Friday, July 30, 2010


(For a PDF version of this essay, go to The Worldview Annex.)

Exactly one year, one month, and thirty days have elapsed since the Haydn bicentenary.  Two hundred years ago today (give or take a month and thirty days), the cannons that were pummeling the Austrian capital on May 11, 1809 had long since fallen silent, and Napoleon had long since withdrawn from the Austrian capital his forces, presumably including the sentry he had posted in front of the great composer's house; and the great composer himself had not only died and been buried but had also been exhumed and reburied minus his head.  Meanwhile, back in the merry old third millennium, the classical music appreciation industry, to the lukewarm extent that it ever was in Haydnland to begin with, has moved on to a year much more richly cluttered with composers' anniversaries (and with generally more illustrious ones at that) than was '09: there are Chopin's and Schumann's 200th birthdays, Mahler's 150th birthday, and Bach's 260th deathday, to name just a few.

I, too, have done some moving in the meantime, albeit not so much on as around; that is to say, as much within as without the perimeter of Haydnland.  For as I said in more than so many words on May 31, 2009, filling in the gaps—or, more often, chasms—in one's acquaintance with the Haydnian corpus is work, and over the past year I have indeed been slaving away in the non-Salzburgian salt-mine that is Haydnian personal music library acquisitions to the extent that my Kulturbudget will permit.  The single most important addition to my Haydn collection since May of '09 is undoubtedly Decca's bicentenary reissue of Antal Dorati's early-70s complete cycle of the symphonies.  This is the only complete Haydn symphony cycle I have ever owned, a collection that, until I snapped it up in toto last summer, I had formerly only sampled a few discs—both compact and long-playing—at a time.  Since then, for the first time ever, I have been able to amble a leisurely museum-visitor's way through all 104 numbers of the Hoboken catalogue in sequence (rather than in shuffle from, say, No. 22 to No. 103 and thence back to 47, and so on, a barbarous regimen enforced in virtually every single disc of the Naxos collection) and as performed by a single group of musicians on a single generation of instruments (as opposed to every ensemble from Roy Goodman's historically-informed Hanover Band [who turned every symphony into a de facto harpsichord concerto], to Colin Davis's state-of- the-late-twentieth-century-art Concertgebouw to Flacco Rodriguez's Mariachi Combo de la Ilustración.).  To say that this leisurely cursus has afforded me a revelation or epiphany would scarcely be an overstatement.  What it has revealed or epipphed to me is that from about No. 40 onwards, all of the Haydn symphonies—not just some of them, but all of them—are veritable masterpieces.  I know such an assertion flies in the face of received dumb-dom which, even among the majority of Haydnophiles, holds that Haydn got off to a very slow start in hewing and molding the symphony into the lean (or sometimes fat), mean, dramatizing and expressing machine that everyone has expected it to be since his death; that he found the symphony the mid-eighteenth century equivalent of a digital greeting-card jingle, a sub-trivial, bon-bon sized genre clocking in at a maximum of ten minutes; that for about the first 20 years or 80 Hoboken numbers he was basically content to leave it as he had found it, that even as late as 1780 he was still basically just shitting out interchangeable symphonic turds that were admittedly slightly longer than his early efforts, but scarcely more adventurous in formal or instrumental terms; that he could really be consistently arsed to get off his keister and write a truly memorable modern symphony with a grudging handful of its fixins only upon receiving the commission for the Paris symphonies (Nos. 83-87, from 1786); and that out of his entire symphonic output only some six of the last twelve symphonies (the so-called London set of 1791 to 1795) are actually indispensable to the repertoire.

Case in point of this received dumb-dom: Norman Lebrecht's February 18, 2009 La Scena Musicale column entitled "How to get a handle on Haydn."  Before encountering this column towards the end of last year I had regarded Lebrecht as an ally of sorts in my fight on behalf of Haydn against the virtually uncontested supremacy of Mozart; indeed, I had derived much of my moral courage to write "Haydn Seek" (along, possibly if inadvertently, with the whole of its title) from two of his earlier columns dating from the Mozart jubilee year of 2006—the first  bashing Wolfgang Amadeus more unabashedly than perhaps anyone since Archbishop Hieronymus Coloredo of Salzburg had dared to do, the second rallying his readers round the standard of Haydnophilia three years in advance of the festivities in the hope of making 2009 the best Haydn anniversary year ever.  So, as I was sort of saying, towards the end of last year, I dropped in on Lebrecht's La Scena page to see how he was, erm, handling the big year, and was distressed to alight upon this column, a veritable Dear John letter terminating our four-year old Haydnophilic romance; a screedlet that revealed him to be a true Mozartophile's Haydnophile, a Haydnian dilettante's dilettante, a traitor to the Cause of Causes; a sheet of electronic bum fodder positively blackened with glib misinformation, cavalier calumnies, speaker cone-shredding howlers, and wig-uncurling untruths about my beloved Papa Haitch.  "Haydn," reports Lebrecht, "tried to make his symphonies more sellable by giving them names.  The 92nd is titled Oxford because he conducted it there for his honorary doctorate.  The Surprise (94) administers a polite little shock, and the Clock (101) goes tick-tock."  Largely wrong: the only Haydn symphonies, as far as I know, that were publicly nicknamed by the composer are the frankly programmatic Nos. 6, "Le Matin," ("Morning"), 7, "Le Midi" ("Noon"), and 8, "Le Soir" ("Evening"), collectively intended as a sort of triadic-cum-diurnal analogue to Vivaldi's Four Seasons; and No. 69, the "Laudon," christened in honor of an Austrian military officer.  A few others (e.g., Nos. 55, "The Schoolmaster," and 64, "Tempora Mutantur") derive their sobriquets from the marginalia of Haydn's original manuscripts, or of the instrumental parts for the Esterhazy orchestra (parts that were indeed handwritten, but by some other hand than Haydn's).  The rest, including the "Oxford," the "Surprise," and the "Clock," owe their monikers to the same person to whom is owed a good 90 per cent of all musical AKAs, Mr. or Mrs. Unidentified Nineteenth-Century Music Lover of Some Musical Backwater Like Königsberg or Poughkeepsie.  Elsewhere, Lebrecht writes, after a promising start in which he credits FJH with being the "inventor of both the symphony and the string quartet" (basically true but not incontrovertible): "Haydn, though, was not content to create the moulds.  He went on to fill them with 104 symphonies and 68 quartets, adroit and diverting but seldom edge-of-seat gripping"; then, later: "Anyone who works his way through a batch of Haydn scores will soon recognize that he is not a composer who, like Mozart or Beethoven, shows consistent novelty and strength of will.  For much of his life Haydn led the orchestra in a country house at Esterhazy, writing to amuse the idle gentry in long winter evenings.  His requirement was to produce new works but not demonstrably to innovate.  The Hungarian aristos who paid his keep did not want to have their conversations disturbed by anything out of the ordinary. […]  He was a conservative artist, charming and conventional.  Recordings of the London symphonies by Antal Dorati, Neville Marriner and Nikolaus Harnoncourt are as lively as Haydn ever gets."  First to the bit about consistent novelty and strength of will: that Beethoven did evince such qualities, and in greater abundance than did Haydn, I freely grant (in condign heedlessness of such counterexamples as Wellington's Victory and The Mount of Olives).  But it must be remembered that Beethoven produced only a total of about 160 pieces of music, as against Haydn's more than "5,000 items" (paces galore, Norm); the price he paid for his hyper-consistent novelty was many long stretches of non-production.  For a composer who (in Lebrecht's words) "could write three [works] in a week" in antipodal contrast to the "frugal" Arnold Schoenberg, who "never wrote more than one opus a year," Haydn is pretty darned consistently novel and strong-willed, certainly by comparison with the comparably prolific Mozart, on the score of whose upteaming with Ludwig van as a breathmate, one cannot but exclaim to Norman, "Come now, son, don't be p-p-preposterous!"  Lebrecht of all people ought to—and once did—know that Wolfgang Amadeus is or ought to be the very byword of artistic spottiness; that no more than eight of his operas (a set by no means coextensive with his last eight) deserve to be staged or recorded; that his first 20 or so symphonies amount to but so many yards of lineated and annotated loo-paper (which is admittedly not quite as bad a thing as the same amount and kind of "bum fodder"); and that in a world ruled by chamber music-aficionados rather than television-viewers, "Compose the Prussian Quartets" rather than "Jump the Shark" would be the most widely-current argotic synecdoche for "outlive one's creative prime."  For all this, to be sure, Mozart qua individual creative genius is only partly to blame.  After all, he came of age (or, to be more precise, puberty) before the period of Haydn's first efflorescence of fame, during the heyday of Johann Christian Bach, when composers were expected to toss off ten compositions a week, when consistent novelty was assuredly not yet at a premium in the musical world; and consequently he started out by producing a welter of unmemorable material.  In the early 1770s, he became acquainted with some of Haydn's Sturm und Drang symphonies and opp. 9 and 20 string quartets, and was inspired by them to slow down, to refine and elaborate his technique, and—yes—to try to do something new in each new composition, whence the masterpieces of his late teens through early thirties, from which the very last works, including the Prussian Quartets and excepting The Magic Flute, mark a perceptible decline.  Twenty years later, Beethoven, goaded on by Haydn's and Mozart's examples, tried, mostly successfully, to one-up both of them—whence his greater consistency of novelty but also his diminished output.  For Pete's sake, Norm, this is the way the history of music worked from about 1750 to 1920[1]: the harder it got to say anything new, the longer became the gap between finished opera, at least among the most perceptive and ambitious composers; such that Schoenberg's "frugality" can hardly be chalked up to mere temperamental at-odds-ness with Haydnian prodigality.  Related to Lebrecht's misprision of Haydn's novelty is his viscerally repellent and equally wrongheaded notion of FJH as a "conservative" composer and a kind of one-man Fordian musical bon-bon factory, pouring dollop after dollop of symphonic and quartetic goo into standardized, pre-formed "mo[u]lds."  Regardless of whether Haydn was "required" by the "Hungarian aristos who paid his keep" to "innovate" (and the historical record suggests that the aristo who paid his keep the longest, Prince Nicolaus "The Magnificent" Esterházy, did not care one hootlet about what Haydn wrote for the orchestra or any other sort of ensemble, provided Haydn kept him well stocked with compositions for the baryton, the only instrument the Prince could proficiently play), the fact is, he did innovate, knowingly; and, indeed, that far from blaming his isolation at Esterház for hindering this innovation, he regarded it as the principal stimulus thereunto: "There was no one near me to confuse and torment me," he said, according to his Boswell, Alois Griesenger, "and thus I was forced to become original."  If he was not original enough for Mr. Lebrecht, it was not for want of trying consistently, nay doggedly, to be original according to his own lights; and succeeding according to those of any listener with the atom of imagination required not to think of every recurrence of an Allegro/Adagio/Allegretto Minuet/Allegro tempo scheme as the clone-like product of a "mo[u]ld."  For in truth there are very few of those 104 symphonies, the pre-Parisian ones especially included, that do not contrive to do something that no one had thought to do before in a piece of extended instrumental music, and—what is even more important—do it in a way that makes sense in the setting of the larger argument of the piece as a whole; such that equally very few of them may be termed superfluous to the development of the symphony as a genre.  The best-known of these innovatory symphonies qua essay in pioneering is probably No. 45, the so-called "Farewell." As everybody who has heard of this work knows, it breaks the aforementioned mold, such as it is, by rounding itself out in an adagio instead of an allegro, thereby setting a precedent for such (much) later symphonic adagio finales as those of Tchaikovsky's Sixth and Mahler's Ninth.  What fewbodies consider, though, is the technical finesse Haydn exhibits in this finale in keeping the lines of his melody and accompaniment running continuously from the first measures, in which they have the entire orchestra at their disposal, to the last, in which they must make do with a single pair of violins.  The adagio-for-allegro switcheroo may be quasi-legitimately dismissed as a brainwave-induced gimmick, but this second feat is indisputably a genuine, trailblazing tour de force; a veritable down-thrown gauntlet that was really fully taken up only a century-and-a-half later, by Alban Berg via the disappearing viola line at the end of his Lyric Suite of 1926.  To these apples, and to incontestably devastating effect, Mr. Lebrecht would presumably retort "Gauntlet, schmauntlet," in the clipped, nasal tones of his native London postcode (NW1 is my guess).

But what really drives me up my goat about Mr. Lebrecht's unacknowledged Haydnian palinode is his linking of Haydn's supposed failure to innovate and supposed desultoriness of inspiration to the supposedly no less-pernicious defect of insufficient "liveliness," of his failure to "grip our seats" with his music.  (Incidentally, I believe that according to established idiom it is the listener or spectator himself rather than the theatrical or musical piece attended to that grips or omits to grip a seat during a performance; but after all, the first casualty of journalistic word-count limits is syntax.)  Not that I would assert that Haydn's instrumental works generally possess this sedi-adhesive quality in uniformly copious abundance from first note to last; and indeed, a goodly portion of the increase in heft that I have extolled in Haydn's middle symphonies is owing to an increase in the length of the adagio or slow movement, of that module of the symphony that makes absolutely no pretense of wanting to make the listener grip his seat, and whose Haydnian version Hans Keller has distinguished under the name of the decidedly sedi-repellent quality of "reposefulness."[2]  Nor does it come as any kind of news to me that certain people are bored by this intermittent sedi-repellent quality in Haydn's music.  I recall reading not many years ago that during his time at Philadelphia Riccardo Muti had had to contend with a steadily diminishing audience during a performance of the Seven Last Words.  And just the other week I caught no less rabid a Haydnophile than the latish H. C. Robbins Landon conceding, in the pages of his zoning-law defying Symphonies of Joseph Haydn that "emotionally [the slow movements of Haydn's symphonies of 1771-1774, a subset of the middle-period swathe whose magisterial quality I have newly discovered] require tremendous concentration on the part of player and audience["…/and that "f]ull of delicate emotion and intricate passage work for the violins, they are often of great length, leaving the listener exhausted."  No: what bothers me about Mr. Lebrecht's particular boredom registration card is its suggestion that boringness, even in moderate doses, on its own suffices to disqualify a piece of music from admission into the pantheon of proper, first-rate, grade-AAA masterpieces; for if such a cultivated, intelligent man as Mr. Lebrecht, a man who has after all done more than his fair share of cheerleading for unpopular, non-edge of the seat gripping music, can be brought to maintain such a position vis-à-vis the corpus of a composer of Haydn's stature, what hope is there not only for such other hall-clearing musical corpora as those of Bruckner and Schnittke, but for anything or anyone worth twice a look or listen on this goshforsaken ball of dust?

By way of accounting for that wild leap from a very few things to a very many things at the end of the previous sentence, a brief review of our nursery school metaphysics is perhaps not amiss here:  We humans are finite beings that exist within and at the behest of that  implacable old mule-driver, Time; as are and do all of the objects and phenomena by which we are surrounded and permeated—from fire engines to petunias to rainbows to—yes—Haydn symphonies.  Now, Time being not only implacable but also sadistic has seen to it that only very rarely do any two given entities have the same amount of him at their disposal at the same, well, time; whence, the inevitability of recursive if transient boredom—for boredom is simply the irritation occasioned at any given moment by the sense that the person or thing currently demanding your attention has more time at its disposal than you do.  If I am in an especial hurry to get somewhere or to do something, my threshold of boredom will be very low, and if I have nowhere in particular to be or nothing in particular to do until, say, next Christmas, this threshold will be very high.  You, DGR, may be the most gifted raconteur since Oscar Wilde or Soupy Sales, you may be the sort of person who can, as they say (or should say), mesmerize perspective-defying table-lengths of auditors with an anecdote about his latest trip to the supermarket; but I am likely to be literally albeit prosaically bored to distraction by the most fire code-floutingly top-shelf of your anecdotes if I myself have to make a trip to the supermarket in the next ten minutes, on pain of breaking my fast tomorrow with a spoonful of dry, stale Grape Nuts.  Tell me the same story tomorrow over platefuls of the bangers, mash, scrapple, chitterlings, etc. that I will, it is to be hoped, have managed to secure by then, and I will be all ears—until, that is, I realize about ten minutes into it that this narrative bears an uncanny resemblance to a yarn you spun for me a few months ago.  "Last night," I shall say to myself, "you had me fooled because the supermarket in question was a Sainsbury's whereas in the earlier story it had been a Tesco's.  And now you think you have me fooled because the item mis-marked 2/$2.95 is a Cuban sandwich whereas before it was a po-boy.  But I can see well enough that the entire point of this Erzählung, just like that of the other сказ, is going to be a misplaced one of the decimal variety, regardless of whether the discoverer of the misplacement turns out to be a Dominican stock-lad (as in the last one) or a Pomeranian charcutier."  And at this point, assuming that I am too polite or forgiving or cowardly to interrupt you, I will begin to exercise my boredman's prerogative of attempting to put my time to some better use; I will begin to fill in the present interval with daydreams about my next trip to the supermarket, or about the menu of my next breakfast, or perhaps even about that middle-period Haydn symphony that has been, as they say, in heavy rotation on my turntable this week.  From this corny but serviceable little thought fable-cum-experiment one can see, first of all, that although it is perforce always experienced in the present, boredom is at least as much an affair of one's general trans-temporal disposition towards an object, as shaped by one's accumulated memory of it and related objects, as it is of one's present attitude towards it.  In averring "This anecdote bores me," the first time round, on the night of my exigent shopping deadline, I would merely have been registering how I was feeling then; in uttering the same string of words the second time round, I would also have effectively been making a prediction, a prediction to the effect of "This anecdote will never interest me again."   By the end of the second retailing of the anecdote I had learned, as it were, to be bored by it.  This brings me to the second moral of the thought fable-cum-experiment: suspense(a. k. a. that quality which induces "edge of the seat-gripping")  is the most perishable—albeit also the most immediately potent—of all antigens to boredom, and rarely survives even the most cursory or inattentive acquaintance-making session with an object.  Such that whoever or whatever you are, to the extent that your aim is to be un-boring over the long haul, you had better have more going for you than a flair for eliciting the question "What is going to happen next?" As for Moral Number Three, it is illustrated by the sub-episode centering on the boredman's prerogative, and reads as follows:  Thanks to the operations of the miraculous faculty of memory, one need not be in sensuous proximity to an object in order to be interested in (i.e., un-bored by) it.  Finally, and most comprehensively, I present Moral Number Four: Between failing to keep other people gripping their seats and failing to be kept gripping our own seats by them, along with their various non-personal fellow attention-seekers, the admittedly comparatively tepid non-sensuously-immediate interest of Moral No. 3 is about the only form of non-boredom that we can even dream of inspiring in others or reliably depend on to enjoy ourselves—whence my seeming hysteria over the fate of "anything or anyone worth twice a look or listen."

But never mind anything or anyone else worth twice a look or listen: let us stick for the moment to applying the above morals to Haydn, and specifically to the adagios of those middle-period symphonies that I have come to admire so much.  Now, I concede, on the evidence of my own listening history, that the seat-gripping quotient of these adagios is pretty near to zero; I concede, that is, not only that they "require tremendous concentration" and that "they leave the listener exhausted," but that, having little patience for being left exhausted by anything, I am generally not up to these requirements and that, like a charity marathon runner who does not scruple to walk the entire course, as a first-time listener to a Haydn symphony I do not even make the feeblest effort to meet them.  Indeed, during these initial test-drives, I am more than content to listen by default, and, as it were, reflexively, with all the drooling, witless curiosity of an unregenerate seat-groper, allowing the adagio to wash over and into me like a protracted ear-douche qua preliminary to the inevitably much more exciting allegro or presto finale.  If I were confined to listening to these adagios in the conditions imposed on Haydn's original audiences (i.e., on average one time per adagio, and in counterpoint to the muted strings-outdrowning chit-chat  of my fellow "aristos") it is highly likely that my appreciation of them would end here; and I can even imagine it not going much farther if I were obliged, as H. C. Robbins Landon doubtless was in the 1950s, to hearken to their [Quarter Note] = 60 pianissimo strains against a burden of 33 or 78 RPM surface noise crescendoing from mezzo-forte on the first listening to triple fortissimo on the twentieth.  But as I, like all other inhabitants of the early 21st century, may listen to anything I own a recording of at will-cum-ad infinitum, and with no loss of fidelity from repeated playings, I am correlatively liberated from the shackles of mandatory seat-gripping-oriented listening; such that upon the third or fourth listening, a given recorded performance of a Haydn symphony ceases to seem like an event and begins to seem more like a place, one whose principal landmarks I can easily distinguish but whose intervening geography I am as yet only partly able to trace.  At this point, too, my recollected experience of the work begins to overtake my immediately perceived experience thereof, such that I find myself thinking about it many times as minutes as I ever could have possibly spent listening to it.  In a way this is nothing more esoteric than the familiar phenomenon of being unable to get a tune out of one's head, with the difference that whereas the tune, having originated as the only salient component of one of those monolithically amoeboid musical organisms known as a pop song, can do nothing but pace back and forth inside one's skull like a bored zoo inmate, and hence induce nothing but boredom in the zookeeper, the symphony, in generally entering one's mind in little paired scraps of melody that may lie many measures—sometimes even several movements apart—will invariably set one off on a decidedly unbored search for a connection between them.  And as an impetus to such a search, a scrap from a grip-repellent adagio will generally have the advantage of a scrap from a comparatively grip-attracting allegro, in that having been less intelligibly assimilated to the lie of the surrounding land at listening-time, it requires more attentive step-retracing at recollection-time.

