am telling it to you, and I hope that he will explain himself to your best advantage as soon as I speak to him.

I only wonder—and to the point of incomprehension—how you could have acted with such thoroughgoing heedlessness. You seem not to have derived the slightest degree of amusement from your species of dissipation, and yet you were unable to overcome your propensity for it. You contemn human beings, and yet you have consequently and avidly striven to make yourself dependent on them, because you have yet to feel the oppression of dependency. Why did you not tear yourself free of your tedious social circles and come back earlier? You would thereby have spared me, your friend, the unpleasantness of being obliged to refuse such an urgent request. In fact, if I am to be completely honest, [I do not see] how someone as intelligent as Lovell could lapse into committing the vulgar error of laying claim to my property on one day because I was merry with him in company the day before. That is the hallmark of the common man, who cannot be on familiar terms with someone for an hour without broaching the idea of borrowing money from him; he thereby places himself and the other person in an awkward position. The well-bred man [, in contrast,] always tries to live with other people rather than off them; he will sooner ask for money as a favor than as a charitable handout; for in every case the other person must be inconvenienced; he must do without luxuries that may have become necessities to him. But I am saying none of this in reference to you, dear Lovell; for if I could help you I would, immediately and without any preliminary dithering, for the fact that you have set aside all of these notions is [sufficient] proof to me of the direness of your need; but I also regret all the more painfully that I am in no position to help you. Fare very well in the meantime, and try to come to us soon; I promise to speak on your behalf to Andrea as soon as I can find him.
William Lovell to Rosa


It is good, Rosa; everything you have written to me is good, but then again it is not good. You are right, and yet I cannot believe it; in the end it is all the same. Only you should not have reproached me as you did. In society one must forget that one is living among people, and I too intend to forget it. O fair and precious friendship! But let it be as it is, Rosa; I do not intend to give any further thought to it. I was a fool to hope for help; I now see that very clearly; just forget all about it, and add it to the list of the other foolish things that I have done, and for which you have so often pitied me.
And what more do I want anyway?  Am I not still living here, just as I was before?  What more can one ask for than to live?  I am now familiar with the distress of the most unfortunate creatures; no class of humanity is strange to me; I have experienced and learned much.  I now cohabit with beggars and live in their company; I now see how humanity shows itself in its basest dregs, how every [pathological] tendency, every form of low treachery, flourishes here in full, resplendent bloom; it often breaks my heart when I contemplate this spectacle of misery, [and reflect on] how these people have been stripped of every necessity and are dominated by their sensual appetites, how they greedily devour everything they have collected by begging, and shed not a tear for their own destitution; how they calumniate and contemn each other, how even among beggars there are braggarts and spendthrifts.

The other day I was lying in the sunshine in the corner of a public square.  A ragged old woman came up leading her blind son by the hand.  They sat down not far from me.  The boy spoke first.  "Mother," he said, "my eyes are smarting; the sun must be shining, as you always say."  "Yes, my dear child," said the mother; "sit down here and rest."  He slowly raised his head towards the sky, as though looking for the sun up there.

The old woman now started rummaging through her bundle.  Bread with pieces of raw meat, a few small sausages, cakes—everything was lying mixed together in a filthy linen sack; she bit repeatedly and with great avidity at one of the pieces of meat; then she gave her son a cake, and ordered him to stay there and await her return.

The boy presented all of the usual physiognomical symptoms of joy and relish as he palpated the cake; he repeatedly craned his head towards the sun, as though he believed that by dint of sheer straining he would eventually be able to see it.  Meanwhile, another beggar-child was creeping ever closer to him, and suddenly snatched the cake up from the ground and scampered off.  The blind boy now began feeling around for his food, in which he had taken such delight; and not finding it, he dejectedly lowered his head and, as though inured to every form of suffering and braced for every possible misfortune, lay down and went to sleep.  His slumber was a respite from this world, a respite spent in a better one.  I slunk away so as not to be taken for the thief upon the mother's return.

This is humanity's faithful portrait!  How crammed with filth and repulsive images is my fancy!  How often I suffer hunger here in secret, among the greatest assemblage of humanity on earth; and nobody knows about it, and nobody asks after me.  O Amalie, if you knew, you would surely help me.  Ah, but no: you too are a member of the tribe of humankind; you would be obliged to do without luxuries that may have become necessities to you.  For this reason, I would not beg you to help me even if I saw you walking by the very lair of my destitution!  But this state of affairs shall change!  It must change!  There is no love [in this world], and I cannot look to love for assistance; I must help myself by means of myself.  Is it not disgraceful that I am situated here and letting every opportunity slip past out of sheer laziness?  It is finally time for me to pull myself together.  You will not reprove me, Rosa; and, moreover, you have no right to do so.  Farewell, until you receive a better letter from me.

William Lovell to Rosa

It was successful, Rosa, it was successful; and I have recovered my courage.  What a fool I was!  To think that I had been knowledgeable in the ways of men for such a long time and yet had not yet put this knowledge to good use!  No, I will no longer live placidly with them; rather, I will live off them; you are wrong, Rosa, manifestly wrong; for our understanding, necessity, everything, calls upon us to pursue such a modus vivendi.  You have been obliged to hold your own against me; fortune has been obliged to yield to me, and everything has once again been put to rights.    
Quite some time ago, courtesy of a casual gambling acquaintance, I became proficient at a few card cheats that I was silly enough never to make use of in actual play.  In my folly I sat there at the table with my honest fingers and [repeatedly] cut the deck like a fumbling dolt, while all my money, and with it all my regard for my fellow man, all my delight in living, every form of pleasure I was capable of feeling, simply vanished.

You must never call me your friend again, Rosa, if the man I was then does not strike me as the biggest blockhead on earth; in terms of sheer applied simplicity I accomplished more than all of the most famous philosophers put together; I was honest in the direst situations of my life; upon winning, I always gave back my money, and I was the very personification of magnanimity; I practiced the strictest self-denial while I coolly [watched] myself being reduced to destitution by the most vexatious losses and completely forgot that I knew how to cheat.  Oh, how stupid and brainless is honesty!  Afterwards, I slept with my honesty in the market-squares and begged instead of killing; I [passively] besought people's benevolence instead of snatching their property from them by force; oh, good heavens!, these were the very same people who had seemingly, nay, certainly, become rich at my expense, and who now passed by me so coldly and with such marked contempt, as though I were the most indistinguishable piece of discarded rubbish!  And yet they were now riding in carriages thanks to their thievery, while I slept in the street with my honesty and begged!  This would be enough to outrage anybody, and at length my own blood began to boil.  I vowed to myself that things would change, and wouldn't you know it?, things have by now done exactly that.  I did nothing for any reason but that of contributing my fair share to the universal fund of duplicity, of giving free play to the arts that I had mastered.  Why did fools who were willing to take up with me exist?  They merely remunerated me for my lost time and the perfidy of their brethren: now everything is fair and square again on all sides; I am in fact genuinely reconciled to mankind in a certain sense, to the extent that one can be reconciled to it once one has got to know it, even within the tiny interval of a single hour.

I wagered only paltry sums initially, and gradually moved on to larger and larger ones. 
You should have seen, Rosa, how all the people who had let me lie starving on the street a few days earlier now gathered around me again, and flattered me, and were cordial to me.  Their entire lives and fortunes were mine to command; everyone marveled at the curious whimsicality of the audacious Englishman who had managed to disguise himself so well in order to acquaint himself so thoroughly with the wretchedness of human nature in [so] short a time.  I would gladly have shot every single one of them through the head with a pistol if I had not hoped to win back my money from them and thereby avenge myself on them.  [And] it [actually] happened; my own blessed money flowed back into my wallet, and the richer I grew, the more friends I reacquired.  The entire world with all of its pleasures lay open to me again.  O Gold!  Almighty Gold!  Never again will I so good-naturedly let you slip out of my possession; I have met you and learned to treasure you; I worship your omnipotence!
At many moments I am much of a mind to begin writing the story of my own life along with my opinions of myself and other people.  When I think back on so many of the [novels] that I used to read and whose paragons of virtue bored us to tears while their libertines just stood there like scarecrows erected to frighten readers like sparrows off the path of evil—and then it occurs to me that any [sufficiently] conceited blockhead who had experienced my story piecemeal at third or fourth hand could sit down and write it up in [the coolness of] deliberation; such that I am much of a mind to put pen to paper myself, not in order to vindicate myself, for I have no need to do so, but simply to show how I am and how I think.  Those wretches who contrive to write about mankind after studying three books about it stand miles away from actual humanity.  They have experienced nothing and suffered nothing; they have been touched by only the most trivial passions; their hearts have weathered no storms, and they sit down in full confidence and presume to rectify the hearts of men and women, and depict their emotions.  How one of these authors would monotonously bewail [the disappearance of my native] virtues, and lament the [eventual] corruption of my character; and not have even an inkling of the fact that everything is one and the same, that I have always been as I am, that everything was calculated from the beginning, that I could not but have been like this.
Now I can and will return to you: I am already on my way.  I have forgotten everything, Rosa, and you may approach me without fear or reserve; I hope that you will likewise forget whatever could cause me to be embarrassed in your company; for intelligent people no occasion for embarrassment ought ever to be capable of arising, for the most noble thing they are capable of doing is admitting that at some time in their lives they have been fools; and that goes without saying; and they are fools all over again while they are admitting it.  So we can both be completely at ease on this head.  Above all else, present my compliments to Andrea; I wonder, though, as you [have] not seen him in such a long time: might he not be ill?  Farewell; soon I shall see you again.

Ralph Blackstone to Mortimer


How are you faring, my dear friend—if I may thus address you?  But why should I not be allowed to?  You are indeed my best and my true friend; without your help my daughter and I would surely have faded away and died long ago.  Ah, I did not believe back then, in my days of destitution, that I would ever encounter pity and succor among my any of my fellow-men; and then you came straightaway and found me through a stroke of good luck.  What would have become of me if you had never met me?  I still cannot forget it.  Many people have not the foggiest notion of what is known as hardship; they can form no picture of either great human need or human gratitude; and one can hardly blame them for thinking that there is no such thing as a grateful human being.  There are indeed many ungrateful people in the world, but I do not think that I am one of them; afterwards—there are people who when they are shifted from poverty into a certain kind of affluence, are afterwards ashamed of their earlier poverty, and wish everybody were of a mind to forget all of the benefaction and succor they gave them in harder times; indeed they actually try to forget it themselves, and from this springs a new kind of ingratitude that is due to false shame; one cannot say that the cause of it is completely bad, but its consequences are often quite dastardly.  I believe that people can turn bad by completely different paths, but that is why we have our reason: to make us wary of these wrong paths.  Do not take my wordy ramblings amiss, for they really do come straight from the heart.  I am living here with great cheer and delight, like a bird in the air and in the twiggy greenery of trees.  I am trying, to the extent that I am able in my declining years, to be useful in some way to my son-in-law; I am conducting a studious survey of the garden, and along with my eyes it is getting noticeably better every day, so that now I can preside over this project with ease.  I have many quarrels with the gardener, who is a stubborn but otherwise entirely worthy man; he fancies that he has a certain kind of good taste, and always wants to make the garden too artificial-looking for me.  But one is obliged to overlook a single weakness in such a man when he is otherwise made of virtuous and praiseworthy qualities, which one cannot deny old Thomas possesses; only he has this unfortunate [habit], which one sees a lot in old people, of thinking himself cleverer than he actually is; on account of this I am often rather bored by his long-winded discourses.  The other day he got really angry when he had to demolish a great number of things that he had already set up, but the layout of the garden made it necessary.  My son-in-law and his [late] blessed father let the institution of the hunt almost die out completely, but I think that with God's help I can make it flourish again.  It would be a shame to let such fine and first-rate stomping-grounds as we have around here go to waste.

My daughter is always cheerful and delighted, at the same time she is in uncommonly good health and loves her husband immensely; and how should it even be possible for her not to love him?  Every child must be fond of him, and moreover I have yet to meet anyone one here who would not be glad to be in his company; even the wicked people have taken a shine to him.  Only I have heard many whispered rumors of a certain Lovell who is said to be his irreconcilable enemy; accordingly this man must be an exceedingly wicked individual.  He came here from Italy, and wanted to introduce the Italian style of poisoning to us; but contrary to what he may have thought, that sort of thing will not fly in England, and so he had to steal back to Italy in secret.  They say he died abroad, and such a person scarcely deserves to live, for he uses his life only as a means of vexing and injuring his fellow Christians, and that sort of thing is never proper [or] creditable.  I dictated this letter to my daughter because she writes much faster and more legibly than I do.  Fare well and happily; I [ have the honor to] call myself

Your true friend,
Ralph Blackstone.

Betty to Amalie


How are you faring, dearest Amalie?  If you think about me as often as I do about you, you must think about me a great deal; but I [shall] not allow [myself] to hope as much. 
You are always so good; and your letters are so good, that I believe that I could never find a better friend on earth.  Next to Edward I love most of all you and my dear old father, who, to be sure, sometimes talks a bit [too] much, but always sincerely means well by it.  Many people have chided him for it from time to time, but it is only fair to leave the old man alone if all that talking makes him happy.  You see, in his days of misery, he could often console himself really thoroughly simply by making long speeches about the fickleness of fortune, or about his own steadfastness; he himself used to say that talking was a great hidden alleviator.  Of course, my father is not going to seem as charming to anybody else as he does to me, and yet everyone must think him a good and righteous man, and that means a lot more to me than charm.  I can never help rejoicing anew in how happy he feels now that he once again has servants to send on errands and to go riding with, and that he can devise the plan of attack for the hunt; and Edward does everything imaginable to please him.

I feel downright odd nowadays now that I find myself coming across in Edward's library many of the books that I read in my former unhappy days, and that were a frequent source of consolation for me then; I have read them through again with an indescribable longing; they have moved me anew, and I [still] have a very high regard for them.  I have always sympathized very keenly with our poor Otway, who suffered such great hardship, and to whom nobody paid any attention, and yet who so often served as the scribe of a truly heavenly angel; how could people have cared so little about him?  They ought never even to have been allowed to read him; they did not deserve to do so.  I wish I had all of those books back in my possession, those books that I became so familiar with in stormy weather, that I read with tear-reddened eyes and a languidly throbbing heart; in many moments, I can feel my way back to those days, such that I am obliged on many occasions to weep anew; and when I feel the tears on my cheeks, it suddenly seems to me as if nothing has changed, as if all of the joys I have experienced between then and now have been but a light nap.  No sooner has a person gotten misfortune well and truly behind him, than he recalls it with a certain silent and indescribable joy.    

William Lovell to Rosa

From the mountains of the Piedmont

"O! I am fortune's fool" [Romeo and Juliet: III.i.103 (DR)].  Hither and thither I am jostled; like a marvelous piece of bric-a-brac I pass through all hands.  I still do not know how you will manage to receive this letter, but I must distract myself; I must keep myself busy; and this is the reason why I am writing to you.  I am now here in an entirely new situation; I cannot leave, and yet I am not particularly inclined to stay; but I will calmly recount to you how I came to arrive here.

I departed from Chambéry with my newly-won money [in hand]; my heart was passably light, my soul occasionally tuned to a cheerful pitch; the entire world struck me as one great den of thieves in which all property was held in common, and where everyone snatched up as much as he could get; no sooner had he got hold of it, than it was snatched away from him again, only to fail to service the enjoyment of its new owner.  I forgave Burton; I forgave myself, for everyone did only what he was ineluctably obliged to do by his own determination; we are selfish by nature; and in virtue of this natural institution we are robbers who strive to take possession, through either violence or cunning, of whatever we happen to desire.  This is the fundamental principle of politics both on a grand scale and in miniature; there is no other philosophy like this one, and there never can be another one, for every system of thought comes more or less within touching distance of this piece of practical wisdom; it is more or less hidden within every such system; all forms of intellectual sophistry ultimately come to rest in [the valley of] egoism.  Why, therefore, should we not forthwith and happily embrace the simple master-theorem from which everyone pretends to recoil, and in which everyone nevertheless believes?

I have recently become at one with myself; by which I essentially mean that I now contemplate more coolly the ideas in whose presence I used to feel uneasy, and that used to put me into a kind of panic in virtue of the gloomy premonitions they stirred up.  I have laid aside that good-naturedness that often used to make me so anxious within and so ridiculous in the eyes of other people.  Formerly I endured human affectation with an incredible degree of forbearance.  For hours on end, and without pulling a face, I would listen to the monologing of [windbags] who regarded themselves as hapless or persecuted saints.  What impudence could have possessed these people to make them declaim all of their doctrines, all their hypocritical cant, to a person who was actually standing in front of them and giving every appearance of having a brain in his head?  Can one better punish a person than by showing him how much one contemns him, than by thereby impelling him to contemn himself for an hour?  I now did this, and was decried throughout the world as an evildoer; every sorrowful soul denied that I was capable of human feeling because I was of no mind to sympathize with his feeble, prefabricated suffering.  Evil is nothing but a word; there is no such thing as evil; I will defend this proposition against the entire world.

