UIF!NBSSJBHF! CMBDLTNJUI; B!OPWFM!UBMF!GSPN!UIF! NFNPSBCMF!FYQFSJFODFT! PG!B!OBUVSBM!TDJFOUJTU by LUDWIG ACHIM VON ARNIM Translated by Sheila Dickson
Translator’s Introduction By Sheila Dickson Die Ehenschmiede is by no means well known to the general German reading public and The Marriage Blacksmith is the first translation of it to be published in any language.1 The story deserves to be better known, not least simply because of its entertainment value, and it additionally merits the attention of those who, even if they have no particular interest in German or the works of this author, do have an interest in travellers’ tales, in Scotland during the period of the Napoleonic wars as described from a visitor’s perspective, in Clan Campbell and the Dukes of Argyll, or, indeed, in how all of the above can be juxtaposed with beetles and elephants, turtles and Indian princesses, dragons and submarines, and how everyone can finally live happily ever after. The author of The Marriage Blacksmith, Ludwig Achim von Arnim, was a contemporary and friend of the Grimm brothers, and with another friend, Clemens Brentano, who was also his brother-in-law, he edited a collection of folk songs, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn) (1805-1808). Whereas Grimms’ fairy stories aspired to remain faithful to sources, the latter anthology was based on a quite different editorial principle according to which old, traditional material was adapted and interwoven with new compositions. Arnim’s central aesthetic principle was equally one of association, combination and amalgamation, and his fictional works are characterised by the often grotesque mixing of historical and contemporary reality, surreal fantasy, supernatural and folk tale elements. Unlike many fellow writers of this age, Arnim preserved a belief in the possibility of reconciliation and harmony in human affairs, and his works can be best understood as an attempt to unite the fragmentary and reconcile opposites without ignoring or denying the incoherent and imperfect nature of the real world. Although his works are unlikely to ever be considered representative or mainstream, he is now recognised as a major writer of the Romantic period whose original, idiosyncratic contribution to the narrative, lyric and dramatic genres within this movement has still to be fully acknowledged. The first historical-critical edition of his works is currently underway, co-ordinated in Weimar, and will encompass 40 volumes, including many thousands of manuscript pages previously unpublished. Ludwig Achim von Arnim was born in Berlin in 1781. He and his elder brother, Carl Otto (1779-1861), were brought up by their maternal grandmother after the death of their mother and in the face of a complete lack of interest shown in them by their father. The two boys attended the Joachimsthal Gymnasium (grammar
school) in Berlin, and they subsequently studied in Halle (1798-1800) and Göttingen (1800-1801). Achim von Arnim studied law, physics, mathematics and chemistry – so successfully that his first publications were scientific studies in highly regarded physics and chemistry journals during these years. After their studies the brothers undertook a grand tour of Europe (1801-1804), which brought them to Britain in July 1803. Achim and Carl Otto were very different in character and temperament, and their relationship was far from close. On their return to Germany they led separate, very different lives. The latter initially tended the family estates without enthusiasm or talent until his brother persuaded him to pass this responsibility to him, pursued an ill-fated diplomatic career, worked as a theatre director at the royal court in Berlin with not much more success, before finally gaining the post of ‘high cup-bearer’: the person who serves wine in the royal household. He wrote fiction and traveller’s tales, edited and translated. Politically and socially he was conservative, allied to the nobility and the royal court, as his father had been. His younger brother, on the other hand, was attracted to the common people and lived according to the bourgeois values of his mother’s side of the family. He wrote newspaper articles and essays on a wide variety of social, political, cultural and other themes. He campaigned for reform within the Prussian state, but in an unsystematic way which was overlooked and ignored. His creative works received much the same treatment. They were not well received; they were criticised even by his close friends Brentano and the Grimms. Frustrated and isolated he retreated to his estate in Wiepersdorf, near Berlin, in 1814 and concentrated on lifting his inheritance out of debt and supporting his family of seven children and his wife, Bettina von Arnim, née Brentano (17851859). He continued to write until his death, of a stroke in Wiepersdorf in 1831. After his death his poetic works long continued to be underestimated in Germany and ignored in the rest of the world. Achim and Carl Otto von Arnim came to Scotland around October/November 1803, having spent some three months in London. Although their route has not been fully identified it seems that they did get as far north as the Highlands. In a footnote to the opening scene of The Marriage Blacksmith the author mentions the fashion for visiting Scotland, linking it to the fame of Walter Scott, whose works were well known and popular in Germany in the early 19th century.2 The supposed epic poems of Ossian, published by James Macpherson in the 1760s, and the romantic adventures of the Old and Young Pretender had also captured the continental imagination and
led to an influx of foreign and English visitors, who added Scotland to the itinerary of the grand tour, obligatory for young men of the upper classes. The visit to Scotland left various small traces in Arnim’s oeuvre, for example he recounted the adventures of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the 1745 Rebellion in his collection of stories Der Wintergarten (The Winter Garden) (1809), into which he brings some personal reminiscences; he also wrote poems which contain references to Scotland, most notably ‘Elegy from a Travel Journal in Scotland’ (which makes reference to Fingal’s Cave) and ‘Duke of Argyll’: When a high mountain appears to the stranger at the coast in the rain and fog, On the mountain stands a watch-house for enemies Underneath the growing cloud a castle made of greyish stone Four towers are round, the one in the middle square All the chimneys are smoking, over there a little stream is murmuring And the sheep are standing as white as stones in the park: Never let him tarry there as in the days of the old court Even if he brings a recommendation with him, the door will not be opened to him And no maiden will wash his tired feet, Rather, they throw him clothes as they do to beggars, Should he be better off than the natives. Look at the huts on the mountains, how depressingly they fall into ruin, Heroes once lived there where sheep now wander The fires have gone out, the people have moved away to foreign lands, Or into poverty, to weaving at the loom, How did you become grand, you masters? Through the labour of the masses, Now that you have used the bridge you throw them down at the riverside.3 In length and scope The Marriage Blacksmith is by far the most substantial and significant representation of the writer’s impressions. It is the fictional autobiographical account of a visit to Scotland by a young German natural scientist: a colourful, even lurid invention based on memories and impressions of real people and places.4 While it can only be judged as fiction, however, Arnim has managed to capture the atmosphere of a specific historical place and time and to interweave it with the fantasy of German scientists, noblemen and flighty women interacting with imaginary representatives of one of the oldest and most powerful (real) Scottish families and their servants and tenants. In an attempt to increase the reader’s enjoyment of the story, and definitely not in order to reduce Arnim’s literary achievement to the level of varyingly accurate documentary information, the following remarks
are intended to set up some basic parameters by which to distinguish fact and fantasy. Arnim’s setting for the main part of The Marriage Blacksmith is not named explicitly, but the ducal castles, one old and one new, the duke as clan chief and the town at the edge of the bay all point convincingly towards Inveraray. As Gateway to the Highlands, a ‘welcome oasis of civilization in the still wild Highlands’ with its newly built castle and town and agricultural and industrial innovation,5 it was a popular destination for genteel travellers, many of whom came with a letter of personal introduction for the duke.6 The poem quoted above would seem to indicate that the Arnim brothers failed to gain access to the castle in spite of such a letter, but the fictional narrator in The Marriage Blacksmith is able to overcome just such an initial disappointment, and we have no information as to how the ‘real’ story may have developed. The town and the castle and its grounds are described with a mixture of realistic and fantastic elements. The fact that the story was written many years after the writer’s visit may explain some inaccuracies, while others may be put down to poetic licence or aesthetic judgement. The setting is still recognisable, however, and the imaginary elements help to bring it alive. Arnim describes the old castle, really only a tower house, built around 1452, and the new castle – which he adorns with Corinthian pillars, garden statues and a bower overlooking the sea – built between 1745 and 1788 under the 3rd Duke, who also started the process of having the town rebuilt at the tip of the peninsula. The story’s narrator stays at the town’s inn, which, in Inveraray, was and still is called the Argyle Arms, popularly the Great Inn (built in 1755 to accommodate the rising number of travellers), but without describing it in any detail. Part of the action of the story takes place in a watch tower next to the beach, whereas in Inveraray just such a watch tower (built in 17487) can be found on the top of a hill, Duniquaich, behind the castle (as described in ‘Duke of Argyll’). Whether he met them or not, Arnim’s descriptions of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll and their family in Die Ehenschmiede are purely fictional and satisfy solely the author’s intentions for the story and its development. In 1803 the titleholder, who is also Chief of Clan Campbell, was John, 5th Duke of Argyll (17231806), who had been married to the famous beauty Elizabeth Gunning (1734-1790; wife to two dukes, having first been married to the Duke of Hamilton, and mother to two more). The couple had two sons (George, 6th Duke [1768-1835] and John, 7th Duke [1777-1847]; a first-born son, George John died in infancy [1763-1764]) and two daughters (Augusta [1760-1831] and Charlotte [1775-1861]). The elder son, known as Lord Lorne,8 was a great spendthrift, causing his father much anguish and nearly ruining