If the preceding paragraph appears to picture the normative mode of appreciating a Haydn symphony as an exercise that makes even so arid a diversion as solving a crossword puzzle seem positively sky-diving-esque; and, moreover, appears to fly in the face of everything I said last year about Haydn's being a dramaturgical as opposed to an architectural composer, I am sorry.  For make no mistake: I still do believe that the best way to enjoy a Haydn symphony is to listen to it straight through, and that such start-to-finish listening is infinitely more profitably directed at a Haydn symphony than at a fugue by J. S. Bach.  But I also maintain that such listening benefits inestimably from more oblique and non-temporally sequential reflection on the work, which (I would also argue) constitutes an inalienable and not necessarily marginal part of one's aesthetic experience of it.  Moreover, in the light of my depreciation of "edge of the seat-gripping" in the present essay, it surely behooves me to issue a corrigendum to my earlier characterization of dramatic interest as consisting in an eager expectation of "what will happen next."  Yes (as I have already conceded) eager expectation does strongly contribute to the sustenance of our interest in a Haydn symphony the first time through, but (as I have already asserted) it can perforce have nothing to do with what keeps us coming back to it.  Why, then, subsequent to our first complete audition of one of these symphonies, once we broadly know what is going to happen, would we not do as well to listen to the individual movements in reverse order, or in random order, or in isolation amid the hurly-burly of a so-called classical party mix, as in the order assigned to them by the composer?  Because Haydn (it seems to me) has placed those particular movements in that particular order for a reason, the reason being that he wants us to experience time at different rates within a given so-called time frame.  The deliberate pace and deliberative tenor of a Haydn adagio, with its initially seemingly (and only initially seemingly!) endless and interchangeable melodic periods punctuated by silences, is a well-placed (or indeed well-timed or timely) reminder, after the teleologically industrious bustle of the Allegro and the frankly unreflective festivity of the minuet, that things do not simply and automatically happen in time, or perhaps that time exists for some purpose other than happening.  On the other hand, to wrest this selfsame adagio from the more outgoing neighborhood of its surrounding movements and listen to it on its own would be to traduce its spirit and assimilate it by default to the ignoble-as-all-get-out autotherapeutic pseudo-traditions of easy listening, meditation, and stress relief.  For the relation between the two[3] modes of time-passage, the industrious or outgoing one and the deliberate or introspective one, is dialectical: they depend upon and reinforce each other by being experienced in sequential juxtaposition.  So at bottom, for me it is the power of Haydn's music to compel us (or, at any rate, me) to live through this juxtaposition that renders it preeminently dramatic as that of no composer before and precious few since has been, and puts paid to the myth of the perennially good-natured, glad-handing "Papa Haydn" more definitively than the discovery of a shed-load of minor-key Sturm und Drang Haydn symphonies ever could do—this not because there is so much as a suspicion of misanthropy in Haydn's adagios, but rather because in virtue of their propinquity to these slow movements even the most exuberantly high-spirited of his allegros are imbued with a poignancy that precludes their assimilation to a worldview of unreflective optimism.  It seems to me, moreover, that such a version of the dramatic mode is the only one befitting beings of our peculiar metaphysical constitution; beings, that is, incessantly and simultaneously compelled to move forward by time, and to look backward by memory, beings who labor under the full metaphysical burden of the epigraph to Haydn's Symphony No. 64:  "Tempora mutantur, et nos in illis."  If this sort of drama seems a trifle anemic, a tad lackluster, a smidge lacking in oomph, to you, DGR, I beg you to (re)consider the only practicable alternative to it, namely an exclusively teleological, one-way, hyperwhiggish, mule driver-humping, perennially blinkered Fleetwood-Mackian edge-of the-seat-gripper's drama, one that in maintaining that "yesterday's gone," "never stops thinking about tomorrow"; the drama of the endlessly sequelable blockbuster movie; of the superhero-centered comic book running into its ninth decade and nine thousandth number, of the football, baseball, hockey, and basketball seasons ("Without sports, there wouldn't be a next year"); of the lottery and the casino; of the Olympics; of the sitcom; of the soap opera; of the quest-themed video game; of the spoiler warning.  If you will but briefly consider the situations of all of these things in the world of the present, DGR, I trust you will find that my anxiety over the fate of "anything worth twice a look or listen" comes to seem at least a trifle less hysterical.         

[1] Since 1920, in contrast, there has been a general dilation of productivity, at least among composers who bother with things like scores and opus numbers; and this dilation has been attended by a corresponding smoothing away of the characterizing contours of individual works.  Alfred Schnittke's corpus is positively Telemannian in size, but each of the three concertos for solo instrument plus orchestra he wrote in the mid-1980s (for violin, viola, and cello, respectively) is as good as any of the others at giving one an idea of his compositional habitus in those years.
[2] See "Haydn-seek."
[3]Or more candidly, "two or more"; for I am by no means certain that minuet time and finale time can even schematically be lumped in with first-movement time and distinguished from adagio time.

Friday, July 09, 2010

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

William Lovell
Book Seven
Charles Wilmont to Mortimer

Perhaps you assume that I am still at Bondly, and are surprised to see this letter postmarked at London? [Well], Mortimer, I would not willingly prolong your bemusement, [and] I really do feel that I can be nowhere but here.

I spent four happy days at Bondly by Emily’s side, and by God, I have not regretted for a moment since that I set off again thence so quickly. Would it not be rather shabby of me to marry her straight away with her dowry, and then live a life of ease at her expense? It is entirely up to me, but the first thought that entered my head with the news of Burton’s death, was that I would be a shabby fellow [indeed] if I were to do it. You are aware that I had several glowing letters of introduction to the Home Secretary, and he received me as warmly as I could expect; I am now working for him. I told Emily of my plan as soon as I arrived at Bondly, and she found nothing whatsoever disallowable in it. My consciousness of her love accompanies me to my desk, and the most difficult tasks greet me with a smile; we are both young, and so our wedding may be postponed for a year or a bit longer; during this interval I expect to receive a promotion, and thereupon to oblige her with at least a small dose of good fortune.

I smile at the thought of how I formerly slighted all things serious and lasting in life and endeavored only to see her as often as possible, and of how I am now sitting here willingly exiled from her and turning my cold common sense into cold hard cash for my own pocket. But until now I was unsure of her.

Now and then I scold myself for being so sincerely happy. People (among whom I number) are absolute fools. They find it easier to regard a gloomy, froward sensibility—wherefrom all objects are [but] darkly and unrecognizably reflected—rather than a merry disposition, as the basis of virtue. I naturally do not revel in Burton’s death, in the fact that he is now [finally] out of my way—oh, no!—but merely in the smooth and even path that now suddenly lies before me through no act of my own. Human beings are entirely worthy creatures in that regard, and good for me that I also strike myself as such a thoroughly important and significant entity that I relate everything I meet with to myself and my future happiness! Let us lay aside all grand cosmopolitan schemes, drive [away] every troubled thought about world events, and heartily embrace ourselves and our fellow men, whom heaven in its beneficence has planted so thickly round us! I intend [to comply with] this sentiment, to pursue this project; and you, my dear Mortimer, are shut in with my beloved, but also with my sister, to whom, along with everyone else in your house who should ask after me–even the loathsome Charlotte, whom you find so repulsive—you must present my compliments.

Mortimer to Charles Wilmont

Roger Place

Your compliments to Charlotte you may deliver yourself at the earliest opportunity, for I speak to her only with the greatest reluctance; everyone else is [solicitous of your welfare,] and they all offer hearty thanks for the cheerful goodwill with which you remember them. I liked your letter very much, Charles, for it bespeaks an obliging humaneness; we should all feel as you do, and then man would make a garden for himself out of this barren earth.
No, you need make no excuses for yourself, you dear, artless soul.  Is it not inherent in our nature to welcome happiness wherever we find it? Your soul has retained its innocence, and even though the sufferings of others elicit the most mirthful laughter from you, you will never know evil.
In any case, I am very pleased with your plan; this working life will make a man of you, for the great advantage of employment is that it summons forth the powers of our mind, which left to itself is often of little value. Most people never know what to do with their time unless they are forced to fill it with some ordered series of tasks; unoccupied, they are all too prone to go to seed even in spirit, and are subsequently useless for any kind of work; even if they are willing to work, their existence has been torn to shreds by countless perpetual distractions, and they become a burden even to themselves.
By dint of activity that is neither immoderate nor [overly] complicated, you will soon feel your mind becoming more elastic, and Emily too will profit from this elasticity.
May all of your desires be fulfilled, but take care not to collapse under the weight of your resolutions.
Bianca to William Lovell
I see you so rarely nowadays, you stubborn dreamer, and even then only for a few fleeting moments at a time! All of my joking and mischievousness stays up late for nothing when you are with me; you maintain your reserve, and only every now and then smile a smile that is half sympathetic and half forced, in order not to make me angry. Is this the same Lovell whom my lustful eyes desired a year ago?
Laura is with me, and just now we were talking about your insufferable sullenness. The thought that we have got so used to you, nay, that we love you so much, is enough to drive us to despair! It’s been all we can do not to write sonnets about you; but take care [,lest we do write them, and] they turn out to be satires!
Oh, you men! Is it not inconceivably foolish on your part to undergo countless humiliations to win our favor, and then to contemn it once you have finally obtained it? Must you not consider yourself fortunate to be loved by two [beautiful] young Roman ladies, my friend and myself—not for your money, but because you are Lovell? But you are a cold, northern devil who tortures me, and contemptuously ignores me [despite] my fervent love [for him], and walks away!
Perhaps you have business affairs, lawsuits, and other things to worry about back in your native country? Oh, let go of all that, and take pleasure in life and love! What does everything else amount to? It is not even worth talking about. Oh, I have heard you swear as much into my bosom, you turncoat! Come [to me], and do not perjure yourself, but rather repeat your oath.
This pen is quite a clumsy instrument in these unsecretarial fingers of mine, but would that these gnarled and awkwardly-indited ink-strokes were magic runes that could summon you irresistibly hither!

Francesco to William Lovell
You were unmistakably peevish with me yesterday because Adriano and I interrupted your tryst with Bianca, but I hope I left soon enough afterwards that I can patch things up with you [today]. With [every particle] of good humor in me, I offer you my hand towards our reconciliation, for it would be unforgivable for us to become enemies [so soon before] your departure.
If I were not somewhat too fat, I would accompany you and take this opportunity of finally getting a glimpse of some countries other than Italy, but I am very much a prisoner of myself because travel never gets an anything of me. It’s strange that when one eats well one finds it tiring to climb a mountain afterwards. For the time being, [it looks as though] we can’t enjoy everything fine and pleasurable all at once.
When I think about my inquisitive soul, which sits bound in such ungainly and heavy fetters, and yet is so eager to learn about and experience so many new things, I start feeling genuinely sorry for myself. Back when I used to ramble fairly far and widely on foot, I thought I had the lion’s share of the world right there in front of me for my contemplation; now I have it all in front of me in little, in engravings, and I have to make do with those. But then, what does one have to show for a whole journey when one arrives back home?
Don’t drink any really cold water when you alight from your carriage or horse; for I know from my own experience that that is very bad for one’s health.
Never stay attached to a girl in one town for more than a day; you’ll get nothing but ingratitude in return.
Remember to inspect your carriage carefully to make sure it isn’t missing any axle-pins, so you don’t suddenly lose a wheel and have an almighty crash.
Always take a few bottles of especially good wine with you; otherwise there is no telling what shift you will be put to in one of those fleabag inns where a person will often chew on the most miserable victuals just to avoid haggling with the landlord.

Postilions are at their best when they are half drunk.
If you must bring your friends souvenirs of the natural landscape, it is always best form to buy them at the last station and then swear that you tore them with your own hands from the living [tree or] mountainside or whatever; one can furnish a merry hour indeed to many people with such a tale.
Beware especially of the morning dew; it is disagreeable to get sick while on the road.
Never refrain from throwing away a few kisses and caresses on the charwomen; by means of this household remedy you will procure yourself much better soups.
At an inn, one need never keep track of the reckoning, for it will simply and quite accurately keep track of itself; one thereby saves on coach fare for a while.
Treat your servant as roughly as you can; otherwise he will be your master throughout the trip. In a foreign country you can abuse him the most, because he will surely be grateful enough to God [that] you aren’t going to bring him back home.
I regard you as my true friend, for I am at all events yours; and so I have imparted to you a few bits of wisdom that I abstracted for my own use once upon a time when I was on the road. At the very least this letter in toto ensures that you will think about me every now and then during your journey; and that is enough, nay, more than enough, for me; and in virtue of it I shall be able to boast in all candor to our Andrea that while sending you off I have given you first-rate counsel.
But do visit me one more time, tomorrow evening; you will be greeted by a jolly confederacy of boon companions.
William Lovell to Rosa
I have not yet stopped anywhere, and for that reason you have not yet received a letter from me; but here I intend to take a few days’ respite from the tedium of my journey.
I wish that I had not been obliged to partake of that merry evening at our Francesco’s house, for now I am all the more grievously oppressed by my solitude, and by the sense of my distance from you and all of our friends. Already amid that gaiety, amid that raucous laughter, I pictured my solitary carriage driving between mournful mountaintops, and now I am sitting here in a strange city, completely isolated, immersed in a variety of meditations and remembrances. Nothing is more inimical and distressing to me than the eve of any departure; one is fatigued and bewildered by packing and arranging, in the course of which the gloom of night closes in, and one is presently wandering, candle in hand, through this room and that one, so as not to forget anything; trunks and valises are snapped shut, and we are thereby so vividly reminded of how our entire life is patched together out of such wretched necessities, how we load up such otiose indispensables, how paltry a thing—indeed, almost no thing at all—we are in ourselves and on our own. My attendant’s [nervously officious] loitering, the imposing emptiness of the rooms, my thoughts of the journey—all this adds up to a dark allegory of the inimical machinery of human life, wherefrom every cogwheel and gear cries out ever so piercingly, and of which exigency is the prime mover. Then mountains and valleys flit past my senses like shadows; I await daybreak uneasily, as if my death must arrive [with it].
With the first jolt of the carriage, my apprehensive [musings] cease; then I forget the town that I am leaving behind, that I shall perhaps never see again, or only [refracted] through an entirely different [set of] emotions.
In the most uncivilized parts of the Piedmont range, I often felt happy in a strange way; I thought about the incident with the thieves that had befallen me there more than two years earlier. I often fancied that Balder was about to emerge from some darkened mountain path, or that the passenger [sitting opposite me in the coach/in the coach ahead of me] could be none other than Amalie; often the faces that I encountered bore a striking resemblance to those that I desired to see.

His eyes all bleary
In night’s dread gloom
The infant passes
Through life, his escort
An earnest tutor
Unknown to him

Beside the vale’s loud cataract
The wand’rers twain stand mute
The tutor thus expatiates:

Lo: here blossom all flowers
All desires, every pleasure
Gather, for like flowing water
Life is rushing over you.

The figure sets off,
And deeply troubled,
Languishing, the forlorn youth
With ling’ring gaze pursues its dwindling form

Wind whispers in the flowers
Billows murmur as if dancing merrily
Then, stooping, the stranger
with swift and trembling hands begins to mow
The little spot
On which he stands

And trembling the hand
Feels flowers and grasses
And poisonous weeds
And spiny vermin
And half appalled
And half resolute
The child with a whimper flings grasses and weeds
Vermin and flowers
Into the flood of the loud transporting stream

“Where are my pleasures
Where are my desires?
By you I’ve been cheated
And lonely, forsaken
I tremble to reach out
My hand once again towards th’illusory flowers.”

Then the moon’s gold light takes flight
And riddlingly girdles the country
In evening’s shimmer
“Where lies my lost homeland?
How shall I arrive there?
I see only shadows
That ever more darkling
And hither and thither
Like clouds do flit
From o’er the stream 
Does all I yearn for
And search for lie there
On yonder bank?
I hear thence stirrings
Of distant waters?
Of sighing forests?
Of human voices?
So strange and familiar
So earnest and friendly
They sound in the distance.
Ah how boldly the storm declaims its song
Migrating birds make fun of me from a distance,
Clouds do gather round the moon and take it with them,
A being that’s ever yet—alas!—to pity me. 

“Is this a true life—
Of love and pleasure?
Where shall I discover
My lost and fair homeland?”
How much may everything in my native country have changed? How much I myself have changed!
The weather is very dreary, and I plan to lie down and have a nap.

Edward Burton to Mortimer

I am sending you here some papers that you will read with interest if I am not mistaken. Our recent heartfelt conversations give me a warrant not to withhold any secrets from you; accordingly, I beseech you not to allow these pages to pass into anyone else’s hands, for they were written by my father.  I have removed several leaves at the beginning that seem to have been used for composition exercises; by chance he subsequently continued writing for himself in this book, whence the recording of these confessions.
Even in his illness he kept writing in it; he sought out the book on his own and was looking for it very assiduously at the end, for he wanted to give it to me, but it was nowhere to be found. Now while tidying his room I have discovered it by chance, under his deathbed.
Please send it back to me as soon as you have finished it.
Enclosure in the preceding letter
Written in my sixteenth year
Yes, yes, Mr. Wilkens: I have understood your rules very well, and much better than you suppose. Your entire course of instruction is aimed at teaching me how to use language to my own advantage, and thus does one become an educated person. Was I not obliged only yesterday to compose a tedious letter in which the decorousness of a captatio benevolentiae was to absorb all my attention at the very start of the thing?
Since yesterday I have been very much on my guard against everyone, especially against the servants, for I see nothing but a captatio benevolentiae in every friendly face, in every deferential salutation; and I have even most felicitously availed myself of this formula in speaking to my father, for I have now finally [attained] that fair and golden hour that I strove after for so long. For that reason I must now take care that these meditations on my period of instruction do not fall into anyone’s hands.
It really does seem as though the course of study inculcated in me by all of my teachers, indeed, even by my father, has tended exclusively towards teaching me how to lie and play with words; at the [very] least [I would say this of that portion of it devoted to] the tissue of flatteries known as poetry, which works on the soul in the most direct [and expeditious] fashion. I fancy that all compliments that are paid to my father, and that he pays in his turn, are nothing but rote repetitions of classroom drills learnt in [boyhood].
I must test this hypothesis myself on the people in my vicinity, in particular the cook and the gardener. If it is correct, perhaps everybody has a weak side that one must conquer in order to exploit him at one’s pleasure. At the [very] least [I should lead] quite a jolly life if all of the grapes of the garden, all of the choice morsels of the kitchen—nay, even all of my father’s guineas—were suddenly at my disposal.
It may well be that the key to the entire world is nothing other than this much-lauded captatio benevolentiae.
But there must exist other people to whom these very same thoughts have occurred, and I fear that among them number my father and most of the old gentlemen who call on him. In that case, one would have to mask one’s game in their presence as in that of an experienced actor, and proclaim oneself an ingenuous and good-natured imbecile, and thereby lull their vigilance to sleep. I intend at least to be on my guard against my father; for once one has detected a person’s footprints, it must be an easy matter to follow him to his hidden lair.
If only Mr. Wilkens would never again make me write verses, [never again make me] practice [that very] different form of lying that I abhor for its absolute inconsequentiality[!] [I shall never believe] that those dreary, tabulated lines are capable of eliciting [genuine] feeling; by now I have seen plenty of people weep, but I have yet to hear anyone speak in such a fashion. Nor do I comprehend how I or anyone else can be moved by a fictitious tragedy acted on a stage. People who can weep at such things are liars of yet another sort, self-deceivers; as are those who managed to pen the heartrending verses [in the first place]. And so we are living in an entertaining and ever-shifting masquerade in which he who remains unrecognizable the longest enjoys himself the most, and it is jolly sport indeed when even the purveyors of fancy dress—our clergymen and schoolmasters—are tricked into removing their own masks.
Two years later