But after all I meant to recount to you my recent history.  From Chambéry onwards I traveled on horseback.  The road was marvelously picturesque, and I lost my way; I had left the highway completely behind and found myself on a byway that one minute was petering out and the next seemed to be winding back towards where I had come from.  I came across only isolated cottages in which I could stop only briefly for a meal, and none of the colliers and woodcutters I met in them had even heard of the route I was looking for. 
One morning, as I was riding up a steep hill, I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of trepidation so violent that I thought it would crush my heart; everything around me suddenly seemed so familiar; I was confronted by not a vague but an absolutely distinct recollection of having been in that place before.  An arid smoke blanketed the distant mountaintops, and the grimness of twilight imparted additional terror to the aspect of the deep chasms gaping below.  I was violently seized by a feeling of solitude; it was as though the surrounding peaks were speaking to me in bloodcurdling tones; I grew timid upon beholding the large and savage masses of clouds hanging so brashly above me in the sky.  I made my horse stop so that I could contemplate my situation; now a ray of sunlight broke through the cloud, and I suddenly remembered where I was and when I had been there.  It was the same spot, Rosa—you will still recall it—in which I had been attacked by the robbers, when I was traveling to Italy for the first time, with you; the same spot in which your disguised mistress so doughtily defended me.  Gilded by the mist, the peaks of the distant mountains swelled upwards as they had done before; the deep valley shimmered in a thousand parti-colored shades of iridescence; a carriage was laboriously ascending the hill.  I pictured to myself you sitting inside the carriage with Balder, and Willy out in front next to the driver; I peered more closely at the vehicle and it was almost as if I could discern Willy's features.  I was following the carriage with my eyes and finding it impossible to tear myself free of my reverie[s], when a gunshot that sent my horse crashing to the ground tore me out of my stupor [surely enough].  Four men emerged from the bushes and made a beeline for me; everything seemed to me to be playing itself out like a comical repetition of earlier events, and I looked round expecting to catch sight of Ferdinand's blond locks, and for him to come rushing to my rescue with his double-edged hunting knife.  But he failed to appear, he was not there, and without resisting I surrendered to my captors; I automatically handed over to the thieves all the money in my possession; my sang-froid seemed to astonish them.  Along hidden pathways, I was carried to their lair.  Throughout this passage, I remained completely beside myself; not with despair, but with uncertainty over whether I was sleeping or awake; I thought that I needed only to make a genuinely serious effort to wake up and it would happen—that is to say, I would die.
When I had spent a few hours in this state[, one of the thieves,] a stalwart and good-looking fellow, suggested to me that I should become a member of their band.  You may have already guessed, Rosa, that I accepted this suggestion without the slightest demur.  The absence of this ludicrously marvelous possibility had been a notable lacuna in my life until then; it so splendidly tied together everything that had preceded it; it fortified me so wonderfully in the midst of my dream; I was so convinced that I had to be here and nowhere else that I gave the thieves my assent almost before they had finished asking me for it.  And do you not yourself agree that our life can never be anything but a grotesque and empty hallucination?  We take it all so seriously, and it is nothing but a loutish, incoherent farce; the prosily spoiled offal of an ancient and superior form of existence; an improvised children's pantomime; a miserable parody of an actual life.
Now I am sitting here in a profound solitude, for all of my comrades have gone out.  The wind is whistling through the turbinate rocks, the branches of the trees are loudly creaking, and every sound is echoed by deathly silence.  My eyes can make out nothing but rocks, trees, and distant chains of mountains; the solemn calm resonates with the cry of the wilderness.  Solitary clouds drift heavily through the mountains; the sunshine disappears and then returns.  Why am I now sitting here and thinking about and writing to you?  What am I doing here?  And yet I cannot leave: the thieves have concluded from my appearance that I could prove a capable member of their band, and therefore they want to hold on to me.  A perfectly good thief may yet be made out of a perfectly rotten human being.  In the eyes of humanity I am rotten, which means that I am much too good to be a human being; one must define one's intellect and emotions only up to a certain point [of specificity], one must accept a thousand things blindly and in a hit-or-miss fashion, in order to remain a human being.  Farewell; I will resume this letter when I next have a chance to do so, even though I cannot yet imagine how you will ever receive it.
It is nighttime, and I must write now, as I am none too keen to let my companions get a glimpse of this letter.  I actually have nothing to write, but I am not calm enough to go to sleep.  Our booty includes a few French tragedies, but they nauseate me; I am annoyed at not having to hand anything by Shakespeare, who would perhaps stir up my emotions even more disagreeably, but [would at least] pacify them in the long run.
Here in this dark and solitary hut, I strike myself as a kind of exiled sage who has forsaken the world and its absurdities.  When I vividly picture myself as this sort of hermit I find myself quite strongly inclined to pontificate.  Balder should be living with me here in this desert; I should find it quite easy to commiserate with him now.
I am of a mind to jest for the sake of repelling the horror that surrounds me.  The wind is sweeping hence across the forest, and the stars are hovering lugubriously over the rocks and trees: the moonlight is shimmering above and thick shadows are cascading downwards from the mountains.  In my mind, I stretch out my hand in search of the friendly hand of another; I especially yearn for the presence of old, honest Willy; I picture him; he is sitting beside me and I am having a serious conversation with him.  I feel as though old familiar voices are on the point of speaking from the sides of the room; and I start in horror at the faintest sound.  Is the light not casting strange shadows on the wall?  Who can know what a shadow is and what it has to signify?  Swarms of drowsy moths surge towards the open window from outside, and now they are vacuously and languidly droning through this chamber; in ever-narrower circles they fly round the flame of my candle, for the sake of ultimately singeing themselves and dying.  A branch from the tree keeps knocking against my window; it ascends and descends, now hiding the stars from me, now revealing them in the bluish-green setting of the [night] sky.  I do not know why everything terrifies me; why the heavens with their stars are hovering over me so lugubriously.  In solitude there dwells a kind of disquietude that constricts our entire soul; we are terrified in the presence of nature in her colossal monstrosity when no sunshine illuminates the mighty scene and directs our attention to isolated sections of it; darkness in contrast unites everything into a single, unsurveyable chaos.  Then we sink without a trace in[to] the savage and colossal ocean, wherein waves writhe against waves and everything flows amorphously and haphazardly into everything else.  Nowhere can anyone maintain a hold on anything; our world consequently bears the aspect of a formerly [coherent] terrestrial realm that has lately fallen into the maw of disintegration, and we are being gobbled up in there along with it.
I want to be in Rome and to see Andrea and to talk to him.  Life here dissatisfies me on account of its monotony; my mind must now receive a new impetus, or I shall give myself up for lost.  A greater soul must now undertake to become my guardian, or my lot will be a life of squalor such as perhaps has never before been visited on any human being. 
"Who is it that is passing by under our branches?": thus the trees seem to cry out after me.  Every cloud and every mountain gestures threateningly—ah! and the people around me here!  At best they depreciate me.  In a certain demoralized way they are self-sufficient:  they regard their indolence together with a kind of despicable recklessnessas as strength of soul; they are oblivious of the void in their minds, of their lack of the barest rudiments of intellectual integrity, in the absence of which the most trivial enterprises are bound to come to naught; they are nothing but talking statues, who contemn humanity and me along with it, because they cannot respect themselves. 

They often talk a great deal about a Rudolpho and a Pietro who always distinguished themselves with their bravery, and who were killed in a surprise attack.  They do not know, Rosa, that these two perished at my hands and at the hands of your Ferdinand; they would kill me on the spot if I revealed this to them.  I have been obliged to visit the slain men's gravestones, which were erected by the entire company; the graves serve the thieves as a church.

Why might I not shortly rediscover Rosaline, or my father?  In this strange world nothing is impossible.

Day is breaking; the moonlight is getting paler; I will lie down to try to get a few hours of sleep yet.  I am now calm in the face of horror; the witching hour is past.  Perchance you are laughing, Rosa; farewell.

I have been looking through my wallet today, and I found inside it an old—indeed, an ancient—piece of paper; it contains a poem that I once wrote on the occasion of Amalie's birthday.  The paper is already yellow and abraded; the words are practically illegible; on this sheet one used to be able to descry her silhouette, which I traced in the garden at Bondly on one lovely afternoon.  My entire heart has been wrung by this discovery.  Everything that happened in the old days, everything that slipped in the distant past, everything that I forgot so long ago, is coming back to me; I see her standing before me; I hear the rustle of the trees at Bondly, the entire landscape of the place is conjuring itself up before my very eyes.  I will record for you here the fantasy that has moved me so deeply:

First Genius
Where can I find my brother?
Roams he in the rainbow's swath?
Floats he o'er yonder cloudbank?
We must soon find each other;
The sun's already setting.

Second Genius

I bring the dew of flowers
The breath of youthful roses,
And from the crimson sunset,
Her tiny golden sparkles;
Now let us further hasten
To sprinkle on her visage
The shimmer of the ev'ning,
To alloy her lips' redness
With light ethereal azure
To feed her eyes with water,
And on her flaxen tresses
Let fall such golden candles
As we have from the rainbow pillaged
At twilight's final gleaming.

We hover o'er flowers;
We dance on the cloud-tops
Beyond the full moon.

The stars and the moonlight
Our nocturnal dances
Illumine with love.

We then gather flowers;
We then look for herbage
Known only to us;

And blessed beyond measure
The farthest of wanderers
Return to their homes.

The Poet
Guardian spirits, when her love flies to her
And that fairest with new beauty blazons,
O hearken ye two to the pious prayer;
Take all his sighs, and take his fairest tears;
Bear his truest heart as gift to her.
Then surely she will bethink herself of me!

These verses are poor, and the entire conception is far-fetched; but I wrote them in the full flush of emotion; as tense as I was, I could not confine myself within the narrow limits of a natural and simple emotional state.  Every word of this poem brings back to me a thousand sweet and painful memories; the past, perhaps even more lovely now than when it was still the present, spitefully permeates my heart.  

All hail to me, ye golden gladsome years
With matchless woe you saturate my heart!
Ah!  Thither! thither!  ever strives my heart
Toward that fair yesteryear that was my home.
The golden hues that follow on the sunset
The tender sheen of moonlight and the songs
Of nightingales, all forms of beauty hailed
Me silently, my soul refreshed itself
On all shapes protean and fugitive;
By mirror fancy seemed more fresh and new,
And beauty fairer; loveliness itself
Found well-disposed to monstrousness;
And all was joined in harmony—but no:
Those times are vanished; iron Age
Asserts his claims in all the haunts of man.
No tender, childlike feeling calls me friend
And riven are all harmonies, the chaos
[Of ] addled doubt extends ahead of me
From crags abruptly hewn I gaze down reeling
At desert, black, and wildly-riven clefts.
A ghastly round-dance wildly spins beneath me
A rising swell of catcalls greets my ear,
And pallid torches flitter here and there;
As daemons, horrible specters, revel
With swift aplomb in orgies through the night.
Who is that sooty ogre in their circle?
His name is death, and up towards me
Is stretched his arm!  Away, monstrosity!
What's stirring in the trees?  Not my father?
He's drawn to me!  He comes with Rosaline,
And slowly Pietro walks behind him.
And Willy's head 's emerging from his humid grave!
Away!  I know you not!  Descend to hell!
But ever louder is the woodland's rustle
With all its waves the sea roars and rebukes me,
And in my breast there throbs a coward's heart.

Am I by all of you denied, condemned?
Art thou against thyself?  O fool, release
Thine inner daemon, let the saucy rascal
Ne'er be subdued!  Let fate go hang itself;
Let love and friendship yet prove traitors;
Let everyone forsake thee; what mean such airy sprites
To thee?  Depend upon thyself alone!
What do you think?   If I ever wrote a tragedy about myself, would I not be obliged to excise the whole of this tirade from the conclusion of the fourth act?
The thieves heartily contemn me, for they perceive that I am entirely useless in their line of work.  They go out, and most of the time they leave me behind to hold down the fort.
One of them has just been shot dead.  I am occasionally witness to the most depressing scenes; I am often of a mind to run away on my own.
I am again alone, and black storm-clouds blanket the entire horizon.  How void and forsaken is everything around me here!  Lightning streaks through the black curtain of clouds, and a thunderclap rumbles through the mountains.   A savage roar of rain and hail is descending like an avalanche; all the way down to their roots all of the trees are swaying.

I am thinking back on my most recent stay in Paris.  How was it possible for so many of the people I was acquainted with there to want to keep living?  They had been divested of everything that makes life precious and enjoyable; they were obliged to beg their way from one day to the next while weighed down by unyielding contumely and persecution; they were overwhelmed by adversity and deprivation, and yet for all that they awaited the unrelenting approach of death with cheeks made pallid by fear.  I cannot comprehend it, and I would not believe it if I had only read about it.

No; in the end I must find a source of peace in the world outside myself.  Must everything in this world be nothing but a threat to me, and no human creature stretch his hand out to me with love?  Are friendship and benevolence dead letters for me?  Let the sky rage yet more loudly, I will refuse to be frightened by it.  In an access of yet more savage frenzy, of a superlatively tempestuous delirium, I will seek out a sanctuary and there barricade myself against everything!  I will drink until my senses, my breath, my consciousness, desert me, and thus wend my way to Hades as a titubating shadow, so that everything I encounter there will seem all the more curious and incomprehensible.

How I should like to ride with the storms through the concavity of the heavens, to fling myself into the spumous sea and wrestle with the thundering waves; I will familiarize myself with the abysses, with the profound, impermeable shadows of the earth; and finally, finally, somewhere or other, discover peace.
And why do I wish to be at peace?  Why this risible striving after a state of mind and heart that in itself amounts to nothing?  That emanates merely from an absence of emotion?  No, I will begin by finding my bliss in the pains of torture, in the struggle of conscience!  All criminals, all miscreants, shall live!  In defiance of virtue, in defiance of divinity, they shall not feel wretched!  I will it to be so, and I have vowed to myself that it shall be so.
My miserable companions are absolutely useless; they neither drink nor gamble.  Stealing and killing and killing and stealing is the only game they know, and one plays against them at the hazard of one's life.
How my head is spinning!  How all of my senses are spinning!   There is nothing more exalted in human existence than the state of unconsciousness; when a human being is unconscious, he is happy; then he can say he is content.  And he will be the same when he is dead.  The dull night will lie over me then; nary a star will shine into the gloomy abyss where I shall be secreted; nary a peep of sound from the world above will find its way down there; indissolubly bound to total oblivion, I shall lie there and no longer be myself; I shall no longer know myself, and the surrounding stones will be my brothers—no, why should I take fright at the thought of death?  It is nothing; it obliterates fear; it is the ultimate vertex at which all human cares and emotions converge and deliquesce.
Call me not happy until death has trod upon my brain and heart, until stones lie atop me and worms are feeding upon my corpse!
Man is nothing but a fatuous buffoon who sticks his head out to pull faces, and then withdraws back into [his little] black hole in the ground; and that is the last one ever hears from him.
My blood is coursing dolorously through my veins.  But someday it will stand still; then no wine will accelerate its circulation and chase it towards the brain; it will stagnate and putrefy.
[--w]here people live!  At least for the time being I prefer not to be alone; I shall have time enough for that when I am dead.
Do not by any means travel hither, Rosa; believe me, we would ruthlessly and righteously despoil you of everything in your possession; for here we make no exceptions for friends or anybody else.  Indeed, we are such strict sticklers for justice that we do not even spare our fellow thieves.
Oh, my friend, what can a man think and commit to paper when he is bereft of the power of reflection?  I am quite ashamed of myself now that I have become so commonsensical; I wake up within myself, and everything that was naught to begin with comes to naught.  My heart has become more riven than ever since my arrival here; I have never before contemplated myself with these eyes.  In [this] dusky solitude all sophistry, all figures of deceit, have been torn from me with main force; I feel myself forsaken by all of those powers that used so gamely to await my bidding.  A terrifying sobriety besets me whenever I think about myself; I feel my utter good-for-nothingness, how nothing within me any longer coheres, how upon frank consideration I myself am absolutely nothing, nothing at all.  Oh, it is terrible, Rosa, to have nothing to shelter and nurture at the core of one's being; to be empty in all of those places at which one formerly tarried with such exquisite, affectionate attachment, to find everything that I formerly thought and felt in accordance with a beautiful and unfettering rule now thrown together higgledy-piggledy in an amorphous void; to be ravished by the basest passions, which I contemn and which have nevertheless transformed me into their lifelong slave.  Joylessly driven in every direction, restlessly tossed from one object to the next; trapped in a state of incessant tension from which I am denied a moment's respite; carnally infatuated with a depraved and inherently stillborn fantasy, devoid of new vital force, coerced by a ravaged body into the thrall of an oppressive melancholy that incessantly reproaches me with the mighty tally of my sins—no, Rosa, I can no longer put up with myself.  If it were not for Andrea, I should wish to remain a child for ever, to be the stupidest of imbeciles upon whom you would not deem it worthy to bestow a single word or glance; I would be content merely to be the recipient of your contempt; I would know no other home and would be perfectly happy within the dark and cramped confines of a simple hovel.  But I know that all is not yet lost, that the greater and better half of my life is down south.   Andrea possesses the key to my existence, and he will once again disclose to me a freer mode of being; he will lead me across the divide between this world and a higher one, and then I shall once again encounter the harmony at the center of my innermost self.  It must be so, or for me there is no consolation on this earth, no consolation in the grave, [and] perhaps no consolation in an immortal state.  Do not suppose, Rosa, that in my downcast mood I am exaggerating, that I am gorging myself on reproaches now merely for the sake of exculpating myself all the more readily in the future; no, I have felt this in every conceivable frame of mind; even in the delirium of drunkenness this conviction hovered before my eyes with frightening clarity; only I have denied it to myself; I can make no further headway with these lies; an incorruptible, invisible genius condemns and banishes me from within, and the most devastatingly humbling part of it is that in my own eyes I am not a monster, but merely an ordinary, common, contemptible human being.  If I thought I were a monster, I would in that idea of myself at least have something to be proud of, and hence a source of consolation.  Oh, you cannot conceive how repulsive I seem to myself whenever I manage to finish up any sort of a chore, however trivial; or even try to say something clever; at such a moment everything seems so intrinsically incoherent, so much like a bolt out of the blue, so flagrantly at odds with the nature of the wretch that is Lovell, that I am much of a mind to blush like a schoolboy.
So you see, Rosa: I must come back, and Andrea must release me from myself.