the estate.9 The younger son, Lord John, was quiet and industrious and did much to begin restoring the family fortunes when he succeeded his brother as duke.10 Their mother, called the beautiful duchess, was in reality small and feminine rather than large and mannish, and died in 1790, long before Arnim’s visit. ‘She was almost universally loved, a happiness rarely the lot of a famous beauty. “If her fortune is singular” (wrote Walpole, years earlier), “so is her merit”.’11 Around the time Arnim describes, at the beginning of the 19th-century, the duke still enjoyed frequent visits from his children and their families and friends and did a lot of entertaining. Guests included J. M. W. Turner, Matthew Lewis, James Hogg and the Wordsworths. In the autumn of 1803, however: the castle was ‘tranquillity personified’. Lady Charlotte and her husband were in Edinburgh; Lorne was busy as Lord Lieutenant; Lord John was very subdued after escaping ‘the horrors of a French prison’ where he had been interned by the Directoire Government. [Matthew] Lewis passed two or three months at Inveraray ‘reading furiously’ and speculating whether Bonaparte would invade Scotland and the roads around Edinburgh be ‘broken up’ and closed.12 John Campbell, the 5th Duke, was a famous soldier, by no means the bumbling amateur of The Marriage Blacksmith. Known as Colonel Jack he played a notable part in the Battle of Culloden in 1746. He was promoted to General in 1778 and to Field Marshal in 1796.13 Due to age he delegated his command of the Argyllshire Highlanders to a relative in 1794.14 He was a good landlord who did much to try to develop his estates and increase prosperity and trade. In the 1770s he had the village of Kenmore built as a model fishing village to rehouse herring-fishers made homeless by the destruction of the old town.15 Arnim’s Highlanders have been offered just such a deal when the narrator meets them (The Marriage Blacksmith p. 2). In 1774 he established a woollen and carpet factory in the new town, to take advantage of the good sheep country and the increasing variety of breeds of sheep introduced into the area at this time. In The Marriage Blacksmith it is precisely this process that is driving the Highlanders out of their homes. The duke’s venture was praised in the Edinburgh Advertiser of 3 January 1775 for having exactly the opposite effect: ‘This laudable conduct would soon put a stop to the emigrations so frequent of late, and would also increase population, the true wealth of a country.’16 In The Marriage Blacksmith the duchess refers to her husband’s attempts to improve local prosperity (p. 37). This may be coincidence, or a small detail Arnim picked up about the current Duke of Argyll from a book or a conversation, as this was the general public opinion within Inveraray and in Britain as a whole.17 His presentation of the tenants’ feelings of reluctance in the face of the attempts to
reorganise their lives by their master is also quite accurate (even if predictably rather than uncannily so). In the long run the Duke’s ambitious philanthropic efforts mostly came to grief, as indeed did the majority of those of the best-intentioned landlords in Scotland at that period. His schemes for establishing industry and for improving the lot of the small tenantry eventually failed, partly at least because of the vast sums of money required, which outran his rents [...], partly because of the ingrained apathy of the people whose lot he was trying to change.18 When Arnim blames the duke and the sheep for emigration he is reproducing the popular, generally accepted view of the Highland Clearances, which inevitably led to sympathy for the victims, particularly from a writer who energetically espoused the rights of the common people. He repeatedly attacked any kind of subjugation and exploitation of the lower classes by the rich and powerful and was scathing about the treatment of the Highlanders by their own leaders and by the English: They declared an area their property, when they had only been its administrator and the whole clan had won and protected it dearly with their blood against Picts and Saxons and Danes. Their clan did not notice this, for they had always treated their clan chief as the most important person in the world. But the political existence of these kings had come to an end; the government ought to have taken over the care of its subjects, but the oppressed did not send any representatives to the parliament, only its nobility is in it, and, for England, Scotland is almost until the present day like a barren colony.19 His letters, as well as diary entries from this period, record visits to cotton factories and coal mines as well as remote Highland areas and reflect a genuine effort on Arnim’s part to inform himself of the political, economic and social conditions in this and other regions he visited in Britain. The treaty of Amiens in 1802 had brought hostilities between Britain and France to a brief conclusion, but from 18 May 1803 the two countries were once again at war. The arming of the local population and the fear of invasion for the duration of the Napoleonic wars are historical facts and have been documented with particular reference to Inveraray: ‘The French have landed’ was the news most feared by many people and that was the message brought by a horseman to Inveraray on 8 October 1798. The Argyllshire Fencibles raised in 1793 and 1795, fell in to the sound of the pibroch and the roll of drums and marched away to the scene of action in Kintyre. The Volunteers mustered in
their turn, while the Town piper blew a rouse in the Main Street and cruisie lamps and candles shed a flickering light on the martial scene.20 A description not dissimilar to Arnim’s description of the call to arms in The Marriage Blacksmith (p. 45). In this period Lord John, the future 7th Duke, was commander of the 1st or Inveraray Battalion of Volunteers.21 The Marquess of Lorne was Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Argyll Fencibles.22 (Fencibles could only be called up for service on home soil.) The statement made by Rennwagen that Inveraray was believed to be a main target for invasion (The Marriage Blacksmith p. 9) can also be verified as factually accurate: [C]ontemporary correspondence shows it was seen as highly possible that Napoleon, the great strategist, would land in Ireland, cross the narrow North Channel and advance up Kintyre to strike at the heart of the British war effort at Inveraray. All companies, while carrying on their normal life, were ready to fall in and march at a moment’s notice.23 For the denouement, which involves the wedding of most of the main characters, the setting of The Marriage Blacksmith shifts from Inveraray to Gretna Green: another tourist attraction which Arnim and his brother probably visited. The town became popular with eloping young couples after a law passed in 1753 in England prohibited so-called Fleet marriages (named after the prison and surrounding area, where disgraced clergyman performed the ceremony) carried out without banns or licence and, for under-21s, without parental consent. Scotland’s independent legal system retained the Roman law allowing a girl to be married at 12 years of age and a boy at 14, without parental consent, and recognised a declaration by two consenting adults in front of witnesses that they wished to become husband and wife. Arnim uses the popular myth of blacksmiths performing the marriage ceremony. In fact anyone could witness the ceremony anywhere, and often it was held in an inn. The story even creates a new myth, namely that even people who go to Gretna Green with no such intent will find themselves magnetically drawn to a wedding ring (p. 51). A further layer of autobiographical garnish is added to the fiction of The Marriage Blacksmith from the writer’s own experiences in Germany, for example memories of Göttingen, where he studied, possibly of the daughter of a professor whom he met there and to whose natural historical collections he contributed,24 and of his own scientific, technological and natural historical interests. It has also been suggested that the engineer Rennwagen could be modelled on Carl Philipp Heinrich Pistor (17781847), whom Arnim knew from school and university
and with whom he shared neighbouring rooms in Berlin between 1809 and 1811, observing Pistor’s copious production of scientific instruments.25 In the duels fought between Starkader and the marquess and between two turtles there are echoes of an incident involving his brother, who became embroiled in a ridiculous duel over the daughter of an Irish archbishop while working as a diplomat in London, which ruined his career prospects and embarrassed his family. The many literary references equally bear witness to Arnim’s own interests, rather than, one would presume, those of the duke’s servants. Ovid and Virgil reflect his classical education, Shakespeare the keen interest in this writer in Germany, Schiller and Kotzebue contemporary literary fashion in that country. The various conflicts which arise in the story and are resolved before lasting damage is done, and the plethora of marriages at the end of it all when everyone has found their true soul mate, illustrate above all Arnim’s firm belief that reconciliation and harmony, between people, countries and cultures, can be achieved and that this must begin on the level of the most intimate personal relationships. The Marriage Blacksmith was written around the end of 1830 and was the last project Arnim worked on before his death in January 1831. In it he looks back with both fondness and ironic distance at fashions of his youth and aspects of his own development (the boom in foreign tourism, the popularity of Walter Scott’s writing, an over-enthusiasm for science and technology). Although criticism of the fate of the common people in the Highlands is expressed, the tone is much more conciliatory than in the poem ‘Duke of Argyll’, which was scribbled down immediately, amid the discomfort of travelling. Arnim’s last story remained unfinished and was edited and published posthumously as part of an edition of his works in 1839 by his wife Bettina, also a writer of considerable repute. This translation is based, however, on the final stage of Arnim’s own work-in-progress. This status explains some inconsistencies in the story and the occasionally somewhat unpolished style. Having said this, Arnim’s oeuvre as a whole is characterised by the impression of spontaneity and inventiveness rather than control and elegance of phrase. The Marriage Blacksmith therefore offers access and insight into the writer’s way of thinking and writing while at the same time presenting a perceptive, unconventional and scurrilous view of Scotland and its people from the perspective of a well-disposed foreigner. I am most grateful to the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik for awarding me a grant to work on this project in Weimar in the summer of 2004. On a more personal level, it is my pleasure to record sincere thanks to Roswitha Burwick, Laura Martin, Andrea Pfeil, Elke Weismann and Christof Wingertszahn, who offered