Thank God! At last I am free of my wearisome teachers! Nothing but words and phrases! From this course of instruction I have become acquainted only with the people who imparted it to me, who were so weak and foolish that they did not at all observe how they were dependent upon me and upon my self-will.
Nothing exasperates me more than human incompetence, the blindness wherein people fail to perceive the talents that are at their disposal, and summarily apply bridle and bit to them as though they were alien to themselves, and transform a free, wild animal into a beast of burden. On account of a few thoughtless slip-ups, my father’s valet, otherwise an intelligent person, has become so implicated in my affairs that he now hardly dares to act without reserve or lift a finger against me. The steward is the most good-natured fool in the world, but he takes me for an even bigger one, and thereby I have secured his unconditional trust.
In language one must take note of certain words and figures of speech that like magic songs send a certain type of person to sleep. Words have an influence on every person, but one must become acquainted with a person to some extent in order to learn the words by which one may bewitch his [particular] ear. The steward is glad to listen to talk of humane honesty; he loves it when one reviles [the perfidy of rogues and villains]; when I do so, and utter my words with a certain amount of heat, he delightedly loses all sense of what is happening and in his rapture shakes my hand. I am constantly struck by the fact that people are plain and simple fools who speak with the intent of saying what they think, and thereby give offense to the entire world and cause only injury to themselves. I address my thoughts to myself and my words to others; consequently, I must say only what others are willing to hear. Nobody will any more expect me to speak the so-called truth than I shall require him to speak it; for otherwise I should be as [categorically forbidden] to say anything [remotely] flattering to anyone as to receive a compliment from him. Language has been invented for the sole purpose of saying what one is not thinking, and how seldom does one even think without lying!
The so-called lovers of truth are therefore either thorough-paced fools who do not even know what they want, or another species of liar. They have got it into their heads that their character consists in their intonation of truisms, and so they say a heap of things—about both themselves and other people—that they do not actually believe; they do this only to try to distinguish themselves, and voluntarily make themselves hated. They fail to realize that by nature our entire language is utterly unsuitable for the things and concepts to which it is obliged to refer, that by nature it states untruths, and that accordingly it is our duty to lend it our assistance.
The foundation of all of our arts, of all of our amusements, of all that we think and dream—what is it if not untruth? Plans and schemes, tragedies and comedies, love and hate, everything, everything is but a deception that we concoct within ourselves; our senses and our imagination cheat us; hence, our reason must draw false conclusions; every book ever written is a lie whose nakedness is destined to be shown up by some later book; and yet am I obliged with that tiny portion of my body that is my tongue to devote myself to truth? And even if I wanted to do so, how [could] I?
A year later
My father has died, and the whole world is wishing me happiness with words that are framed as condolences. Many people are trying to recommend themselves to me, and many of these many are trying to feel out my weak side. Those who had much cause to be grateful to my father are withdrawing completely and acting as though he never walked the earth. All of the women who dandled me on their laps when I was a child are introducing me to their daughters, who spare no allurement in presenting their dowered selves to me. The servants all have pensions and are [very] merry, even the steward, who is receiving a bit of a rise in his salary. But where now are the people who intended to feel [his loss] so deeply? Who now can crow over the intensity of his own sentiments? I see a beggar walking by downstairs; he is weeping because my father used to give him something every week. He is weeping because he is worried that he will forfeit his income. I have sent something down to him, and he is walking away with a sunny countenance; perhaps he wept simply to arouse my sympathy.
People certainly do not deserve to be respected, but one must take the trouble to live with them.  I intend to become acquainted with them in order not to be deceived by them, for how can I guarantee that my vanity or some other weakness of mine will never beguile my reason?
[Everyone] is flattering me now, even people who I know cannot stand me and [in fact] despise me. They all think of my money when they see me, and all tokens of obeisance and abasement assert this thought, whose connection to me is purely contingent. This mental image of my wealth dominates all of these people who drop into my atmosphere, and whithersoever I go, this excellence trails my footsteps. Therefore I cannot blame anyone for trying to increase his means and his mastery of [the human soul], for thereby he will become regent of the world in the truest sense. He is armed with a golden magic wand that [gebeut] everything. This is the unique [?????], which is more effective than all conceivable Captationes benevolentiae [put together].
So long as one can generate the thoughts of a large number of people, such that one could be truly useful to them, one will have many friends. Everyone talks of sacrifice and the exaltedness of virtue simply to put us into such a heroic state of mind. But this situation at the same time affords an opportunity to use them in all sorts of ways, and hence to implicate them in such a way that in the end they are quite happy if they have merely managed to extricate themselves from the net.
One lives in society like a foreigner who has been driven ashore on to some savage, barbarian coast; one must husband all one’s circumspection, all one’s artifice, in order not to be worsted by the horde that assails one with a thousand different stratagems. If one can prevent one’s life from becoming a game of chance, one has already won. It is strange that although everyone aspires to win [this card game], many people do not [even] try to stack the deck to their advantage! For clever people, nothing is allowed to happen accidentally.
In my twentieth year
Young Lovell is a fool; decidedly so, inasmuch as one invariably discovers him with his nose in a book. He speaks exactly like the poets whom he reads so fluently, and I should wager that he writes verses himself. He confided everything to me on the very first day [of our acquaintance], and it is a pity that his secrets are so childish and insignificant. His father is likewise a simpleton, but he seems not to trust me entirely; in my countenance or demeanor there may very well lie something that I must still try to get rid of. In each and every one of our movements, our body shall correspond to our speech, and in any case it is in this [correspondence] that good breeding essentially consists.
Friendship is one of the words that are most frequently bandied about in life, and one is as much obliged to have friends as clothes, and to have just as many different types of them: friends who accompany us on walks and tell us the latest news; friends who make us acquainted with people with whom we should like to form connections; friends who sing our praises to others, and acquire credit for us; other friends from whom in the conversation of polite society we learn much that it is not useless to know; friends who swear on oath for us; friends who, if we can bring matters to such an extreme pass, and if the occasion requires it, will suffer death at another’s hands for us.  Lovell perhaps can be made into a friend of this last class, for he is all too willing to hand over to me the threads by which he can be controlled.  I regard it as a necessity to be on my guard against trusting anybody, for the moment I trust someone he stands above me.
Lovell is a bit younger than me, and he is perhaps still forming many of the same experiences that I have long since amassed by now. Age often varies a great deal among young people, and by chance I have perhaps excelled [the experiential mean of my age] by a good many years; at any rate, I feel within myself none of that juvenility and childishness that I observe in most young people and particularly in Lovell. My ardor never tempts me to forget myself; no [mere] story can transport me into a potentially damaging [rapture of] enthusiasm. My gaze is always centered on the large and involute tapestry of human life, and I feel that I am transforming myself into the central point of this tableau, that I must turn my eyes back on to myself lest I reel with giddiness.
At bottom everybody speaks a language that is completely different from that of other people. Hence I can change my circumstances and my odds only according to the rules of my [own] mode of thinking and acting; and all people meet and pursue a single path because they all set out from the same basic principle. A parti-colored web is [thus] woven, [a web] on which everyone works according to his ability and insight; everyone regards his own part of the work as the most indispensable part, and yet everyone would be useless in the absence of everyone else. I can only guess the magnitude of my neighbor’s contribution, and so I am obliged to mind my own business.
Many people do not even know what they must demand of the rest of the world, and Lovell is one such person. In his mind he is making very great pretensions to my friendship. I demand of people nothing more than what they [can] accomplish for me; and to know this in advance is to calculate the radius [of my influence]; the more precisely I measure this, the better I understand people, and the whole residual essence of affection and benevolence, disinterested friendship, and pure love is nothing but a poetic fiction that sounds to my ears exactly like our poets’ tales of Diana and Apollo. I am only too glad to allow anyone who can delight in such a thing to do so, but whoever can speak of it in earnest has yet to have the blindfold of childhood removed from his eyes. Such people are useful chattels for older and wiser souls, who know how to employ them in a worthy fashion.
Written not long afterwards
I have always taken offence upon hearing or reading the name Cromwell used to point the moral of some cautionary tale of human depravity and degeneracy, for there is practically no other character into whose thoughts I find it so easy and natural to enter and thereby resolve for my own purposes all of its curious contradictions. All the blame laid upon him emanates entirely from people’s imaginative incapacity to clothe their souls in another person’s character; they are too pent up within themselves, and this restricts their point of view. Perhaps distinctions [of character] would cease if people took the trouble to draw a little nearer to those apparitions that seem of such freakish shape when seen from a distance.
Cromwell was perhaps the purest and most zealous of dreamers[/visionaries] when he initially sided with the Puritan faction. Contrary to his expectations, he discovered that it was easier to bend people to his will than he had initially thought. With his sharp gaze he penetrated the souls of all who surrounded him; he noted upon what trivial personal qualities his reputation among his friends was largely founded, and he contemned mankind. It was chiefly to his visions and enthusiasm that the rabble pledged themselves, for the visionary draws an extensive circle of fire round himself, and even colder souls are imbued with its sparks, such that they are reluctantly impelled towards their commander by love and benevolence. He realized that during the isolated hours when that felicitous enthusiasm forsook him he had to replace it artificially and almost forcibly [with something else], and he was astonished to discover that in this way inspiration could be drawn from heaven even against its will. For in man there lies a curious and almost inconceivable store of emotions; hard by forewarning lies sensation together with the idea of which we were forewarned; the liar can swear to his own experiences without perjuring himself, for at the moment of his oath he may be fully convinced of the truth of what he is saying. The most wondrous apparition can stand before me and yet have no other begetter than my own imagination. In such a fashion, the great man must soon have come to doubt what within him was true and what was false, what was fiction and what was conviction; at many moments he must have thought of himself as a petty confidence trickster, at others as a predestined instrument of heaven. In him how confused and complicated must have been everything that the common people term their morality! Now can one truly make the same demands of him that one makes of them?
Good fortune trailed his footsteps, and what mortal can ever tear himself entirely free of the weakness for regarding a succession of extraordinarily happy outcomes to his most audacious schemes as an authentically oracular endorsement by nature and the supreme being? Practically every unlucky person doubts his own worth; only too often does he regard his misfortune as his punishment. Likewise, every victor thinks to discern in his good fortune a reward, a sign of approval from the powers above. Heartened by success, Cromwell [pulled out his compass] and added new circles to his plans, and everything [he attempted] was invariably brought to a happy conclusion in the most wondrous fashion. In the midst of a turbulent and eventful life crowned with good fortune, as in a merry dream, he suddenly saw himself installed as head of state, and the entirety of his preceding life was but so much preparation and stage-setting for this great moment.
On him depended the welfare of his side, and what could be more natural or pardonable in a human being than to confuse one’s personality with one’s cause, as he now did?  He believed that he was fighting for his faction, when he was only contending for his own security and removing from his path everything that might have hindered his progress. In his own eyes, he must have seemed great and wonderful in equal measure; he could now regard himself as either a favorite of heaven or a hero who had won and taken possession of everything by dint of his own exertions; indeed, these two thoughts must have been practically concurrent in his mind. He now had more confidence in himself than ever, and trusted the people who surrounded him less than formerly. The goddess Fortune had, so to speak, poured the entire contents of her cornucopia on to his lap, and he now believed himself to be happiness personified; accordingly, his pride and his egoism, his self-idolatry, is no less imaginable than excusable.
He could not be grateful to his friends, for he believed that he had achieved everything by dint of his own exertions; he did not know how to esteem them, because he did not understand them. Their adoration of him, on the other hand—so little authority could it perforce have had even for him—he transferred readily and wholesale to his own use; for we readily transfer our self-regard to those who praise us; indeed, we often believe that those who are of least use to us in themselves are capable of valuing us the most. The greatest [locus of] inconsistency in man, the place within every soul wherein the richest assortment of contemptible qualities lies, is the domain presided over by vanity. Every other [human] failing is inaccessible, or at any rate accessible only by a stealthy and vigilant dash across the bridge that risks demolishing the shore to which it is affixed; but vanity will suffer the manipulative touch of even the coarsest hands.
Today I am making a serious resolution never to believe it when anyone praises my gait, my houses, my sagacity, or my physiognomy; and who knows whether I am after all truly invulnerable to being flattered into fancying that my garden contains the finest flowers, and thereby supplying a lifetime of harvests to some contemptible sycophant! Perhaps heaven is cruel enough to put into my head the idea that I [could have had] better taste than other people. Oh, in lieu of memento mori, one should have engraved on one’s watch the following words: Beware of vanity!
Cromwell was lucky enough to find plenty of real friends, regardless of whether he truly loved any of them; he knew how to call upon them to sacrifice themselves, and nobody else dared to demand of him a sacrifice in kind because nobody else had him in his power.  Everybody feared him, and he knew how little he had to fear anybody else; accordingly, he was not temerarious. He had sensed how fine in man are the lines between the sensations that we term extremes because we think of them as we do of the north and south poles; but between good and evil, between friend and foe, the pietist and the blasphemer, the patriot and the traitor, lies but a second [of latitude]. Cromwell knew this and therefore never pitted himself against his friends.
The more I reflect on his character, the more human I find him; but [I also find] that as human beings go, he was a great one, a refulgent meteor.
He had the misfortune of having a simpleton for a son.
Three years later
People are fools, for although they cheat each other, they resent nothing so much as being cheated, especially when one practices on them a different method of hoodwinking from the one they themselves practice on their fellow men. Lovell is my intransigent enemy, because he has come to learn that I assisted in the abduction of his tender bride; and he would never allow the fact that Waterloo was also my friend, and indeed my uncle, to serve as an excuse for my conduct. But as the entire plan has gone disastrously awry, I expect to be able to make my peace with him, come what may.   But Waterloo, although he is my uncle, although he is more than 40 years old, although he has traveled quite extensively, is nevertheless a much bigger fool than young Lovell. He believes he has everything because he has wit; he supposes that he understands people well enough because he knows merely how to make them laugh; perhaps he would have made a good comic playwright, but in social intercourse he is a washout. He complains that I have cheated him despite my assistance in the aforementioned scheme. But the best and most amusing coups would never take place at all if scoundrels were forbidden to hoodwink other scoundrels. He reproaches me for being the only person who has gained anything from the whole operation, but it was precisely because I knew I stood to gain whatever happened that I involved myself in the affair in the first place. If I had been cheated I would not complain but simply try to take revenge.
Waterloo has gone away and, as I just now heard, died. He was perhaps foolish enough to kill himself.
In my twenty-fourth year
I hope I succeed in marrying the wealthy Lady Sackville’s daughter. The mother pretends to be [liberal and] enlightened, and the daughter is fairly sentimental and pietistic. The mother laughs at the daughter; the daughter shrugs her shoulders at her irreligious mother. I must concur with both of them in order to win their trust.
But how dull are all of the comedies in which situations such as this are represented! A [shady] character prowls about amongst the rest of the cast with [a cargo of] shoddily contrived lies only to be foiled in the end by his detractors. I find it no less easy than safe to interpose myself as an intermediary between characters who are at odds with each other, for one must approach [such characters] only within certain constraints that are so framed that each of them believes that these constraints can be relaxed only subsequent to a closer acquaintance and [more] intimate conversation. The mother believes that I am only pretending to be religious in the presence of her daughter in preparation for eventually restoring her to her [enlightened] senses; the daughter is convinced that it is only on account of my great love for her that I manage to put up with her mother. One is permitted to play the hypocrite in earnest only for oneself; accordingly, hypocrisy is the easiest handicraft in the world. All of our drawing-room conversations, our social intercourse, our attestations of friendship, our pleasures, everything is hypocrisy; consequently, for me playing a type of character in order to land a rich wife presents absolutely no difficulties, or, indeed, even novelties.
I have already been fortunate enough to displace a few other suitors, and upon reflecting on a death or any other sad circumstance in my beloved’s social circle, I find it extremely easy to assume a melancholy mien and [mouth the requisite] sentimental [formulas]. I often defer the indulgence of many serious meditations that are intruding into my mind until I arrive at their house; and mother and daughter alike are invariably satisfied with [my conduct], and in this way I manage to use my time as economically as I would do otherwise. At the moment, this economizing strikes me as downright ridiculous, but its utility to me speaks for itself.
I intend to hold on to this book so as to have the pleasure of reading it through again when I am old. For one can attain a proper view of oneself only if one has ready to hand such samples of the clothes one used to wear. For this reason, I should write something [here] almost every week if I were not so lazy.
Why should I be incapable of playing the role of the sentimental lover to a T, given that numerous poets have contrived to invent amorous passions out of whole cloth merely in order to write poetical and heart-stirring verses upon them?  My role is much easier, for I have in my sights an actual object, an object that is, moreover, furnished with a sumptuous fortune.
Written in my forty-fifth year
A curious sensation comes over me when I take up this old, dusty book again and leaf through it. I return from the world and to a state of peace, and I discover in outline the history of the ideas of my youth. Many things still strike me as true, and unbeknownst to myself, throughout my busy life I have taken the character of Cromwell described here as my model. Did I take a shine to this character because my own [contained (and contains)] similar traits, or [has my] character developed [along Cromwellian lines] because I have always contemplated the image of the man with a feeling of satisfaction? But such hair-splitting runs its course [very quickly].
In the world chance has repeatedly placed the loathsome Lovell athwart my path; he crosses all of my plans, and I must wage perpetual war against him. He [has] always [been] the target on which my intelligence and ingenuity [are] obliged to practice [their shooting].
My wife has died, and only in the past year was I so fortunate as to obtain a son and a daughter from her. It is just as well, because she was perpetually unhappy. She was one of those people who embitter the actual entirety of their lives with unseemly expectations of enjoyment. One should learn once and for all in school what one has a right to expect of life so as not be a pain to oneself and other people in later years. I was not the sort of person depicted to her by a handful of poets; this airy, nonexistent human type was indelibly imprinted on her fancy, and by this chimera she measured every actual human being she ever met. To think that human beings habitually go out of their way to weave a parti-colored, beautifully illuminated dream out of the prosaic actuality of this life, and then evince surprise when there turn out to be thorns among the roses, when the creatures around them turn out not to look or behave like the ones they have seen and touched only in their dreams—who can endure [the company of] such fools?
Give me the superlatively cunning knave who utters ten lies in one breath; the vain coxcomb, puffed up with his high opinion of himself; the raw, untutored youth ignorant of the barest rudiments of good breeding, and I will deal with any or all of them; but I will have nothing to do with anyone who expects brotherly love from every quarter, who seeks to surround himself with people as with flowers or nightingales.
A year later
My son Edward is beginning seriously to disappoint me. He is becoming wise beyond his years but he has yet to acquire enough good sense to [conceal his wisdom]. Such virtuous precocity is usually nothing but a feeling of powerlessness, a form of sentimentality that subsequently degenerates into full-blown incapacitation.
Emily is half the image of her mother and half a copy of her brother. I hope they both may yet acquire more accurate ideas about life. We are not allowed to be arrogant, for arrogance begets a heap of sentimental blunders, but we must respect ourselves, lest we abase ourselves [to the level of the] rest of humanity, lest we give them an immediate opportunity of taking advantage of us.
Several years later
My son is becoming a bigger fool with each passing day, and what is more, he gives every sign of holding my principles in low regard. He ardently latches on to every exaggerated and unnatural emotion. It does not bother him that he is thereby banishing himself from my heart, for he is completely at home among airy-fairy phantoms.
The experiences that have pursued me through the tumult of the world to this point in life have now put me at ease. I have come decisively to learn how exceedingly contemptible [/contemptuous] people are. All of my youthful conjectures have been confirmed, and it was salutary that I entered [into combat] with the wicked horde thus armed. Suspicion is the divining rod that always leads one to water; one is never mistaken in a single person if one mistrusts them all, for even the most simpleminded have moments of enlightenment wherein they [can] injure us.
If one keeps company with people who, out of ignorance or because they themselves know of no grounds for being otherwise, are honest, one must never put their virtue to the test until by way of such a test they will prove useful to us; for the moment they reflect on [what they have been asked to do] they are transformed, and even if they emerge from the crisis in question with their sincerity intact, one can never count on them again in subsequent crises. But how much is sincerity worth when it consists merely in not knowing that this excellence is attributed to oneself? Even the rabble have observed this pitiful [form of] virtue and made it the subject of a proverb that “He who has stolen only once is still a thief.” Does it not seem as though there is something completely physical in those human qualities that we would exalt to the level of the spiritual, as though a single upheaval in a single moment may cause this semblance of spirituality to vanish?
I am but seldom deceived because I presuppose deception as unwaveringly as possible.
I am feeling very faint, and my mind is growing weak and erratic. This useless book has grown old along with me; it is approaching its end as my life is perhaps approaching its own. Everything today seems in my eyes to bear a dark and melancholy profile; Lovell died a month ago, and I am not much older than he was.
I have slept but badly, and throughout my fitful dreams I beheld his pale and withered form. My memory of him is still pursuing me after his death and [sapping] my strength.
I got better and thought that I would remain in good health for years, but I have now fallen ill again. A curiously wistful feeling has got hold of me. A human being with all of his sentiments is utterly dependent on his body.
May I not have done you wrong after all, old Lovell? Why does my mind so invariably direct itself to you like the needle of a compass to the north? I have forgiven you; forgive me too; our games and struggles are now at an end.
I feel more favorably disposed towards my son and towards all of mankind. Who knows in what healthy portion of my body my previous sentiments were situated; who knows from which of its altered [organs] my current sentiments originate.
Life and everything in it is nothing; everything is contemptible, and even if one observes the contemptibility---
William Lovell to Rosa
I am now once again in Paris, which above all else was the scene of my mistakes.
How I wonder whether Amalie is still alive, and what kind of a life she may be leading! The memory of everything that I once felt for her is returning fresh and new.
Countess Blainville left town with a certain Chevalier de Valois, who according to rumor has shot himself in England. What has become of her is anybody’s guess.
In a few days I shall be departing hence. All streets and gatherings of people are repugnant to me.
I long for and dread the shores of England. But how coldly and phlegmatically time dilates and pays no heed to our anxious, throbbing heart!—and yet all things must eventually come to an end, life itself not excepted.