Ralph Blackstone to Mortimer
Everything is going smoothly and exceedingly well with the improvements to the estate; I regard it as my duty to give you a succinct report on them, for you have taken an especial interest in the garden here.  The old, withered lime-trees have been cut down and uprooted; the name of your spouse was found on one of them; on the one next to it Lovell was carved; we have planted young birch trees in their place; the pond has dried up because the garden on the other hand has had an excess of water; a patch of conifers on the slope of the hill has been got rid of because it blocked the lovely and majestic view from the top.  You will come across many other small improvements if you ever find it worth the trouble to come up here again; the garden will soon be fit to be seen by any connoisseur; to be sure, there may be plenty of other gardens that are better; but in this world one mustn't insist on having the best of everything, unless one wants everything to stay completely bad for good.  To be sure, I am not guilty of any of this insisting; rather, it's all coming nonstop from the gardener, Thomas, with whom, as I recently wrote to you, I have had quite a few quarrels; he is a person who has never had his real and genuine good taste formed by any kind of training, and yet always has to have everything just so according to his own rules.  
Now that kind of attitude is almost insufferably pretentious even coming from a very clever person, let alone from a man who has not seen three sensibly laid-out gardens in his entire life.  But it is a distressing fact about this man; he feels really hurt whenever anyone contradicts him too forcefully, or acts against the grain of his will; he has about him a kind of sentimental obstinacy, that it is impossible to break him out of without breaking his very heart.  The other day he became violently agitated after I had installed a flower bed that he did not know about.  He maintained that it was wrong of me to treat an old man like himself the way I did; that I was undermining his authority with the prentices; he did this very nimbly, and I, old fool that I am, was actually moved by it.  Since then, we have been really good friends; I go out of my way to try to please him and he does a fair number of things to try to please me; I now think that I would rather injure the garden and good taste a bit than injure a living human being [at all], and so now I survey just using my fingers, and I often let myself get away with making do with only five of them at a time.
You are no greater lover of the hunt than is my son-in-law, and so I would just as soon not tell you anything about the progress I am making with it.  My son-in-law is willing to buy the neighboring estate of Waterhall, and I think that it would be very sensible of him to do that, for it is selling for a very reasonable price.  I commend myself to your distant favor and remain
Your most obedient friend,
Ralph Blackstone.

William Lovell to Rosa


Whither shall I turn?  An abominable terror has pursued me hither, and now I do not know whether I should stay here, whether I should turn back or go forward.

The thieves at length grew disgusted with my life of leisure; they demanded that I should become a useful member of their band.  They gave me a horse, and one morning I was obliged to go riding with two of them.

We had not been on the road long, when a man on horseback galloped by in great haste; we turned on to a hidden footpath so that we would be able to head him off.  He seemed to be unafraid of us, for he made no attempt to avoid us; we collided with him—and, good heavens—I shall never forget that moment—Charles Wilmont's face was there in front of me, pale and disfigured.  No sooner did he see me than a more intense fire blazed up in his eyes.  I perceived that he lusted for my blood; he uttered the name Emily and fell upon me like a wild beast.  I could not bear his gaze; it irresistibly impelled me to flee; I heard him behind me, discharging horrible oaths; my hair stood on end; all the while my horse could not run fast enough for me; an indescribable fear drove me to keep riding forward.  My companions were far behind me, and when I subsequently looked round again, Wilmont had also vanished.

Where is he now?  Should I proceed to Rome now; should I return to France?  Where am I safe from this desperate individual?  All the courage that used to be at my beck and call deserts me whenever I think about him.  He has come looking for me, and he if he finds me, how shall I manage to defend myself against him?

Charles Wilmont to Mortimer


I had him; upon my soul, I really had him!  But he has eluded me again, the flagitious villain.  In the Piedmontese Alps I was attacked by thieves, and—can you believe it, Mortimer?—he was one of them.  I recognized him immediately, and he recognized me and fled.  My lame-legged nag would not obey me.  [Schon gegen mir ueber, I could catch him, I had had gehabt him.]  My horse tripped on a protruding rock and broke a leg; I lay unconscious on the ground for a while, and when I came to, Lovell was nowhere to be seen.  But I must find him! 

If only I knew whither I should turn!  In what nook is the wretch now holed up in hiding from my rage?  But I am not worried about answering this question; in the end I must encounter him; Emily's spirit will direct my uncertain footfalls; after all, I have just found him where I least suspected he would be.

Book Ten

Mortimer to Edward Burton

Roger Place

In a few weeks I shall be coming to see you, and upon my arrival I intend to contemplate with my own eyes the metamorphoses of Bondly that I have so far known only by description.  Your father-in-law has written to me about them over the course of several letters, and everything has whetted my curiosity to the keenest degree.  Through certain forms of folly a person can engage me to his advantage.  I have no particular inclination to be dourly hostile to vanity, which often keeps a person on his feet when all else has forsaken him; it is a good-natured form of folly that consoles him more efficaciously than any other; it is the physician-on-call of the human world, and man undoubtedly suffers most when this personal surgeon of his is laid low by illness; whenever vanity forsakes him, or he contemns his vanity, he is bound to pass through the unhappiest hours of his existence.  If a man selects for himself some plaything and subsequently spends a great deal of time with it must he accordingly be censured for this?  At bottom, most people are good; one ought not to presume to pass judgment on [their] fine shades and nuances, for whenever I am in the grip of one form of folly I am perforce obliged to deem [any] other one false, and yet folly is the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin; hence the less that is said about defects that run in the family the better.

Thomas to Sir Ralph Blackstone

Worshipful sir!

I have the honor of informing you that I have been up to my eyes, so to speak, in the arrangement of the garden here.  It is a lot of work for me, but I am always thinking to myself that it is bound to bring me at least a few honors, and that puts me at my ease about the work.  Your worship himself will know that there's almost nothing in this world that we can have without working for it, and even though the common people are always claiming that there's no point in dying, most of them still have to work extraordinarily hard, indeed, practically torture themselves, before they reach their actual death; by which I mean that last breath in which we lie for ever; with the last lungful of air we inhale we are obliged to pay in full, in one tidy sum, for all the breaths we have taken throughout our life.

The garden here has somewhat fallen into disorder; I am obliged to do the honor of assuring  your worship that once upon a time I was the gardener here, and that I still know every bush and every path in it; but back then my hands were tied, for her ladyship the proprietress , if I may do you the honor of speaking the truth, did not have much taste; and so the only thing that really mattered to her was that the garden should be green, and once one had taken care of that one's work was good and done with.  But your worship will well appreciate that it takes more than greenness to make a garden, and the two of us know best the kind of work we have done at Bondly, as well as, to be sure, the kind we still have to do there.  Since our parents were driven out of Paradise and a curse was placed on the earth, the earth has run extraordinarily wild; now people constantly have to fight and work against it, just to keep it in proper order; and that's how gardens were born.

Horticulture is certainly one of the fine arts, and I hear tell that there have even been proper books printed about it, and it is undoubtedly worthy of them.  Your worship also values this art as befits one of your rank, and what is more, allows himself to dabble in the actual work involved in it; that really cheers people like us up, and makes us give our all to it.  I only wish I were through with everything that needs to be done here, so that I could return to our beloved Bondly.  I commend myself to your distant and worshipful friendship, and have the honor of calling myself

Your worship's
Most obedient friend and servant,


Bianca to Laura

Things are getting worse with each passing day, dear Laura; I am no longer at all inclined to amuse myself with them; instead, everything seems thoroughly common and contemptible to me.  Is it not enough that I am ill?  Must the daily round itself spurn me?  And there is not a single person who cares about me; I have been abandoned to my own resources; would it be any wonder if I started feeling melancholy?  You yourself hardly ever visit me; is your friendship only for days of good cheer and health?  Ah, no sooner have I been laid in my grave than you will surely rue your neglect of me; and then it will be too late: just think about that, dear Laura.  To be sure, you are now healthy and passably young, but time will pass you by too, and then you will look around in search of a friend just as I am doing.  Believe me, my dear child, solitude is a terrible thing for people like us; one suddenly remembers a thousand things that one thought one had forgotten long, long, ago.  Not to put too fine a point on it, Laura: we have not exactly lived morally upright lives; but there is nothing that can be done about that now.

Laura to Bianca

It is just as I feared, my dearest friend: you are much too worried; that spoils the mood of everyone who visits you; and I must frankly confess to you that it is for this very reason that people visit you so reluctantly; for human nature holds a grudge against everything sad and gloomy; whenever a person is forced to be around gloom and sadness, everything in the world strikes her as being so tiny and insignificant, and if she is forced to be around them long enough, her very life wears out just like an old dress.  You also take everything far too literally, my dear Bianca; who would ever want to take anything in this life literally?  Haven't priests and prelates stayed with us and made merry with us?  They are far guiltier than we are, for they have confirmed us in our mode of life.  Go to confession, my dearest friend, and by doing so set aside your cares; there is help for everything except death, which, you will hasten if you keep being sad.  If I am to visit you more often, you must be altogether more cheerful.  You tell me that I am going to grow old.  I myself am beginning to realize something to that effect.  It is a terrible thing about time that it slips past so imperceptibly, and that when one looks round afterwards it has traveled an enormous distance.  But one must absolutely never think about such things; that is my main point; there are a thousand other things in the world that we can keep our minds and our imaginations busy with.  Fare very well, and do not forget yet again what I have told you.

William Lovell to Rosa


I am coming soon, Rosa, very soon; but I still require a short respite in order to experience along the way many of things that I wish I had learned a long time ago.  Recently I [found myself] saying that there was no such thing as a miracle, and that everything around me here had been brought together for the sake of inuring me to every conceivable manifestation of the strange and outlandish.

Yesterday evening I took a stroll through the lanes of this town; the moonlight and the cool air lured me out of doors.  I wanted to forget myself once again in the rapture of fantasy, as it is my occasional wont nowadays deliberately to induce in myself a kind of poetic intoxication, for the sake of seeing and feeling every object differently.  A few young women were strolling along the [otherwise] solitary lanes, and it was not long before I followed one of them to her secluded abode.  Why I was attracted in particular to this woman and not to any of the others I cannot say.        
Inside her chamber, after a candle had been lit, I beheld standing before me a filthy creature of middle stature, with watery eyes, and, like all of her crew, a shameless demeanor.  As we were regarding each other more attentively, she gave out a loud cry, and her features took on a dimly familiar aspect.  She delivered me from my uncertainty and told me her name.  Imagine my astonishment as I learned that she was none other than little Blondine, the girl whom you had brought with you from Paris, and who had accompanied you under the alias of Ferdinand.      
Now she did not rightly know how she should comport herself towards me; she began to skip around the room in the most brazen fashion, to sing cheeky ditties, and finally, to clasp me in her arms; I remained mirthless, and suddenly her tears burst forth like a long dammed-up stream; she flung herself on to the floor in a corner of the apartment and sobbed loudly.  I was unsure whether I should stay; her posture moved me; she had covered her face with her hands; it seemed as if she wanted to bury herself in the walls out of shame.  I finally went up to her and pulled her to her feet; she turned aside her face; for sheer trembling and violent weeping she could not remain standing and sank into a small armchair.  Her frame was being tossed hither and thither as if by mighty paroxysms; finally, after the subsidence of this violent tempest, she was graced by a cessation of all thought and feeling, and she now beheld me with a countenance of indescribable placidity.            
I could not forbear weeping, all manner of memories, all manner of emotions and sensations, had been assailing me for so long, that I gave my frailty free rein.  This outburst seemed both to console her and to fortify her.  We now began to converse; the warmth newly imparted to her face made it a more pleasant sight; she no longer looked quite so deformed.   
I believe I told you awhile back that she had warned me by letter against keeping company with you; she now told me the reason why she had cautioned me thus, namely that she had chanced to hear that you had formed some kind of plan that could have proved detrimental to me.  But this childish nonsense has long since been forgotten, and I barely paid any closer attention to her as she was telling me about it all over again.  I cannot help laughing now at the thought of how terrified I was at the time by that note and that suspicion of hers.  Throughout the course of their lives people have a childish tendency to imagine constantly that they are being pursued by someone, to avoid understanding other people, and simply to fear them in lieu of taking any trouble whatsoever to get to know them.  These supposed pursuers had a plan to make me cleverer, and the plan subsequently succeeded; admittedly this may well have involved some illicit activity, something dreaded and steered clear of by most people.  To become cleverer is the greatest crime in the world that one can ever allow oneself to commit; by becoming cleverer one rouses all of mankind in one indignant mass against oneself; it upsets the order of things and protests against the laws of nature, in conformity to which with each passing year a human being is obliged to continue dwindling, and to creep into an ever simpler and more-straitened version of himself.  Those who tear themselves free of this dispensation are in consequence pursued by the remaining citizens of this earth, whose watchword is law and order.             
Once we had consoled and pacified each other to some extent, I asked her to tell me something about her history, which at this particular moment fascinated me endlessly.  There were so many lovely fragments of innocence in what I already knew of her previous life that I sincerely yearned to hear precisely how she had come to sink to such ever-deepening depths.  She gazed at me attentively for a long time, and then told me that she would gratify my curiosity.
I am still unsettled, and I will now attempt to record as much of the girl's brief account as I can still remember.
"I was born," she began, "in a suburb of Paris.  The first human utterance that I remember understanding was that I no longer had a mother; the first sensation I became acquainted with was that of hunger.  My old father was sitting—this is my earliest memory—at the foot of my bed and weeping, while in his hands he held a lute on which he played a wondrous song.  No sooner had I begun to speak than he tried to familiarize me with the instrument and to teach me, to the extent of his abilities, the art of playing it while singing along.  All of my childhood memories repose on the tones of the lute; all of my thoughts and emotions, my entire life, has flowed from these tones; they delimit my memories and my childhood like a melodic ocean whose opposite shore cannot be seen.  Pious forebodings and feelings quietly float hither thence and slowly pass by my heart; it is like when I am being called by someone whose voice I do not recognize, someone whom I cannot understand.  Ah!  Whenever in the deep and solitary night I now hear, as I often do, the tones of a lute—and occasionally one of the very songs that I used to sing and play—o Lovell, my heart wants to tear these tones out of me.
"After I was a bit older, I was obliged to accompany my father on his wanderings through the city and in the nearby gardens.  Often late into the night we would still be trekking through the streets while my father played the lute and I sang along and, at many of our stations, beat a small tambourine; in this way we obtained some meager alms that we consumed the next day.  My father was afraid of ghosts, and often spied some apparition of which he was deeply terrified lurking in some dark corner; he imparted this unknown and inconceivable fear to me.  During the day we often associated with a large and boisterous crowd of common people, and we did not deny them performances of our songs; their rowdiness, their dissipation, their intemperance, and their general heedlessness of the two of us would upset me inordinately; then my father would console and me and tell me that these were the ways of men and women; that out of such stuff human life was made.  Oh, how vivid and painful today is my memory of all of these things that I used constantly to try to forget.
"A pair of poor girls kept me company, and we were often merry together in a girlish way, and at those times I really felt as though I, like them, had a place in the world, and I was more assertive in my own right.  But whenever I subsequently found myself back in the other group, the sight of every fine dress dispirited me, the sight of every passing carriage abashed me; and I contemned myself as much as everybody else contemned me.  The puckish conversations of the girls would then put me back into a certain form of intoxication, which, even in the midst of its raptures, I regarded as nothing more than drunkenness and at those selfsame moments I knew full well that I would awaken to a mood of prosaic self-contempt, to a wretched, creeping sensation of spiritual debasement.  But I wholeheartedly contemned my girlfriends; indeed, I wept for having ever known them when I soon afterwards heard from my father that they had given themselves away as common prostitutes to a bawdy house.  If anyone had told me then—and yet there is nothing at all strange about it, it is so easy to understand how it happened—ah, Lovell!—in essence, humankind is entirely worthless.
"Our misfortune worsened; from sheer grief, from the sheer number of tears he had shed, my father went blind.  I was now truly indispensable to him; I was now his only consolation.  I served him in all the ways required of me gladly and without complaint; indeed, the more unfortunate he became, the more I loved him.  My imagination had received a powerful impetus from our outwardly total destitution; within I was at peace, and I supplemented the deprivations of the external world with sublime dreams.

"Late at night, though, I often read portrayals of great men and women in the novels of Richardson; the world of noble souls that surrounded me as I was reading revived my spirits, and I was convinced that other people were simply too ignorant to reconcile themselves to me.  At those times, I felt consoled for every adverse circumstance, and I was at ease on the score of every form of suffering that might eventually be visited upon me.  But what an impression was afterwards inevitably made on me by the faces of the common people from whom I was obliged to seek alms with my singing; by their loutish jokes and crude innuendos, both of which I was obliged to put up with incessantly!  I was compelled to submit to every imaginable indignity for the sake of a sou.
"Ah, Lovell, what can you possibly be thinking about me now that I have shown myself capable of saying such things?  Tell me the truth: are you inclined to smile?  Time deals cruelly with a poor person: first it sets him down like the lovely and ingratiating first version of a work of art, and then it works at revising him for so long that in the end he is actually transformed into a satire on the original composition.
"Now began a period that I shall never forget, a period that will always remain a riddle to me.  As violently as I had been repelled by the wretched wisecracks, the obnoxious caresses, of these lowlifes, at first, I as thoroughly became inured to them in the end; indeed, I even took pleasure in them.  I listened to obscene jokes when I was singing, and to their echoes in my mind when I was not.   My blood was in a constant fever; I lived in a state of perpetual drunkenness.  My books were now abhorrent to me; they struck me as being risible; fair nature no longer attracted my gaze or my attention; it seemed to me like a tedious, moralizing lady preacher.  My imagination grew acclimatized to squalid and unpleasant tableaus; all of my former conceptions seemed asinine and ignoble.  From time to time during this period it was once again as if I had awoken from my slumber; at such times, I recalled the lovely sensations of my earlier days, and I recoiled from my present self; my life at those moments struck me as dark and desolate; I would resolve to restore myself to my former condition—but then it would confront me again like a precipitous mountain, against my will, my degraded sensibility would disport itself with iniquitous imaginings, and the fair land of childhood innocence again receded far into the background and lay there as if eclipsed by a black fog.  And at one of these times I first saw Rosa; he liked me; he approached me and I met him halfway; he became my tutor in vice, and mindlessly, without giving a thought to what I was doing, I abandoned my poor, blind, unfortunate father and followed Rosa.  Ah, the old man will have died a long time ago now, but I am being duly chastised; his curse has pursued me whithersoever I have gone."
Here she stopped and began weeping again.  I now recalled an old blind beggar whom I had known in Paris and who had told once, without prompting, about an ungrateful, runaway daughter of his.  He is undoubtedly Blondine's father.  On many days he was delirious and would sing wild, prophetic songs as he rhapsodized in accompaniment to himself on his lute; according to the words he sang the young woman was trailing him in the alleys simply to mock him.
Now she had recovered her composure and proceeded with her tale:
"A new life now dawned within me; for the first time, I found myself valued and loved; I was dressed in fine clothes, and on intimate terms with a man whom only a few days earlier I had worshiped as if he had been an exotic being, as if he had been a god.  I now bought back all of the confidence, all of the pleasure, that I had done without until then.  My alacrity turned into brashness, for I regarded myself as one of the most exquisite creatures in the world; I had never learned to differentiate degrees of people; I had only ever been acquainted with the rich and the poor; I now lacked not a single accoutrement of a life of luxury, and I contemned everybody who could not live as well as I did.  It was when I was living in these circumstances that I first saw you, Lovell, and an emotion that I had never known before took possession of me.  It was love, which until then had always been alien to me.  Without knowing what I was about, I saved your life during that surprise attack by those robbers.  My affection grew with each passing day, but I observed that Rosa was becoming jealous.  From that point onwards life was difficult for me, for all of my thoughts and feelings were at war with one another; my emotions were so pure and beautiful, and it was precisely in virtue of them that I managed to rationalize my own contemptibility.  You know how I asked you to come see me; Rosa took us by surprise.  After that event, I was repugnant to him; indeed, in the end he hated me and abandoned me to my fate.   Of you, I could learn nothing further than that you were living with a certain Rosaline; upon hearing this, I did not dare come to you; I was also afraid of Rosa.   I happened upon a few individuals who supported me in succession, for I had quite simply grown accustomed to this mode of living and had many necessities.  I sank ever lower; I left Rome and wandered from one town to the next—and now, Lovell, with a heart full of regret, penniless, intimately connected to the meanest creatures, ill—"
She could not continue speaking.  I was deeply unsettled; I gave her all the money I had with me and left her.  I intend to visit her today and provide her with some more money so that she will at least have something with which she can recover her health.
You should not have forsaken her so completely; you did not act rightly.  But did I not treat Rosaline even more outrageously?