me help and advice in completing this translation. Endnotes . A few of Arnim’s other works have already been translated, most recently Ludwig Achim von Arnim’s Novellas of 1812, trans. by Bruce Duncan. Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter: Edwin Mellen, 1997. 2. Arnim published translations of three songs from Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-03) in the journal Zeitung für Einsiedler (Journal for Hermits), which he coedited with Clemens Brentano in 1808 in Heidelberg. 3. ‘Elegy from a travel journal in Scotland’ is based on material written during Arnim’s stay in Britain. He later reworked it and published it in Journal for Hermits (see note 2). ‘Duke of Argyll’, here in my translation, was also written during Arnim’s visit to Britain and as such is a record of spontaneous impressions. The original is quoted in an essay which identifies traces of Arnim’s travels in his poetry notebooks: Renate Moering, ‘Reisespuren in Arnims englischen Lyrik-Heften’. Romantische Identitätskonstruktionen: Nation, Geschichte und (Auto)Biographie. Ed. Sheila Dickson and Walter Pape. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2003. 37-50, p. 44. 4. The Arnims also visited Wales, which inspired Achim von Arnim to write Owen Tudor, ostensibly the story of the founder of the Tudor dynasty, but in which, by his own admission, not a word was true. A court case in London, on the other hand, provided some very specific and detailed source material for a story of elopement, Mistris Lee. (On the relationship of the latter work to its original source, see Sheila Dickson, ‘An Apology for the Conduct of the Gordons: Dichtung and Wahrheit in Achim von Arnim’s Mistris Lee.’ European Romantic Review 11 (2000): 300-321.) These stories are further illustrations of Arnim’s aesthetic credo of interlacing fact and fiction, history and the present day. 5. Ian G. Lindsay and Mary Cosh, Inveraray and the Dukes of Argyll. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1973, p. 295. Subsequent references to this work will be made by means of the short title Inveraray. 6. Inveraray p. 293. 7. Inveraray p. 128. 8. On the question of nomenclature, see note 7 to The Marriage Blacksmith. 9. Inveraray p. 280. 10. Inveraray p. 280. 11. Inveraray p. 226. 12. Inveraray p. 301f. For information on guests, see p. 295ff. 13. Alastair Campbell of Airds, A History of Clan Campbell. Volume 3. From the Restoration to the Present Day. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004, p. 205. Subsequent references to this work will be made by means of the short title History. 14. History p. 292. 15. Inveraray p. 258, 264. On the question of how willing the fishers were to be rehoused, see p. 264. 16. Inveraray p. 273. 17. Margaret D. Howie, ‘Achim von Arnim and Scotland.’ The Modern Language Review 17 (1922): 157-164, p. 162. 18. Inveraray p. 189f. 1
My translation of a passage in a letter to Clemens Brentano, taken from the historical-critical Weimar Arnim Edition: Ludwig Achim von Arnim, Briefwechsel 1802-1804. Ed. Heinz Härtl. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2004, p. 866f.Vol. 31 of Ludwig Achim von Arnim:Werke und Briefwechsel. Ed. Roswitha Burwick, Lothar Ehrlich, Heinz Härtl, Renate Moering, Ulfert Ricklefs and Christof Wingertszahn. 3 vols. to date. 2000-. 20. Alexander Fraser, The Royal Burgh of Inveraray. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1977, p. 121. See also History p. 195-8. 21. History p. 197. 22. History p. 195. 23. History p. 197. 24. Achim von Arnim, Sämtliche Erzählungen 1802-1817. Ed. Renate Moering. Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1990, p. 1416.Vol. 3 of Achim von Arnim: Werke in sechs Bänden. Ed. Roswitha Burwick, Jürgen Knaack, Paul Michael Lützeler, Renate Moering, Ulfert Ricklefs and Hermann F. Weiss. 6 vols. 1989-92. 25. Ibid. p. 1415. 19.
To Alan and Amy.
1.The Letter of Recommendation I was lucky enough to meet a party of Highlanders. The path, which the laird had praised to me as the best in the Highlands, was crossed by mountain streams, continued through marshland in the form of stepping-stones, and was often hidden by bushes as if it had once been laid out to lead invading enemies astray.a I discovered from these Highlanders -- three men, four women and six children -- that they were also on their way down to the small port, the seat of the duke, and that I had already lost a few hours going in the wrong direction. We walked together silently for a long time; only the grandfather, at the head of the procession, understood some English, but he preferred to play his bagpipes in spite of the fact that no-one in his company showed any inclination to accompany him in song. The women and children wept quietly; the two other men cursed and swore at the slightest occasion. There were, however, many such occasions, as these people were weighed down by various pieces of luggage and in addition had fitted out a strange loop as means of transport for their belongings, from which something would fall from time to time on the bumpy path. This loop, consisting of two strips of wood held together at the bottom by a wooden plug and connected at the top like a fork with a harness of woven willows, was loaded onto a shaggy little horse. Surely the simplest conveyance in the world, yet one on which a wide variety of household and kitchen utensils, fastened on by means of braided willows, was being transported. As I was voluntarily offering all the help I could muster, I learned in return that they were having to leave the beloved soil of their ancestors because the duke, the lord of their clan, was introducing the rearing of fine sheep, as this brought him in more money than renting out his fields to them for rearing cattle. He had offered them fishermenâ€™s cottages by the sea so they could learn this still all-too-neglected trade and thereby make a living, but luckily for them, as they thought, they had been enlisted by a noble Highland leader as settlers for Canada, where they would find fields and hunting just like in their old homeland, and where even the pain of separation from everything that had until now been dear to them would soon melt away into pleasure and prosperity. Now they just wanted to see their old lord, the duke, once more, so that they would not forget him on the other side of the ocean and also because of their children, so that they could boast of having seen their noble clan chief, otherwise they would have taken a shorter route to the place from which their ship would leave. After having heard this report I became aware for the first time of the true value of the letter of recommendation that a close relative of the duke had given to me with the assurance that I could demand and expect everything from him that was necessary or desirable for my journey. It seemed so simple to keep these loyal people for him and for their country. I hurried to look into the pocket book in my briefcase to see if I had not perhaps lost this letter, indeed, more than once I checked en route to see if it had not fallen out when I was jumping about on the rocks. I spoke of my hope that the duke would perhaps be able to find them another place to live, but they smiled disbelievingly. The son had been abroad for a long time, they said; he had taken over these affairs and would not be made to change his mind. They did eventually promise, however, to wait for one day, so that I would have time to speak with the duke. We parted at this, after they had shown me the sign for the inn to which I had sent my case; the great castle of the duke; and the old, ruined castle where their ancestors had accomplished great deeds, so that they respectfully removed their caps before it. The sight of the good, clean inn in the English style, the entrance to the hall where I saw a selection of the best meat dishes delicately displayed behind a glass cabinet according to the custom of the time, dispelled the picture of the unhappy emigrants, indeed, after such a long fast, I stood admiringly in front of the meat cabinet as if before the finest works of art from the Dutch School. What use had all hospitality been to me when it could only offer me tough oatcakes and scraggy mutton, pervaded by the smell of peat as it was roasted? What did it help if the landlord, a descendant of old kings, told of the golden thrones he had smashed as a warrior in East India while he himself used an oak stump as a throne and his palace was a dome of grass turf over whale ribs dug into the ground? It took one pleasantly back to the times of high antiquity when kingsâ€™ daughters washed a The story goes back to the time when Napoleon was threatening to invade. The Highlands were as rough and inhospitable as this before Walter Scott laid artistic roads, built elegant inns and set steamers in motion, that is, until his works elevated the Scottish Highlands to a place of pilgrimage for such travellers as hoped to become part of this fantastic world by going to the actual places, without even noticing that this hermitic Scottish national identity was being completely destroyed by their onslaught.