Willy to his brother Thomas
Dear brother, today I am writing you a letter, and in a few days I am setting out to visit you; for I can get no peace, I can get no rest; the notion that I must see you once again before I die, that I must die in your sight, sounds in my ears and forces me to leave.
I have [begun to] feel so lonesome and cut off from everything in the past few days; the vane on the steeple of the church creaks so sadly, and when I’m standing at the window in the evening, I feel as though in the churchyard I see black men who stand there pointing at me. I have wept and prayed in the silence, and all the while felt so forsaken here, even [by] all the people living around me; they [have] all [been] such strangers to me. Death prowls around the house; it can be nobody but he, dear brother, and he is looking for me; that is certain, and so I plan to leave here and head towards you.
You see, I have been thinking so much about your old, friendly face and about your way of talking, and about everything you have within you and that I have always liked so much and that your name Thomas so properly describes and expresses. And then I [weep] and [resolve] afresh to make the whole long trip. But tonight for the first time I’m really certain of it.
You see, I had this dream that I was standing in [the middle of] a black desert surrounded by mountains. And from atop the mountains a face was peering down, and this was my Master Lovell; I recognized his old, pale features. Then he began to cry out loudly in delight, and I thought that I had been dreaming all along that he was dead, and [that] it was just now becoming clear [to me] that I had been imagining it. He said in a completely friendly voice, “Good day, my dear Willy!” I wanted straightaway to scramble up the mountains, and I made up my mind not to be the least bit embarrassed, [and] just brazenly throw my arms around his neck. He must have noticed this, because he said, “Just stay put, Willy; we’ll see each other soon.” And at that same moment his face became real pitiful looking, and even more sunken in, and almost like a skull[’s]. I began to weep when I saw this, and I stretched out my arms towards him, but he shook his head silently, and now it was really as though he would have had to be dragged down by force. I couldn’t leave then; in fact, I wanted to stay to see what would become of him; I started to run to try to get up to [the top of the] mountains, but you see, they started moving away from me, and I got impatient and ran ever faster, and the mountains kept moving on ahead of me, more speedily than the best racehorse. Now they were standing so far off that they looked no bigger than the heads of children, which didn’t make sense to me; I turned round, and behind me the rest of the mountains were as broad, smooth, and black as the sea. Then I felt real dizzy, and real scared all through my body, because I [suddenly] realized that I had seen Master Lovell as a ghost. The whole time I felt as though some black monster was about to swoop down from the sky to gobble me up, or as if the sky itself was about to crack open. Then I forgot practically everything that had happened before, and yet I never stopped being afraid; my entire immortal soul crumpled up inside me and I called upon almighty God to help me.
Then I woke up tired and weary in the middle of the dark night, and I still couldn’t stop feeling as though I was standing in that black desert.
You see, brother, my late master has called me; I must come [to him], and now I plan to take my leave of you. There is so little time left for us to love each other and be good to each other in, and so we plan to take that little bit with us [/spend that little bit with each other].
God bless my Master William; I wish I could also take my leave of him, and that he would shake my hand to patch things up with me completely, so that I could meet [his father and my master] in heaven as a good friend of his, and [present] a greeting from him.
As I said before, in several days I will be in your company; and even if you’re now back to thinking of me as a bit of a fool, do put on a friendly face for me when I get there, dear brother.

Book Eight
William Lovell to Rosa
There is no mistaking it: I am actually standing here, and gazing up at those white, jagged cliffs. I have finally returned, and everything that happened before lies behind me; there is no mistaking it; nor perhaps is there any mistaking that it could be otherwise.
I unceasingly give thanks to Andrea for having made me capable of looking upon the most disagreeable situations in life with great coolness. The world’s contempt in its most distressing form lies before me; I shove it aside all the more cavalierly the more miraculous I appear in my own eyes. By means of my intuitions and peculiar emotions, he has convinced me of the existence of a foreign spiritual world; I have arbitrarily set a goal for my doubts, and I now heartily rejoice that I am connected with inscrutable beings in some fashion, and that in the future I shall be entering into an even more intimate acquaintance with him. This conviction accompanies me incessantly, and all the objects around me seem to me like nothing but empty forms, like things without substance. At night or in solitude I often stir up those arcane, inscrutable emotions within me, those peculiar, shuddering intimations that irresistibly impel us towards supernatural powers.  

All of the sorrowful hours I shall live through here in England are as it were lurking in the wings and only awaiting their cue to come forward with all speed; I must step into my role and not be cowed by any sudden entrances.

The northern sky here, with its massy and pendulous clouds, makes a curious impression on me now that I have lived in Italy for such a long time. The outline of the hills stands out so harshly and inimically in this raw air; I already feel homesick for the mild skies of Italy, for you and Andrea and all of my other friends.
Edward Burton to Mortimer
Having returned from your lovely country seat, we have at last resumed our regular course of life; and time for us flows smoothly and absent any periods of adversity. Many people err most egregiously in this regard, when they strive to introduce epochs of thoroughgoing gaiety and splendor into their lives; for each of these epochs brings in its train a succession of further days that in virtue of their prosiness transform our soul into a melancholy void; the more monotonously and peacefully time flows, the more enjoyment one derives from life. The two of us, my dear friend, are both past masters of this form of enjoyment, and I now [fairly] loathe that diagram-drafting disposition according to which one lives perpetually in the remote future, absurdly squanders the present, and as it were overshoots oneself in life for the sake of sooner reaching the target that one has [arbitrarily] set for oneself.
Yesterday old Willy arrived here, exhausted and out of breath, to visit his brother. Old though he is, he walked the last few miles of the journey so as to see his brother all the sooner. The old man imagined that he was destined to die at any moment, and [so] he wanted to take leave of Thomas beforehand. Fatigue has conspired with [his] superstition to make him fall ill in actuality. I have been deeply moved by his love for his brother, whose self-fancied worldly-wisdom prevents him from reciprocating it. Willy talks about Lovell a great deal, and with extraordinary ardor; tears stood in my eyes as I listened to him. My entire soul is stretched [upon a rack within my mind]; each time I hear this name, it is as if I am being reproached for the fact that he is no longer my friend. And could I [have acted] other than as I did? Did I not do everything [possible] to retain his affection? But he has gambled away his heart, and can no longer love me.
Farewell, and with your friendship make good for me the loss of his.

Thomas to Mr. Fenton, gardener at Kensea

You will, my worthy sir and esteemed colleague, pardon my brother if he stays away perhaps a few days longer than he originally intended, and has to leave you in charge of the entire estate in the meantime, for he has fallen ill enough here that he won’t be able to return any time soon. The old man is just a wee bit crazy, and I’m sure you know this as well as I do. Everybody has his own odd turns and ways of thinking, as they say, and my brother has a lot more than his fair share of them, so to speak.
He has told me a lot about your garden, and I’m real sorry indeed that you’ve been put to so much trouble by that wild mess of a job. In my master I now have—thank God!—a patron who cares about art and is willing to pay out to make the garden look splendid. Obviously, you don’t have such a patron, and that really is, so to speak, essential if one is to accomplish anything great; for without money and the necessary work hardly anything can get done in this world.
My brother believes he’s bound to die here, because he is very much a child of the old world, and whenever he dreams about something, he always believes that it has to happen—which is what reasonable people rightly call a superstition—because he actually can’t think of a better explanation for it, as they say. But I actually think that in a few days he’ll get better, and also more reasonable. May God bless him so that he can get back to work soon!
You will by the by pardon me, my worthy sir and esteemed colleague, for having taken the liberty of troubling you with my wretched letter, for as my brother still can’t put pen to paper, I thought it was my duty to do so. I wish you lasting health and a long life, and consider myself
respectful friend, Thomas,
gardener at Bondly.

William Lovell to Rosa


Like a branch torn from its tree, I am being driven to and fro in the churning streams and eddies of life. Never resting, I [find myself] now here and now there; now in a common tavern, among the meanest but most eccentric human types, now in a company of gamblers [/actors]; now on the promenades of the metropolis, now among the audiences of its packed playhouses.

In many moments, I lose track of myself. Tell me, Rosa, whether my inner forebodings are well founded. My father, Pietro, and Rosaline [all] died because of me; Amalie has perhaps been made unhappy by me; who knows how many tears have been shed on account of me, tears of which I am ignorant and of which I have been the indirect and unknowing agent.[/?] Oftentimes I can forget all of my previous thoughts of these injuries, and a warm, red glow suffuses my cheeks from within. And yet, of what little value are all of these people! Who among them is capable of eliciting pity? By whom should we allow ourselves to be restrained from following our own course? With the help of these lofty intimations and wondrous emotions, with which the remainder of humanity must needs be unacquainted, I get back on my feet.

Few though the people are who know me at all here, I am still very wary of being recognized. I recently spoke to an acquaintance of the young Chevalier de Valois, who came over here with Mme. de Blainville; this M. de Valois has shot himself, but [his friend] could give me no news of the Countess.

Many streets here speak to me with wondrous eloquence, especially the street in which Amalie lives. I have passed by her house several times already; but I have seen her neither at her window nor on any of the public walks. I have yet even to hear so much as a word of her whereabouts, but she must be here in London. Yesterday I was at a playhouse. They were putting on Macbeth, and with a genuine youthful ardor, I became immersed in the performance. In the last act, a face in one of the boxes caught my attention, for it looked just like Amalie’s. I forgot about the play and tried to call her image to mind as vividly as possible so as to be able to compare it to that of the woman in the box.

I was still perplexed and deep in thought after the end of the play. I pushed my way to the exit with the rest of the crowd [in the pit] and awaited the emergence of the [box-holders] on the [front] steps. Many faces rushed by in a chaotic jumble, and my eyes [presently] grew tired of their vigilant search [among them] for the one that I was waiting for. Finally the lady that I had taken for Amalie appeared, and in an instant I was struck by the certain conviction that this really was she. And by God, it was she! A hundred people were rushing hither and thither before my eyes; I found it impossible to get any closer. The crowd pushed and shoved me, and I pushed and shoved right back, and the figure had vanished. My gaze had alighted upon it for the last time.

It must have been Amalie; nothing else is possible. The fringed train of her dress was a sacred object to me at that moment, as I strove [in vain] to stay on its trail. I sincerely detested all of [those] people who with their savage and inimical swarming were hindering my pursuit of her.

William Lovell to Rosa


So I am now finally once again here, here where the spring of my life commenced its budding. Every pond and hedgerow reminds me of something I thought or felt during that epoch.

Here it was that melodies hummed from every treetop; here the morning sky hung pregnant with golden hopes; every natural sound was the note of a song to me, and I was walking through an eternal concert of [magnificently] thunderous volume. And what has now become of all this? And for what even was I hoping? Young and reckless as I was, I did not understand myself, and did not know what to demand of myself and of the world.

I sat once again in the same room of the same inn in which I once wrote a lugubrious letter to Edward Burton, and even composed some verses if I am not mistaken. It is a mean and disagreeable chamber, and not a single poetic idea could ever occur to me there now. The surrounding countryside, which back then struck me as so romantic, is nothing but a broad, green heath with a few trees; in the distance [a] forest is visible.

I sat once again in the same room of the same inn in which I once wrote a lugubrious letter to Edward Burton, and even composed some verses if I am not mistaken. It is a mean and disagreeable little chamber, and not a single poetic idea could ever occur to me there now. The surrounding countryside, which back then struck me as so romantic in the moonlight, is nothing but a broad, green heath with a few trees; in the distance a forest is visible.

I also recognized the spot in the forest where I took leave of Amalie when she left Bondly for London. All of these places have turned mute; I [now] find them wretched and repulsive that were then so precious, so exceedingly precious, to me. At times I feel as if one of my delightful memories is rushing whisperingly towards me through the copses, but they cannot [approach] me; they shyly withdraw from me.

In disguise, I have already walked up and down the garden here at Bondly a few times. Here all [my] sensations, all [my] memories, lay asleep in the green foliage, on the lovely patches of turf, among the densely [overarching] boughs of the lanes; as I set foot in the garden, they all awoke and impetuously advanced to meet me. They all greeted me, and every tree seemed to ask me where I had been for so long. Ah, Rosa! The tears welled up in my eyes, and I could say nothing in reply. 

Ah! I am a dreamer—I should prefer to say, “Inanimate nature has clung to me more affectionately than any person ever has done.”

I stood for a long time in silence before the lime tree on which I had carved Amalie’s name and mine. The characters have been but lightly distorted by the growth of the tree. With what painstaking industry did I slowly and attentively cut those letters into [the bark of] that tree back then!

Many things in the garden have changed, and been arranged with better taste since the death of old Burton. But every change here has pained me. I wanted to revisit many of the spots in the old garden, and I found a newer, better garden [in its place]. The gardener is a brother of my [man] Willy.

Willy himself is here visiting; and I gave a start when I suddenly happened upon him yesterday, but he did not recognize me.

I have made detailed and comprehensive inquiries on the basis of which I have drafted a plan for introducing myself into the house. I fully intend to see to it that I am not recognized, and at bottom this difficulty is of the most trifling sort.

How frail is man! For how long did I suppose that I had risen above all of these impressions, and yet they have now assailed me [again] with renewed violence; and then I laugh once again at myself and deem myself [downright] childish.

Mortimer an Eduard Burton

   Roger Place

I am returning to you your father’s manuscript, which I have read with great attention. Within our understanding how many pathways there are that can lead people to a false trajectory! The mania [Sucht] for self-reflection is inherent in us, and yet we learn nothing from the most attentive [self-]study, and such meditations cause everything simple and good to desert us [completely]. Man all too easily gets into the habit of regarding himself as a purely speculating entity, and of using his very eyes as [instruments] for meditating on his fellow creatures. I thank you heartily for having confided [this document] to me; such treatises are signposts and lighthouses for other people.

Once again the mania for making a brief jaunt has awoken within me; and if nothing prevents me, I intend to satisfy this very craving very shortly. [In the course of which satisfaction], I shall visit simultaneously you and your charming sister. Amalia [sic2] has gone to the capital for a few days to visit her parents and her industrious brother. In a few months I hope to be a father, and I am curious to see how this new office will suit me.

Emily Burton to Amalie


My dear friend, I feel a genuinely inexorable attraction to my writing-desk, and to the attendant mission of amusing you. You have so often poured out your sorrows to me in your letters, and I was just now wondering whether it might not after all be my turn to do the same to you. I have often heard talk of compassion and even spoken of it myself; but until now it was only a word to me, a word whose meaning I learned for the first time [only] today.

For the past few days a poor invalid—whom my brother, for charity’s sake and at the intercession of the gardener, has allowed the use of a small room—has been staying in our house. He has until now been attended to [exclusively] by the servants; and we have hardly managed to see him at all, for he maintains a constant and inordinate silence and reserve; and everyone in the house believes that his illness principally consists in a profound [form of] melancholy.

Yesterday, my brother had gone out for a ride, and I was sitting alone in the garden. You know my favorite bower, the one that affords a view of nothing but that single narrow avenue down below, and that is surrounded on all sides by dense hedgerows.  I read and worked, and after a short time I noticed the invalid, who, deep in thought, was pacing up and down the avenue; now he stood silently with folded arms and stared fixedly at the ground, now he picked flowers and bathed them in his tears. I was attentive to all of his movements, for each of them seemed to bespeak a profound sorrow. I do not even know in [precisely] which wondrous manner my heart was moved within me; I felt as though I were watching [one of those] superior traged[ies] wherein some obscure wretch usurps our unqualified commiseration.

I could not help myself; I had to stand up and draw nearer to him. He seemed moved and frightened when he caught sight of me; he did not know whether he should go or stay. I addressed him in friendly tones, [the better] to console him for his sorrow. He spoke back to me, and every word was a profound emotion[al intimation] of his unhappiness; with every reply my compassion increased, and at length I could not conceal my tears.

But what is [this force] that often so violently constricts our heart? Who can describe that feeling that we call compassion, and who can comprehend its genesis? When compassion enters our heart—oh, my friend!—it then violently propagates like an angelic oscillation, so that our wretched terrestrial heart trembles and feels itself dwarfed by the divine foreigner; at this fair moment we should like to die, because we sense that our preceding life has been cold and arid by comparison; because we know that the future succeeding this fair moment will be but vacuous and prosaic; we should like to deliquesce into tears of voluptuous joy; we do not know how to console ourselves for the fact that we are expected to continue living after having experienced such bliss.  The heart yearns to break, and the soul to fly heavenward; no, I can find no words for this emotion, for even now my eyes are brimful of huge tears. Can there really exist people who have never felt compassion, who have never shed tears? Oh, let them be vouchsafed [the privilege of] doubting the immortality of their souls; let them not forgo [the pleasure of] hating their fellow men and women, for they are surely incapable of conceiving why they are loved.

I do not know, my dear friend, why I have declaimed [at such length] here, for my entire soul has unfolded within me. But you surely are acquainted with these tender motions of the heart; you will [surely] understand me, and not call me a [dreamer/visionary]. With men one generally cannot speak in this fashion; they are too much involved in the business of life to keep their emotions pure and pristine within their bosoms; they act and think and in virtue of this very acting and thinking eclipse everything else inside themselves. Only the man about whom I have been telling you, only he, perhaps uniquely among his sex, is capable of understanding me entirely; but he hails from the school of unhappiness and suffering, which restore to the heart its lost humanity.

Show this letter to no one, my dearest friend; for it is written for your eyes only; all others would desecrate it and but make sport of my frailty. So few people understand how to be merry, and fewer still how to be sad; grief addresses them in a celestial language, and they can reply only in their bungling terrestrial dialect. Anyone of a mind to rejoice or weep perforce retires [to the company of] flowers and trees.

The stranger spoke to me with great affection, and presently his way of speaking began to seem exceedingly familiar to me. Wondrous memories came [rushing] into my soul; I regarded him more closely, and now even his facial features no longer seemed strange to me. Oh Amalie, what a sensation took hold of me when I descried an old and very familiar friend of mine in this wretched outcast, this ailing beggar; and how he now revealed his identity to me and spoke at length of human beings and their cruelty; how streams of tears gushed from his eyes and he sank to my feet and besought my forgiveness—oh my friend, I do not know whether I was alive or dead [then], whether I did not suddenly find myself inhabiting the land of superlatively marvelous dreams—ah, even now I cannot manage to come completely to my senses.

I am not permitted to tell you his name, which likewise remains a secret from everyone else in our house; but soon, soon I intend to disclose everything to you, and you will be no less astonished than I was. Since this moment, my eyes swim at the sight of each and every object; I can get a proper purchase on nothing, and my mind is primed for the most bizarre occurrences and transformations.  My eyes are perpetually on the verge of weeping, [the sight of] every friendly, laughing face agitates me deeply; a powerful feeling of wistfulness within me has displaced all of the objects of this world into the distance, and I am shaken time and again, from inside outwards, by the dread of being recognized.

The destinies and sorrows of the world pursue a marvelous course, and yet this terrible course has never [before] shown itself to me so [starkly and] distinctly. I have so far suffered little, and I am now inclined to fear that I shall yet suffer much in the future.

You see, my dear Amalia [sic3]: this unfortunate individual has made your friend very melancholy indeed; the present letter in toto is a demonstration of what a pitch of intensity my fancy has been raised to. Fare very well and happily.

Charles Wilmont to Mortimer


For all my philosophy I am enjoying many fretful hours here, and I believe I have as unimpeachable a right to them as every other man who is in love.

In the first few days I found it so extraordinarily easy to be away from Amalie that I really did secretly wish that someone would see fit to set me a more difficult test [of my patience]. I felt exactly like an invalid who has survived an apparently terminal crisis in his health, and for the first few days afterwards believes himself recovered, and can scarcely wonder enough why everybody else is still sorry for him; but by and by he feels the feebleness and weariness in all of his limbs returning; he once again becomes fretful [about the future] and entirely forgets the dolorous days that now lie behind him. You will at least concede that in virtue of this curious disposition of his nature man always has the most splendid excuse for being dissatisfied.   

When I am at the office, how immeasurably long the task of writing to the bottom of a single sheet of paper now seems to me, a task that in those first days was as easy as going for a short walk. All strokes of genius and stupidity in the world turn out in the end to be essentially interchangeable. Did you yourself not term my plan of working for the Secretary a reasonable one, and how little thought did I give to it when I was hired? In all truth, I allowed myself to be fairly dragged into the office in an attitude of the most phlegmatic ingenuousness, as though I were simply being jostled along to a tavern; my most spectacular strokes of stupidity have cost me far more in blows to the head. I fancy that I could become the noblest and most virtuous man in the world without knowing a monosyllabic thing about nobility or virtue. Dear Mortimer, if this should ever happen, I would, so help me God, take note of it, lest my stupidity should render me too noble by half and even prevent me from taking any pleasure in my nobility.