Ralph Blackstone to Thomas

Everything is just the same as it ever was here, my dear Thomas, apart from the fact that once again, a number of minor alterations to the garden have taken place.   But I am discovering that you are indispensable to any actual improvements; for the rest of the men are idiots, and there is no doing anything with them.  I still have in mind all sorts of new projects that given time might be realized.  Only you must try to finish up the work at Waterhall soon, for at bottom we belong together, even if we have often had our little differences.  Four eyes always see farther than two: that is my motto, and I am continually meeting with fresh proof that I am not mistaken in it.  In this world one must simply be always trying to get something of some sort done; let that something be whatever it will; to be sure, our beautification of this here garden is not exactly anything remarkable; it is certainly never going to have any kind of an influence on world history, but it is ever so agreeable and ever so praiseworthy all the same.  When one does something good on a small scale, one can calculate how far it reaches, and that is worth a great deal; on the other hand, one can't know the amount of good that comes, or is going to come, of great undertakings; sometimes they even go too far and cannot be changed afterwards, precisely because they were too big at the start, when they were still being planned.  That is why I shall be exceedingly pleased, my dear Thomas, if you come back as soon as possible; for one can talk to you, and you are a man whose brain is where it belongs; one cannot say that about everybody, Thomas, for many people have it in the soles of their feet, others in their backs, others still on their tongues; these are the kinds of people who are of absolutely no use to anybody.  You see how highly I value you, and you will therefore do what you have to to make it back here soon.  I am

Your friend,
Ralph Blackstone

William Lovell to Rosa
Everything is drawing to a close; my life seems to me like a tragedy whose fifth act has already begun.  One by one, all of the principal characters are entering from the wings and leaving me standing alone.
Next morning, in Padua, I paid the girl a second visit.  My unsettled state had persisted throughout the day; I vividly pictured to myself how exceedingly grateful she would be to me, and upon my arrival at her lodging, I found her stricken with a fever of such a high temperature that she did not recognize me.  I left in the room the money that I had planned to give her.   I quit Padua, and chance, or the peculiarity of my mood at the time, impelled me towards Genoa.

I revivified myself here with the view of the great, almighty sea.  My soul expanded within me, and I once again felt that I was superior to both nature and man.  The unsurveyable expanses addressed my exalted eminence, and I replied to them inwardly with decisive temerity.  All of my cares, which had weighed so heavily on me before, had now flown away, and I was free and unharried.  But clouds were ascending from the distant horizon, and with them turbid doubt was rising in my soul; everything stood still once again; the clock once again told that black and mournful hour—I was returned to my own custody like an escaped  convict.  Oh, how odious is the perpetual inconstancy of our inner selves!
One morning I was walking through an empty street and thought I saw Balder's face behind a grated window.  I was astonished; I asked about him downstairs in the house; one of the servants told me that he lived there, and, with a mystifying smile, showed me the stairs leading to his room.  I entered the room; the person inside it was actually he; he recognized me instantly and embraced me with great warmth of affection.  He was well dressed; the basic expression of his face had completely changed; his eyes looked serene and untroubled.   He had been completely retransformed back into an ordinary human being; he was both gayer and more human than he had been when I first met him at Paris.  My astonishment knew no bounds, and I could not manage to convince myself that the same mad, unfortunate Balder was actually standing there before me.
We breakfasted together, and throughout the meal I never tired of contemplating him attentively.  His face was fuller and healthier, in his deep-sunken eyes a trace of residual madness was detectable, for all of their passable clarity and liveliness.  All of his movements were more animated; he had definitely put on weight, and for this reason at isolated moments he seemed to be someone I had never seen before.  The room was tidy and uncluttered; only at the back wall a large red cloth was spread over some chairs and part of the floor.
Balder was very talkative, and we conversed about many incidents from the past.  At length, I asked him to tell me how he had come to change so much and so suddenly; his face took on a more mournful aspect as he began to talk on this subject; I will try, Rosa, to set down for you what he said in his own words.
"It may have been from the Appenines," he began, "that you received that strange letter of mine, for that I had once lived there I learned afterwards.  I can call to mind the circumstances of that period only dimly and with effort.  I know that I was surrounded by a marvelous, never-ending dream.  My consciousness lay, as it were, concealed in some remote sector of myself; external nature shone only dimly into me; my eyes were fixed into a forward-looking stare, and objects were forever changing under my intense, goggling gaze.  None of my senses or ideas could be activated, as it were, by any strikeable key; rather, some unknown hand roamed round my sounding board on the surface of its taut strings, and produced only dark, confused, and monosyllabic tones.  The course of my internal conceptions seemed to me like a miner's headlamp, whose light flits back and forth and elicits wondrous reflections from the crystalline walls and wet rocks it encounters.
"Suddenly, just as I had been during my days of good health, I was seized by a powerful feeling of unrest; I found myself inwardly discontented.  Remote, prosaic, everyday life began to draw nearer to me once again, and I felt the tug of an ineffable longing.  I came back to my senses and found myself hemmed in and constricted, as I had done before; I desired something without knowing what that something was; everything seemed to lie off in the distance, in a different kind of native land; and at length I forsook the place where I had lived for so long.
"Other regions welcomed me again by gracing me with the same sensations that I had formerly possessed; I was pulled back into the bustling circle of human life; I cast off my outlandish raiment and resolved to return to Germany, to my native land.  It was as if the anfractuously continuous objective world was resolving itself into more palpably distinct entities; [while] those things that belonged together flew towards each other, and I stood at the center of nature.  Once again, the post-horns carried my soul with them over mountains and lakes towards distant countries; my appetite for activity awoke again, and the dull, incomprehensible noise that had hitherto deafened me inwardly trailed further and further away.
"I still had a little money left, and with it I came to Genoa.  Oh, my friend; I did not know that here I should rediscover my earliest youth, a new life, only to lose it all over again afterwards.  I met a girl here—oh, Lovell, you will smile and contemn me—no, I cannot say who she was; you cannot conceive it.  I had already once, long before, buried my Henriette; I had wept a great deal at her grave, and here I found her again alive and whole, and her name was Leonore.  Ah, how happy was I when she fell in love with me again, when she became my goddess.
"I do not know how it happened, but now all my dejection deserted me; I could no longer even believe that I had ever been in my former state.  My life was a happy, ordinary human life; and my thoughts no longer lost themselves on that desert heath on which my soul had hitherto restively roamed.  I had the revenues of my estate sent over from Germany; my wife's family was rich; my happiness would have been complete had fate only left me in peace."
Here he paused and began to weep.  "Is this the same person," I said to myself, "who used so ardently to despise life and all of its human cargo?  Who had been purged for eternity of all capacity to enjoy ordinary human pleasures?  Could one woman really have been capable of chasing away those gruesome imaginings that had beleaguered him for so long?"  Whereupon I shuddered at the realization that the very same Balder whom I had seen in the throes of the most violent madness now stood before me transformed into a perfectly ordinary human being.
He fell into my arms and resumed speaking: "Ah, Lovell," he cried; "death tore this away from me too.  And I am not allowed to visit the churchyard; I am not allowed to visit her grave!  How often I yearn to return to my solitary dwelling in the Apennines!"     
I wanted to console him; I muttered a few words about the usual course of the life of man.
"Exactly!" he cried with great bitterness; "life would be no kind of life at all if it were not governed by this tyrannical proviso.   In accordance with it, we are happy only for tiny, wretched instants, so that we will subsequently feel our unhappiness all the more keenly.  It is the ancient curse; happiness must alternate with unhappiness, and therein consists our life and our misery."
He was violently distressed, and I was pacing up and down the room; I approached the cloth and found myself thinking about lifting it.  "Stop!" Balder suddenly cried out to me: "for God's sake, stop!"  His voice was completely unrecognizable; I stood silent and appalled and gazed at him in an attitude of utter alienation.  "Under that," he said in a tremulous voice, "are the monuments that have been erected in Henriette's memory." My curiosity having been piqued, I lifted the cloth—and how I recoiled in horror when I beheld a large, stout pole with heavy chains attached to it!  A few links of one of the chains fell with a clank on to the floor, and Balder now started rampaging around the room; he ran headfirst into the walls; he screamed and lacerated his face; with a laugh, he flung himself on to the floor.
"Miscreant!" he screamed in a ghastly timbre: "Is this how you treat me?  Do you really call this a human being?  Give her back to me, and take back these chains!"
Fury soon asphyxiated him into speechlessness.  His face was now blue and swollen; all of his limbs were moving with incredible rapidity; in his ghastly movements there lay something ignoble and comical the effect of which was heightened by my horror.  Now he sprang towards me and shoved me violently against the wall; he grinned arrogantly at me and pounded his fist against my breast; it was impossible for me to get free of him.  I have never been so horrified as at that moment; I no longer knew what this deformed figure in my presence was; I was tempted to shout, to sing, and, out of a well-nigh irresistible impulse, to imitate Balder's ghastly antics.  I could already feel my senses and my consciousness slipping away; I had to rally all of my forces simply in order to be able to call for help.
Several people carrying thick birch rods and clubs entered the room.  Balder left off assaulting me.  They dragged him into a corner of the room and chained him to the block.  He submitted peaceably to the whole ordeal and registered his awareness of it only with a smile; but as soon as he perceived that he was bound fast to the pole, his rage erupted afresh; he darted to and fro in his chains like a wild beast, all of his sinews were tensed; his face glowed; his gaze was not that of any human creature.  He wrestled with the chains in an attempt to tear himself free of the block, thereby producing a loud clanking din with the links; now his keepers beat him without mercy, but he seemed insensible of their blows.  The struggle seemed only to be increasing his strength; his face was now as round and incandescent as the full moon; I could no longer endure this spectacle; I left the room in great haste.  Even downstairs, even on the street, I could still hear him screaming; tears came into my eyes.
Such was the state in which I rediscovered him; but console yourself, Rosa; it is already two days since he died in this same manic condition.  Everything he told me is true; immediately after the death of his wife he lost his mind again; in the intervals between his fits he was calm and rational.  His wife's relations saw to his maintenance.
Would it not appear that madness was bequeathed to this unfortunate man at his birth?  He at first passed through all of the gradations of madness only slowly, but upon falling in love a second time he was driven with ever-accelerating speed to the utmost extremity of delerium.   In a few days you shall see me at Rome.

Adriano to Francesco


The longer I think back on Andrea the more peculiar—I would almost say the more absurd—a figure he seems to me.  So many circumstances in my recollection are for the first time combining in such a way as to seem more significant than they used to.  I now cannot feel enough contempt for people who so seriously make themselves out to be the center of the world; every simple peasant who toils in the field and finds himself a wench at the end of his workday is infinitely more estimable in my eyes.  Must everything human really be so puffed up and turgid?  Is everyone disinclined to follow the path leading to that simplicity that makes a man into a true human being, and assuredly for no other reason than that it lies too readily to foot?  It is most unfortunate that subtler intellects are generally employed only in contemning simplicity when we should rather be attempting to find out whether we might not arrive at the same results by a better path.  The human race is eternally beset by conflict, and not one human being knows what he really requires of the next man; they stand face to face like two armies of mercenaries that attack each other in battle without knowing a thing about each other.  But I hope my life henceforth follows an utterly prosaic course; I shall no longer trouble myself about this doubting business, for that would only lead me to respect it more; my father wishes me to marry so that he will see a grandchild before he dies, and I intend to comply with his wish at the earliest opportunity.  Those peculiar states of mind, those queer exaltations, to which Andrea attempted to introduce us, are the forbidden tree in the garden of the life of man.  What do you say, Francesco: shall we not allow our names to be added to the roster of this society of philistines?  At least we shall be running with the herd, and all the safer for doing so.

Francesco to Adriano


Spot on, Adriano!  You cannot imagine what a jolly mood your letter has put me into.  I can already picture the two of us getting married, surviving our honeymoons, and finally settling down as well-conditioned husbands.  We shall conclude the novel our life with this clichéd but unfailingly interesting plot device.  I fancy that I can gather from your letter that you have had a premonition of my present situation; for I have met a woman here—a woman, mind you.  Do not ask me to describe her to you, for that would be far too much bother for me; but if I tell you that I find her interesting, that is as good as telling you everything.  I can be told everything possible to be told about a woman: a good friend can praise her beauty, her understanding, her wit, even her money, without causing the thought that he might actually marry her to cross my mind; but as soon as he says that she is interesting, I take a closer look at him; I contemplate all of his features to see if I can discern in which regard he will change when he becomes a husband.

Have I not since my sixteenth year made a heap of splendid pronouncements about the Sex?  I assure you that if there is anything I produce in which I show myself to be a sage, it is these observations about the Sex, which I used to be more than capable of sharing with you.  Whenever I thought everything over, as I often used to do, for my own benefit alone, I was sufficiently convinced not only that I would never again be deceived by a woman, but also that no feminine creature would ever be able to exert any great influence on me.  But the results of my subsequent experiments invariably refused to accord with my theoretical model.  I devised a thousand exceptions to my rules; indeed, I discovered fewer rules than exceptions, only subsequently to conclude that one of my rules was less exceptionable than I had supposed.  My dear Adriano, I have made a wonderful experimental discovery about my experimental discoveries; at long last, after much arduous study, I have concluded that I am a fool.  The word is easy to pronounce, but you will be reluctant to believe that I have been studying for the past twenty years simply in order to perceive the significance of this tiny monosyllabic vocable.

William Lovell to Rosa

So I really am back in Rome!  It is night; I arrived as the sun was setting.  I climbed the broad steps and beheld the last glimmer of fire on the roofs of St. Peter's and the Vatican; the street below me at that moment was damp and hazy, full of wandering shadows and vacuous clamor.  I found it unendurable; I descended to the plazas that were so familiar to me; I walked to the Corso by way of the Strada de'Condotti.  There I encountered the same old faces, the same beggars, the same street-cries.  So as I passed through the intersections I approached the Pantheon.  Here too was the clamor of buyers and sellers, and in the background loomed the peaceful and high-built shadow that was the temple, together with its noble hall.  I entered in company with a handful of suppliants.  The twilit rotundity and lofty grandeur of the room were sublimely eloquent.  I tarried, and the full moon passed over the opening in the dome, as it had done when I was here before, not long after I arrived at Rome the first time.  My heart was full; weeping, I hurried to the Coliseum; I threw myself to the ground and attempted to pray—in vain: I was confronted by all of the accumulated contempt of bygone ages, emerging hand in hand with their execration from the altars and ruins.  To be sure, my life is a lost cause.  In the dead of midnight, this conviction is crying out to me in unison with the thundering of the waves of the Fontana di Trevi.  I should like to burst into tears, to weep and sob like this fountain.  I am almost of a mind to visit Andrea right now.  How I am looking forward to the sound of the first word he says to me!  How salutary will the sight of his grave countenance be for my wounded heart!  Oh, Andrea!  He cannot know how very much I love him; he would not believe me if I told him.  In him is gathered everything that used to be dear to me and estimable in my eyes.  How impatiently I await the dawning of tomorrow!  Come, Rosa; hurry, I adjure you; no friend has ever awaited the arrival of his friend as impatiently as I desire your repairing hither.

William Lovell to Rosa

I do not know what to think; I do not know what to say.  You have not come, Rosa, and for the past few days I have wanted to speak to Andrea, and he has repeatedly refused to see me.  He informs me that he is ill.  What am I to do?  Oh, terrifying thoughts; annihilating thoughts, are ascending in my soul.  Why must he refuse to see me?
I have seen Bianca; she is pale and emaciated; consumption is robbing her of her strength.  The sight of her frightened me, for it reminded me of a peculiar image, but I cannot remember of what.  Francesco is cold and reserved.  All of the others whom I used to see so frequently in Andrea's company act as though they have never met me.  Oh, heavens!  What can the reason be that Andrea does not wish to speak to me?  Is this destined to be the keystone of my dismal life?  Is the whole thing destined to end on such an insipid and prosaic note?  Oh no, it is impossible; he will eventually receive me into his presence, if only to rid himself of my importuning.  I have lost the effectual use of all of my senses; I am wandering around in a state of virtual unconsciousness.  Have pity on me Rosa, and come to see me in Rome; for all will then be well; then together we will overwhelm Andrea with petitions; do come.