the tired feet of the traveller with hot water smelling of thyme; served a secretly brewed, burning brandy as a welcome drink; but, for all that, the bed remained the hard mattress of heather, the blanket an old tartan coat under which sleep struggled with the mistrust of the dagger of the descendants of Macbeth. The foreign language, the vigorous nature of their movements, the pleasure these lonely mountain inhabitants took in weapons could easily arouse such a suspicion, on which certain Lowlanders’ stories were based. This suspicion was never confirmed in practice, however, and indeed I would like to maintain that they are too proud of their country’s honour to attack a stranger. They lived out their murderous desires, according to my example, on beetles: they learned to find them and skewer them. I thus brought home quite a few rarities in my tin box, but the biggest and most uncommon species of unclean beetle that I could boast was myself in my travelling clothes after wandering around for so long in the worst possible weather. As I stood in such a poor get-up with a selective eye in front of the landlord’s meat cabinet, the latter looked me over with a searching gaze. In order to rid him of all doubt, I asked about my case and identified myself as its owner by showing him the certificate I had been given. The case was there, and it was carried into a room warmed by a good coal fire in recognition of the approaching autumn, and in a few minutes I had changed my clothes. Contentedly, I laid my letter of recommendation on to the table, gazed over at the ducal castle that was my destination, and thought about the best way of presenting the emigrants’ case without offending the duke. I was pleased that the flag flying over the Corinthian pillars at the castle entrance heralded the presence of the duke; everything there seemed to proclaim happiness and prosperity. Just as in the undisturbed peace of paradise deer were being fed by the hand of a female, whole flocks of small birds were landing, swans swimming hurriedly near: everywhere peace and abundance; why should these faithful souls be the only ones to suffer want here? “When does the duke receive visitors?” I asked the waiter who entered with luncheon. “You will not see him,” he answered with conviction. “For some time he has not admitted anyone unless it concerns the arming of the local population, to which he has devoted much money and effort.” “Just deliver this letter,” I continued confidently. “The letter comes from a good hand; ask at the same time when I might pay my visit.” The servant hurried away, and I enjoyed my first meal for a long time. A meal that was no better and no worse than what is uniformly served in English inns, but as a bonus good, inexpensive Bordeaux wine, smuggled in at the lonely rocky coast. If the French were able to land here as secretly as the wine barrels do... All the coastal watches have no chance against the smuggling trade. But even if that were not the case, foreign luxury is the treacherous
Trojan horse that the troublemakers on the continent have transported to this sovereign island. Meanwhile, the servant announced the duke’s butler. A serious man, dressed in black, whose person was somewhat reminiscent of the individuals employed in Germany to invite people to funerals, who repeat the invitations they have made thousands of times with practiced emotion. He delivered a letter from the duke, in which he thanked me for the letter from his cousin that I had sent and simultaneously apologised for the fact that due to illness and domestic problems he could not see anyone; however, he offered everything that could serve my comfort and enjoyment: his guest house had been prepared for me; his cook awaited my orders; horses, dogs and hunters were at my disposal. The obliging letter annoyed me, not merely because I was losing the social intercourse on which I had been relying when I sent here for cataloguing everything I had collected from all the places I had visited, more so because of the loyal Highlanders whose case I wanted to put to the duke. I therefore only asked the butler briefly if I might know what trouble was weighing down his master. He answered that it was no secret that his son’s fiancée, recently arrived from Germany, was defying local customs, degrading the most serious matters to a joke. I expressed regret for the old lord, rejected all offerings from the kitchen, and the apartment in the guest house too since I felt very comfortable in the inn, and had, I said, no other request for myself than permission to look everywhere I wanted for beetles. The butler looked at me as if he had not heard right, praised the magnificent venison he had chosen for me, the likes of which could not be found in the whole of London, but I was quite simply full up and remained firm in my refusal, merely asking him to grant my old Highlander John and his folk a good meal and to put in a good word for them with the duke. The butler assured me that they had already been to see the duke and had given him a rare old broadsword which one of his ancestors had carried. On this occasion too the German fiancée had played one of her strange tricks in that, after the duke had already paid them well for the gift, she had, with her own hands, hung an extremely valuable golden chain around old John’s neck, a most exquisite piece of work, an engagement present from her bridegroom, in exchange for a pretty, sad farewell song. The man took his leave and so I was left alone with my dessert. For my own entertainment I scrutinized all the letters of recommendation I still had left, mostly commercial in nature; impersonally similar for the most dissimilar persons. Unexpectedly at that moment a conversation began which sounded as if it were being held in my room. I thought of Swedenborga, who had experienced his first divine revelation after a meal in an English inn. But the miracle was soon explained by the odd position of the chimney flue in the room next door, which ran into my fireplace at
quite a low level, perhaps because it was at an even lower level. I had soon differentiated the speakers; it was the duke’s servants who were making up for their present seclusion and lack of activity with a sociable glass of grog at the inn. “She put her knife and fork together twice again today after she had taken her fork in her right hand,” said the first. The second continued: “And once she didn’t even want to change knives and forks.” The third continued: “And the old lord had such an expression on his face when she passed him his favourite piece of the woodcock as she was finishing her glass of wine without waiting for him to ask.” “But she doesn’t drink a lot,” continued the first, who was probably the person in charge of the wine cellar, “scarcely a glass, and when she is in the duchess’s room after dinner she does not touch a drop, which annoys the duchess.” A female voice mocked the fact that she got dressed immediately in the morning and did not change for luncheon. And so the petty criticism continued until a voice that had been silent up to that point began cursing and swore that the German girl was better than all the rest, she had taken the part of the poor emigrants, after all. The female voice called that nonsense. What were the poor folk to do with the beautiful chain; they would only be cheated out of it. The German girl’s champion became angry and insulting; one of the other men took the part of the insulted girl, swearing coarsely. It was not long before a challenge was issued, and soon I heard the exclamations and thumps typical of a boxing match. The German girl’s defender won; his opponent retired to the fireside, surreptitiously crying due to several painful blows he had received, while his friends rubbed him with rum and offered him malicious advice on how to annihilate his opponent in the next round. I considered these intentions odious. In haste I grabbed my bundle of letters of recommendation and used them to block up the entrance to the adjacent chimney pipe. Before the fight could recommence everyone was complaining about the defective chimney, declaring that they were going to suffocate. They all ran out, and the general distress led to reconciliation.