In your most recent, exceedingly serious letter, you have struck me for the first time in your life as a bit of a fool. Since becoming a married man, you have [consistently] adopted a certain precociously wise tone [towards me] and used me as a practice audience for your lectures to your forthcoming children. You are not by a long chalk as whimsical as you were in the old days; I dare say that now you never begin a sentence without knowing how you intend to conclude it; and yet when all is said and done it was that very whimsicality—the fact that you would occasionally launch into some sententious maxim without knowing how it should be rounded off—that I liked most about you.  You are little by little losing all genuine vitality and will in the end be but a ruin of the Mortimer of old. When I visit you then and [find you] sitting with your grave visage behind your desk, I shall be obliged to hide away every thought of your former excellences in order not to make the mistake of thinking I am in the living, incarnate presence of Sir Charles Grandison.

But let us be serious with each other for once. You cannot possibly have been serious with me in your recent letter, for what you say therein about business and elasticity is so quaint, so philosophical, and so untrue, that I am virtually of a mind to send you all of my jobs so that you can literally grasp with your own two hands how much of a liar you have been.  You have spoken eloquently enough from the ease of your rural couch, but if you were compelled to transcribe the most tedious and insignificant documents as assiduously and accurately as if the salvation of ten martyrs depended on it; if in the midst of such drudgery you felt the very walls of the room you were sitting in contracting incessantly, and your heart throbbing in terror, and, rapidly-coursing pen in hand, you were racing towards the closing words as though the roof were about to fall in on you—Lord!—what a different tone you would take! [And] then you [would] take a [deep] breath in preparation for reading through the document once again; and scarcely a half an hour into this task, you would find a fresh stack of papers awaiting your approval. Exactly where elasticity is supposed to figure in all this I cannot rightly see. The substance of my thoughts is continuously attenuating and will eventually be frittered away to nothing; instead of learning by heart passages of Tristram Shandy as I used to do, I now exercise my memory by filling it with a panoply of hereditary titles.

For hours at a time it seems to me that I committed a colossal blunder in dreaming up so many high-minded scruples and not marrying Emily on the spot. Is not happiness the noblest word in life, our supreme duty, a word beside which every [qualm of] delicacy seems [downright] absurd? But now that I am harnessed to the cart, I shall have to bear the yoke [without complaining].

Emily Burton to Amalie


I greedily await your reply, for your heart has always beaten in sympathy with my own. Ah, my dear friend, I cannot tell you everything as I should like to do; I shall save such breast-baring for another occasion.

What a [remarkable] human being is the stranger whom I wrote to you about the other day! He has got well beyond the petty, quotidian sort of life within which the common run of men toil away so anxiously. His spirit has been thoroughly purged of all impurities, and he no longer retains any ties to this earth.

I cannot leave off marveling at him whenever I look at him or speak to him; he has a way of speaking that is completely different from that of ordinary men and women. When I think about him, a sensation of compassion courses through my breast; I should like to be constantly in his company; to hearken to his profound opinions about this and that, and with consoling words wipe away some of the grief from his somber countenance.

Nobody recognizes him here, and nobody knows that I know who he is; I must keep his name a secret from you as well, because this is his desire, and because he has very good reasons for desiring it.

There is something so wonderful about him that in his presence one feels as though one has been transported to another world. He elevates everything, even the most trivial everyday objects, to the level of the highest poetry, such that he ambles along the surface of the earth like some alien spirit. Whenever I reflect at the same time on how unhappy he is, I cannot tire of speaking of him; I rejoice [at the thought] that he calls me his friend, that no person on this earth loves him more than I do. Can you imagine anything more horrible?: I am the only creature [in the world] that takes an interest in him! [IM(DR)]

Of what use are all of the millions of people in this world, as so few of them find even a single person who loves them? Ah, the world strikes me as a desolate and depopulated void; it is nothing but a great lump of dirt full of mute corpses randomly disposed on its surface and in its entrails. Are all of these wretches truly self-sufficient? Have they no need of love and fellow-feeling? They all die without [ever] having lived; they are corpses graced by the power of locomotion, and in the end they relinquish even this power to nature and deposit themselves inside [her] and rot.

Do not say that I am being morbid, dear Amalie, for it is so: the stranger’s entire history comprises but this single truth.

William Lovell to Emily Burton

I sit here, dearest Emily, in my cramped and solitary room and think and dream only [of] you. My window overlooks the lane in which I sat by your side so often in the old days, with Amalie. [With] Amalie, who has forgotten me, who has never loved me. Oh, unfortunate man! And are you permitted still to complain? Has not the most gracious of angels received you with a compassion [that is truly] celestial? Can you yet expect any greater happiness, any higher delight, from this terrestrial globe?

Ah, Emily, I should like to be with you constantly, constantly, and listen to the dulcet notes of your consoling voice; constantly encounter your gentle eyes, which [have] bestowed such precious tears on this wretch, this outcast. The entire world misjudges me and forsakes me. Your severe brother has terminated his friendship with me. Oh, let him revoke it, provided I retain the heart of his divine sister. What do I care about the eyes of the rest of the world, provided that yours observe me and gaze upon me without anger?

You know this man; you put up with him and love him; I [have proof of this in the fact] that you did not spurn me when I essayed my impertinent explanation [of my conduct]; when I revealed to you why I had entered this house in disguise. What then am I to do about these fervid promptings of my heart? Is it a crime to love you? Why so it is, and so I am a criminal: contemn me and hate me, and with the end of this unbearable and troublesome life my sin will be expiated. But no: you have forgiven me; you have taken pity on my wretchedness with the amiableness of an angel; you have sheltered me from my own savage despair, you have assured me of [all this]—why then am I not merry and happy?  Because I am still perpetually sceptical of this idea; because I have learned in this life that all hopes are deceptive; because I regard it as nothing but a piece of innocent play-acting intended to pacify me for a few [short] days. Oh, Emily, just imagine [how I shall feel] when I presently reawaken to the life I [used to lead]!

But why after all should an unfortunate soul not encounter, if only once in the course of his hardscrabble life, amid the infinitude of vacant masks, a messenger from heaven who brings him tidings of peace from above? Ah [,if I should meet such a person], my entire shut-up, withered heart would raise itself up like a flower meeting with a warm burst of rain in springtime. A lovely rainbow would engirdle the horizon of my existence; and from every star of the night, hope, love, happiness, and salvation would [twinkle] down upon me as from an eye of gold.

If I am to continue living, you must not rob me of this hope; if I am to continue smiling, you must fulfill it.

Emily Burton to William Lovell
I regard your assuagement as my duty—but no, the word is too cold and disquieting. I owe it to my throbbing heart; I cannot do otherwise, even if I wished [sic] to. Can you ask for better proof than the fact that I write to you, that I keep your secret, that I converse with you willingly and in confidence? Ah, if you could see all the tears that I am shedding for your sake, you would cease to have any doubts.

And am I permitted to do more? Have I not already done much? Oh, ill-starred Lovell, you have perhaps entered into an ill-starred intimacy with your Emily; you have perhaps sown the black seeds [of discord] in this peaceful house—and then—what am I supposed to do next? What am I supposed to say next?

Oh, assuage yourself, and do not pay undue heed or attention to every word written [herein]. I feel as though my heart is on the point of bursting; I can scarcely draw another breath.

William Lovell to Emily Burton

And am I not supposed to sigh and complain? To mourn and despair? Has Emily done more than she is permitted to do? Oh, then she will truly repent it—oh, thrice ill-starred Lovell—then there truly is no heart in the great wide world that beats for thee! Ah, no, then the only thing left to it [is] to rue the day on which it [first] took pity on thee!

Emily Burton to William Lovell

I dreaded your complaints and your tear-stained gaze; that is why I wished to avoid you today. God! And now your conversation in the garden! Oh, I still feel the chill in every vein in my body. Oh Lovell, you have caused me much suffering today; [as] I told [you], you are making me into your partner in misfortune!

William Lovell to Emily Burton
Oh, would that you were my partner in misfortune! How quickly [then] would poor Lovell be transformed into the happiest of men! But no: it is plain that you have withdrawn yourself from me completely; oh, why then did I yet hope for joy [in this life]? Have I not been gradually ripening into the perfection of misery; and is everything now suddenly to change? No: I will depart hence, depart without consolation or leave-taking; my misery shall devolve upon no [other] person; it is better that I should disappear!

Oh, would that I had never come back to this place! That I had never discovered that last flower that a scornful foot tramples down! Farewell! Whither shall I turn? Whither? Death dwells in every country of the globe; the earth in any one of them is good enough for a grave!

William Lovell to Rosa


O Rosa! What, what are human beings? Edward is quite calmly taking possession of my estates without consequently suffering a single rebuke from his tender conscience. But [of course] he acquired them by due process of law. Is one [really] supposed to fret over such individuals as [this]? Is one [really] supposed to dread treating them unfairly?

But I wanted to give you an account of my [present] circumstances; I wanted to tell you about Emily.

I pretended to be an impoverished invalid; the gardener had a word about me with Burton, who allowed me to be brought into the house, allotted me a room, and provided me with food and drink. I was already fairly well acquainted with Emily from the old days, and I resolved to have a go at her. In this attempt, I knew I could count on her being particularly curious about my true identity; I therefore tried even more to direct her attention to my silent, melancholy bearing. It worked. Her brother had gone away for a few days, and I [saw] her walking alone into the garden and taking a seat in her favorite bower. She has become a true beauty since I last saw her; her figure is quite graceful, and her eyes [are] clever and gentle.

She has a certain kind of intelligence that takes especial pride in itself; she has read many books and thought many things about them; therefore, she is always quite certain that she is on the right side of the argument; she is of the opinion that there is no situation, however critical, in which one can have the slightest doubt about how to behave. I need hardly tell you, Rosa, that such creatures make for the easiest conquests, that they automatically come running to meet every [trap you set for them], and [that], precisely in virtue of their wisdom, [they] are more simple-minded than the stupid ones.

I dejectedly paced up and down the avenue that adjoins her bower, and she very soon observed me. She could not restrain her curiosity, and instead stood up and approached me. Our conversation took a lugubrious turn and I said many things about the world and humanity—things that I actually believed, which made my role all the easier. I observed that she would have to weep, and when she was moved to the most heightened degree, I revealed to her who I was.

On the evidence of her countenance I could perceive that within she was undergoing an alternation of the most marvelous sensations. She was unprepared for such an ambush, for this [onslaught] of the pain that resided within her; in order to bewilder her completely, I tried at this point to ambush her yet again, and as forcefully as possible.

I precipitously threw myself at her feet, and avowed to her that to only a powerful love for her had made me capable of adopting this disguise, and of residing in the chateau; this was to be my last attempt [at finding out] whether there existed any human heart whatsoever that would attend to me, so that I might reconcile myself to life and fate. She was lovely, and I kept playing my role like a real actor on a proper stage, with wondrous zeal; everything I said was successful; I spoke with fire and yet without affectation. She stood before me motionless, at a relentless loss how to make it all add up inside her head.

“Have you not been listening to me, fairest Emily?” I cried.

She started up, and said something unintelligible in reply; I rose and resumed my lament. She became extremely tender on my account, and my unhappiness touched her heart.  I complained about Amalie and about her brother, about the entire world that had spurned me; I had recourse to her soft and tender heart, and swore that she could not reject me, rather that she would be more sympathetic than the rest of the world.

Never, Rosa, have I spoken so eloquently, and never [have I] felt so deeply. It was as though my entire heart were disclosing itself to me, and I could not help being astonished at myself. Ah, what is truth and conviction in a human being[?] I was then convinced of everything that I was saying; I was dejected and in love with her; at that moment I truly would have been capable of doing away with myself. Oh, let me hear no more talk of people who pretend to be what they are not. What is sincerity in [creatures such as] we?

Emily was becoming ever more tumultuously passionate, and at length she laid her hand in mine; she had believed what I had said, and her heart was irresistibly inclining towards me. She told me that she would console me if she could console me, that she would gladly indemnify my misfortune, if it lay in her power [to do so]. The entire scene concluded in the same manner as that in which it had begun.

Now I kept a watchful eye out for her at all times; when it was possible, I spoke with her alone in the garden; but as we were often debarred [from making such rendezvous], I tried [to communicate with her] by pinning a brief letter [to one of the trees]. The letter was answered to an effect beyond my wildest hopes; now I had [to hand] the most incontrovertible proofs of her affection. The composing of letters continued, and my dejection certainly did nothing to make me seem less interesting to her.

Yesterday she was completely alone in the garden; her brother had ridden off to visit somebody in the neighborhood. It was towards evening, and I went out to see her. We walked up and down, and our conversation became ever more heated and involved; we returned to the bower; the moon was shining, and we sat down together on the settee.

She was in a very tender mood, and I distinctly observed tears furtively descending from her eyes; I promptly embraced her and kissed away her tears; then my lips fell upon her delicate mouth. She was at a loss how to respond; she was completely at my mercy; of that I was firmly convinced. She leaned her head on my shoulder, and began loudly weeping; then, completely willingly, she embraced me in turn, and pressed a heartfelt kiss to my lips. For this [single] minute, I was violently in love with her; I pressed her to my bosom, and our sighs were in [perfect] synchronicity. All was nebulous both within and without me; I did not know whether it was Amalie or her or Rosaline whom I was holding in my arms; my sensual being was awakening within me in all of its tempestuous fury, and setting fire to her at the same time.

When she regained command of her senses, she did not know whether to reproach me or to weep. I consoled her with kisses; we walked silently and hand in hand out of the garden; at the entrance I kissed her one more time; then she set off on her own.

I walked in the moonlight through the thickly bowered avenues; it now occurred to me that she was as good as engaged to young Wilmont. I did not know whether to laugh or to weep floods of scalding tears; my lips twisted themselves into a sarcastic smile, and great tears fell from my eyes.

Is this [creature] man, and Homo nobilis? What can she be thinking, now that she has had time to reflect on how far afield of her perky sentimentality she has been led?

I would find it all too easy to feed my vanity, and to imagine that she loved me beyond the powers of description, and that only such an unbounded passion could have occasioned the loss of her maidenhead. But human weakness alone drove her to it. And even if she did love me, would it be any cause for smugness on my part? For what is love? An obscure, transient emotion, and a word. Perhaps for a few days [longer] she will love me on account of the concept of misfortune that I embody, and then hate me when she becomes better acquainted with me.

The very sight of Burton infuriates me; more than once already I have been on the point of revealing my identity to him [simply] in order to give free rein to my anger, but soon, [very] soon, I shall be obliged to punish him for the injustice he has done me.

Farewell! As I cannot post this letter at present, I shall let it sit until such time as you receive it together with the next one.

Edward Burton to Mortimer


How am I to begin this letter, my friend; how am I to end it? Never before have I been unsettled in this fashion; never before have I been so [thoroughly] divested of all of my faculties. I am sitting here alone in my bedchamber, weeping, and still unremittingly numb. [To think] that I was obliged to live through this! Please be patient with me; I am still utterly incapable of solacing myself.

A few days ago I admitted into my house a poor invalid, who begged me through one of my servants to grant him sanctuary for a few days. He was described to me as such a heavy-hearted and unfortunate soul that I took a keen interest in him.

This morning, as usual, I allowed myself to partake of a single glass of wine, which I had my valet bring to me; he set it down, and I was just on the point of beginning my breakfast when old Willy suddenly burst into the room, [his face] pale and his eyes streaming with tears, and adjured me not to [touch] the wine; I was at a loss what to say, and Willy remained standing before me as though in a state of rapture.

At length, I asked him what was the matter; I believed he had lost his mind; he would say nothing distinct in reply; he was trembling from head to toe; he spluttered and could not manage to produce a single intelligible word. Finally, he exclaimed, “Something has been poured into the wine!” I do not know how in my bewilderment it occurred to me to ask him whether he had done it[,] but his trembling, his fear, his wan countenance, [together] seemed to presage such a confession. Then the old man wept, and broke into loud sobs; this aspersion only increased his perturbation of mind; before I knew what he was doing, he tremulously seized my glass and drank the entirety of its contents.

His strength forsook him; he sank into a chair; I called for help, and it did not [arrive a moment too soon], so [quickly] did the effects of the poison manifest themselves. He was almost unconscious, and still refused to speak; his brother threw himself at him and covered him with tears and kisses; everyone was weeping and imploring him to say something. At the sight of such a scene I could not hold back my tears; I could not fathom how this puzzle would be solved[;] how, impelled by [the highest] pitch of fear, he suddenly cried out the name Lovell. Ah, and the sound cut through my heart; he uttered a few words for his brother’s ears only; everyone was appalled [by the revelation]: that stranger, that invalid, that man in disguise, was none other than Lovell; he had poisoned the wine.

I cannot describe what I felt at this instant.  How sorry I suddenly felt to be a human being!  Ah, Mortimer, there are episodes in life of whose dregs the heart cannot subsequently be washed clean even by the most exalted state of happiness; I feel this now with great certainty. The entirety of my future life has been infected by this moment; my breast has been penetrated by an arrow that I shall never be able to remove from it without [causing myself to] bleed to death.

It was terrible [to see] how old Willy now bewailed the precipitancy of his act; how he then wept and sobbed at having mentioned the name of his master, and how he no longer wanted to live; how he rejoiced [at the thought] that he must now die because his Master Lovell had so thoroughly forsaken the path of virtue. Then he began to hallucinate again, and his thoughts lost every connection with the present moment; then he came to himself again, and wept anew over Lovell.

I stood in their midst at though [newly] awakened from a dream; I could [no longer] believe in humanity, [or] in friendship. Ah, [and] my head is still reeling.

At length the dying Willy asked to speak to his master one last time. [He was sent for.] The entire room began spinning round me. I saw Willy sink to the floor and bow his head to his hand, which he kissed—it was he[: Lovell]—I recognized him and staggered out of the room.

How laboriously my heart was pounding [in my breast]! I felt easier when my tears finally broke. But I shall never again feel completely at ease.

Willy has died.

I have drawn the curtains because the light was offensive to my eyes. My head is aching violently. I feel a deep pity for myself, and yet how I should like to hate and abominate myself [instead!]

Is it really possible for a human being to be transformed into this? O my friend! I should like to die. For an occasional second at a time, I feel a blissful sense of peace suffusing my heart, and more than once I have taken this to be the onset of the [long] sleep of death.

But I must pull myself together. I must try to conceal the entire episode from my fragile and sensitive sister; I must be mindful of Lovell's safety! Whence shall I derive the courage even to open my eyes? But it must be.

Fare very well indeed, my dear friend! What has so suddenly become of me, and of my house?

Ah! Poor Amalia [sic4]! It will be very much for the best if you breathe not a word of any of this to her; as it breaks even my heart, how can hers ever withstand it?

Edward Burton to Mortimer


My letter surely must have shocked you considerably; you too must [now] be cheerless and melancholy, as you were also his friend. Now I am somewhat more composed; I have spoken to him, and I am forcing myself to be calmer.

I went to his room; he was grim and uncommunicative, he did not wish to look at me. I was bound to find him thus [disposed] after so long an interval!

"Lovell!" I cried reflexively.

"What do you want?" he said heavily and in a stifled tone.

A thick partition descended between us. I had not expected him to be like this. He had suddenly become a complete stranger to me, and on account of this I found it impossible to ask him about his intentions, and about his reasons for having disguised himself [and] perpetrated that vile act.

So this is the man in whom my spirit once believed it had discovered its brother; did I [really] intend to dedicate my entire life to him?

He has undergone an extraordinary change; he is pale and disfigured; his eyes are restless, his gaze fixed into a stare; the whole presenting the image of a man who has [long] been at variance with himself.

Word of Willy's death is getting around, and I must try to get [Lovell] out of here tonight in order to keep him from the hands of the law and out of prison.

Would it be any wonder if I lost my mind completely in this situation? Ah, I told you I was calmer, [but] I am simply more confused, and this [confusion] has blunted the edge of my grief somewhat.

Thus has my youth returned; thus have my dreams been fulfilled! He was supposed to live near me at Waterhall; we would have seen each other every day; we would have savored but a single life, and, as it were, husbanded a single soul; and now! Why has fate altered everything in this manner, and left me nothing, not a scrap, to call my own? I would weep interminably, if my eyes were still capable of tears.

Edward Burton to Mortimer

He is gone; it is night, and I will write to you because I cannot sleep.

The earth seems to me a tenebrous kingdom of shadows, a dreamland wherein nothing is substantial or permanent; the light of day is a fraudulent illumination; [and] the pitch darkness of night is the only true color of this dreary ball [of dust]. We see dark shadows in the distance, and we dub them friendship and love; they pass by us [and snub us like] strangers, leaving only darkness in their train. Human beings stand out against this black night only as thicker obscurities, not a beam of light in their heart[s], not a spark of [warmth] in their breast[s].  Surely the [first] anchorite who installed himself in the black and lonely woods and exchanged the company of men for that of rocks and trees was [familiar] with this emotion, which is permeating my soul. A perfectly silent solitude is now my heart's desire; the distant song of the nightingale vexes my mind, the rustling of trees sounds too sprightly and cheerful to [my ears]. I do not believe that I shall ever see [Lovell] again, and when I re-read his letters, my soul is penetrated as by a golden dream. Everything lovely and poetical in nature has suddenly perished without a trace as far as I am concerned; I see only death and putrefaction; I can no longer believe in any species of nobility; indeed, I cannot even trust my own heart. The flowers and herbs, the plants on which human beings feed, strike me as meretricious decoys, as cheap, parti-colored trinkets thrust upwards through the cold and dreary earth by some malevolent demon in order to render us as gullible as children; we home in on them, suspecting no treachery, and are thereby lured into the dark and cramped chambers [that are] our graves.