William Lovell to Rosa
I can scarcely write to you.  Why have you not come, or why have you not at least replied to me?  Ah, what is the use of these questions?
I have spoken to Andrea.  Tremulously, I went to see him again yesterday; I was told that I could enter.  Only at a few moments of my life have by been so thoroughly permeated by a feeling of joy, so overpowered by a sudden, unexpected feeling of delight.  Oh how dearly, how ineffably dearly, have I paid in suffering for that brief joy!
I entered Andrea's room.  He was lying on a daybed and writing; upon my entering he did not raise his eyes.  He had wasted away a great deal; his entire face was but a skeletal remnant of its earlier self; his eyes were burning more fiercely than ever.  I dared not move any closer to him; I forgot that I had once been on intimately friendly terms with him; I remained standing at a respectful distance.  Finally, he noticed me, or at any rate he stopped writing.  Oh, Rosa, with what a gaze he transfixed me!  It was as if my soul were timorously shriveling up inside me, so excruciatingly was I assailed by this penetrating gaze.  
"Well, Lovell?" he asked in a flat voice.
I did not know what to say in reply; I started trembling.  Everything that I had ever thought was passing through my brain in rapid, confused successions of succession.  I could not manage to compose myself.
"What do you want?" he asked with icy, wintry coldness; in a damnable, flagitious tone, as if he wanted to chaff me and make fun of our former intimacy. 
I could no longer contain myself; I had to weep aloud.  "Andrea!" I cried, but he could not hear my sobs, so thoroughly stifled were they by their own violence. 
"Are you weeping?" he asked with a smile.
"Should I not be weeping?" I exclaimed: "Am I not wretched in the extreme?"
"Wretched in the extreme?"  And oh, Rosa, listen to this—feel it, too, if another human bosom can feel it as mine feels it—oh, Rosa, now he began to laugh so loudly and in such a ghastly timbre that I was permeated to the very marrow of my bones, that my hair stood on end.  Have I ever, anywhere, felt as truly alien as I did at that moment?
I did not know whether I was raving, or Andrea was mad; he kept laughing without pause, and with such zeal that it was as if with this single laugh he wanted to terminate his bargain with mankind.  To him, my horror was a joke, my deathly pallor an object of merry sport.
How I made it through the door again I do not know, but suddenly I found myself standing outside; then I was on the street, and the faces of strangers were racing towards me and past me, and I felt more partial and akin to all of them than to Andrea's gaze.  
Whither has everything that I hoped and wished for gone?  Past and future have been extinguished, and the traces of both are equally indiscernible.  Can I now do anything but die? And yet in death there is also peace.

Mortimer to Edward Burton

Roger Place

That you are happy, that you are at peace, I have learned from each of your letters; I must state the same thing in reply to you if I wish to be honest, and add to it that one can be happy only if one does not nurse overly great expectations of life and is modest in one's demands of it and one's notion of oneself.  You will perhaps concede my possession of this last attribute only in part, but what discoverer of any new law has ever managed to live completely lawfully?  But the poor sinner must abide by the law within himself in order to improve himself; the proud man, presumptuous in spirit, who delves into his own mind in the hope of acquainting himself with the grandeur of his intellectual treasures, invariably returns from his expedition badly maimed and poor as a beggar.  Hence, my friend, I am hereby owning up to my membership in the multifariously despised Fraternal Order of the Mediocre, Quiescent, and Exiguous.  In moderation, in resignation lies everything that fanatics refuse to call happiness, and yet I do not know what other name to give it.  To wallow in intellectual potency is to engage in the most illicit of all forms of profligacy, the vilest of all forms of depravity.  Admittedly, I am now obliged to regard everything that I have lived through and experienced in a negative light; and when, as I often do, I position myself before my looking-glass and say to myself, "You now behold in this glass the excellent Mr. Mortimer who has seen so many countries and met so many people, who has thought and said so many clever thoughts and things," I cannot help laughing at my reflection and at myself.  Then I recall the innumerable designs and resolutions, the wonderfully meticulous plans for my life, the manifold observations on mankind, that I have written down and crossed out.  Our life is nothing but a perpetual struggle between new impressions and the original, idiosyncratic structure of our soul; we often fancy that our character is constantly taking a new turn, and suddenly we discover that we are exactly the same as we were in the oldest of our old days.  I often sneered at all marriages until I myself was married; first I believed there was nothing serious under the sun, and then I found it possible to engage in innocent fun again.  There is a certain unconstitutionality in our selves that nothing can destroy; it will suddenly spring back into existence without giving even us a clue as to how we were transformed back into this old and almost totally-forgotten individual.  I do believe, though, that we revert to this ancient constitution with a sort of new and improved understanding, for otherwise we should fall into despair upon being put through the circular paces of such a life; but in this recurrence inheres the mighty consolation that we can never genuinely lose sight of ourselves, however much or often we may superficially strive to do so.

William Lovell to Rosa


So is it really now over?  Completely over?  I still cannot manage to compose myself even for an instant.  I should like to scream and wail; I should like to proclaim with a howl to the whole wide creation how wretched I am.  Oh, on what an ineffably prosaic and squalid note is now ending everything that once sent me into such exalted raptures, that once disclosed to me such a blissful future!  Oh, a blind, savage rage seizes me when I think about it, when I summon back anew into my soul each and every circumstance; fury is not an exhaustive enough term to denote what I feel; there is no adequate expression for it; human nature could not endure a faithful description of my sorrow and bereavement.

"And why do you say this?" you will be asking.  Ah, Rosa, mere curiosity prompts you to ask this question.  You are a happy man.  I cannot measure my unhappiness according to anything felt by any other living being.  Now hear this then: Andrea is dead.

I watched him die.  I had never before seen a person during his last hour.  He laughed and then cursed himself and the world; he seemed to regard even his death and the convulsions that were wracking him as a farcical episode unworthy of the slightest scrutiny; he concealed and suppressed his tremors; he seemed to be succesfully conquering his fear of death.  At my riven heart and shattered felicity he laughed over and over again, and he said that it was only because I was a fool that everything seemed so terrible to me. 
Then he began groaning again intermittently, and he pronounced the name of God with trembling lips, and then yet again he burst into a resounding peal of laughter.  In the end I could not discover where I was; I had been transported beyond the earth and beyond myself in an access of delirious ecstasy; finally, I was able to contemplate with cold, staring eyes Andrea's mortal convulsions, his throbbing heart, his laboriously heaving breast.  He lay before me convulsing as if some foreign, unknown being were hammering away inside of him and trying to break out into the light of day, and in the end I even laughed at the peculiar grimace that disfigured his ancient countenance.  And now he was dead.  He no longer breathed; he no longer had a pulse; I was unafraid; the sight of the corpse did not horrify me, and yet I dashed out of the room with quaking knees.

And now I felt the conviction in all of its terrible emotional force, the conviction that it was all over now—there was no renascence of anything I had felt before, no trepidation, but rather an all-consuming stale, prosaic sense of certainty; a sense that everything, everything that ever had been or ever should have been mine, had sunk into a piteous grave.  Do you feel it, Rosa?  No; it is impossible.

Oh, I could—could what?—go mad!  Die!  I see no alternatives.  I threaten myself  to make myself tremble at the threat of myself; I feel annihilated to the innermost core of my being, and destroyed to the bottommost depths of my mind.

Do you plan to visit me?  You will do no such thing, as I cannot endure your presence.  I no longer know what I ought to feel; everything in the world seems wretched to me, and wretched it indeed is.  But why must it seem so and not otherwise?  Why must it seem the way I least expected it to seem?

O Rosa, how emotionally uplifting it would perforce now be to feel that I was a great and genuine malefactor, to both fear and respect myself; this form of happiness was not vouchsafed to me.

Shall we die in each other's company?

Edward Burton to Mortimer


My Betty has borne me a daughter whom we have named Amalie.  Life is contracting into an ever-narrower compass for me; I have given up all travel and all the plans of my youth, and renounced every lustrous version of happiness, but in virtue of this very renunciation an ever-fairer level prospect is opening to my view, the outlook for the future is becoming lighter and more gratifying.  Misfortune and pain are like a heavy rain that admittedly flattens the vegetation, but it stands right back up again fresher and greener than before; perhaps it has likewise been thus with me and with my sentiments.  Lovell's fate will always lie like a weight in my soul, and thus receive the tension of the same.  I learned a great deal from him; I saw how easily simple headstrongness and the thirst to be something special could tempt a person much further than he initially thought; and in virtue of witnessing this, I have become more tolerant of those unfortunate individuals whom we often too hastily and sternly term miscreants, when we ought summarily to dub them mere fools.

We must find some means, my dear Mortimer, of seeing each other more often; what say you to the notion of buying my neighboring estate of Waterhall from me at a reasonable price and selling your Roger Place to a third party?  Then we would be actual next-door neighbors; then I could enjoy your company properly.  The more I think about the idea, the more attached I become to it, such that I should be very sorry if it were to displease you.  I have made some improvements to the estate; the garden, which before was entirely overgrown with weeds, is being tended to once again; the countryside around Waterhall is much more attractive and interesting than that around Roger Place; in short: you will readily perceive that I am very much of a mind to talk you into this.  Tell me in your reply, my dear friend, what you think of my proposal.

Mortimer to Edward Burton


I wish you every happiness, and straight from the heart, of course.  Now we can embark on two quite beautifully parallel courses of life, and thus creep towards old age together slowly and unobtrusively.  There is a period in life in which a person suddenly becomes old and mellow; admittedly, for many people this period never arrives; they for ever remain subalterns in the mighty army of life, to them is never vouchsafed the supervision of the planning and designing of the whole operation; rather, they are obliged to torment themselves among wretched conjectures and risible hypotheses; they are constantly being driven forwards without knowing whither they are [bound]; I fancy that the two of us can now survey our surroundings more independently, and can descry necessity even in [the most apaprently] fortuitous events;  and understand how to call them to account for explanations of why they occurred in such a fashion and not in another.  To the extent that the art of being happy consists in the art of living, we possess this art.

But you also have no intention of subjecting your child to a so-called fine or first-rate upbringing; of having anything to do with the current fashion of filling a child's mind with vain notions of himself when he is eight years old and thereby spoiling him for life.  I have resolved to allow my George quite simply to grow up; I hope that as a result and in the first place he becomes a virtuous and simple human being; children perceive nothing more readily than that they are being treated as objects of serious concern; this is the reason why so many of them take themselves so seriously at such an early age; every form of affectation is thereby engendered in them; they regard themselves as geniuses and extraordinary individuals and never think of giving any proof of their extraordinariness to themselves or the world.  I am convinced that Lovell was raised by his father with excessive painstakingness, and that this was the source of his folly and unhappiness.  Parental love all too readily degenerates into something that is no longer love, but that rather verges on a risible preciosity and mawkishness, especially when one has only one child; this child is then overburdened with supposed excellences of every stripe; he is not permitted to be exposed to the faintest draught emanating from ordinary life, contact with which in fact quite often serves to toughen one's soul and make it more virile; and this is why for the most part we observe very little energy or strength in these Sabbath-day creations; accordingly, a person  who has siblings is much happier.  This is manifestly why I excelled my late brother, for my parents neglected me; indeed, they practically despised me; they believed that any care they devoted to me would be wasted, and so they gave me permission to bring myself up; to be sure, I raised myself, and learned how to behave myself, only by misbehaving, but I still turned out better than I would have done if I had been brought up badly by somebody else.  I was humiliated much more often than my brother, and for that very reason I was prouder than he;  a certain kind of pride is the mainspring that sets a person in motion, that begets in him the desire to be independent of all extraneous opinions and faces, and that gives him the strength to fulfill this desire on his own.
Although we are now old, we may yet live to experience the joy of seeing our children wed each other.  But I refuse to give any thought to such a possibility unless these children start thinking about it themselves, assuming that they both reach the age at which a person is obliged to fall in love.  In general, one should make no plans for the future; at any rate, no plans that one cannot realize on one's own.  I have, however, observed that since becoming a father I incessantly speak in sententious maxims; a habit that I formerly could never abide in other people, for at bottom it bespeaks nothing more than a mania for sawing oneself into tiny pieces and constantly handing round samples of our own excellence; for sketching silhouette after silhouette of one's mind and distributing them to passers-by through one's front window.   This is a weakness whereby many people become as unendurable as a moralizing author who in company is continually reciting passages from his longest-forgotten books.
Now I shall address your proposal.  The idea proposed therein is as agreeable to me as it ever must be to you, for I came very close to brazenly outbidding you when Waterhall was up for sale, but now I can acquire it by more even-handed means.  I am now in a position to sell Roger Place under very profitable terms, and everything is conspiring to impel me to move to Waterhall.  To be sure, Amalie has grown quite accustomed to living here, and she loves the place immensely, but she has for all that given me her consent; she is likewise extremely delighted at the prospect of being nearer to your charming wife.  In short, I am departing tomorrow in order to visit you, see Waterall, and discuss with you the terms of the sale; and I suppose on precisely account of this I can now leave off writing this letter.
Thomas to Sir Ralph Blackstone

Worthy sir,
The garden here has pretty much been fixed up, and at bottom the only thing still missing is an order for me to come back to Bondly.  I never would have guessed at the beginning that so much could be done with the wilderness that this garden was then; but God's blessing and hard work together can practically work miracles; that is something that I have learned here.  How my old, late mistress would marvel if she rose from her grave now!  She would hardly believe that this was the same estate, and she would even find it uglier than before, because I know the way she felt about the appearance of the place: she was, if I may do you the honor of speaking the truth, a bit stubborn, as are at bottom all old women, especially the highbred ones; bossing the rest of the world around is the only joy left to them.
I am real curious to see again your worthy self and the garden at Bondly.  It may be that many things have changed while your worthy self has been the boss there.  The soil here at Waterhall is almost better than the soil at our estate, because it lies so deep; the nearness of the water makes the soil fresher.  The fruit that's grown here is plainly finer than ours; I have eaten some of it myself, and so I am quite a good judge of it.  I beg you ever so respectfully, worthy sir, to allow me to come home soon.

Ralph Blackstone to Thomas
I am very pleased to hear, my dear Thomas, that you are finished with the work at Waterhall; this being the case, you can now do nothing more than get yourself as ready as can be for your departure.  Here many things have happened, things that may well bring considerable changes in their wake.   Above all else I must inform you that that I am now a grandfather and my head is loaded with all sorts of serious thoughts.  My Betty has brought a young daughter into the world, and I am constantly thinking, even right now, about how she might best be brought up.  This is forcing me to stop thinking at all about the garden and the nursery, for a young human soul is a better and more fragile tree that is of more concern to human beings.  I have brought up my daughter very well, as everybody says; accordingly I shall be just as capable of bringing up a little grandchild.  All of this has moved me to form a resolution that I am sure that you, Thomas, will be very pleased with: namely, to leave all of the future arrangement and cultivation of the garden to you; I will reserve for myself the domain of the hunt, and continue to rule and school there at my discretion.  And I have devised one more plan: namely, to improve the fish-pond here; we must often send for fish from far-away places, and that is very disagreeable; then they do not have anything like their fine and natural flavor; this is an evil that must be redressed by every necessary means, and I already know how I aim to apply myself thereunto.  Perhaps you can recommend to me some stalwart fellow who—naturally under my supervision—could shoulder the undertaking.   By the by, do come to Bondly; or, better yet, just stay where you are until we come to fetch you, for all of us, and Mr Mortimer to boot, will be coming there soon; for, between you and me, a little bird has told me that Mr Mortimer has bought the entire estate of Waterhall; but for the next three days this is strictly between you and me, until the deed is transferred to him, which is supposed to be done very soon.  We could use some decent company in the neighborhood, and Mr Mortimer is certainly a very stalwart fellow in the way of being decent company.  On the subject of your wages, dear Thomas: you are certainly in for a raise, as well as, if you wanted it, a thoroughly quiet and peaceful retirement on an annuity; for as you must know, you are quite old, and if your heart is no longer really in it, you can always give up the gardening entirely.  Fare very well, until we see each other in person; my son-in-law sends his regards.

William Lovell to Rosa
Now it is definite.  There are no more missing pieces.  Now I can lie down and die, for everything, everything is over.  Read the enclosed packet; it is from Andrea; it is his final testament, wherein he ruthlessly spurns me, wherein he asserts that he wishes to have nothing to do with me.  It is apparently the same text that he was still writing when I visited him during his illness.
Is there anything more that I can say, or even think?  Oh God, I have been thrown out of the kingdom of creation.  Read the text and then feel, if you can, how I have been crushed by every word of it.  Ah, Rosa!  I feel as though I could still occasionally laugh and jeer at myself.  I cannot weep, and yet it would do me good—ah, it all comes to the same thing now.

Enclosure in the preceding letter
I am awaiting your return, Lovell, and in the meantime I will work on these prose pieces for you; from them you will at last obtain the explanation for which you have so ardently yearned.  You are right if you believe that it is impossible to perambulate among dreams for ever, that the mind at length pines for a simple, arid conviction; and your mind is destined now to do likewise.  I have read all your letters to Rosa and everything has confirmed me in my opinion of you; I have come to know you well, and you will now learn, to the extent that you can, how I have come by this knowledge.
But you will perhaps take all of my ideas too seriously, and precisely because you do not understand them well enough.  It is your signature habit to discover in each idea a meaning and intensity entirely foreign to the sense intended by the person who originally expressed it.  You are one of those readers who only ever look for themselves in books, and lack the ability to put themselves in the shoes of characters who are unlike themselves.  I hope that these few pieces of news will shake you up a bit, and these many thoughts will make you cleverer; if both of these happen, I will not feel that my time and effort have been wasted.  My illness compels me to busy myself with something, never mind what; I intend to leave you these papers as a final testament, even as the legacy that you may expect from me.

My youth
Know then that my name is Waterloo, and that I am an Englishman.  I am closely related to your friend Burton, for I am his father's uncle.  You may already know my name from your father; indeed, you may even have seen my portrait, which hangs in a room in your family's manor house.
I have been thinking for a long time about writing a brief history of my life, only I have still not managed to find an opportune time for doing so; now that I have nothing to do, now that all of my acquaintances are forsaking me, I intend to summon up remembrance of my past in order to dally with you and myself as I have heretofore toyed with other people.
My father was a man of great severity and strictness; I was his only child.  He had lost all his wealth in the Glorious Revolution; he therefore lived in complete seclusion and with extreme frugality in the country; the vanity and splendor of the world were things I knew about only by hearsay.  I grew up in a lonely valley, and was left almost entirely to my own devices; in my soul there took shape the most wondrous dreams, which I regarded as reality.  Religious piety suffused my heart; I was in a constant state of giddy rapture; everything within reach of my mind and senses simply vanished whenever I tried to picture God and immortality to myself.  Solemn voices would often leak through the walls when I was lying all by myself in my room; all the treetops would then join together in a faintly roaring choir, and the cheerfully resonant sound of birdsong would every now and then chime in, like a universal song of worldly joys sanctified by the benison of heaven.  I would often doze off, and in my sleep I would conceive the greatest and most pious resolutions; I would raise my hands innocently towards heaven, and all emotions in my heart dissolved and joined together at a single point.  Tears would then gush from my eyes and in so doing put an end to my exalted rapture.  I heard of God's great love of mankind, and I took this emotion of mine for this divine love, for it was as though my heart were a magnetic center that would be attracted irresistibly to heaven, and that could scarcely be kept back on earth by its corporeal integument.  My father himself had become quite religious in his old age, and my conversations with him served only to stoke the fires of my already perfervid imagination.  I can truly say that I came to feel as much at home in the superterrestrial regions as in our garden, that my curious reveries came to be as familiar to me as children's games, and that I regarded myself with pacific certainty as the most pious soul among the elect, who needed only to offer his hand to the chief archangel in order immediately to be on first-name terms with him.