2.The Spring-loaded Dragon When the landlord came into the room with the fireplace in order to investigate the strange blockage I had already pulled my letters of recommendation back out again; the fire was burning peacefully, but the group did not return, perhaps because they were now needed in the castle. Scarcely had I cleaned the letters as best I could when I heard individual German words in the room next door. “Now I have you in my power, Napoleon,” a deep bass voice spoke, “as you have the world in your power with your equalizing equations. If my calculations are correct I will strike you now with my whole army as Apollo struck the Greeks.” At that moment innumerable missiles seemed to fly
against the door, and he sang “Victoria, Hallelujah, you have fallen, destroyer of the world, agent of the devil, now all your talk of false gods will cease, etc. etc.” I called for the servant, I had him request mercy for the door, but my neighbour, like Archimedes, requested not to be disturbed in his course; he was now entering the critical moment where all his calculations would prevail or be destroyed in practical trials. Peace and quiet for one individual was not important; the world had to be given peace. I learned from the servant that this countryman of mine was an engineer who had already been living there for some considerable time in order to develop two inventions for which he had got patents at the expense of the duke, who had met him in London. “Probably a kind of war game?” I asked. “On no account, sir,” said the servant. “These inventions are meant very seriously. He has constructed a submersible to burn Napoleon’s rowing boats and a throwing machine to shoot his whole army with a small number of people operating it, should he land safely. He calls this extraordinary piece of armoury the ‘spring-loaded dragon’ because all its power derives from springs, as in a clock, so that he can never shoot the wrong target. He finished the model today and seems to be very satisfied with the result. If the invention catches on we will all be saved from this damned voluntary drilling.You know, you should see us, sir, marching in the field, like ducks with their chicks, in a row, one behind the other, then alongside each other again, as if we were nailed to a plank. It is a cruel game, one copies the other and no-one knows if what they’re doing is right. One minute we are told eyes right; then it’s eyes left again. When we’re told to present arms we knock each other’s hats off. We load wooden pellets, and that’s lucky for us, because it’s certain that if it came to a shooting match half of the old rifles would crack. Whichever direction I shoot in, a person standing there is as safe as in the bosom of Abraham. Our cavalry, well, may God have mercy on us, I think that the horses would all keep going right through the middle of the battle. No-one can hold them: they are used to racing, and that’s the way the riders think too. The officer can scream as much as he likes; every one of them is only happy when he is outstripping the others. My master and the doctor, they come off best from the volunteers’ exercises: there is a lot of drinking and a lot of fighting.” The bombardier beetle2 in the room next door had now reloaded, and the arrows began hitting my door again like large hailstones. Eventually I sang him a German victory song, he joined in, and the waiter clasped his hands and seemed to think it was a religious song. Then my neighbour, a powerful, tanned man, came out to further the acquaintance, to apologise, to explain his inventions, among which vast array I am certain there were some quite excellent ones. He wanted to replace most administrative posts with machines which, if operated properly
by a supervisor, could replace whole offices of scribes. “I am a man without prejudice,” he said. “If you want to understand me you must become the same. Destined by birth and circumstances for the highest positions, the war in Germany, by robbing me of my fortune and depriving me of my parents, freed me from all habits and created a new period of apprenticeship for me. I have taken nothing with me except anger at this Napoleon and at these French, and even if this is a prejudice I cannot let go of it. It is only another side to the love for my fatherland which I cannot prove in any other way.” Thereupon he described the remarkable springs he had invented to avoid the danger of a powder explosion in his spring-loaded dragon. He described how his arrows worked, how they could also carry burning rockets and, in doing so, would reach their target with the certainty of a shotgun. Then he gave an explanation of his submersible, of how with supplies of condensed air he could not only maintain the oxygen needed for breathing but also, by increasing and decreasing the air supply, he could make his boat rise and fall as he wished. “I’ll burn all his warships with one single boat,” he cried. “With a large dragon based on the model of the small one I will destroy a whole advancing army and I need scarcely a hundred men to operate it. Join me, I’m sure that you have similar intentions and this collection of worms I see lined up in formation is just a model for testing tactical manoeuvres. Our area here is important, according to all secret intelligence it will be a main target for the enemy landing. Help me; I can communicate better with my countrymen than with the English3 workers, who like to follow their own ideas.” I assured him that, although I wore a paper cap and a blue vest4 as gladly as he, I had no talent for his work, but I had found on my travels three worthy Highlanders whom poverty was forcing to emigrate but who would like to settle here if they could find reasonably remunerative employment. These people, however, had been practised gun makers for the poachers of this area for a long time; they could do a lot with basic tools. He was extremely pleased at this discovery, assured me that this skill was sufficient, and immediately sent out a servant to speak to the Highlanders and procure their services. When I told him of the support, the gift of a golden chain the German girl had given to the Highlanders in the duke’s house, he took off his paper cap and said: “I am not yet completely familiar with the mechanics of love because one element, female feelings, operates along such strange, tortuous lines that I am unable to work out its configuration. It would only have needed her to be in a different mood and she would have played some trick on these people. I am without prejudice, but if I had known that Aura, the daughter of a German professor in G... was to be marrying into this area, I would have blankly refused the duke’s offer of developing my ideas here
for the good of the country. Between the two of us, I have shared the fate of thousands of other students in the Athens of Germany5. I too burned in the fiery oven of her gaze, ran off the most wonderful pinboxes, chess figures and little skittle games for her while she ran rings around me, played skittles with my heart and checkmated me with all my philosophy. Aura, as the fugitive, quicksilver, thoughtless one -- pure hydrogen -- is called, was eventually, after much waving, smiling, letter-writing, with which she led at least five hundred into temptation, as good as engaged to a worthy friend of mine, the noble Baron von Starkader, an adherent of the categorical imperative,6 a man who would have forbidden himself to breathe if he had considered it impermissible. How could I believe that she would forget him over the soulless figure of the duke’s son, forget him who has often sworn to me that he only recognised her as his after he had led her to the highest critical position, to the only possible one, that of philosophy? This young marquess7 is handsome, I grant you, but what is beauty? The most empty and transient thing, a mere cover-up to recommend to others something that is deficient. The other nobleman was less handsome but built to last much longer; fitted out with the best muscles I have ever come across; the best swimmer, fencer, hunter and rider: an athlete and, at the same time, free from all the prejudices of John Bull that the young marquess will surely remain burdened with all his life. This halfstudying, half-travelling marquess picked up Aura like some beautiful painting; he wanted to put her on show at the next sitting of parliament in London in order to enjoy the effect. The professor believed that he would gain access to England for his political works in this way; that he would win over the Scottish reviewers through his daughter: he hoped to transform the whole of England through the mediation of his daughter, which is why he encouraged the match. An elderly relative of the duke took the daughter away with her and brought her here so that she could get used to the new way of life before the wedding.” I was shocked at the beautiful girl’s recklessness, but the man without prejudice sketched out these transformations with insight. Starkader had assured her with philosophical magnanimity in his letters that he only believed himself, not her, to be bound by a promise. She should give preference to whomever corresponded more than he to her ideals of moral perfection; they only belonged together if they were both necessary to each other. Aura shared the custom of all girls at universities in small towns of changing her acquaintances almost annually, as even if the individuals do mostly stay for three years, nearly the greater half of this time is lost through the newcomers’ initial shyness; only the last year permits closeness, even, finally, trust. “How is the mass of new acquaintance to find a place in the heart if the old supply is not moved out, forgotten? Philosophy impresses girls, but fashion dictates and
Englishmen happened to be in fashion. An English horse with attractive tackle is more eye-catching than all categories8 put together; a lavish party in Aura’s honour sways all her acquaintances in favour of the rich foreigner, who perhaps keeps to himself pretty well just as much learning and philosophy as Starkader donates freely. After all, through his Oxford education he carries not only the Greeks but also the Romans like the Trojan horse in his frame so that, from time to time, whole squadrons of them fall out through chance cracks to the amazement of the philologists, to whom the classical authors sound particularly ancient and honourable in the foreign accent. I am not sure if my explanations are correct, but it is undeniable that Aura came here with the marquess’s aunt, after six months’ separation from Starkader, to be shocked by the rigidly formal misery of a genuine English-Scottish castle; to annoy everyone with her contrary and mischievous nature; to be maligned by all of those people who have all, in any case, been loudly condemning this marriage to a foreigner as like breeding a horse with a donkey. The marquess would have given her up long ago, just as she has by now repeatedly released him from his promise without any claim for compensation, but his obstinate will would be crossed if he were to give in to his estimable father; his vanity would be injured if it were to become common knowledge that his bride had given him up; and, finally, he may well also have a liking for her, as indeed no-one has ever dared look at her with indifference, but his real passion has been lost in the teasing behaviour she has permitted herself in response to all his expressions of affection. Things have reached a crisis point; however, I cannot divulge any of this, in spite of the fact that you could be useful to me in the matter.” I assured him that I would gladly stand by him, if only due to boredom from lack of company since the duke’s house was now closed to me. He should just sacrifice the secret to the cause and its furtherance. Thoughtfully he reached for a pencil and wrote down several formulae on his nails, claiming to be calculating probability. “Before you can find out anything, I can see that from my formulae here,” he continued, “I must test you with a request. You are uninvolved in all the affairs here; you are still completely unknown to most of the people here. I am not trusted. Old MacSchlingel9, who is supposed to guard the grounds but who cannot wake up at night because he drinks too much in the evening, thinks I am the poacher who has already done the park much damage. He thinks my barometer, although I have shown it to him, is a clandestine shotgun, and he thinks I am a kind of magician who would be best served by being thrown post-haste into the sea. The man is full of prejudices, because I am really not even sure that game was actually created for man, otherwise it would surely obey the creator’s word of command and, moreover, I consider it now to be everyone’s duty to save every charge of powder in order to hunt the French. The full moon is rising with a brand