Round midnight I forced open the locked door of Lovell's room. All was silent throughout the house; the servants were asleep; I had pocketed the house-keys and lighted a lantern. I told him he should follow me because he was no longer safe in my house. He said nothing in reply, but contemplated me with a sullen expression and stood up.

We made our way through the resonant hallways, and I glanced over at him from time to time; a pale beam of light from my lantern fell on his face and imparted a most marvelously distorted appearance to it. I unlocked the front door of the house, and then locked it again behind me. The sky was dark and overcast in every direction.
As in a dream, I set off with him; neither of us made a sound; we stole through the garden like a pair of ghosts. It was the most wondrously strange feeling to be walking by the bowers and banquettes in and on which I had so often sat with him; the trees wistfully leaned over as we [exited the garden] beneath their upper boughs. Here, once upon a time, Lovell and I had walked up and down arm in arm; here we had delightedly discovered to each other the world of Shakespeare; here I had sought him especially out at the break of day, and the evening found the two of us still [walking among] these hedgerows long after everybody else had gone back to their apartments; here he had divulged to me the entirety of his heart[’s secret], and I the entirety of mine to him; and—oh!—now we were walking side by side with a thick screen between our souls; nary a word was uttered; nary a hand reached out for [the friendly] clasp [of another’s].

We arrived at the garden gate, and I took advantage of this interruption [of our egress] to hand him a few banknotes. Luckily, I had a large sum in ready cash at my disposal; I hope it amounts to more than the value of his estates. He said nothing, but mechanically pocketed the wallet. Now we silently descended the footpath running through the forest; the lantern shone only a single beam into the [pitch-]black, sylvan night; all of the trees bore an aspect of [ineffaceable] strangeness. Within a few moments, I [began to be] terrified by the solitude; my heart shuddered when I reminded myself that the figure walking beside me was Lovell.

[In such a mutual attitude] we arrived at the proprietary limit of Bondly. I stood there in silence, as did he. I could [neither] look at him [nor] speak to him, and yet he seemed to be expecting me to say something to him. In my heart a thousand sentiments were chaotically churning, and only the absence of the [faintest] sound from him was preventing me from—ah!—throwing my arms around his neck, and weeping and forgiving him for everything. But he remained silent, and every word [I wanted to say] remained pent up within my breast. We kept standing silently there, and time seemed to stand still along with us, and to be hindered from making good in a single mad dash the entirety of its absence [from our friendship] only by the deferral of the first eruption of anguish [on either side].

“Here I must go back,” I finally said in a faint voice, and turned round. It was as if the entire world and my own heart were turning away from me, and I turned back round and gazed at the mute, deeply self-absorbed figure of Lovell. The brother of a criminal at the hour of [his brother’s] execution cannot feel a more affecting [combination of] sensations than I felt then.

He remained silent all the while [I was looking at him], and I suddenly felt a sensation like a blast of arctic wind shooting through the innermost recesses of my heart; I did not hate him then, but in an attitude of indifference I turned round yet again and took a few steps back into the forest. The flame of my lantern had spent itself, and its light went out; I heard his footsteps as they [gradually] retreated from me. I was surrounded by impenetrable darkness, and for but an instant longer the still-glimmering wick of my lamp cast a ray of light on a tiny patch of green grass below.

Oh! How I then wished he had still been in my presence! I would have smothered him with tears and kisses. The sound of his footsteps was already much fainter. “Ah, I shall never see him again,” I said to myself, and the tears ran warm and full down my cheeks: “I shall never see him again, and he [IM (DR)] is Lovell!” I yearned for him to return, and bumped into a tree; I sank to the ground and screamed as loudly as I could, through a single, uninterrupted sob, “Farewell; fare very, very well!” I do not know whether he heard me, [or] understood what I was saying.

I lay down on the dank ground and stretched myself out to my full length; I hid my feverish face in the wet grass.

In a freezing stupor, I found my way back to the house. The dark sky hung round me on all sides like [the walls of] a mighty iron prison.

Now I am sitting here in my bedchamber, and the sun is already rising. Lovell, too, is a witness to this sunrise; and perhaps the two of us are thinking the very same dismal thoughts at this moment.

Ah, my friend; I am tormented by a violent feeling of unease; have I not done too much harm to the poor wretch? Was I not led astray into taking his last letter to me too seriously? Why did I not reply to it as I had done to the earlier ones? Perhaps everything would have turned out differently if I had done so. Oh, it was unfair, it was wrong, Mortimer, as sure as you are honest. I am now guilty of Lovell’s despair, and of his misfortune; I deserve his hatred and his contempt; and this was precisely the reason why he would not speak to me. Oh, if only I had [simply shaken hands with him before we parted], I would [now] be able to console myself.

Now he is walking alone through the cold countryside, and avoiding every human face; and I am the reason he dreads the sight of people! His Edward, his childhood friend, has deserted him; every [pair of] human eyes is tantamount to a declaration of war to him. Whither shall I fly to hide from myself?

If he had only said to me, “Edward, farewell,” oh, I should have cherished the hope that he had perhaps forgiven me. But in my [accursed] hard-heartedness, I recoiled from him.

How dare I ever show myself again to a single [real] person [with a heart and emotions]? Oh, what a fall I have taken in my own estimation! I cannot continue; my [entire] body is trembling; I [shall] lie down and go to sleep. Fare very well indeed, dear Mortimer; do not contemn me, and do not spurn me; I will become [a] better [man], I promise you.

Eduard Burton to Mortimer


You are being bombarded by [a veritable cannonade of letters] from me, Mortimer. I was just awoken by some terrible news: Amalie has gone missing!

Each of my heartbeats merges into its successor. Where can she be? They have looked for her everywhere, and I am sitting here in a state of anxious expectation.

Still no news! Still not a trace of her! Someone is walking by [outside,] in the hallway. No! It is not her. My God, where can she be? She cannot have gone out, and yet she is not [in her room]; and it is already well past noon.

I [shall] go find her myself. [But] perhaps she has only gone for a walk in the garden; perhaps she has gone to visit some poor family in the village.

Willy has just now been buried; I pray she has yet heard nothing of the entire incident!

How my heart is pounding! My blood is rushing violently [upwards,] towards my eyes.

Still no news! She is not in the garden; she is not in the village…

I have been to her room, and the puzzle has been solved in the most dreadful fashion. In the midst of the very night in which I was bewailing [my conduct] to Lovell, she ran away—and ran away with him. Can you believe it? Can you even imagine it? All of my thoughts are in a muddle. They mutually consented to it. Oh, Lovell! Now you have truly dealt the death blow to my heart!

I am enclosing for you the letter that she wrote to her friend[, to Amalie]. It would be best if you did not pass it on to your wife. Would that even I had not read it!

Oh! Promise me to hurry—if you hear anything whatsoever from my unfortunate sister—to hurry to her rescue.

Now I am completely alone; there is nothing left for me, and I can now at least console myself with [the knowledge] that I have nothing more to lose.

Enclosure in the preceding letter
Emily Burton to Amalie


Finally, finally, I am obliged to inform you that the stranger of whom I spoke is Lovell. You will be alarmed; you will tremble at [the sight of his very] name. Oh, Amalie, you never knew him; you never esteemed his heart enough. How could it have been possible for me to resist his tears, his laments? His misery has touched my heart; and, no, Amalie, for that I cannot blame myself.

Ah, the poor wretch! He has been rebuffed by the entire world and haughtily repudiated by every [human] heart; he peers all around in search of some benevolent soul who might be favorably inclined to him, and he sees not a one, not a single one, in any direction. He must bear his sorrow without love, without a [single] friend; yes: I have sacrificed my happiness to his; I will follow him, and share his austere fate. My brother has no heart, inasmuch as he can spurn him so heartlessly; I am the only person in the world who loves him; the only one who can make his peace with the world and humankind. Have I not lived a sufficiently creditable life if I have rescued this soul from despair?

Tonight I shall flee this place with him; I shall follow him whithersoever he leads me. The carriage is waiting a mile from here, in the forest; at one o’clock I shall be there. I cannot take leave of my brother.

For my sake, he remained a stranger here at Bondly; likewise [for my sake] he revealed his identity to me on the second day. He belongs to me and to no one else in the world; just as I am his and his alone.

And even if I did not love him, I would still follow him; so profoundly has he unsettled me; so steeped am I in his sufferings. I would dissimulate my approval to him [????], simply in order to console him once again; I would joyfully sacrifice my own heart simply in order to save his.

You will call me a [dreamer/visionary], but believe me, I cannot do otherwise. If he left [and I stayed], what would I do here with my brother in this lonely chateau? No: I would have to follow him even if it were against my will.

Please present my compliments to your brother. I do not know what he will say, but I cannot evade my destiny. Everybody must live according to his own convictions, and I sincerely feel that I am doing the right thing. I am fearful of Charles’s anger; please try to calm him down, if it is at all possible to do so. He never really loved me with all his heart, of that I have been very clearly aware from the beginning; and I have been no more capable of loving him.

How this will all turn out in the future, I cannot know at present; but at the moment I am not particularly worried about that.

I would have told you more, but I am running out of time; please present my compliments to Mortimer, [and] my excuses to anybody who will be so severe as to condemn me, and remain my friend for ever.

Please tell your brother that he must and will forget me. [As for] yourself, my dearest friend—

William Lovell to Rosa


How do you like living at Rome and Tivoli? I hardly ever think about my own existence [nowadays], so riotously and colorfully and confusedly is everything circling round me now. I am gathering up a [hefty store of] events and occurrences without having the faintest idea what I am supposed do with them.

If [only] I could expunge from my heart the deep-seated antipathy with which I contemplate every human face, if [only] I could quell my envy of every person who smiles and is merry! Why should thousands of these worthless human beings be happy, and I the only one who feels as though he has been kicked to the ground?

As you will have gathered from my heading, I am no longer in Bondly; everything has gone awry; I am in despair. Edward has triumphed and I have been defeated. But no: I have at least taken my revenge on him.

When I was at Bondly, I suddenly became aware of everything: of how he had come into possession of my father’s estates by undoubtedly unlawful means; of how I had been left with nothing apart from insignificant Waterhall and wretched Kensea. The hatred rose up in my breast with redoubled strength, when I reflected that this was the selfsame individual who had so often nattered on about virtue and magnanimity. It struck me once again how all my plans had gone awry from time immemorial; how perfidious Mortimer had torn Amalie away from me; how she herself had managed to forget me entirely; the obstinacy of my father; the vile underhandedness of Burton senior—oh, it all rushed into my soul with such freshness and vigor that I could not forbear grinding my teeth; that I meditated with fury upon the wretchedness of the prospect all round my heart; that in a rage I resolved to achieve my vengeance at last, to pit evil against evil, and, with a single, mighty offensive, put an end to the entire war. We are incapable of everything but conquering [and] being conquered; so-called virtue is nothing but empty blather and consists among most people in laziness or simple-mindedness, in the remainder it is either simulated or inextricable from their self-interest; it is as serviceable a vocation as any other.

My amour with the fumblingly guileless Emily was moving forward all this while. At least the annihilation of my peace of mind has made me [more] interesting to plenty of insane young women; to be sure, with every loss comes some kind of gain.

After that night that I recently wrote to you about, she did not know how to behave towards me; her sentimentality was a bit ruffled, and her true emotions had been brought more to life. But she now felt that she belonged only to me; it was easy to persuade her that she wanted to go away with me; indeed, she was in a fair way to propose it to me herself if I had not done so. A day and hour were appointed, and she was inordinately pleased with her plans and with the [nobility of the sacrifice she was making].

I now believed myself to be much safer in every respect, and yet I had been recognized by someone in the chateau, namely, my old manservant Willy. Without my noticing it, he was highly attentive to all of my movements; he observed me constantly, and he often looked worried to me. The love of this man followed me wherever I went, and now he was making me miserable and even driving me mad. I hated Edward from the bottom of my heart, and at the same time I was thinking incessantly about my instructions [?]; unobserved—[or so] I thought—I poured a fine[ly ground] poison into a glass of wine in order to avenge myself and redress everything [once and for all].

This action soon afterwards precipitated a violent commotion in the house: doors were slammed; there were loud cries for help; at length I was forcibly dragged down from my room—and Willy [had] seen me, warned Edward, and finally, in order to prove that he was not mistaken, drunk the wine himself. He was already half unconscious; the poison—which in [Edward’s] stronger, more youthful constitution would have started working a few weeks later—attacked his old, frail body immediately. He kissed my hands, [and] wept and wailed; I was completely taken aback. He sank to my feet and swore that he would have a care for my salvation. I was at a loss what to say, and in the end I was [deeply] moved. I wept aloud, and I felt like a child. Willy’s brother was inconsolable [in the presence of] this death; he moaned loudly, and the servants wept with him. The entire room resounded with cries of lamentation; Edward was not present.

But by and by my tears dried up; a cold hatred suffused my heart and my entire bosom; I looked round with impartial eyes to make sure that a fury with snakes on her head was not standing in every corner of the room. I wished they had all been there, and I would have cowered before none of them. I now tried to estimate how long grief would keep up the fight among these people, and it was interesting to observe how little by little their habitual torpor was returning to each of them. They now looked to me like clumsy machines actuated by thick strings; [for a while] they move[d] their assorted limbs according to prescribed rules, and then settl[ed] down again into a state of repose. None of them seemed to me to be alive, and I coldly returned to my room; and after all this, I was utterly incapable of convincing myself that Willy was dead.

And what then is life, and what difference does it make if one of them ends up in the earth a few days earlier? Do not war and pestilence reap thousands of them? Do not thousands become victims of their passions? And if I stretch out my hand and suddenly and inadverently topple one of them to the ground, is that supposed to trouble me and rob me of my peace of mind and sleep? One ought not to take anything in the world at all seriously. A horrible epidemic of plague seems to me like a clumsy chess-player who sends the pieces tumbling higgledy-piggledly with his shirt-cuff. One can only laugh at it.

The other day Edward came to my room. Oh, how loathsome to me was his cold, philosophical mien, and the pitying look with which he contemplated me from on high! How our hearts are lacerated by these people who regard themselves as noble and perfect and have never experienced or suffered anything! Who in their safe rural homelands shake their heads and laugh at accounts of [billowing] surges and tempests at sea, of shipwrecks and terrible dangers, as they would at fabulous fictions! [Whose] patience is adamantine enough not to shatter [in the presence of such people? The very sight of them is enough to drive one mad!]

Oh ye of secure and settled convictions! You judge and know not what you do. You hamfistedly play dice with what you would like to call good and evil; you are cold and fatuous spectators watching a tragedy performed in a language that they do not understand, and who merely nod and gesture insinuatingly to each other in order to conceal from each other their ignorance.

Edward spoke only a few words to me; he was playing the obliging noble gentleman; I was glad that he left after a short time. He did not deserve any kind of a reply from me, and he fully perceived how much I contemned him.

The night on which I planned to elope with Emily [arrived]. I was right on the point of climbing out of the window, when the door opened, and Burton entered with a small lantern. He told me I should follow him because I was no longer safe in his house. We walked silently through the garden, and he handed me some papers that upon closer inspection proved to be a number of banknotes amounting to quite a substantial sum.

At length we were standing still. We did not speak, and these minutes were as oppressive and troubling to me as the sultry air before a thunderstorm. I searched for thoughts to drive away the horror with which they were pregnant. I alternately wanted to set off and to keep deferring the moment of our separation; it was one of those curious pauses wherein the soul is hesitant to exercise its command of the body, wherein it doubts its own will and is reluctant to put the sluggish machine to a hazardous test [of its stamina].

With a few [inconsequential] words, Edward broke the silence and [began heading] back; [next] he turned round as though he had forgotten something; then he turned away from me again, and a single huge tear forced its way towards my eyes; a terrible sense of dread welled up from my breast towards my throat; I felt as though I were about to suffocate. I took a few steps and sought to drown out my hiccupping in the noise of my footfalls. I looked back; he had already extinguished the lantern, thereby causing me to lose sight of him all the sooner.

What did I feel at this moment? Rosa, you cannot conceive it. Only a few years earlier, I loved him so ardently that he would have accounted it a trifle to slough off his life for my sake—and now, at this hour of my life, wherein I knew that he would never see me again, now he let me go without uttering a word by way of leave-taking, without taking my hand, without [bidding me] farewell! I have so often pressed his hand when he did not deserve it; now he should have managed to do the same, even if only for form’s sake.

But it is better that he did not do so. I was too ductile; if he had said but a single kindly word to me, I would have [flung myself into his arms]; I would have told him about everything; I would have sunk back into my childhood; I would have abjured all of my [worldly] experiences; I would have told him of Emily’s flight, and revealed everything to him; I would perhaps have foundered on a [wave of] violent passion. He did not deserve for me to love him as much as I did; the thought of everything that he had originally been to me, and of everything I had originally hoped of him, came rushing back [into my mind]; I thought I heard him crying out to me, and I stopped and was about to retrace my steps, but it was only the sound of the wind [soughing through the trees].

I could not for all that stop wondering whether I should not go back; the farther I kept walking, the more anxiously my heart throbbed—ah, and he had not looked round at me; he had not given me a single further thought.

I was having second thoughts about proceeding to the place where Emily was waiting for me. Everything was distasteful to me now. I was much of a mind to prostrate myself [on the ground] and die. But at length my hatred returned. Curious!—that he of all people should have been destined to conduct me to Emily, whom I might never have managed to find in the gloom of night without [his help]! She had been waiting for me for an anxious half-hour; I took my seat in the carriage, and we drove off.

Emily held me tightly in her arms; the wind was blowing sharply, and a light drizzle of rain was falling into the half-open [roofed] carriage. My animal spirits were exhausted; I fell asleep and awoke only as a pale red sun was ascending the sky.

How prosaic I found the entire world with its mountains, forests, and people! I had enjoyed a night of pleasant dreams, and now nature was standing there before me so cragged and uncouth in its actuality; beside me [sat] Emily with her affectedly hyper-dejected mien. What a beggarly [puppet-]theater the entire world then seemed to me; oh!, I should have been glad to run away from it. And what could tie me to this dreary ball [of dust] were it not for the hope of seeing you, Andrea, and the rest of my friends again soon, of drawing nearer to that unknown, mysterious world; and of being able, as a student of a higher wisdom, to contemn with justice every earthly object?

Burton’s sister and I have traveled hither under assumed names, and I have distinctly observed that she is loath to admit that her interest in me is flagging. Naturally!—inasmuch as it is probable, nay, certain, that I have grown colder towards her.

Farewell. You will receive this letter at the same time as an earlier one.

Edward Burton to Mortimer

I cannot describe to you how lonely I now feel here, dear Mortimer. In my daydreams I often still walk to my sister’s room to meet her there; I seek her out in the garden and weep. I can no longer clearly understand why I am alive, for all the people with whom I was so intimately connected have been torn away from me. Am I really never again to see even my sister? If only I knew where to look for her; if only my body had not been exhausted by a fever[!] And [yet] in any case, it was her desire to abandon me.

Oh! How many people I have injured! Was it not my pathological, misanthropic suspiciousness that caused poor, harried Willy to reach for the poison in order to convince me of his innocence? I have thought so often since then of the pious old man, and I cannot imagine how he must have felt at that moment: half mad with grief over Lovell, whom he loved so ardently; horribly nonplussed by the necessity of warning me and yet not betraying his master, astonished and appalled by my distrust, crowded in on every side, he reached out reflexively and distractedly to death in order to put an end to his life and make his innocence apparent. Should I not have met him with love in order to assuage his sorrow? Ah, Mortimer, it was I who allowed him to experience the most terrifying minute of his existence; I was responsible for his death.  

Is it not my own fault that I have lost Lovell’s soul? Did it not perchance lie in my power to restore him to myself, and to himself? I was under great strain, and my suffering had so powerfully overwhelmed me that I behaved like a brute. With my coldness, I have driven a sister hence; nobody loves me, nobody asks for me; they all fly far away from me merely in order to avoid the sight of me.

No, Mortimer! I will never again allow myself to be taken so unawares. I will love all human beings absolutely without exception, and thereby earn their love in return. Ah! Even if failings and infirmities are visible among them, I ought not to be put off by them, for these very flaws are signs that they are men and my brothers. Why then have we always tried to distinguish between the best and the worst of them? Can we make such discriminations with our feeble terrestrial eyes? When we love them all, we do none of them wrong. Must they not all presently die and crumble into dust? We should constantly be taking care to avoid damaging a single one of these fragile creatures. Let them mock us and hate us and persecute us; oh, I would rather be defrauded by a thousand of them than do wrong to a single one of them.

If only I could set everything to rights again! But Lovell is gone, and it is too late. As a rule, we can only regret our acts of precipitancy; and this very regret ought to impel us to be more cautious in the future.