Whenever I read histories or other kinds of books about people, I regarded myself in my mind as an infinitely superior spirit.  I confided to no other bosom the sentiments that ascended and descended in my soul like a gentle ebbing and flowing stream of music.  These imaginings lifted me aloft of the entire world; I forgot all the shabby and wretched parts of life and now felt at home only in rays of pure sunshine.
Almost every human being when he is passing from childhood into adolescence is dominated by a lofty fanaticism, which is felicitous, which very quickly traverses the entire circle of deceptive sensations only, upon completion of the cycle, to encounter itself.  An exalted sensibility serves to involve us in a thousand follies, but also to apprise us of them; the more refined is his power of sensation, the sooner a person will find it possible to become genuinely wise beyond his years.
I am much of a mind to regard youthful fanaticism, like so many other human attributes, as nothing more than a predisposition that is amenable to being honed into a full-fledged skill.  To avoid glimpsing any of the wretched trash that in later life comes back home to us and binds us fast to the earth whenever even the most fleeting flight of fancy tries to lay hold of us, is an art that one acquires through practice; in our youth we move everything that might block our view of the fair prospect that lies ahead of us into the tenebrous background.  One preoccupies oneself with becoming a great man only so long as one is unacquainted with humanity and oneself; it is a game that seems noble to us because we tried for such a long time to make ourselves regard it as such, and eventually we succeeded.  A man of a cooler temperament regards fanaticism in exactly the same way as the busiest and shrewdest gamblers regard a man who does not even know the rules of a single card game.
The fanatic believes that the entire world exists only as a medium for the realization of his designs; that the world consists of such a motley assemblage of excellences and evils only so that in having overcome so many more obstacles he will have a commensurately greater reward to claim.  He would no longer desire to be good if it were easy to be good, and if all other human beings were on an equal footing with him.

For most people, this fanatical enthusiasm for greatness and virtue is merely a preparation for love; it is the same drive that loses itself in the world at large and in ideas for want of an immediately present object; love gets people worked up for a while and then leads them to the path of sensuality, a path on which they may become either more intelligent or much stupider.  It is the crossroads at which most people lose themselves in involved aberrations and believe that they are returning to their starting point when they are racing ever deeper into the wilderness.
My father died when I was sixteen years old; a numbing grief crushed and occluded my spirit; I believed that I had been deprived of everything, an error that every person commits upon suffering his first loss, because he is still unschooled in the vicissitudes of life.  I gadded about on my lonesome for a long time in order to give myself over completely to my grief and, after its anesthetic portion had worn off, to make a kind of work of art out of it, in doing which I recovered my good cheer.
Little by little, I began applying my former ideas to my present situation, and as I did so, there formed above me a shimmering moonlike luminescence in whose melancholy twilight I was happy to wander.
I became acquainted with a family in my neighborhood, or rather, I sedulously called on them simply because my guardian had introduced me to them.  Antonia, the only daughter of the house, soon came to monopolize my attention; my circumambient twilight took on a more companionable appearance here, and I ended up forgetting my grief entirely, although I never stopped fancying that I was an extremely unhappy creature. 
My entire life received a fresh impetus, and it became dear to me in a new way.  All of my grand schemes collapsed; my great heroic biography shrank into a sigh, a single ingratiating vision pervaded all my desires.
At this age one is pleased to be seen by all women, for one worships them and regards them as divine beings; they are always happy and unselfconscious in the company of an inexperienced young man; the more witlessly and shyly he comports himself, the more they like him, no matter how much and how openly they tease him.   In the course of making the acquaintances of several more families, I become a proper and much-coveted fashion accessory in the eyes of all the women; they all imagined that they wanted to nurture me in order to transform me into a complete and first-rate gentleman; each of them discerned in me talents that would mature to perfection under their expert tutelage.  I was now drilled in the practices of good breeding so thoroughly and punctiliously that brainless as I was then, I still perceived that every effort was being exerted to transform me into a vain and pompous ass; in applying themselves to this job my governesses made such drudges of themselves that I could not help contemning them, because [after all] they were [simply] trying to compel me to promote them to an even higher stratum of divinity.
Antonia was the only young woman who seemed not to think that I was worth fussing over.  I heard her spoken of with contempt so often, that in the end I found her contemptible; it was said of her that she had no brains, and indeed she seemed to have none, for she contributed only rarely and very timidly to conversations during which the rest of the women were busy developing their refined ideas in the most dazzling manner.  When I was alone with her, I felt attracted to her in an ineffable way; during our simple, almost childish, conversations, the rest of the women with their refined intellects were pushed far into the margins; they ceased to interest me then; I could not even cherish the memory of them.  I often puzzled over these curious contradictions; I entertained my cogitations in solitude, whereby I inevitably discovered the opposite side of the argument and came to regard it as true.  In a short time this contradiction within me was heightened, for against my better judgment I surrendered entirely to Antonia; I found the company of all other people insipid and tedious; I lived only for her; of her alone I thought; of her alone I dreamed.  Even now that I am an old man of fourscore, the memory of that fair epoch is capable of making me crave its return.
The whole of nature now called a single tune to me; it was as if poetry were sweeping over the world on wings as broad as the sky, and brushing against the sun, moon, and stars, thereby causing them to resonate; all mankind was standing down below and marveling at the miracle above them, dazed and enchanted by this unprecedented resplendence, by these harmonies that had never been heard before.
Often without communicating the sense of a single word that she was saying, the mere sound of her voice could transport me into a state of pure delight; all of my thoughts immediately fell asleep in beds of flowers and dulcet tones; my soul reposed within hers, and I swam and disported myself freely in an element too rarified for human habitation.
My other female friends looked down on me and showered me with peals of scornful laughter; they gave me up for lost and maintained that from then onwards I would always be as much of a simpleton as my mistress.
A thousand times, I wished that Antonia would die, that she would attain some kind of reward.  I wished that she were poor and a victim of fortune so that I could rescue her; on pain of my own death, I prayed that if she could not love me as I loved her it might please heaven to let her die, so that I could then be at peace, so that I could weep at her graveside until I followed her into the earth.  A human being can never be great in any respect without simultaneously being a fool.
I perceived all too soon that she did not love me; to be sure, she was friendlier towards me than towards many other people; she was never uncomfortable when alone in my company; she saw through me, and yet she would not humor me; in every word that she uttered I palpably felt that she did not love me.  All of my sensations harried me with the most aggrieving torments; I did not know what I wanted; I could not comprehend my own thoughts; everything was at odds with itself; circumambient nature became mute again; harsh reality crept slowly and lazily out of the corner in which it had hidden itself; it was as though the instrument with all of its sounding strings had been smashed into a thousand pieces.
In a genuinely intimate moment she now confessed to me that she could not love me because she was already betrothed to a wealthy young man to whom she had utterly surrendered her heart.
Everything within me disintegrated.  A dull, aching pain settled into my heart and expanded therefrom in ever-widening circles, as if my heart and bosom were on their way to exploding with grief; yet at the same time I struck myself as being incomparably fatuous and vulgar.  I contemned my tears and sighs; I regarded everything within myself as an affectation; all genuine, living poetry forsook me posthaste for distant realms; all sensations passed by me like alien substances that did not pertain to me.
Her fiancé came to collect her.  She departed, and gave not a thought to the condition of total solitude to which she was abandoning me; I had even helped her pack all of her things for the journey.  Her rooms had been completely emptied out; and in the midnight hour I walked by the empty house and heard not a sound issuing from it apart from that of a wall-clock, which incessantly and tediously measured out its recurrent oscillations.  I felt as though I were hearing the pulse that coldly and insensibly measured out the life of man; I foresaw the course of time and all of its cheerless variations, lazily dissolving into uniformity and yawningly reconstituting themselves.

It is as if love is a kind of vernal luster that has been deposited into the forecourt of our lives the better for being truly nurtured at length and sustained by us, for accompanying us as the fairest of all the soul's delights throughout our life, and for making this life dear to us simply by being remembered.  If love did not greet us at the entrance of life, all human beings would be capable of effortlessly releasing themselves from their prejudices; none of them would worry themselves about virtue or feel any regret about their wasted youthful emotions.  But as it happens we carry with us a talisman that unbeknownst to us is our master.
I felt myself torn free of the entire world, bereft of any connection to anything whatsoever within it.  I often dwelt in the woods for days on end; I carried on conversations with invisible beings, and complained to them of my affliction.  It often seemed as though nature and the rustling trees were suddenly approaching my heart, and I would then stretch out my arms to embrace them with a nameless love, but then my soul would fall down again; in my pain I was not on friendly terms with myself, and everything else left me cold and uninterested.  I envied and at the same time I contemned the people passing by in the distance; my imagination was oppressed by a convoluted emotion of a thousand shapes; none of these shapes could tear itself free to stand apart as a clear and distinct image.  These are the sensations of an immature youth grasping at something of whose identity he himself is ignorant.
The exalted ideal of virtue and human excellence now enjoyed a renascence in my soul.  I took it upon myself to bundle together all of my emotions within this notion; I now looked upon my ill-starred love as a sacrifice that I had made to virtue and necessity.   At many moments I discovered consolation in this thought, and I once again took it upon myself to become a genuinely noble and perfect human being, to throw away all the trash of quotidian existence and dedicate myself to the exalted notion that was swelling my heart.  It is resolve of this very kind that quite often actually hoists the individual aloft of the world, for nothing causes fanaticism to miscarry so thoroughly as does the tedium and circuitousness of endless practicing.  But a worse fate was in store for my fanaticism.  Other people got vague wind of my ideas, which they termed visionary fancies; for the sake of my improvement, they persecuted me with false wit of the most hackneyed sort.  They found everything I did and said both wrongheaded and too callow; they left me no time even to experience anything on my own, which would have allowed me to understand my follies; instead I was expected to ripen my intellect in a hothouse.
It is certainly easy enough to become and remain a great man when accidents that threaten to block one's progress throw themselves athwart one's path at the very start of the journey.  Then a man rallies all of his forces in order to obviate retracing any of his steps.  Prison and chains, mortal peril, and universal opprobrium are only means of fortifying and indurating his soul; he lives in a perpetual struggle against the savage masses that surround him, and this struggle keeps him alert and active.  In the end, obstinacy becomes his cardinal virtue on which his remaining virtues merely lean; he will contemn himself if he feels that he is on the verge of giving up, and for this reason the tension of his soul will never slacken.  The image hereby conjured up is that of a great man, if you will, but greater still is the man who carries out his plans unobserved, who encounters nothing in the way of greatness, but rather lives in a condition of vapid insignificance and is contemned by everyone; a man for whom each day passes by just like the last one, and over whom neither time nor misfortune seems to make any kind of a fuss.  Such a person will readily give up his worldly possessions; everything will seem like a chimera in his eyes, and he will either sink to the level of the common man or strive to avenge himself on him.

How often were my good intentions misunderstood, and my best qualities derided; how often was I rebuffed by someone to whom I had proffered my friendship; my youthful emotionalism was termed self-abasement.  Everybody [fancied himself] more intelligent, more sensible, and more virtuous than I; and in the end I even came to believe them; I now groundlessly contemned myself, just as I had previously revered myself without reason; in the end I no longer thought myself worth the trouble of thinking about; the idea that I had ever aimed to improve myself now struck me as risible; I could not have cared less about myself or the world, and I slept from one day through to the next, devoid of both desire and peace of mind, extinct within and lacking the vital force needed to make new flowers bloom.

For flowers after all are usually only a form of what we call fruit, and fruit itself is for us an image of perfection only because it serves our needs; in the fruit lies the [seed] that in the future may bring forth new flowers and fruits.

Suddenly ancient and long-forgotten dreams awakened within me.  Images of other countries, maps that I had contemplated in childhood, passed over my imagination; I heard the roar of distant rivers and beheld a foreign sky above me.  I was seized by an indescribable craving to leave behind people and familiar places; I anticipated seeing so much that was new, and so much variety in that novelty, that all at once I gathered together all my assets and forsook England in the greatest haste.


Life abroad was not all that I had expected it to be.  Everywhere I went I encountered the same sorts of people, the same shallow walking clichés that had so often roused me to such heated indignation in my native country.  In the end I fancied that it was folly to wish to be any other kind of person; I forced myself into this mold, and now I was kind to everybody.

Sometime before, I had heard from a so-called confidant of mine that there was something about my face that put off other people from the start; a hidden repulsiveness that was impossible to describe exactly, that by turns made me ridiculous and an object of fear.  But now I knew why people hated and persecuted me: because my nose did not look quite as they wanted it to look, they found me reprehensible.

I now contemned everything in myself that I had formerly thought noble and sublime; to spite myself, I represented my love to myself as the pattern of risibility; I made myself conversant with the most inimical conceptions, and now wherever I went I passed for a wit because I had essentially lost my mind.

Thus I rambled joylessly through Italy and France.  Everywhere everyone was pleased to see me, and everywhere I was a burden to myself; at length, I observed to my dread that my modest means were almost entirely exhausted; I had become a foreigner with respect to my native land because I had already been away from it for sixteen years, an interval that had seemed remarkably brief to me.  I resolved to return to England with the money I had left, for in those sixteen years the old country had been transformed into a new world as far as I was concerned.  I alighted on the coast of England in the hope of undergoing new experiences there.


I arrived back home firmly resolved to gain an understanding of human beings.  During the course of my wild life I had not neglected to observe them, but I was all too aware that these observations could not have been quite accurate.  It is difficult to understand people in their presence; we judge them much more accurately from a distance, when we can gradually piece together the characteristics that we have noticed in them.  Accordingly, I was beginning to form very accurate opinions of my friends in Italy, and yet at the same time I was being thrown into fresh confusion by the people I was meeting in England; I tried to study closely every face that came my way, and in so doing I took up the fight for many a man whom I had wanted only to understand; it is the same experience undergone by every translator, who in the course of his work [invariably] overrates his original.

I reencountered my former mistress in the shape of a shrewish, capricious housewife; even in her figure there were but few traces of her old fetchingness left.  We conversed with each other as any other two random human beings would have done, and all of my youthful feelings for her seemed stale and insipid to me; all holidays had been stricken from my personal calendar of life, and my gaze was absorbed by the endless succession of mundane hours and incidents, unadorned by a single emotion, unillumined by a single riotous flight of fancy.  How prosaic the memory of my previous life and my youthful emotions now appeared to me!  I walked among the human herd and regarded every face with cold dispassionateness; none of them made a closer approach to my heart than any of the others. 

I was soon granted entry to many houses, because I had by some accident or other acquired the reputation of being a wit.  One very often cuts a witty figure in society when one is in a certain sense a simpleton, when one dares to let slip every thought and sally without pondering it beforehand with that careful consideration that a more sagacious person never fails to bring to bear on everything.  I gave utterance to everything that crossed my mind, and made myself quite popular mainly by telling tasteless anecdotes; a bona fide wit is seldom esteemed or understood at social gatherings; most people have only ever been acquainted with the suburbs of wit and intelligence; throughout their lives they retain their small-town, provincial notions of these excellences.  The applause of the vulgar, in which I gloried, inveigled me into playing the wit ever-more assiduously; I discovered the pleasures of self-satisfaction, and in the end I set as high a value on my wretched repartees as everybody else did.  Most of the time social intercourse makes a person more vain and simple-minded, and it hardly ever makes him cleverer [or] more virtuous.   I had at that time exactly enough intelligence and experience to act like a proper idiot; the thoroughgoing simpleton has a much fairer and safer path to tread than does the man of waxing sagaciousness; the only harmful kind of stupidity is that half-clever kind that insists on knowing where it stands in every situation, on turning everything to its own advantage, on rationally smoothing out every rough patch, and, by means of a subtle, insinuating despotism, on ruling the entire world.  This selfsame half-stupid kind of sagacity had just shot up like a young sprig in me, such that I could hardly help noticing it, but I had not yet managed to make it bear any fruit; at best this callow sagacity is of some service to an author, who can do whatever he wants to the characters in his books without fearing that they will put up much of a fight; but in the real world it is nothing other than the hook used by cleverer anglers to catch these goldfish.  Accordingly, one ought either to remain a simpleton throughout one's life, or to ride out this perilous period of one's development as quickly as possible.