new, rather crooked face; over there it is illuminating the old jagged ruin of a fortress near which my submersible lies; there, a green honeysuckle bower is to be found, with a magnificent view of the sea. There, dear, dear Aura appears in the evenings, weather permitting, and receives messages from me when the old giantess with black curly hair, her Scottish maid, has fallen asleep on the cushioned seat and is snoring like an old lathe. Wait in the fortress for this snoring; it occurs as reliably as high tide on the calendar. Then, toss this letter into the hands of the beautiful one and jump back into the fortress.” “But how am I supposed to recognise the beauty, another female could happen to come into the park to look at the nice view.” “God preserve us,” he continued, “the local girls and views do not go together, although, if rum were to fall in the evening dew, or if the pine cones were filled with port, the old ruin were chicken pâté and the stormy sea a boiling tea-kettle, then indeed they would make sure that they got their part of the view. There are no other strangers here, I know that because I am always told immediately when someone arrives because of my secret activities, otherwise they would certainly be found there, as it just so happens to be the custom to take all strangers to the viewpoint in the moonlight since the famous nature poet MacPrumpengregorkrelly celebrated it with moonlight illumination in song. Old MacBenack and the ancient Obrian will not notice you if they are strolling about at this time. Elegantly dressed as you are for your projected visit to the castle, both of them will turn a respectful gaze towards you as a true gentleman.” Before I had said yes the zealous engineer had already slipped his epistle into the sleeve of my coat. I walked towards the gardens, lured more by the gnawing insects I could hear than by this adventure. But once I had drawn nearer to the ruin, without being able to see much from the distance that still separated me from it, a strange feeling took hold of me. The endless glistening of the waves and, above them, the intermittent signals of the ships on watch; clouds like a made-up German feather bed; and I myself so tired that I could have stretched myself out on it if I had not had to wait for the giant woman’s snoring. And so I walked around. I was seeking out the various outstanding aspects of the view when, approaching the honeysuckle bower, which was the prettiest point, I found myself held from behind by my hands, which I had clasped pensively behind my back. I felt my hand not only being held but also being kissed, bedewed with tears. A female voice spoke quietly: “You can, you can forgive me. Can you believe that everything that has happened up till now has just been a dream, a paralysis and petrifaction of my heart?” I understood those words, and, due to the clear reference to petrifaction, I was bound to surmise that one of the marble garden statues had come to life out of love for me, had jumped down and was asking me for forgiveness for showing
herself to me in such an unclothed state: a feeling that a large number of the goddesses on display might certainly share. But there was something not quite right about this goddess as she kept my hands pressed to my back no matter which way I turned. At this point, however, and to my relief, the snoring described by the engineer rang out as if wind were being expelled from a windmill, so that I was able to deduce the name of my unknown benefactress, but thousands of suppositions chased through my mind and paralysed my tongue, and this tender cajolery was so good that I had no reason at all to cut it short. Finally I freed myself to such an extent that she was standing opposite me and I could, as an honest debtor, repay her kisses with the outstanding interest -- in hard cash, as it were, without making allowance for any deposit -- on her hands and, since she raised her mouth towards me, on her mouth. When I tried to speak and explain myself she cried: “No reproaches. I have recognised my mistake. The only way to find healing in this case is to forget. If the boat is ready we can flee; we should not waste a moment; we must return quickly and forever to our old country, to our old love.” I now felt that things were getting out of hand. Was poor Aura mad or was she sleepwalking? Was she talking in her sleep, an obbligato10 voice, as it were, accompanying the deep bass sound of the old maid’s snoring? Was it mischief; and was I, as a stranger, being teased? Something of the latter was visible amidst the tears on the beautiful face, as if rain were falling in the bright sunshine. A wealth of high-spirited health and strength made the beautiful child disposed towards many different kinds of entertainment that would drive a person with weak nerves to despair. Eventually I noticed an eyeglass hanging on a chain from her breast, and I then believed I could clear up the misunderstanding. “Unforgettable,” I said. “This reception will remain unforgettable to me; a secret that I will not divulge without your permission, but, I beg of you, make use of your eyeglass.You will soon realize that I am not the person you expect.” “Do not pierce my heart with disguise,” she continued. “For the past few days I have been kept alive by the promise in your letter that you would come today, that today you would release me.” “I only pierce beetles,” I answered, “no human hearts, and I am not a suitable rescuer. Like a budding swimmer I am treading on the water of the blisters I acquired on my long march, I can only walk with difficulty. I have never tried steering a ship, horses would be difficult to get hold of here and I can make absolutely no use of the honour of an abduction today; however, I will gladly fulfil a countryman’s instructions to hand over this short letter to you.” Hastily she grabbed the letter that fell out of my coat sleeve into her hand. She took her eyeglass and looked at me, shook her head and, in the moonlight, could hardly make out what was in the letter for laughing. “This always happens to
me,” she said eventually. “Scarcely has the closest acquaintance been away for a while than I remember him to be quite different to what he was or has become. I once took my uncle for my father in this way after a fairly long absence. What a marvellous spectacle it would have been if the duke had seen us here together. We would surely have had to get married.” Having said this she covered her face with both hands and, light-footed, she ran away, as if by doing so she would be saved from all the unpleasantness of this series of misunderstandings. I could not have followed her; tiredness overwhelmed me; the deserted maid’s snoring was, in addition, a night-time serenade that was encouraging me to join in. I lay down on the other side of the bench on which she was sitting, and, in a few minutes, I knew no more of myself or the world. I must have slept for barely an hour when a hoarse voice addressed me, repeating several times the English words: “Miss, it is time for us to go to the castle!” “God damn me,” I answered, half asleep, “if I go another step.” I was aware of her jumping up in fright from the comfortable bench -- it was, that goes without saying, the giant maid -- turning to the stars and calling out: “Miss has turned into a man! I am lost if one of the watchmen saw us sleeping here together!” Romeo came into my mind, and I comforted the delicate one with the words: “I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes; and, but thou love me, let them find me here; my life were better ended by their hate than death proroguèd wanting of thy love.”11 “God be with us,” cried the giant, “a comedian no less,” and she continued more mildly: “Sir, if you truly have designs you can find me here tomorrow evening. My name is Jenny, but it is too late today. I can hear the watchman; the gate is being shut. Good night, little devil. Ah, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say good night till it be morrow!” I then continued in my role: “Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast! Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!”12 The giantess bowed benevolently, and, since Juliet had no more lines after these words, she exited silently, leaving me thinking over the good fortune of a nation that knows poets like Shakespeare as well as the catechism; the most empty, ordinary, unimportant moment can thus be filled with meaning and wit. If only there were Shakespeare societies to raise their voices as there are now bible societies! Occupied with such thoughts I limped home and was greeted before I even entered the inn by the engineer, who asked whether Aura had begun a love affair with me, since I had stayed so long, he would swear to it. I reported faithfully to him her misrecognition, my sleep addiction and my adventure with the snoring Jenny. He was delighted with it all and was particularly pleased that he had been so clever as not to go himself, for he could not have taken things as lightly as I had. “When I regard this Aura anatomically,
without any prejudice, when I compare her with the best statues of any sculptor, when I compare the tone of her skin with the best pictures of Correggio,13 she wins over them all. I am tempted to doubt that she is mortal; that perhaps even tomorrow she will no longer be quite what she was today; that I can capture for eternity with the brush, with the chisel, in words or in sweet-sounding tones her picture or the impression I receive; that I can marry my feelings with all of that in such a work and be immortalized with her.” “Everyone preserves something for eternity; everyone creates for themselves their own small piece of eternity,” I said. “Someone like me in a collection of strange stories to pass the time on winter days; you, on the other hand, strangely enough, in projected preparations made out of beautiful living bodies, in unpainted pictures, in unhewn statues. What if the beauty were to approach you and say: me or the spring-loaded dragon?” “A difficult choice,” he said. “Two eternities, two examples of infinite greatness challenging each other. Well, I cannot decide, but I will have the opportunity in the next few days to convince you that I have also recognised the eternal nature of friendship. The friend’s letter that you gave her tells her that I have worked out a way of steering her away from the constriction of these exalted houses languishing in empty formality. I will divulge everything to you. I am going to lock my room, and a machine I have invented will be made to alternately hammer, saw and turn the lathe, as if I were present. I will have my food brought to your room; the people at the inn have already got used to the fact that I isolate myself in this way when I am finishing off something new. My dog will eat the food; people will think I am still there when I will be miles away, sailing amidst the waves. If I should completely disappear from this earth you shall inherit my belongings; the duke has already been handsomely paid for his support through several commissions I have carried out. My papers will make everything clear to you. Without lifting a finger you will inherit a great undertaking; you will find yourself united and allied with all the great events that are now moving the world.You smile. I used to smile too, for I feared the serious nature of the thoughts that were taking hold of me. With these words the master engineer took leave of me almost tenderly; it was as if we had known each other for years.