William Lovell to Rosa


I am once again here in the mighty playground of a clamorous and closely-packed social world. I found it impossible to be any longer in the company of Emily, who was constantly spoiling my mood with her obtrusive affection. She is still in Nottingham, and I told her I had to take a trip to one of the neighboring towns. With any luck, when she discovers that I am not there, she will go back to her brother.

I am now equally strongly repelled by misanthropy and philanthropy; I doubt a single human being cares a damn about me, just as I can hardly be bothered to give a single one of them a second look long enough to smile or frown at him. Nothing is more inimical to me than other people’s bumptious efforts to bestow on me their love, their friendship; they are fools who do not know what to do with themselves, and so they needily seek out other fools in order to sympathize with them out of boredom. How contemptible is the childish sentimentality of an Emily, who on account of it has almost literally for years been expecting her tragic self-sacrifice to land her a husband. Am I now somehow obliged to be a big enough fool to take her histrionic affectation seriously and—miracle of miracles!—be deeply moved by it? One can really find better things to do than join in every silly human escapade, and the most contemptible fool of all is he who finds these escapades churlish and nevertheless balks at treating them like the infantile trifles [that he deems them to be]. Perhaps she is now weeping, and soon she will dry her tears out of boredom; then she will be angry at me, then [she will be] ashamed of herself, and then she [will] forget me.

The fact that she has disturbed her domestic felicity for a short time is her own fault; the fact that in conformity with the [social] contract she must now be ashamed in the presence of many people hardly redounds to my discredit. I practiced my lines with her; she practiced another set of lines with me; we performed with great gravity the chef d’oeuvre of a dramatic poetaster, and now we are both sorry for having wasted our time so egregiously.

Meanwhile, I have traveled through Kensea, the place where I am actually supposed to live now. An ancient Gothic structure stands here in the middle of an uninhabited forest; the garden is completely overrun with weeds; all of the servants look like barbarians; the entire house has a cold, inhospitable aspect; many of the windows are shattered, and the only wall on the grounds is full of cracks. Oh, with what an intense aversion I beheld everything there! I was supposed to live here, in a gloomy, tedious, oppressive solitude? Cut off from the whole of the rest of the world, like a mendicant refugee? Like a timorous owl that with the vexatious onset of dawn at length discovers a dusky lair? No: the entire great wide world lies amicably open to me, and I shall contemptuously turn my back on the hermitical chateau. I can live as easily anywhere else as I could here; and I should not find outright slavery in a foreign country, in another clime, as onerous as life [as a free man] here.

I am here in London among the parti-colored throngs; I am gambling and winning substantial amounts of money. This active but uncertain life, in which the passions are constantly being set in motion, is highly appealing to me. And what an instructive school this is in which to learn one’s first lesson in complete contempt for humanity! How harshly and revoltingly the basest self-interest, the pettiest cupidity, shines from their faces! How greedily each of them tries to rake every penny into his own hoard, and with what equanimity he looks on as his neighbor goes bankrupt and succumbs to total despair!  More than once I have been spineless enough to give back my winnings simply for the sake of restoring good cheer to the insupportably glum faces of the wretches [who had lost them to me]. When I do this, they call me magnanimous and noble. Oh, it is enough to drive one mad!

I shall not be able to put up with these people much longer; I must return to you. I now regard Italy as my homeland, because Andrea is there. I am often astonished to find myself among these people when I reflect upon the marvelous world with which he made me intimately acquainted. I cannot describe to you the sensation that has occasionally come over me right in the middle of a conversation, upon my suddenly realizing that I had once conversed with Andrea. At such moments, I feel completely out of place here; I feel a longing to leave, such that I then [scarcely know what is keeping me here]. Oftentimes, I should like to summon hither all of the marvelous phantoms that passed over me there; I should like to immerse myself in the gruesome night down there, from which ascend the terrors that seize the frail heart of man and virtually crush it. Oh, for a return of the epoch wherein my restive breast was fully satiated by wonders, wherein I was capable of completely forgetting the earth and its human inhabitants and even myself!

Emily Burton to William Lovell


Dear Lovell, you have broken your word; you have already been away for six days longer than you promised me you would be when you departed. Oh, six eternal days, and today is already the seventh. God! If [only] you had not enumerated them, if [only] the days did not seem as long to you as they do to me!

Ah no, William, they cannot have become so long to you, but to be sure I cannot and will not insist on that; for during this interval I have felt as though time were standing still and slowly and deliberately dripping drop after drop of its sorrow on to my heart. I have meanwhile suffered much, and I am afraid that I am beginning to fall ill. My brain is in a muddle, and all of my limbs are trembling.

Ah, Lovell, come back: hurry, hurry back. I do not know what to do when I am alone; ah, I need your help in more than one regard. You know that I could take no money along with me, and the little that I had is spent. What shall I do if you remain absent even longer? But no: you will come; you are not a monster; you are not reckless, and you would have to be both to be unmoved by my plea.

I shall relocate to the nearest village, which we both fancied so much on the way hither; there you shall [find] me.

But will my letter find you? It would be unfortunate if you were not already there when it arrived, and it had to remain unread for another day or even longer. [In that case,] Lovell, I should be inconsolable.

I [recently] had a bad dream, for in this dream it appeared that you had forsaken me, and I heard you quite explicitly ridicule my frailty and affection. Then the entire world drew together ever more tightly, and [closed] up over me like a prison; everything fair and light became dark; the entire future was black and devoid of [the prospect of] a sunrise. But no, you do love me, don’t you, Lovell? Oh, dreams are sent to us only to vex our poor lives with anxiety; from my childhood onwards they have disturbed me by representing everything I so ardently love as insignificant and contemptible. Accordingly, I will not allow myself to be bewildered by them.

But why have you still not come? Oh, Lovell, if my love had become a burden to you! So many [scenarios] that I have encountered only in books before, and forgotten afterwards, are crossing my mind. Oh, it would be dreadful! But how could [my] love and good wishes disturb you; how could you forget that I have sacrificed everything to you?

You see how dejected I have become; it is all simply on account of solitude, and of not having heard you speak [in so long]. You have foisted your love upon me, and are you now to forget me? I have wept through entire days and nights, and [after all this] are you not to come and dry my tears? No, it is not possible; if I could believe that, it would be better that I had never been born.

My faintness is increasing; I feel very ill; do not think that I am exaggerating, William; come straightaway, and you will perhaps find me in somewhat better health than you supposed; if so, I need not assure you that it will have been the hope of seeing you again that made me stronger.

Charles Wilmont to Mortimer


Heavens! What [horrors] I have been obliged to experience here! Calmly, I traveled hither from London because I had reached the end of my tether there; and now I am here—o Mortimer—neither dreaming nor quite awake, my blood boiling and my mind benumbed, resolved to do something and yet not knowing what [that something might be]. O what a lovely trip! [What of] my prospects, my happiness[?]

Can I find words with which to tell you what I am thinking and feeling? I have hitherto wended my way through the world like a child, and I now perceive with horror that it is much stranger, much tawdrier, and much more calamitous than I [had] ever imagined. Oh, I should like to smash my head against a tree; I should like to tear myself limb from limb, [so that it is so and not otherwise]. Who could have expected such a blow as this? Was I guilty of anything whatsoever having to do with it? An invisible force is clutching at my heart and crushing it to a pulp, and I can do nothing but perish of the injury.

On its own, my career in [public] affairs has come to end; so has my good fortune[s], [and] perhaps my life. So Emily never loved me? Oh, but what is man? Who can comprehend him; who is permitted to harbor prejudices about him? And I never loved her? That is a terrible lie! I was incapable of weeping, and I would have been embarrassed if I had expressed my heart’s warmth of feeling at every opportunity [for such a display]; oh, I was too honest to please Emily, I did not make a sufficiently gaudy show of my feelings [for her]; I was incapable of lying, unlike that abject [rogue] Lovell. O Emily! So all along you were one of those common women who cannot help tarting up their emotions, who contemn natural and honest people, and consign their affections to despicable wretches, who amuse them with grimaces and studied sighs, with histrionic attitudinizing and memorized speeches!

Never have I hated [another] human being as I do this Lovell! His name burns grievously in my breast if I so much as hear it; merely thinking of it makes my eyes swim; I could tear the twopenny-halfpenny comedian to pieces with my teeth! But someday I shall find him, and then he will be forced to hold his own against me, and to answer for himself; then he shall not escape from me, and he shall pay me back twice over.

If only the thought of revenge could revive us in the midst of our misfortune! Oh, what a fool I have been! To think that all that time I was sitting in London and toiling away with the industriousness of an ant! This is my reward; she never loved me; oh, if only I convince myself of that! But I am being tossed hither and thither by my wandering thoughts; not one of [these] thoughts is taking up a permanent residence in my brain. Ah, Emily! Where are you now, and are you by any chance pronouncing my name with [at least a suspicion of] remorse? If only I could find you, and then obtain my revenge!

I should like to drink wine until I lost consciousness [of everything that has happened to me], and then throw myself into a deep slumber; for I feel like a murderer pursued from every direction. I cannot manage to flee from myself.

I must look for her; I must find him; I will cover every inch of land in England in search of them; they must be somewhere. Farewell, until I visit you uninvited in the course of my search.

William Lovell to Rosa

Roger Place

I have won considerable sums of money [at cards], and I am thinking of employing them in a departure from England. Nothing is easier than playing a part in society, and there are thousand ways of making oneself interesting. People clung to me in London because I had assumed a weird Italian name and I allowed a thousand outlandish suppositions about me to pass uncontradicted; from time to time, I would recount a picaresque fragment or two from a fictitious [autobiography] to some of my friends, who subsequently could not forebear repeating them to other people under the seal of strictest secrecy. In every family there was someone who craved my acquaintance; in many assemblies I set the tone and adjudicated whenever controversial topics cropped up. I was deemed uncommonly clever because on a few occasions I had said something that I myself did not understand; this something was subsequently mulled over, and [eventually] afforded matter for speculation even to me. Every idea in the world admits of being spoken on both pro and contra, and accordingly it takes no special skill to dispute with anyone whomsoever; and so in conformity with my conviction I am obliged at all times to be a thoroughgoing sceptic, and even more often I behave like one, such that I am finding it quite easy to defeat even the most intelligent of my opponents with a passable argument. Women especially found me uncommonly attractive, at first on account of my pale and consumptive complexion, then because they took me for a foreigner and a kind of atheist. They like nothing so much in the world as marveling at what they are most afraid of; indeed, fear and admiration are much of a muchness to them. They would summon up all of their mental powers in the attempt to advance opinions exactly identical to my own, only to alight upon completely different ones time and again. Their intelligence generally consists more in cunning than in deliberation; they deliberate [only] after they have reached a conclusion; and their philosophy is a product of their obstinacy, and is therefore defended with dogged tenacity. They never really get to know the men they love, because they never confess to themselves the observations that they have made of them; and therefore no creature is so easy to deceive as is a woman in love. Whomever they hate they are acquainted with down to his most hidden traits; indeed, they know him better than they know themselves; they manage to ferret out his chief weaknesses and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the very qualities that other people deem virtuous and praiseworthy in him emanate directly from them. Their minds are so entirely constituted by their latest thoughts that whenever they get a new set of them into their heads, they manage all on their lonesome to outsmart their earlier ideas, and expel them with the peremptoriness of a despot without subsequently deeming it even worth their while to talk about them; and whomever has the misfortune even to allude to them they deem the simplest of all simpletons. Every five years they change their ruling ideas, which they organize in one way or a completely different one depending on whether they marry or remain single; the older they get, the more they are insulted through negligence and the less by intentional affronts; but even in situations of the closest intimacy, even when she is most imperturbably disposed to be honest, a woman cannot be compelled to be totally honest with a man, inasmuch as the sense that men are an alien and intrinsically bestial species never forsakes her; and men in virtue of their ineluctable hamfistedness are continually wreaking havoc on women’s more delicately spun sensoria. Any man who had lived exclusively among women until the age of twenty would perforce be subsequently capable of hoodwinking all [other] men.

But what has suggested to me this character study of such inordinate prolixity? Nothing was so strikingly repellent to me in these assemblies of people as the [desperate] dinnertime rush of young and old men alike to sit next to a feminine creature of any sort [or age]; [or] how lucky they then reckoned themselves, and acted as though this mattered more to them than [anything else in the world]. Once one has become acquainted with the Sex and partaken of it, such affected airs and graces are enough to spoil one’s mood. But our life runs on in a course of perpetual affectation, and whoever refuses to join in is called an affected fool by everybody else.

Many of the leading belles of London society would perhaps have even accepted my hand in marriage if I had been willing to promise them to die soon or remain in a state of arrested imbecility for the rest of my life. I was inclined to do neither, and so I did not enter into more serious negotiations on the subject.

I finally got tired of the whole crowd and left town. I could hardly omit to pay a visit to Roger Place, the country seat of Mortimer and Amalie; from here the letter in your hands originates. I was driven hither almost against my will, and now I intend to see Amalie a few more times and then leave.

She goes out for a walk with Mortimer every morning, for in front of their house is an agreeable little avenue that vanishes into a lovely forest; then they take their tea. Amalie is much more cheerful, and Mortimer has changed completely; he strikes me alternately as much more human and much more feminine. Amalie looks older and more intelligent. A few times of an evening I have lain under the whispering trees and gazed up at their windows. Yesterday I was strongly tempted to climb into the house. My heart is seething with hatred and anger towards Mortimer, and yet at the moment I do not rightly know why. But I had not forgotten Amalie; I falsely said I had to others and to myself; and Mortimer, who so deeply contemned my love for her, ought not to have torn her away from me! And what more is there to it? Would I not have grown bored with her as I did with Emily? No, because I never loved Emily.

There is a truly horrible-looking charwoman in the house; I will try to have a word with her; I should be greatly surprised if I didn’t manage to bring her over to my side. Once I know the exact particulars of the situation here, perhaps I shall be able to hatch a clever plan out of them.

Who knows if Amalie is not after all one of those women I spoke of earlier? In the old days I loved her too much to study her attentively; and at that time I [also] loved and hated humankind universally, in advance of any acquaintance with them. Every person has a period in his life in which friendship coincides with self-love, a period when he sees no reason for making a fuss about either of them.

Farewell, and present my compliments to Andrea.

William Lovell to Rosa

Roger Place

There are times in life, Rosa, in which contingencies string themselves together so childishly that for a moment or two we are positively obliged to regard the world around us as a mental chimera. I plunge anew into this state of mind each time I think back on it all; oftentimes nothing in the world seems stranger to me than the notion that any event whatsoever should be connected to a preceding one, such that we are often actually compelled to [accept] the idea that human beings are accustomed to term fate.

To wit [as regards all of the above]: in the hideous charwoman I told you about earlier I have rediscovered an old acquaintance. I went to see her, and we soon became quite familiar with each other; she mentioned my actual name, and I was stunned. It was as though she were channeling some evil spirit who was about to hand me over to my enemies. I took a closer look at her, and yet I could not recall ever having seen her anywhere. Finally she told me who she was, and—good heavens!—she was none other than the Comtesse Blainville!

For I long time I did not wish to believe it. Countess Blainville, that alluring, vivacious young woman—and here stood before me a monster, disfigured by pockmarks, one-eyed, endowed with every possible rebarbative attribute—and yet it was her; beneath that thickly-hewn carapace there yet remained, as though remote and hidden, a few of her features from the old days.

I can relate to you her entire history in a few words. Count Melun died soon after marrying her; she [then] allowed herself to be seduced into every [conceivable] extravagance by her lover, the Chevalier Valois; with him she left Paris and went to England; her fortune was soon gambled away by Valois; she fell ill, [and] the smallpox manifested itself on her [face]; the Chevalier shot himself; she recovered her health, but her youth and beauty had vanished along with her money. She sought assistance among her [fellow] men and women [in society], because her acquaintance with them was but slight; they contemptuously spurned her, as she would have spurned them had she been in their place; at length, reduced to the most oppressive level of destitution, she sought employment in service, and Amalie, here at Roger Place, hired her. And here have I been obliged to encounter both of them: my two mistresses in a queer juxtaposition.

I have [enjoined] her to keep the strictest silence, and she has demanded the same of me; [for] Mortimer, who used to think her very beautiful, does not yet know that she is living in his house.

It is horrible to reflect that this monster was already lying cocooned in the lovely woman I embraced a few years ago; now the same thought will occur to me in connection with every woman: that even the gray-haired, red-eyed, desiccated old crone limping along on her crutch was once young and had her worshipers; she never imagined that she could ever change; it never occurred to her most besotted suitor to laugh at himself, for he was oblivious of the true shape of the woman to whom his declamations were addressed. Oh, away with [such delusions]! But what do all of the pleasures of this world amount to? I am disgusted when I see a couple walking by and behaving tenderly to each other. In childhood we pine for glass beads, later for love, then for riches, then for health, and finally for nothing but life itself; at every stage we believe we have made progress, and yet we are [actually] traveling in a circle, such that we can never say, “Now I am at a good distance from that place.”

William Lovell to Rosa

I must return, for I am no longer aware of anything keeping me here in England. Oh, there are people who are infinitely baser than I, who commit outrages in cold blood, as if they were obliged to do so and incapable of doing otherwise.

I still tremble when I think of how deeply I could have sunk, how close I came to attempting that which would have extirpated me from the ranks of humanity. I now feel that I have hitherto gone too far in my effrontery; I was much too self-assured, and gave not a thought to the proximity of the crime, to how closely it lay before my feet. I [shall] abhor vice with every fiber of my emotional being, no matter how hard intellectual sophistry tries to prove to me that there is no such thing as vice; and even you, Rosa, and Andrea, too—it is hopeless; you could never be convinced of the truth of it. 

I intend to forsake England for the sake of returning to myself. Oh, dear Rosa, please bear with my mood today as you have done so often before; today I feel forsaken by all the courage that ordinarily is evinced by my every word. This is all the consequence of an incident that brought me to my knees at Roger Place.

I cannot describe to you the feelings that possessed me as I stalked about the estate; first I felt hatred towards Mortimer, who seemed to me indestructible; then, on the other hand, I was oppressed by a profound self-loathing; then I felt indifferent to everything and comported myself there like a superfluous bystander for whom out of all of the manifold roles in the world’s drama a part could not be found. When I then saw Amalie again, I was seized by such a passionate, fervent longing to clasp her in my arms; to press her to my lips, to my throbbing heart, that a fit of trembling and fever came over me. It was as though it were an essential part of my life, as if my sole and final purpose, for whose sake I had been living up to that point, were merely to say to her just once that I was still alive and that I still loved her as I had done in the old days. I believed that after this moment I would be calm and at peace with myself, that I would be able to contemplate life and death alike with a steady gaze. All of the sensations of my early youth came back; I wanted at the instant she recognized me to die in her arms; I wanted no further thought or emotion to stir in my soul after this suspended moment. Oh, if only, if only I were dead! Death and the grave are the sole asylums. If [only] I were permitted to visit this abode of peace, shaken free of the savage tumult of the world of the living; but everything I looked forward to looks so cold and joyless on closer view, and thus passes by; I am left behind and gaze after the throng that no longer troubles itself about me. I will no longer hope for any joy, I will embrace the cold air as my friend; I will be dead, embedded in the lifeless mass that surrounds me; no emotion shall draw any closer to me; I will annihilate all yearning, all languishment for love, in this bosom of mine, and live self-sufficiently like a bold, defiant beggar—ah, my yearning is now directed towards putrefaction, towards the cold earth that will ultimately render to this throbbing heart its quietus. I feel as though I ought to take a knife and with it make a clear exit for the seething blood that is surging in my throat and rushing towards my brain.

What will you have to say about the Countess? What will you feel when you hear to what depths a person can sink? No sooner had she recognized me, than she began pursuing me incessantly with her amicable caresses; she recalled to me our intimacy at Paris and the manner in which she had duped me back then; I laughed at myself, and at the same time ardently wished for a return of the innocence and ingenuousness of those days. I revealed to her my desire to see Amalie just one more time, and she promised me to discover a means [of bringing us together], if I agreed to bestow upon her my company for an entire night. O my friend, how [gruesome] love, sensuality, and all the pleasures of this world seemed to me on that night!

“'Tis an untended garden that grows to seed; overgrown with weeds and thistles. Fie on the world! ah, fie!” [Adapted from Hamlet I.ii.134-135 (DR)]

I still blush when I think back on it; it is as if from time immemorial I have greedily snatched at every opportunity to degrade myself. During the night in question, Blainville promised to secure me an opportunity of speaking with Amalie in the garden behind the house. Mortimer would be setting out on a trip the following morning; and then, in the evening, she would raise a powerful amount of smoke and a harmless fire, and start a loud hue and cry; all of the servants would be busy with preparations [for extinguishing the fire], and on her advice, Amalie would escape to the garden; then she would let me into the house and lead me to Amalie.

Very early in the morning, Mortimer mounted his horse and rode off. How nervously I awaited the sunset! Amalie was nowhere to be seen, and I had no opportunity even of speaking again with the Countess. Finally evening came; I paced up and down the lane in front of the house; the trees rustled violently and announced the approach of a storm; I saw a light burning in Amalie’s chamber, and my heart palpitated anxiously and furiously. The final flower of my happiness was about to be driven into the open, and my entire soul was on tenterhooks in anticipation of this moment.