At this time I made the acquaintance of a certain young man, your father.  He was still in the period of strong feeling, and I with my education seemed so grown-up to him that he soon regarded me as the very pattern of manhood.  He desired nothing more ardently than my friendship, and it so fell out that in a short time we became genuinely intimate with each other.  He revealed to me his love for Miss Milford, and asked me to mediate on his behalf, as I was often in the Milford house and enjoyed great credit with her father.  I pled his suit honestly, and with such success that the engagement was scheduled to be celebrated in the very near future.  Marie Milford was a felicitous young woman whom I liked more and more with each passing day; without my being able to say exactly how it had happened, I found that I was in love with her myself, which I had previously not thought possible.  I now planned to get Lovell away from her; I did a lot without thinking very clearly about what I was doing or how I was doing it, and so in the end I succeeded in getting her father to ban him from the house.  Lovell's friend, young Burton, was now secretly my confidant; we drew up a proper contract.  Young though this man was, he was nevertheless more than a match for me; even if I was his uncle, I could not forbear feeling quietly awed in his presence.  Subsequent events proved that my feeling had not been misplaced, even if I [had otherwise been] entirely mistaken in him.
Marie was unhappy, and all of my efforts to secure her good will were in vain.  The more she resisted me, the fiercer my concupiscence grew.  I therefore believed that this love was even stronger than my first youthful passion, for Antonia.  Her father grew ever-more favorably disposed to me, and he yearned for nothing more powerfully than acquiring me as his son-in-law.
I had gradually and ingeniously contrived to sully Lovell's character in the eyes of the girl's father; I had managed to impart to all of my misrepresentations the semblance of truth, but as a whole my intrigue was devised in the absence of any actual plan; I relied more upon chance and natural human credulousness than on myself.  I really only seldom thought about the outcome; instead, I let the machine take care of itself, just like most other people, who actually do not so much implement their plans as piece them together, and kick aside the adverse consequences churned up by them, as they go along.  This somnolence on the part of wickedness explains why people so easily come to terms with each other, why no man is at great pains to outwit his neighbor, and why the latter in turn evinces no great resistance to being outwitted.
The girl seemed to grow more and more averse to me, but throughout both day and night she was the only object of my thoughts.  I wrote off the entirety of my previous life and resolved by possessing her to be, as it were, born again; to enjoy myself and savor my good fortune deliberately at every moment, and to deal more seriously with myself.  It now seemed to me that I had squandered every previous year of my life in an oppressive state of intoxication; I was appalled by the thought of walking vacuously through life and dying vacuously at its end.  And yet I was often assailed by the conviction that I could follow and was destined to follow this selfsame vacuous course; for at every instant I keenly felt that Marie's soul recoiled from me completely, like a flower from a cold shadow.   I was in despair.  I took pleasure in my conviction that now all sorts of subterfuges were devolving from me; my heart awoke from its delirium, what in my youth had been a dream was now well on its way to becoming a reality, and I felt throbbing throughout my entire being the luster of love, which was striving to show itself in all its manifold strength.  Oh, what blissful actuality the mise en scène of the lustrous phantoms of yesteryear was capable of assuming!  On one occasion, Marie dropped all reserve and confessed to me how she was repelled by everything about me—my character, a certain something that she could not describe, but by which she was genuinely horrified at many moments.  At this very same instant a furious, an excruciating, hatred surged through my breast; a hatred of the entire world and of myself.  All the flowers of my spirit, all self-respect, all sense of the sacred, died within me.  But I was now all the more resolutely determined to possess her on any terms, in spite of her and myself; the thought that I was tearing her away from Lovell was bliss enough for me.
The day on which I was to marry her was drawing palpably near; the guests were all present; music was playing; Marie was dejected and her father merry, when Lovell, who until then had been in London, suddenly burst in, and now everything progressed towards my total disgrace, with me being able scarcely to get a word in edgewise in my defense.
Everyone and everything abandoned me; I was obliged in accordance with my pledge to Burton to give him several hundred pounds, which amounted to the full balance of my fortune; against my will, he had me entirely at his mercy.

I now stood alone.  I had nothing but a sensation in my breast that threatened to tear my heart asunder: a profound, intransigent, ardent hatred of Lovell.   I would have been glad to lay down my life for the sake of embittering his.  I could not think of his name without fairly trembling with rage; my soul was stirred in the most violently tumultuous fashion whenever I thought of everything that had happened, and subsequently witnessed the crowning of his hopes, his securing of happiness.   I vowed to myself never to forget him, never to make peace with him in my heart.  My life had now found a thread with which it could spin itself down and out.
I managed to get him poisoned, but he recovered.  I was astonished to observe my hatred attaining a higher level of intensity.  Marie died just after giving birth to her first and only child, and now for the first time I completely felt how much I had loved her, how much I could have loved her.  This child, on whom his father doted, was in my eyes the murderer of all my happiness, my heart burned with my desire to avenge myself on the boy.  I lived off this emotion; it possessed me; all of my senses were fixated on my goal of someday tasting my revenge, of sating myself on it.

The time had now come for me to become acquainted with mankind in a genuine sense.  Man is nothing so long as his fellow-creatures remain strangers to him, and [yet] in getting to know them he loses everything that made him worth something; it is a puzzle that is both lamentable and risible.
People everywhere kept their distance from me; I was barred from all forms and strata of society; I was looking for succor or even mere sympathy, but [wherever I looked] I was coldly and scornfully rebuffed.  People had formerly sought me out and clung to me, and now every blockhead contemned me without being able to furnish to himself halfway intelligible grounds for doing so.   I was deeply irritated by these people who had formerly esteemed me for no good reason, and were now dropping me so precipitously, and imagining that they were doing so from such an exalted height.  I had been branded, and everyone shunned me as though I had some sort of infectious disease; they had once heard some talk of virtue and integrity, and now one might have supposed—people might even have actually believed—that they did not have a very high opinion of these noble qualities when they had anything to do with me.  Among this group of snubbers, there were people who could not have verbally articulated their simplest thoughts to save their lives.
The wide world now lay before me, but I had no idea of how I would live in it.  All my money was gone; I had no friends and no prospects, no courage to trust myself to recover my losses.  I could have managed to live in London for a while, but I was tired of telling anecdotes, and chattering back and forth, and torturing myself to come up with jokes.  Humanity had robbed me even of the courage to flatter, and with it the courage to drag myself through a wretched term of existence.
To such a depth had I sunk.  I looked back on who I was, on who I might have become in Marie's arms.  It would have been better to return to the peaks of sublimity; then my heart would have blossomed, my mind would have opened up.  Behind me paradise was barred shut for all time, ahead, I looked towards an eternal languishment, an endless drought, whose only nascent consolation consisted in the hope of managing to distract myself, to forget myself, even to alienate myself from myself [entirely].
I traveled back to France, and shunned the company of other people as much as possible.  In the shadow of murmuring forests I often renounced all of the experiences that I had stored up in my memory; whereas a thick darkness, or a muzzy twilight, had hitherto held sway in my soul, now many lights began to emerge into prominence.  Nothing so rigorously teaches us to contemn mankind as does solitude; every wretched quality of this species seems still more wretched, when one reflects on it in a lonely wood, when a rainstorm is hurling jet-black shadows on to the ground below, and the thunder is passing indecisively over the trembling treetops.
At last, I sought assistance from some people who had formerly been trusted friends of mine, and for whom out of ill-timed kind-heartedness, and even to my own detriment, I had performed a thousand services.  None of them would acknowledge me, a few even made jokes at my expense; I now perceived that esteem and friendship could last only as long as each of the so-called friends had pretty much exactly the same amount of money in his wallet as the other; they behaved like scales, which remain in equipoise only when the two sides hold the same weight.
I came down with an illness.  I was obliged to take refuge in the most ignominious of places; after repeated and urgent entreaties, I was carried to a hospital.  I cannot say that I was cared for, for even the laziest gardener handles the flowers that are just on the point of withering more lovingly and attentively than the patients in their death agonies were treated here.  Nevertheless, many of them recovered their health, and I was one of those that did.  I was discharged, a priest even sent me off with his pious wishes, and outside on the street I was greeted once again by the sun.  I was still very weak, emaciated, and pale, but nobody was moved by my appearance to take pity on me.  From all sides came a cry of "There are far too many poor people!", for a person is seldom so scrupulous as candidly to acknowledge that he does not feel competent to alleviate human need.  I immediately took up begging in an attitude of the utmost abjection, but my clothes were still too fine to capture the most fleeting sympathy; everybody who gave me a sou regarded himself as being thereby entitled to heap on me a thousand bitter reproaches that pained me even more than hunger and illness, indeed many of them assuredly gave to me only in order to have an opportunity to publicize their gospel.
I was weary of my life, which weighed me down like a heavy chain.  I was sitting on the Pont neuf, where I had been importuning the passers-by for their sympathy since sunrise.  I was wasting away of hunger and thirst; I remembered all those fairy tales about beneficent enchanters and goblins, and I looked each passer-by in the eye, but all of them looked much more like [ordinary, unenchanted] human beings than I really would have hoped.  The sun went down, and the scarlet waves beckoned me; the river seemed to me a golden bed in which I could finally sleep away all of my cares and disappointments.  People kept walking by, and not one of them threw me so much as a single coin.  I resolved to wait for twelve more people to pass by, and if none of them evinced any sympathy for me, to throw myself into the river.  
Because it was already quite late, people were passing by less often; I redoubled my supplications, but in the gloom of twilight even fewer people were paying any attention to me.  Eleven pitiless individuals had already passed me by, and then the twelfth one approached and paid no heed to my entreaties; I had already stood up to pitch myself headlong over the balustrade of the bridge, when I heard the approach of someone singing.  I held off jumping to make one last attempt on this stroller, an attempt that I was convinced in advance would be futile, for he was in a merry mood and finely dressed.  He drew nearer.  He was drunk and hardly managing to avoid falling over; he had practically lost consciousness, and he was humming an unintelligible song between his teeth.  I felt as though I were participating in a satire on myself and mankind, as I supplicatingly appealed to his benevolence and Christian charity.  He stopped and contemplated me, and then laughed a full-throated laugh at my beggarly aspect.  I was of half a mind to join in.  With a contrarious expression on his face, he reached into his pocket and yawningly pulled out a heavy purse; he opened it and gave me a gold piece; I thanked him, and he walked away.  He had taken only a few steps when without noticing he dropped the purse.  As quickly as I could, I dashed over to it and snatched it up; next to it lay a pocketbook that he had also dropped; he had not seen me, and I was already at the other end of the bridge, when he came wheezing up behind me and asked me if I had not seen his purse.  I answered firmly in the negative, and he now started searching for it; he crawled from one end of the bridge to the other, and I was obliged to help him, in doing which I heartily bewailed his misfortune.  Finally, he bent over the balustrade to look down below; he lost his balance and plunged into the water.  As I did not hear any screaming from him, I walked away in silence.  I have no idea whether he was ever pulled back on to dry land.
The money made me respected again; moreover, in the pocketbook I found banknotes and bills of exchange amounting to a substantial sum; I left town and at the earliest auspicious moment converted the notes and bills into hard cash; carrying with me a not inconsiderable fortune, I traveled to Italy under an assumed name.

Having now graduated from school, I was firmly resolved to live more cool-headedly.  I compared myself to other men and women and found that they were often—nay, for the most part—simpler than me; I doubly regretted having allowed myself to be dominated so [utterly] by them.  I perceived that the sooner I started acting more stealthily and subtly than them, the sooner I would be able to dominate them instead.  This much is certain: that one must do one of three things—renounce the society of human beings entirely, appoint oneself as a dominator, or consent to be dominated.
In the course of my undiscriminating survey of human beings, I had ever-so reluctantly observed that they had occasionally abstracted quite sagacious rules from their experiences, but that these rules only ever served to allow them to converse pleasantly and wittily in company; they thought only about talking of their cerebrations, and not about putting their conclusions into practice.  This is the reason why people treat their thoughts like their monetary stakes in a game of chance, why they often act convinced in the absence of conviction and discern in thinking only an opportunity for being sharp-witted.  I had despised this most deplorable of all weaknesses for quite a long time; I resolved to apprehend every thought with absolute precision, to treasure it steadfastly so that I could put it to my own use.  Thus as unabashedly as I avoided speaking well of people, I aimed at understanding them in their true aspect.


As everyone does, be it only on his birthday or New Year's Day, I made resolutions.  Anyone who cannot act consistently might as well give up taking action altogether, for otherwise in the very attempt to clear his path of obstacles, he will inevitably fill it with them.  I had by now for better or worse embraced a certain mode of living, and I was thus obliged either to keep living according to this mode or to be consigned, as before, to the hospital, or to the madhouse.  But when I considered what I would inevitably be up against, I found it all extremely distasteful.  The notion that the world could not exist if everybody thought and acted like this, is one that the mind of a unique individual cannot help calling upon; he must dissent from the common run of minds, for it is for in virtue of their commonness other people are capable of passing off their counterfeit money as legal tender.  In the brutish battle of human life unique individuals are the generals; they know how to talk the talk of being in charge; the rest are their subordinates, and the men and women of true virtue are the fair and eternal cause of the battle's interminability; they manufacture the ordnance and supply each side with equal amounts of it for free.  The weightiest objection that may be lodged against this description is that there resides within us something that pulsates and trembles whenever we deviate from the path supposedly preordained for us by nature.  But I simply could never convince myself of the existence of this invisible entity, this so-called conscience.  This is but one of mankind's numerous traditions of fictitious foundation, traditions whereby the vast majority of people are effectively kept in a certain state of fear that in their spare time renders many of them virtuous, provided that they are not harried and hurried overmuch [even then]; these are the philosophical idle hours that end up on sheaves of stationery decorated with printers' vignettes.  I decided to set myself up as a competitor of this invisible force, and to bid equal defiance to it and to those much canted-about pseudo-notions known as principles, and to this very day I have yet to receive any impetus from them, to perceive any promptings from an inner voice [IM (DR)], despite having assimilated into my character every vice that has come my way; manifold are the sins that I have committed, and yet to this very day I have enjoyed uninterrupted peace of mind.  Thus has my human ideal been gradually transformed into something very different from the figure I originally sketched with the untrained hand of a child.  I have often read those famous guides to virtue to bring myself closer to the substance of the thing, but whether they were in poetry or in prose they have never made any impression on me, even when I manage to picture to myself with passable clarity the sufferings of the tortured individuals described in them.
But I am becoming too digressive, and you will not have entirely understood me; and so I shall now pass over several years so that I can approach the conclusion of my story.

The Secret Society
When I was a bit older, I found that the knowledge that I could not be taken in by other people had ceased to satisfy me.   Every man has some kind of mechanical gadget, a hobby-horse, to which he surrenders himself with all his heart, and as the desire for activity was now stirring within me, I wanted to start up something that I could work on with pleasure.  I had always been aware that I had a great proclivity for curiosities, and so at this time I was especially attracted to the idea of a secret order.   I had heard so much about these orders, I had so often heard that a society of this sort must needs have an extraordinary individual at its head, that I could not quell my desire to appoint myself to such a position of supremacy.  I regarded human beings in such a contemptible light that I thought that nothing in the world would be easier than to dominate them; in short, I resolved to make the attempt, and to let the consequences of it be what they would.
I was living at Rome, and everybody assumed that I was a native Italian.  My queer, reserved deportment had already attracted the attention of many people; nobody could quite make head or tail of me, and I soon acquired the reputation of being an interesting, indeed, an extremely interesting, person, at bottom simply because nobody could discover exactly where I had been born or how I supported myself.  I gradually made the acquaintance of many people both old and young, and I presently found it not very difficult to gather them round me.  For the first time I perceived how easy it was to keep people in a certain state of awe; they regard everything that they cannot understand as something extraordinary, precisely because it is they who cannot comprehend it.
I now let only a few of my acquaintances, those whom I regarded as the cleverer among them, into my trust; the rest remained in a state of perpetual and humble subordination.  Our society soon spread into several other cities and acquired members in distant places, and now was the time to carry out some sort of project, for otherwise the whole thing would always remain a foolish bit of play-acting.  It was my aim to draw the entire fortunes of others into the society's treasury, and I succeeded in persuading many people to make such donations.  The higher one's rank in the organization, and the harder one had worked for its profit, the greater was the share of this communal cash-box that one was entitled to claim.  Thus everybody was kept on tenterhooks with expectations of gain, and everybody as an individual was content; only a few people knew of the master's aim, and even these few could only surmise what they had not been convinced to believe.
Initially I feared that the more sagacious citizens of the world at large might see through my plan, but I subsequently discovered that this fear was entirely groundless.  As soon as one regards oneself as shrewder than the remainder of mankind, this remainder will be of the same opinion.  One must merely sacrifice any part of oneself, but rather make oneself costly, never become truly intimate with anybody, but rather always seem to be withholding a thousand thoughts; thus every observer is thrown into a certain degree of confusion; at the very least he is insecure in his opinion of you, and by this means the battle is as good as won.  Everybody will try to come closer to such a marvelous individual, and in the attempt to study him everybody will neglect to observe him; even the most perspicacious mind will fear that this person has beat him to all his best ideas, and has every imaginable counterargument ready to hand.  Everybody will strive to understand how to possess the qualities that they attribute to him, and thus in the end will lose the ability even to make a single reasonable observation.  Most people are very happy when someone who impresses them even meets them halfway.  None of the sagacious minds ferreted out my secret; they never noticed how much I let my guard down when I overindulged myself somewhat, when I lost my temper over your boobyish conduct in England and illness made me irascible; and yet the simplest people with their quickness of perception managed to reach out just far enough to touch my weak spot.

A Knack for the Miraculous
It was this quality more than any other that people saddled me with, for all of them expected me to do something extraordinary.  Most people believe that they have outgrown all vulnerability to superstition, and yet nothing is easier than to ensnarl them anew in a superstitious belief.  Within every breast there lies something tenebrous, a presentiment that draws the heart towards foreign and unknown regions.  One need only avail oneself of this instinct in order to abduct a person from himself and set him above this earth.  I discovered that I had no need to advert to subtle sophistries or curious and visionary yet specious ideas to undermine healthy minds little by little; the leap [of faith] that such people always seem to be taking is actually no leap at all.  [The truth is that] because nothing can prove the impossibility of miracles, everybody in his heart of hearts believes in miracles for hours at a time.
Thus this curious emotion is a handle with which one can effortlessly seize hold of people.  I have been able to effect more by means of it than through the cleverest of ruses.  It was my policy when attempting to deceive people never to [try] to be subtle with them.  A strategy of subtlety presupposes that other people are also subtle, and that they will put their subtlety to use; but by such an assumption, which is to say through over-calculation, many an otherwise worthy plan has been ruined; bumbling, oafish, and proximate simple-mindedness barges in and tears to pieces all the threads that were to have been employed in a silent, gentle entrapment.  To anyone who is truly rational and prudent the subtlest machinations of thought with which one [attempts] to deceive him will be obvious, and thus subtlety of deception is always wasted on him.  [On the other hand] people accept what is crude and improbable at the outset; because it is improbable they believe that something true must lie at the bottom of it, for otherwise not even [the simplest] child would let himself be taken in by it.
Once people have taken a single step into the realm of the science of blind faith, there is no stopping them; they believe that they are more advanced than so-called enlightened people; they believe that they have overcome the limits of reason, and they are now suggestible by the most childish fairy tale, by the maddest fiction.