3.The submersible In the morning I found a letter at the bottom of my bed informing me that the hammering and banging in his room really was coming from the machine, that he had gone away without anyone in the house knowing about it, that the comic drama he had set out yesterday had already begun today. Soon the castle ghosts gathered in the next room. They had resolved their own differences but
were greatly preoccupied by a major quarrel among their masters. They swore that Aura was mad to renounce the marriage without any reason and to send the marquess back his ring and all his presents. The marquess did not quite know what he should do. One minute he would drink a bottle of port, the next a bottle of Madeira, with the lame captain, his cousin. First of all he had written a conciliatory letter to the earl whose daughter had previously been chosen for him by his parents; then he changed his mind again and wanted to pursue his rights to Aura in law. “The duke,” said the manservant, “was quite pleased at the young lady’s decision. He sent her through me under seal a large sum in a bill of exchange as travel funds. She laughed, tore up the bill, wrote a few words, sealed up the pieces, and so I had to take the master’s generosity back to him. He turned quite pale when he caught sight of the scraps of paper in the letter. A man like him, who lays such store by propriety, could not be more gravely insulted.” At lunchtime I played the game we had agreed on: the master engineer’s food was served in my room, remained untouched and was later mostly consumed by the dog. The waiter shook his head over the strange way the bowls had been eaten from and could not refrain from observing that a great man is indeed idiosyncratic in everything he does. In the afternoon it was reported in the house servants’ club that since the marquess had threatened Aura with the courts she had broken off all contact with the family and had stated openly that she would take the first opportunity that came her way to leave. The marquess, in the first throes of anger, had placed MacBenack and Obrian outside her room to prevent this departure and had spoken of the fate of a bride who, many hundreds of years ago, had been forced into marriage by a long period of incarceration in the castle. The housekeeper said at this point with feminine pride, “I’m sure he failed to mention that this bride strangled her husband on their wedding night, as is only fitting for a girl of honour.” The conversation was disturbed by the hasty entrance of a manservant, who recounted, laughing, how he had observed from a hiding place behind the door Aura taking on and overcoming her two solemn guards. Everyone crowded around him; the housekeeper swore that this was her first clever trick. “Yes, just imagine the cunning,” the manservant continued. “She came out of her rooms with a bouquet of straws like a mad Ophelia. MacBenack places the halberd14 across her path so that she is prevented from going through the door of the ante room. Calmly she takes a straw and tickles his big red nose with it. What happens? It made him sneeze so violently that he almost collapsed and the agile Miss leapt with a minimum of trouble over the halberd to freedom. Up until this point I would have had no problem with any of this, but then she sang loudly the terrible French cuttingoff-heads song A ça ira15 and walked victoriously free
into the garden.” “Terrible,” they all cried. But at this point everyone was called away because a young lad announced in a shocked voice that the German lady had thrown herself into the sea; the drunken Obrian claimed to have seen it, and she was indeed not to be found. “Ophelia, Ophelia,” many of them cried, and all of them ran out towards the beach to which people from all sides had preceded them. This tragedy seemed very unlikely to me due to the secret absence of the engineer; however, I began to experience doubt as the two sailors, without whose help, according to his report, he could not handle the submersible, also came running into the inn, knocked at his door and called upon him to get into the submersible with them. The machine continued to tap steadily, and they started walking away, shaking their heads, remarking that he must be working on a new invention because he had acted in the same way when he was constructing the small version of the boat. At this moment I approached them and asked if they would get on the boat with me to look for the vanished girl. They explained that the engineer kept secret where he took the boat down and also how he brought it up again. He had not revealed that to anyone; he completed the task alone each time he went on test journeys. Moreover, while they did know how to operate the rudder under water, they did not know the secret of how he took down and brought up the boat, how he let out and topped up the air. At this point I ran towards the beach myself in some concern and jumped into a small boat to which a sail no bigger than a pair of aprons had been affixed in order to catch the breeze from the land and move us away from the flat coast. When we were at sea, of course, we realised the futility of these efforts, but hope springs eternal in man; he never despairs of having the winning ticket out of a hundred thousand or of finding a tiny corpse in the vast ocean. The sea was calm and totally clear and the water not deep, so that we were able to make out the green flora, even some living sea creatures down at the bottom, but no human body revealed itself to our searching gaze. Finally, my companions got a fright. They claimed they could see a whale underneath them, and I also saw bubbles of air rising. In a moment, tiller and sail were turned, the rudders were working hard and they did not stop working until they had reached the coast. A strangely dressed man was then pointed out to me as the duke: a tall man clad in linen long johns and an embroidered court robe, his beard half-covered in soap, a Highland cap on his head. The people told me that he had been disturbed while dressing and had, to cover himself, grabbed some clothes from his dressing room, where the strange old ceremonial garb had fallen into his hands, but he did not seem to notice it, rather, he was reciting, overcome by his feelings of pity, Latin verses from Ovid: the story of the nymphs who threw themselves into the sea and were metamorphosed.16 During these declamations the duchess, who
frequently wore an almost male attire when on business, approached him on horseback, and, as he could not immediately put an end to the outpourings of his Oxford erudition in order to answer her questions, she formed a queer opinion of his state of mind, which his attire and the gazes of those standing round about confirmed only too strongly. She said to the old butler, “For heaven’s sake, the duke is mad, take him away, tie him up, put him in chains. A man of his passionate temperament is capable of anything in this state.” The duke may have overheard this conversation and now deliberately pronounced ever stranger Greek verses from the Clouds of Aristophanes17. In her embarrassment the duchess seized a pocket mirror, which she carried in the lid of her snuff-box, and held it in front of him, as if he had become a basilisk that would die from this treatment. The moment of his looking into the mirror was indeed a decisive one because, absent-minded as he was in any case, confused by the strange tidings, but even more by the abundance of his learning, he had not even noticed the inadequacy of his dress, and others had not dared to criticise it. The strictest adherent to all outer forms of decorum, how shocked must he be at his beard, jacket, and long johns. “I don’t know a thing about this,” he cried. “Quickly, bring me a fig leaf that I might cover myself!” With these words he removed one of the Highlanders’ coats, wrapped himself in it, reported the rumour concerning Aura to his wife and ran off to the castle. The duchess now suffered a double blow, as she linked the disaster to a letter she had written to her future daughter-in-law that morning containing many a sharp lesson; at the same time she heard many voices strongly condemning her son for driving such a magnanimous, gracious, gentle stranger to despair. She rode fiercely up and down the shore and asked impatiently after the German engineer, heard with displeasure that he was not opening his door to anyone and commanded that it be opened by force. People were silent at first; I became very concerned for my friend’s secret; then they admitted that they did not dare carry out such an illegal intrusion, whereupon she rode back impatiently to the castle. A fortunate land, where even in the remotest corner the law is more powerful than the will of those from whose favour and wealth all must live. In searching and discussing with the others a part of the day passed. My regret grew with every hour. I recalled the wonderful coincidence that had brought her to me the previous evening; my conscience reproached me bitterly for clearing up the misunderstanding; I could not know to what extent this had contributed to her decision. This anxiety and a very late, heavy lunch gave me bad dreams that night. I felt as if I had swallowed Aura by mistake when I just wanted to kiss her, and now the beautiful one was joking, dancing, singing in my stomach. Finally she even took a riding lesson, perhaps because I had seen the duchess on horseback the previous day. I felt her foot
hitting off the walls of the enclosure; I felt every step of the shod horse; and finally, as she wanted to jump over the bar as well, I jumped up, actually did wake up, and then became aware of a terrible knocking sound in the room next door, which had probably been the cause of these dreams. I heard the duchess’s voice. She wanted to speak to my absent friend at all costs and called on his help in searching for the lost, beautiful child because she could not sleep for worry and fear. What would be the outcome? Could I imitate his voice? Perhaps. His favourite phrase in his dealings with his fellow men, “leave me in peace”, was easily copied. I did not deliberate for long, for this phrase was also the only protector of my sleep. I called “leave me in peace” through his keyhole, as if it were coming from his room. But an icy shiver ran over me when his voice replied from inside and corroborated my opinion with the words: “Indeed, leave me in peace. I give you my word that the girl is alive, bright and lively. She has run away; I saw her over on the other side of the bay in the Good Lady’s Inn, eating at the landlady’s table.” The duchess expressed doubt; the automaton, the speaking machine, gave its word of honour that this was the case; the servants laughed quietly; the duchess seemed ashamed; then she laughed too and swore that things had turned out very well. Then she withdrew ceremoniously; her path to the castle lit by numerous blazing torches. After having overcome my initial astonishment I was plagued by curiosity to get to know this speaking machine. I had been given the key to the room for emergencies. Was this an emergency? Would I not be committing a more serious offence than the duchess if I opened the door, since I could do it secretly, without being noticed by anyone? That decided me; I tied myself securely to the bed so that I would be sure not to give in to my curiosity as a sleepwalker. That was lucky for me, for I would have been dreadfully embarrassed. In the morning the engineer -- why should I conceal his name any longer, his name was Rennwagen18 -- walked in, laughing, to recount to me how the duchess had tormented him the previous night as he had been lying in his first deep sleep after a very strenuous day, he hardly knew what he had said, but he thought he had heard my voice as well. He then reported his adventures to me: how he had used the two Highlanders I had recommended to him as workers as unknown individuals no-one would pay any attention to in the little town in order to carry off Aura. “They rowed my submarine,” he continued, “while the two sailors I had engaged stayed here and could not be allowed to suspect anything. If the drunken Obrian, who was cooling his head in the sea water, had not caught sight of her, I would have made off with Aura without anyone having any idea by which means she had escaped from her prison. “Didn’t the big whale which frightened my rowers interfere with your crossing?” I asked. Rennwagen laughed and exclaimed: “That was us, I saw very well how you took