The sky was darker; the wind was howling more forcefully, and I gazed fearfully and unwaveringly at the house. Not a sound emanated from it; from off in the distance, in the village, I heard the cry of the night-watchman and the baying of hounds.

Finally, I saw thick smoke pouring out of a window on one of the sides of the house. All the while, everything remained quiet. Oh, how uneasy I now felt upon hearing a nightingale striking up a song in one of the trees above me! You can neither conceive nor comprehend it, Rosa; no other human soul can participate with me in this emotion.

The servants must have already gone to bed, because not a creature was stirring in the entire house even though a blazing flame was now climbing from the window to the roof; the smoke was ascending to the sky in mighty billows and creeping round in whorls towards the front. All the while not a cry escaped from the building; nor did the Countess open the door for me; the light in Amalie’s room kept placidly shining on in its place. I was trembling with impatience, with anxiety and delight. As a person in his dreams sometimes finds himself standing at a vertiginous height, appalled by the abyss below and yet aware that he is about to plunge into it; as this person craves with indescribable anxiousness the moment of his descent, so I felt in relation to the seconds that were then elapsing. I could not conceive where the Countess was being detained for such a long time; I began testily pacing up and down, and then I stood still again; I could believe neither my eyes nor my ears, according to both of which, contrary to our agreement, the whole house was still silent and the door had not yet opened; and yet for all that, time kept moving inexorably and terrifyingly forward. The flames were shooting up to the roof, off of which tiles were cascading; the reverberation set the verdant trees trembling; the entire house was surrounded by smoke, and at this point I thought I heard a faint voice calling for help. While I was still temporizing over what to do, Amalie’s window opened; she looked out and then withdrew with a cry of horror; then she called for help more loudly and fearfully; I clearly perceived that the room was full of smoke.  Then I suddenly remembered a passage from one of her letters, which she had sent to my unworthy self when I was still at Paris, and in which she wrote with amiable concern, because she had received no news from me in such a long time, “I see you struggling helplessly against the surge [of the sea]; or hear you crying in vain for help in a burning house…” She wrote me that back then, when I had forgotten her on account of the wretched Countess Blainville, the same Countess Blainville who was now dispatching the consuming flames to her benefactress. I was now struck by this [thought] as by a whirlwind; it was as though I were being seized by the almighty hand of fate itself; I took a tall ladder and set it against the window[sill]; I hardly knew what I was doing. I was standing in Amalie’s chamber; she was lying unconscious on a sofa. I clasped her to my breast; my arms enfolded her tender body, and in this state I carried her down the ladder and laid her on a grassy spot under the trees. She gazed at me with lusterless eyes; I knelt down beside her. All of my senses were disordered; I was thinking nothing, and I saw nothing but her lying before me, and her lovely blue eyes and her soft, affable mouth, which had long ago uttered my name so often. She trembled, and I stammered out a few words; I do not even know what they were; then I pressed my face to her bosom; I wanted to die; then my hot cheek was resting on hers, which was cold; I thought she was dead, and embraced her once again; the burning house was beset on all sides by a chaotic bustle of activity; then I stood up and made off with all speed; she called out something to me; I did not understand it. I wanted to go back, but I kept moving farther and farther away to spite myself.

In the forest I sank to the ground under an old tree. I heard some screams in the distance, and [saw] large sparks ascending into the sky and then sputtering out; I gazed at [this spectacle] coldly, and at length [began] weeping loudly and passionately. The wind rustled through the woods, and the leaves [began] stirring all around [me] like millions of scolding and jeering tongues. Forsaken by every living person, forsaken by inanimate nature, I pounded my head against the trunk of the tree; a desolate darkness pervaded my soul; I was detached from myself, and contemplated and pitied myself as I [would have] some alien being. Oh, I should have liked to have by my side a dog, which would have nuzzled against me with a whimper; this dog would have consoled me, I would have regarded it as my friend.

Now [my meditations] were broken by the inception of the storm. Loud thunderclaps resounded against the ground of the forest and heavy showers roared through the trees. All of nature seemed to awaken and take fright. Flashes of lightning flew through the darkness and seemed to be seeking me out; [wild] beasts moaned in the distance; owls circled skittishly round in the air, and the huge clouds laboriously toiled their way across the sky. At length, waterlogged by the rain, I went to sleep when the din had [somewhat] abated.

I was horrified by the sight of morning as I woke up; my dream[-world] evaporated and delivered me up once again to my personalized existence. I returned nobody’s glance, but rather kept walking on in a straight line; I avoided the path of every other human being; I prowled around the villages.

I now rejoice in having saved Amalie—albeit on behalf of Mortimer!—but I will leave; she must cease to concern me; I will forget her and everything [else].

You will see me again soon.

Mortimer to Edward Burton

Roger Place

I am writing to inform you of a curious incident. I am thoroughly unnerved, and my only desire now is that this event should have no deleterious consequences for Amalie.

The day before yesterday, I rode to a village about thirty miles from here, because I had heard that for the previous few days, a woman of whose identity nobody was quite certain had been staying there. Many of the details of her description matched those of your unfortunate sister’s, such that I immediately hastened to see her in person. But she turned out to be the daughter of a decayed nobleman, who after suffering numerous misadventures had settled in the village with her poor father. I was moved by her account of her history, and set out for home first thing yesterday. But how astonished I was when, upon drawing within sight of my house, I found it completely in ruins! Everywhere there were unmistakable traces of a conflagration, and one of the outbuildings was still smoking. Amalie was not well.

I learned that the evening after my departure, a fire had indeed broken out, but at the intervention [of the servants] and a timely burst of rain, it had soon been extinguished. Before anybody else had noticed the fire, Amalie was rescued by a stranger whom nobody had subsequently seen.

But then the entire thing assumed a truly fantastic aspect with the discovery of the asphyxiated body of Charlotte, who out of panic had not managed to escape from a locked room, even though she had had its key in her pocket. At the same time there was found on her person a wallet, which I examined; and from a few papers contained therein I gathered to my astonishment that this detestable Charlotte was none other than the Countess Blainville, with whom I had been acquainted in Paris. Since this discovery, I have formed all sorts of outlandish conjectures, the most plausible of which are so improbable that I do not care to communicate them to you. For all that, I thank God that the incident has had such a happy ending.

Amalie still knows nothing whatsoever of the unfortunate fate of your sister; she therefore absolutely insists on enclosing a letter in this one; I cannot deny her request without arousing her suspicion; still less am I in a position to reveal to her what has happened to her friend, for at present it would upset her far too much. And so together with this letter you will be receiving another one addressed to your sister.

Enclosure in the preceding letter
Amalie to Emily Burton

Roger Place

I have been hoping for a letter from you, dear Emily, for such a long time; I did not want to reply to you until you had kept your promise by telling me the name of that interesting stranger. But your silence, together with an incident that you will have already learned about from Mortimer’s letter, impels me to write to you sooner. Ah, I have felt the fear of death in a most terrible form. [Yesterday,] I went to bed at nightfall, because I was alone and Mortimer had gone away for a few days; I was tired and already on the point of dozing off when I noticed that my room was filling with smoke. I could not imagine where it was coming from; I paced around the room; the clouds of smoke kept getting thicker; I could not avoid coughing, in less than a minute they were so thick that I was afraid that I was going to suffocate; I wanted to leave the room, only I had locked the door, and now in the darkness and my confusion I could not find the key anywhere. It became very hard for me to breathe, and I perceived that little by little I was losing consciousness. I called for help, but my voice was very faint. Finally in the sheerest panic, I opened the window and was overwhelmed by smoke and flames [from outside]. Nobody [else] was anywhere near me; I saw an ineluctable death before me and beside me; I sank into [total] insensibility. Next I felt as though I were being carried along in a cart; a draft of cold air blew over me; I awoke and found myself lying under the trees in front of my house. It was dark; the flames lit up the night; servants were bustling in the distance, and a man I did not recognize was kneeling at my side. I did not know whether I was dreaming or awake; the stranger who had rescued me clasped me in his arms; “I am Lovell!” he gasped to me in a voice choked with breathlessness. I lost consciousness again; the most curious images, the most distant memories, were [flitting] through my mind. “O Lovell—[you] unfortunate man—dear Lovell,” I called out to him[—quite] loudly, for he had already hurried away.

Oh, what a sensation I felt then! I have so often wished to see him just one more time, and now he comes and vanishes again in the same instant. Why was I unable to say to him any of the many things that have weighed on my heart for such a long time? Why did he come here, and by what accidental circumstance was it he and nobody else who was obliged to rescue me? I was unable to thank him even once—ah! I have wept a great deal [at the thought] that I did not speak to him.

The servants carried me into the summerhouse; a terrible thunderstorm was now raging [outside]; everything conspired to distress me.

Poor Charlotte was found dead in a chamber [of the main house]; oh, how I pity her, for I know from my own experience the terribleness of her situation. She was certainly unable to escape; I have been weeping at the thought of this as well. Oh, how much misfortune there is in the life of a human being!

Edward Burton to Mortimer


How I was moved by the enclosure in your last letter! There is—and would that it were otherwise!—no longer any Emily here to whom I could have delivered it. And [is there] still no news of my sister? Wilmont has gone roaming and come back; he has managed to learn nothing of her. He is about to set off on another rambling journey; I fear for his health. You have met an unfortunate woman whom you initially took for my sister, and Wilmont, too, has told me of several others who often gave him the idea that they really could be Emily. You see, Mortimer, how many people besides us are suffering. If only I could find a modicum of consolation in this thought!

This feeling of loneliness is torturing me almost to death; all rooms are too small for me; the air in the garden is not open enough for me. I dream of Emily incessantly; there is nothing more terrible than knowing that the people whom one loves are unhappy; perhaps the only thing more terrible is doubting whether they are virtuous. This twofold emotion is annihilating me.

I often yearn to fall ill, and thereupon die; for there is certainly no one [on this earth] who would weep for me. I try to help the poor; but what is this compared with helping Emily, or making friends again with Lovell, neither of which I can do? Every one of my charitable gifts, every palliation of someone’s suffering that I procure, is but a trivial compensation for my mighty sin.

Not long ago, I was weak enough to begin planning the erection of [a few] monuments to Emily and Lovell in [some of the] darker [corners] of my garden; in the course of these childish musings I forgot my grief for a half a day at a stretch, but then I would see one of her garments, or I would open my writing-desk and my hand would alight upon something she had written, and then the sorrow would overwhelm my soul anew; and I would feel that my poor, broken heart could mourn well enough without any monuments. It is a sad fact that we are all too eager to trim out and embellish everything and often forget the thing itself for the sake of its [adventitious] trimmings. Your very name, Emily, recalls everything back into my soul; all memories of bygone pleasures, each and every one of your caresses, every joke, the games of our childhood years—ah, Mortimer, many times I should like to [give in totally to] despair, when I realize so vividly yet again that everything is now truly over and done with, that this is not some scenario concocted by my troubled imagination, but something that has actually happened. Oh, I do believe that I am not suffering enough, that I cannot bewail [my sorrow] loudly enough.

If only I could summon back the past! Oh, the most tender part of her affection should not have been my adversary; she certainly should not have shunned me! Out of masculine paranoia, with an unseasonable earnestness, I was too cold to her from the beginning; I often felt the finest brotherly love, the warmest affection for her, such that I should have liked to sink into her bosom and embrace her and kiss her, as if she had just recovered from a severe illness, or returned from a long journey.

But then the petty fear of being thought affected or eccentric overcame me, and I stuck to the [more reserved] tone of common social intercourse; I was often dismissive towards her passionate demonstrations of feeling, and this attitude ultimately estranged her from me; she had not confided [the state of] her emotions to me, and in her anger and sorrow she felt the need to seek out another heart more akin to her own. Towards Lovell, too, I was invariably too cold; I could feel how exaggerated his manner of dealing with his friends was, and lest I should fall into this same bad habit of exaggeration, I [adopted a] chilly [demeanor]. Oh, [these two] people do not even know, they cannot know, how very much I love them; and that is why I should like to have them here again, for the sake of telling them everything and revealing my true self to them, for the sake of rediscovering my native country like a lost and wandering expatriate. But ah!—the way back is closed off to me; I am incarcerated in my current emotions, and it is they that will remain my native country.

William Lovell to Rosa


You are now holding in your hands my last letter from England, for in a few days I intend to make my departure. I have recovered the courage that I recently lost in its entirety; I am as changeable as Proteus or a chameleon—that I freely grant you. I have derived fresh consolation from the wretchedness of mankind; to my own personal nature I am resigned, inasmuch as I cannot be other than I am.

Sadness is as fine a form of drunkenness as is joy; both evaporate, and the more quickly the more violent they are; but in the heat of the moment one can hardly be brought to believe as much; but this is perfectly fine too, for otherwise we should be constantly lugging around an onerous, phlegmatic existence that refused to be dislodged from [our shoulders]; all of [our] passions are harnessed [to this existence] like horses [that never stop champing at the bit], the better for hauling the ponderous mass at breakneck speed over hills and mountains, through valleys and rivers, incessantly and [tirelessly], and whither? Only upon returning to creeping forward one step at a time does one gives any thought to [the destination].

I often now yearn for solitude, for I am too well acquainted with people for them to be any longer capable of arousing my interest. They no longer deceive me, and all enjoyment in this play is gone; it now strikes me as boring and inept. Human beings are much better off [than I am]; they remain completely unacquainted with themselves and with their so-called brothers, for life looks colorful and pleasant to them; they bewail every single thing and are saddened by every single thing; one surprise swiftly follows the other, and they remain in a constant state of confusion, in an interminable daze. But now I smile and shake their hands; I make the gestures that are required of me, I collect dozens upon dozens of them, and yet I am not kept busy by the collection. I swear like the rest of them on a thousand different things, and do not know what they are talking about; I affirm and deny, and now I am of this view and now of that one, a ball that can be turned in every direction—but how tedious, how repugnant, to me is every single face! Not one of these individuals arouses my attention, for I know the most trivial thoughts of each and every one of them by heart.

In one of my letters I spoke about women; but—good heavens!—what about men? If I were compelled to respect any human beings, I would choose to confine this respect to women; for this ungainly, ham-fisted, bumptious, cringing beast that we call a man—oh, I know of nothing more contemptible than this contradictory combination of intelligence and folly, [of] tenacity and changeability. In their youths men are dependent on the glances, on the smiles, of women; they strive to please them and form themselves to suit the pattern set by [women’s] casual hints; they think themselves masters of the world and allow themselves to be tyrannized for the sake of a trifle. Their most intrepid desires, their most audacious schemes, are mere flunkies and train-bearers of their lustful cravings. The stupid peasant thinks highly of himself because the [cabinet] minister driving by [in a coach] returns his greeting; in his simplicity he believes that this has never happened to anyone else, and [he cannot] forbear telling the whole village about it; and the minister [starts] looking three times as often in the mirror when a young woman who until now has regarded him but coldly [suddenly] smiles at him. After every deception [perpetrated on him by one of the Sex], a man believes that he has met the last woman who will ever deceive him; the next day he maintains that another one is a paragon of virtue, whereupon he swears that all the rest were worthless; whereas this woman, this woman alone, was well and truly born for him; then every glance inspires in him a pang of jealousy; then he snatches up every word that otherwise might exclusively grace some ear other than his. An eternal, restless struggle, perpetual disharmony, [ensues]; all of his powers and aptitudes are at loggerheads with themselves; he wants to dominate, and he is a slave; he wants to love, and he hates; against his will, he is guided by [his mistresses’] glances; he contemns jealousy and is himself jealous; he—oh!—truth be told, it is ultimately a waste of breath even to talk about him!

Now when the blood flows more slowly through a man’s veins, the passions gradually recede into the background. The mental chimera that is pride takes sole possession of the throne. Before the man could be ruled only by women, but now he can be ruled by [any]body. Children have him in their clutches and toss him to and fro like a toy. Whoever flatters him is his friend, and even when he perceives the crudeness, the incoherence, of the flattery, he is not offended by it; he willingly allows himself to be ensnared; he even believes [he possesses] all of the virtues attributed to him in the most shameless poet’s birthday encomium. He is a flower that is sucked dry by every species of insect; he no longer devotes a single reflective thought to himself; rather, he has submitted wholesale to the sentence of an alien judge; he is acquainted with himself only by hearsay, and is of the opinion that other people have a keener eye for our merits and failings than we do ourselves. In consequence, the biggest blockhead can run this machine to his own profit; and a [genuinely] clever person will regard the entire world as nothing but a gigantic factory in which these machines have been installed, and which he cannot fail to set in motion to his own profit.

I intend to set forth, and to return to you; I am burning with alacrity to learn and experience more with Andrea’s help; the more I hate and contemn this world, the more powerfully I feel myself drawn to those superterrestrial [phenomena] that Andrea plans to disclose to me. My acquaintance with him is the last cheerful prospect in my possession.

Emily Burton to Mortimer

C-----, near Nottingham

You will be astonished when you unseal this letter; you will perhaps be indignant when you see the signature, but for the sake of your friendship with my brother, please grant me the favor of hearing me out. You will have already learned of my unfortunate misstep; please spare me [the pain of] relating to you how I was rendered [so] wretched. Oh, my dear friend (if I may address you thus), if only you knew how much I have suffered, you would gladly forgive me.

I hesitate to write to my brother; I am ashamed, and afraid to see him; I have insulted him too much. His love would cause me pain. I deserted him in a drunken stupor, in a towering rage; I did not know what I was doing. I followed a despicable individual to whom I had given my heart in its entirety. I had all sorts of [mad] ideas; ah, no sooner was I on the road, an hour after having left the house, than I came to my senses; the luster [of the] misstep [itself], the mirage of [mutual deception], my egoism—all of it vanished; I realized that Lovell had [never] loved me, ah!, and [on looking into] my own heart, I discovered that [I] had never loved him either. I realized what a contemptible creature I was; how artificial had been the hysterics of my high-flown fancy; how [vicious] had been my craving to feel something special and uniquely mine—oh, how I have contemned and detested myself since that [day]! But I have suffered sufficiently for [my transgression]. Oh, dearest, dearest Amalie, forgive me for having perpetually felt myself superior to you, for having incessantly tried to curb your behavior and the intensity of your emotions. Oh God! How great, how holy, you now appear in my eyes, in virtue of your simple way of life!

I can scarcely keep my hold on the pen; I am feeling very faint. He has forsaken me; I lie here among strangers without succor, ill, and on my deathbed—I can sense this; grief and despair have absconded with my vital powers. Oh, but he ought not to have left me like this; I did not deserve such treatment as this from him!

Why did I abandon that peaceful, lovely happiness that dwelled with me [before]?—the love and benevolence that surrounded me [then]? Ah, my brother! If only he has forgiven me! If only he has not shed a tear for his worthless sister! But I wanted to see him in order to beg his forgiveness; ah, I would be unable to endure his gaze.

Have pity on me and come visit me; help me; reward the poor people here for what they have done for me.

Oh Amalie! My dearest friend! If only I could see you just one more time!

I cannot continue.

Mortimer to Edward Burton


Oh, my friend, be a man; restrain your grief. Your sister is no more. I found her only to watch her die.

My eyes are still uninterruptedly wet with tears, even though I have hardly ever wept before in my life; but these scenes have shaken me through and through and overturned all semblance of composure in me. She often mentioned your name; she wanted you to be here; [through me she begs your forgiveness]. Wilmont was right next to me when the letter arrived; he rode with me hither. When she saw him she turned her face away with the greatest sadness. Charles looked horrible. He was staring fixedly straight ahead; she sobbed; a violent spasm convulsed her feeble heart.

You must console yourself, and yet I have not a single consoling word to offer you: I myself am in need of the consolation of a friend.

Oh Lovell! How many sighs and tears are incinerating your soul!

Farewell; there is nothing I can add to this.

Charles Wilmont to Edward Burton


So it is really all over, completely over! All hopes are dead! Ah, Emily! Emily! If only I could follow you! And so I shall, and soon; but first I must seek out the dastard and punish him. He can hardly still be in England; I will go abroad and find him. Then, Emily, we will see each other again. She mentioned his name [just] before she died; it was a battlefield call to vengeance!

Farewell, my friend. Console yourself; I refuse to be consoled. Mortimer called my recent letter inhuman, and he was right; I am no longer a human being; I have no wish to be one; I am a demon of vengeance that tears through the world, the [personification of] punishment that seeks out the criminal.

Edward Burton to Mortimer


I can hardly prevail on myself to write a few words to you. My hands are trembling; floods of tears have bleared my eyes. Oh, God! I did not even see her one more time! In the hour of her death she did not turn to me! Behold how you are loved, Edward! Ah, what can I say? I can only sob and wail! Must things end thus with Emily? And was it really necessary for this draught of sorrow to be prepared for me by Lovell, by Lovell? Oh Emily! If you had confided in me, confided in me earlier, everything certainly could have been put to rights! But now, everything is lifeless and desolate—no prospects, no hope!

The churchyard looks so lovely and friendly; I should like to rest there.

Ah, Willy! You did the right thing in dying. What in the way of joy is to be found here?


Translation © 2010 by Douglas Robertson