Very early on I sought the acquisition of a squire who would carry my weapons for me so that I could relax a bit more.  Everybody who troubles himself slightly to do so will meet a person who will take it upon himself to second his teacher's assertions on oath, to ponder all his thoughts after his own fashion, and subsequently disseminate these thoughts like small change, thereby glorifying his master's name conjointly with his own.  Everywhere one goes one encounters people who like doing nothing so much as attaching themselves to other people whom they think clever.  I soon discovered a certain young man who lived with his parents in a state of extremely oppressive poverty; he seemed not to lack a brain of sorts; his capacity to grasp ideas was very quick, but he never thought beyond what had been prescribed to him.  This quick slowness of his seemed to suit my ultimate purpose down to the ground.  I helped myself to him, and taught him how enjoy living more freely; he gradually metamorphosed into my principal machine, for one has only to grace such reckless, buoyant souls with the prospect of a pleasant, quiescent life to be capable of moving them to do anything.  Rosa is an eminently sufferable individual; his greatest shortcoming is that he mistakes his recklessness for intelligence; he has exactly enough sagacity to perceive that he needs a prop that he can cling to.  I managed to make very good use of him, but he was foolish enough to attend rather too well to his commissions from time to time.  For example, he had the idea of conscripting the young Chevalier Valois into the society in order to acquire the Blainville estate for our endowment; he had involved himself with a fool who could not cope with himself, let alone with the world, and who ultimately could not avoid shooting himself for the sake of bringing the story of his life to some sort of conclusion, of giving it the semblance of a perfect ending.
Rosa has never been acquainted with real emotion, nor ever with genuine cognitive power; he has never done anything but talk, and accordingly he has always been quite content with himself.  In recognition of his loyal service I have bequeathed to him my estate at Tivoli.  I could easily have defrauded him [of it], but I must in any event leave my fortune to somebody; still, I hope he fritters it away very quickly.

This strange creature, to whom you were initially closely attached, came with you to Italy.  On account of his eccentricity, I found him interesting.  He had a wonderful disposition to madness that could have caused a great deal of damage to the people and things around him if it had not ripened to full maturity.  But as most people are not themselves aware of the things that are lodged inside them, I resolved to knock the sparks out of this strange stone [myself].  And so I amused myself by walking a few times through his room in the guise of a ghost, and afterwards he could not understand where I had come from.  I subsequently observed him very studiously, and I discovered at the same time that these events were preparing me very thoroughly for my future acquaintance with you.  Afterwards I grew bored with and tired of this man, because he never changed much, and so he did a very good thing in running away.

Mr. William Lovell
I almost have to laugh as I write your name and find myself obliged to make you the subject of my disquisition.  Am I really obliged to write at length about you [IM(DR)], who are practically nothing?
I had received news of you and knew of your journey to Italy.  Rosa went to meet you at Paris.  My old animus towards your father, towards you, my memories of Marie, an unrelenting feeling of rage, were all now awakening within me; I believed that in the present moment I had found the best opportunity to avenge myself on him and on you.  I intended to make you rebel against you father; you would then fall out with him and with yourself; then I would send you back to England.  And so I allowed you to pass through every stratum of human society, with the aim of refashioning you into a kind of freakish living abortion.  You wounded your father's feelings very deeply, and he died much earlier than I had supposed he would.  Meanwhile, I pressed ahead with my schemes, as their machinery was already in motion and I had grown accustomed to contemplating you as my captive game-cock.  At this point you will not insist on my explaining in detail the clownish fashion in which you allowed yourself to be hoodwinked; it would only injure your vanity.  I succeeded in keeping you in a state of constant suspense, a condition that can very easily cloud one's reason.  I now heard that Burton senior had died, and I sent you to England with your commissions, which you executed like a boy ignoramus.  With Edward dead and his sister likewise out of the way, I would have been the only living legitimate claimant to the Burton family's substantial riches, you would have recovered your lost properties, and the entire state of affairs would have been as right as rain for both of us.  But because at the time I preferred not to tell you that I was Waterloo, you gadded about France and England like a savage out of his wits; you wanted to feel your fill of feelings and think queer thoughts that you had no right to think.  Now you will come back and have the effrontery to wonder why things did not turn out as you had resolved they would.

Every person tries to make something genuinely significant out of his life, and everybody believes that he is the central point of the great circle [of the cosmos].  Nobody lives in the realm of the universal, nobody troubles himself about the greater interest of the whole; rather, everybody commits to memory nothing but his own wretched bit part in this play unlimited, a part that all too often contributes precious little to the whole.  One cannot more efficaciously take up arms against the contemptible weaknesses of man, against blind vanity and myopic pride, than by always picturing this parti-colored life to oneself as a dramatic spectacle; it is an actual drama, because everybody strives to make it one, for nobody knowingly takes each day as it comes or lives haphazardly; rather, even for the briefest of appearances on stage, a mere footman will brush down his hat and aspire to dazzle the audience with the piping on his coat.  One must never lose oneself entirely in individual people, rather, one should reflect that this or that person is always perceived differently by others than he is by us; for the moment we fall under another person's influence, our gaze is corrupted.

Heretofore you have generally regarded yourself as an exceptionally marvelous and unusual being, and you are anything but that; you now contemn all human beings by way of a kind of rough-hewn braggadocio that suits very ill with you, because you will never be capable of understanding them, and you judge too harshly those few whom you do understand, and compare them too captiously with yourself.   For a long time you have been at indescribable pains to change yourself, and you believe that you have undergone a violent revolution in your heart of hearts, but it is in truth all a figment of your imagination.  You have always been the same person that you were at the beginning; you have not the slightest capacity to change yourself; rather, out of sheer laziness, vanity, and a mania for mimesis, you have done and said a great many things that came from anywhere but your heart.  Your philosophy was recklessness verbalized, in toto your emotions amounted to nothing but an eternal struggle with yourself.  You could have become a truly proper, ordinary, simple man; engraved in copperplate, sitting next to his lovely young wife before a sylvan background, if you had cut a sufficiently attractive figure in your own eyes, but you rejected all of that for the sake of becoming an addle-brained philosophical fool.
I am curious to see you, and so you may wish to come visit me.  Actually, I can now leave off describing you, for you are now standing before me in the flesh. 
In conclusion
A few words about myself
And who am I then?  Who is this being who so earnestly grips his pen, and can never tire of putting words on to paper?  Am I so great a fool as to think that everything I have ever said is true?  I cannot believe such a thing of myself.  I have sat down to preach the truth, and in the end I do not even know what I am doing.  I too have for many hours at a time regarded myself as somebody special—and what am I really?  Was it not terribly foolish of me to busy myself incessantly with machinations of such hazardous contrivance, when I could have all the while been eating and drinking in virtuous placidity?  I delighted so keenly in being the leader of a secret, invisible band of thieves, in pretending to be a ghost, and in summoning other ghosts, in making a fool of the entire world, and now I find myself wondering whether through all this effort I have not made myself into the biggest fool of all.  I am now perhaps more serious than ever, and yet at the same time I am much of a mind to laugh at myself.

And the notion that I am now sitting here so good-naturedly, and still, a brief time before my death, pestering myself with writing for the sake of gratifying my pitiable vanity, is quite inconceivable and unbelievable.  Who is this peculiar I, who quarrels with me thus?  Oh, I will set aside my pen, and, when the occasion arises, die.

William Lovell to Rosa
What do you have to say about Andrea's inhuman asseverations?  There are many passages in that text that I cannot expunge from my memory.   How I rejoiced when those papers were delivered to me a week after his death!  I hoped then that I might yet find some kind of consolation, and at that very moment everything was over.
Did I not waste my entire life in an attempt to please this horrible individual, to come nearer to him?  Did not the last hopes of my life reside in my acquaintance with him, in the expectations that I had reposed in his duplicity?  But I have already told you as much as this in my letters.

I do not wish to complain any longer, for my strength to do even that has expired.  Bianca is dead; I visited her a few days before her death.  She confessed that for a long time a secret had been weighing on her heart, and that she was now obliged to reveal it to me.  She told me that at the instigation of Andrea, or, rather, Waterloo, she had been persuaded to frighten me at a masquerade by playing the part of Rosaline.  I looked at her more attentively, and was alarmed to discern an undeniably conspicuous resemblance; and yet I could not imagine that I had allowed myself to be taken in by such an imposture; to convince me fully, she put some make-up on her face, darkened her eyebrows, combed her hair down over her forehead, and tied a light silk kerchief round her head.  I cried out as she walked back into the room and approached me in this disguise; Rosaline had dressed exactly like this, and I now realized why I had been so badly shaken the last time I had come to see Bianca.  Bianca's lusterless gaze caused me to mistake her for Rosaline's spirit for a few seconds; on the night of the masquerade, in the darkness and the carriage, my terror had been all the stronger because I had not been expecting to encounter such a figure.  Bianca now told me that she would have said something to me before my departure from Italy, but that I had ignored a certain urgent request to come see her; otherwise in all likelihood she would have recounted to me the entire episode back then.  A significant portion of our life depends on many such contingencies!  I now remember this letter, and also that I elected not to go see her out of sheer laziness.
I often silently imagined that Rosaline was still alive, and that I would one day see her again.  This thought, strange though it may sound, often secretly consoled me for many hours at a time; I even believed that the person that had sat next to me in the carriage had been the real, living Rosaline—and now even this hope has been taken away from me. 
Dare I even still ask how this relates to the apparition that you once wrote to me about?
Bianca is going to be buried today.  I saw her.  Laura adorned her with flowers, and the corpse once again looked so much like Rosaline that a shudder ran through every bone in my body.  I[had] often trembled in churches at the sight of relics bedecked with gold, flowers, and ribbons; the skeletons with their wreaths and their bare skulls, the glimmering gold and the individual flowers lolling round their empty eye-sockets, the glass-fronted reliquaries, have in the aggregate always seemed so peculiar and enigmatic to me; now this floral wreath entwined with sumptuous blonde tresses terrified me in the same fashion.  And in this state Bianca now lay before me.
Laura sat beside her and wept.  Time and again she called the deceased a sweet and virtuous young woman, and thereby beautified her own grief, and idealized herself and her condition.  It is a good thing if other people still know how to perform the indispensable act of lying to oneself; for my part, I have entirely lost the strength and will to do so.

Rosa to William Lovell

Dear friend, Andrea's papers have perhaps abased me as deeply as they have dispirited you.  I can picture your condition to myself; I sympathize with you.
You should never remind me of that letter in which I told you about Andrea's apparent miraculous ability to be in two places at the same time; I blush with shame every time I think about it; not because the entire episode alluded to in it casts Andrea in a particularly flattering light, which it does not; but rather because at the time I wrote it I allowed myself to be treated just like a child by that man, so that I dreamed up a thousand things at his command, so to speak, and firmly believed that they were real.  He deemed it proper to beguile me even before beguiling you, because he trusted nobody beyond a certain point; he never had any intention of making me his confidant in full, because had he done so, I would have enjoyed in perpetuity the option of betraying him; he had to make me see this option as an impossible one from my own point of view, because as an associate rather than a creature of his I was insufficiently dependent on him.   To be sure, I harbored reservations about the integrity of his character; but he never drew close enough to me that I was able to form any kind of distinct idea of him; his sagacity principally consisted in his evasion of every opportunity to become better acquainted with him; this was why he was all too glad from time to time to lose himself in the promulgation of commonplaces and crude tirades, as they allowed him to deflect his auditors' attention from himself as a person.
Whenever he visited me here in Tivoli, he would keep me in a state of constant suspense; all of our conversations centered on the world of the miraculous, and it cost him little effort to inflame my imagination, for you yourself know to what a high degree he possessed the gift of dramatic performance.   I was incapable of suppressing my desire to undergo genuinely miraculous experiences, and whenever this desire is especially keen, one comes to be in danger of interpreting such peculiar experiences as manifestations of actuality.  In such a case, the imagination is more susceptible to each impression, and the understanding is prepared to allow itself to be stifled.  But the worst part of it is a tenebrous, perilous kind of vanity that, in confederation with the imagination, effortlessly substitutes the fantastic for the quotidian--entirely for the sake of preventing us from hoping in vain.  This was the force that actuated my mind on that night.  Andrea returned to the city, and I remained brimming over with the strange stories and thoughts that he had imparted to me; I lost my way, and my disquietude increased along with the darkness.  At length, I crossed paths with those two men.  The one who guided me to the gate had a rather odd-looking face; it was only after I had subsequently reencountered Andrea that my escort came to resemble him in hindsight; indeed, perhaps I merely thought that it would have been interesting if he had resembled him.  Thus my imagination formed a composite image of the two faces, and within a mere half-hour I genuinely believed in its reality, and recoiled from it in horror.  It was in this frame of mind that I wrote that letter to you, and hence I was convinced of the truth of everything that I was writing.  In everyday life, the imagination hoodwinks us in this fashion whenever we substitute its poetic contrivances for truth, but especially when we are living in a perpetual state of credulous suspense.  The lies that we whisper to ourselves are every bit as inexcusable as those with which we hoodwink others.

William Lovell to Rosa
How true is your letter, and how lamentable it is that human life is so arranged that such a letter must be true!  Oh, if only I could buy back my lost years from time!  I now perceive for the first time what I am and what I could be.  For a long time I have aspired to make the exotic and the esoteric my stock-in-trade, and in virtue of this endeavor I have lost myself.  I was not cut out to understand and master other people; I was dragged under by a course of study that would have only spurred a greater mind on to greater heights.  To attain such heights, I would have been obliged to discover the good even in manifestations of inanity and folly, to spend my days improving myself, rather than heatedly castigating and contemning others.
Did I really have the right, depraved as I was, to say such disparaging things about mankind?  Oh Amalie!  Your holy name compels me to shed tears.  Would that your tutelary spirit had never forsaken me!   How happy would I then have been capable of becoming!
What do all ruminations and reveries, all free-thinking flights of fancy, amount to?  Luxuries and extravagances through the indulgence of which the wretched mind of man cannot but go to seed.  I could now easily enter a monastery; I could bury myself in a hermitage.

Rosa to William Lovell
Dear Lovell, I am determined to make you see that both you and Andrea have been mistaken in me.  I have no intention of frittering away my estate; rather, I plan to enjoy it in a temperately agreeable fashion—and in your company, of course.  You are now all alone in the world and quite forsaken; come to me at Tivoli; here there is room enough for both of us, and in a beauteous solitude your ailing spirit may recover something of its former strength.  Give no further thought to that inhumanly callous letter of mine that you received at Paris; I was compelled to write as I did in it because Andrea was still alive, but now I can act according to my will, and my will is to be a better person.
We have been made cleverer by Andrea; and now that we have, may his gloomy, hyperphysical wisdom be hanged!  We intend to enjoy life at a gentle pace.  I genuinely long to see you; do come as soon as you can.  I have already got everything set up for your residence here.  You shall now learn how much of a friend I have been to you as long as I have known you, and how often I was abased by the adversarial role I was obliged to play opposite you.

William Lovell to Rosa
Yes, Rosa: I accept your proposal; I am coming to you, for the sake, not of beginning another life of savagery and vagrancy, but rather of abandoning myself entirely to a tenebrous solitude suffused with dreams.  I shall expiate the sins that I have committed against humanity by caring for trees and flowers.   The prospect of my life is ascending like a faint rainbow in the midst of storm-clouds; I fancy that in Tivoli I could forget many of the things [that vex my spirit], and bury all of my troubled dreams of yesterday in a grave comprised by a still deeper dream of the present.  I feel as though I could be gladsome if I wished, as if I could recover my health and sanity.
Yes, I am coming to you soon, dear Rosa.  Why should it not be possible for the spirits that have  tormented me for so long to take their leave of me at last, and for me to breathe more freely again?
I have interred my entire life in the earth life like a corpse, and at its tomb I will sacrifice my most scalding tears, my most ardent regrets—a sweet and dolorous penance.  I have grievously sinned against love and friendship; I shall live in remembrance, in expiation, in days past, and in consequence perhaps there will swell within my soul a lustrously genial and wistful Indian summer.  And yet I still feel capable of loving; the moribund core of my inner self still shelters rays of eternity that long to shine forth; hence, from afar I will try to conciliate Amalie, Rosaline, and myself.  I have become purer; once again, I shall dare to set my hopes as high as eternity itself, as everlasting love.  Let him push me into the deepest abyss; my yearning, my craving for love, shall nonetheless reach upwards to him; he cannot and will not extirpate this radical principle of my soul, and thus my very pangs of sorrow will blossom into a calyx of happiness.  Thus I intend to die, and even you will love me, and I shall be your friend.  Then, ameliorated, sanctified, purified, we shall approach the throne of our divine judge.
Oh, I must hasten to you, lest everything should come to naught.  Charles Wilmont is here in Rome; I believe that he has seen me.  I shall come as quickly as possible.

Charles Wilmont to Mortimer
It is done; we are both at peace, he and I.  By "he" I mean Lovell.  I found him at Rome; he took fright as soon as he saw me, and from then onwards tried to hide from me.  I kept my eye out for him, and quite early the following morning, I ran into him in the street.  Now he could not escape me; he was obliged to follow me.
I was carrying two pistols; he was silent and uncommunicative.  We walked through the Porta Capena and thence through the ruins.  He seemed to be almost outside himself, for he kept muttering confused sentences intended for nobody else's hearing.   We were passing by a small house; he stopped, then stood for a long time gazing into its front window, until I lost my patience and gave him a push in the direction we were heading.  He looked up, plucked a mallow from a small garden nearby, and exclaimed in astonishment, "The mallows are blooming yet again!"  Then he fastened the flower to his breast and said that now I could scarcely miss his heart.
We were now far enough away from the highway.  We measured out our places; he took one of the pistols.  After looking round a few times, he pulled the trigger and missed me; I fired, and the flower and his breast were blown to pieces.  I fled in haste to Naples.
And now I am discontented with myself.  I cannot comprehend how I was so bewitched by the vulgar lust for revenge as to be unmoved by him.  Might I not have left him with his meager pittance of a life, given that he may well have had not a single other article to his name?  What good does the fact that he is no longer breathing do Emily and me?
Adieu!  From here I am departing for America.  I am tempted thither by the war; there surely must be a place left in the British army for a man as weary of life as I am, a man who can yet imagine dying to the best of his ability for his king and country.  Present my compliments to my sister and Edward.

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Translation © 2010 by Douglas Robertson