fright, but I didn’t know the reason and was really afraid at that moment that my boat would be recognised and, because the sea is so shallow, would be halted by the oars. I was, meanwhile, tormented in another way. I had formed an unfortunate prejudice about Aura in the extreme proximity of our enclosed space, which was scarcely as big as an English marital bed. I discovered that the same law applies to human affection as to attraction: it grows in inverse proportion to the degree of distance.” “Perhaps the Mariott Law of Compression19 also applies here?” I asked. “Oh,” he continued, “you are jealous too! I don’t know whether she wants to smite everyone, or whether she simply cannot help herself. Perhaps it would have been better for us if we had both suffocated, and the threat of this was real. She spoke so pleasantly and knowledgeably about my boat that I turned off an air valve too tightly and could scarcely, half suffocating, with one last panic-stricken effort, open it again. By this time, half fainting, her head had sunk down on me, and only a stream of cold sea water I let in brought her back round. Such shared danger, for which we were both to blame, is a particular bond. When she opened her eyes I had to kiss her out of gratitude that she was still among us. She wished that the journey would last forever. To me she seemed unique, although, mathematically, I am certain that many are similar, some girls even superior to her in beauty and intelligence. What would become of all my inventions if I were to continue to be disturbed by this kind of irksome longing with which man is unjustly burdened? I keep thinking about me sailing under the sea with her, I keep turning the valve off and keep turning it back on again. Over and over I awaken her with a cold jet of water, kiss her, and when I have added up this list, I dissolve it into its individual parts and begin my operation again as if it were the first time I’d ever had these thoughts. Truly, truly, in the same way as heaven spoils the springtime for us with numerous biting insects, our youth is destroyed by the vagaries of lovesickness.” I begged forgiveness for the insects in heaven’s name since this was my greatest pleasure in spring; since I looked at every leaf to see whether an insect known to me liked the taste of it; and since I, if I were the Creator, would have created springtime solely for the insects and would have left the humans uncreated. “Humans,” I said, “treat trees and plants much worse than any insect. If they take the notion they chop down everything that is green while singing loudly, as if they wanted to fool the earth with their jubilation into thinking that it was to be dressed in newer, more beautiful garments for a celebration. But scarcely is the beautiful, sumptuous dress put on than the people go home and leave it to the winter to throw a beggar’s cloak of snow over the earth.” “I think,” cried Rennwagen, “that we’ll both end up mad over this girl.Yesterday we talked most sensibly and today everything is leading us to the strangest opinions: instead of working I’d like to get myself a
romantic novel from a lending library, instead of drawing the machine I’ve already tried to draw her face, but as lovely as it is in my soul, on paper it resembles a fiendish witch. And then I try to sing like her, and it sounds like a bear going home with a honeycomb.” “But you are still in the submarine with her,” I interrupted. “How did you get back to the daylight?” “Of course,” he continued, “you still don’t know anything at all. Baron Starkader, her former philosophical fiancé, with whom she had become reconciled through letters, was waiting for us over there on the other side of the bay in the Good Lady’s Inn. Because we were sailing under water his long telescope, which he was holding out of the window, could bring him no news of our proximity. I brought the boat up behind a rock and got out, unnoticed, with Aura. Then I took her into the inn; went upstairs to the room indicated to me; was once again just a good friend; led her unnoticed up to near where he was standing, since he was still, like a blind lover, looking into the distance through the telescope. She may have embraced him somewhat clumsily, he dropped the telescope out of the window, and before he could reflect and look round he thrust her away from him as if she were one of these creatures in our seaports who are only too pushy towards rich young people and cursed over his splendid Dollond20 which had certainly been damaged. When he turned round he realised his mistake with horror; however this was a good thing for him in so far as it prevented him from noticing a similar wave of horror which had left Aura pale and frozen. Starkader, indulging in philosophical meditation which made him indifferent to external impressions, had been bitten all over by a swarm of midges: his face was covered in small lumps, like a Flemish horse’s harness with brass nail heads; in his anxiety he had forgotten to shave, so that these reddish hills shone as if on a background of black satin; he had been walking briskly, and his forehead was red from his new hat trimmed with morocco leather, as if he had been wearing a crown of thorns. He had not, in his lovelorn state, observed any of this, but I observed Aura’s cry that she had made a mistake, that this was not her Karl. I stepped between them and brought his attention to his disfigurement by excusing him to her for his love which had blinded him to himself and others. I had the reassurance of reconciling them. I subsequently handed her over to the landlady, who is well known as a very respectable local woman and who had prepared a private room for her beside her own, and slipped away secretly to board my boat in order to arrive back here, unnoticed, before daybreak. All of this was perfectly successful; my house key, which I had had made long ago for my test journeys, lead me back unnoticed, as all fellow occupants of the house were sound asleep. Only the duchess making a racket brought me to make a confession about Aura’s whereabouts, which put an end to her worries but which could still have nasty consequences. The
marquess and the baron find themselves in a particular confrontational situation here. I foresee arguments and fights, but that would all have come about sooner or later anyway, even if Aura’s whereabouts had remained concealed today. Our conversation was interrupted as the so-called lame captain wished to speak to the engineer alone. “You see,” he said, “that my predictions are accurate. He would never cross my threshold if he weren’t on such business.” After quite a long conversation they left together. I, however, worked until evening, uncertain what news the rest of the day would bring. It was not until evening that I heard, from listening in on the conversations of the people from the castle, that, at the instigation of the captain, a duel between the marquess and the baron was to take place, which everyone disapproved of, since the marquess had only offended him once he had made off with his bride, and this last abduction had returned the troubled relationships of all involved to normal; it had even saved the marquess, who was now engaged to the daughter of the neighbouring earl, from any claims for compensation, which would have been most substantial. The captain, they said, since he had been shot and lamed, just happened to have found his only bellicose pleasure in duels. His word was worth more in respect of questions of honour than all laws and all reason. I could not listen to the conversation any longer because I was invited by a note from the duke, handed to me by the old butler in a very dignified way, to dinner, now that all impediments that had previously prevented him from receiving strangers in his home had been removed. The duke lived according to London customs: our meeting was set for a time when most of the inhabitants of the small town went to bed. (Endnotes) 1 Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Swedish scientist, philosopher and mystic. 2 A ground beetle with little sacs at the tip of its abdomen that spray a noxious fluid, accompanied by a distinctive popping sound, to deter enemies. 3 Arnim consistently refers to England and English where he means Britain/British, or even Scotland/Scottish. This reflects contemporary German usage and is still common today. 4 Basic workmen’s clothes. 5 Göttingen. Arnim studied there from 1800-1801. 6 Reference to Immanuel Kant’s (17241804) Idealist philosophy. The categorical imperative is an unconditional moral obligation which is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person’s inclination or purpose. It requires us to adopt as our rules of conduct in any situation only those maxims that we could consistently wish to be universal laws of nature. 7 The eldest son of a duke normally uses one of his father’s lesser titles as a courtesy title. The courtesy title for the Duke of Argyll’s eldest son is
Marquess of Lorne. The younger son of a duke is always known by his first name prefixed by the title ‘lord’. 8 Further reference to Kant, see note 6. Catagories are, in his philosophy, the a priori elements of reason. 9 Literally translated: McRascal. 10 Italian: literally ‘obligatory’. An accompaniment which is integral to a piece of music. 11 Romeo and Juliet Act II, scene 2. 12 Romeo and Juliet Act II, scene 2. 13 Antonio Allegri, called Correggio, Italian Renaissance painter (1489?-1534). 14 A combined spear and battleaxe. 15 Song calling for the murder of the nobility sung during the French Revolution. 16 Metamorphoses, Book VIII. 17 Greek comic dramatist (448?-385? BC). Clouds is the English translation of his work Nephelai (423). 18 Literally translated: Chariot. 19 Law of physics, named after the French physicist Edme Mariotte (1620?-1684), who discovered in 1678 that the volume of gases is in converse relationship to the pressure under which it is placed. 20 Telescope with an achromatic lens, named after its inventor, John Dollond (1706-1761).