Author Archives: RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

About RAM Chandrakausika राम च 51

Ram51 is a researcher in the various fields of Musicology, Philosophy and History as well as old languages. One of his first topics is the wide scope of Indo-arabic cultures as represented in various art-forms religion and history. Below a list of selected Research topics which sum up partitionally the task of anthropological Frameworks in totaliter : Sanskrit Hinduism and Mythology Hindustani Music, The Muqhal Empire Gharanas from North India Kashmir Sufiyana The Kashmir Santoor Traditional Folk Music from USA Philosophy in Orient and Okzident Genealogy of musical instruments Ethnomusicology, Arabic Maqams, No Theatre fromJapan, North american poetry, Cultural heritage of mankind and Islamic architecture...

In The Half Shadow of The Dove – Lectured rAgams For The Early Evening

Rag_Marwa_Ram_Narayan_05.

Ram Narayan ( SARANGI )
Introducing 2 excellent renditions of mystic
early evening rAgas

Accompanied by Chatur Lal on Tabla

Rag Shuddh Todi

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Rag Marwa

Rag_Marwa_Ram_Narayan_02

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A Patio

At evening
they grow weary, the patio’s two or three colours.
Tonight, the moon, bright circle,
fails to dominate space.

Patio, channel of sky.
The patio is the slope
down which sky flows into the house.
Serene,
eternity waits at the crossroad of stars.

It’s pleasant to live in the friendly dark
of entrance-way, arbour, and cistern.

(Jorge Louis Borges)

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Rag_Marwa_Ram_Narayan_04

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All Recordings 1976


The Ragas Of Carnatic Music

 Carnatic_Ragas***

(Click Image above to read on)

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Carnatic_Ragas_02


Rag Sohani

Madhukauns_xno

 

 

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Thaat  – Marwa
Jaati – Audav – Shadav
Vadi Swar – ध
Samvadi Swar – ग

Time – Evening.

Aaroh – सा ग मे ध नी सां।
Avroh – सां नी ध मे ध ग मे ग रे॒ सा।
pakad – मे ध नी सा रे॒ सा, सा नी ध मे ध ग। ( ़ this indicates that it is a lower octave (मंद्र सप्तक)

 

 

Naubat_ Khana Gate, Fatehpur Sikri


The ” Doppelgängers”

der doppelgänger

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Edgar Allan Poe and E. T. A. Hoffmann:

The Double in “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs

In response to accusations that the horror in his stories was derived from German literary sources, Edgar Allan Poe claimed in the Preface for the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840 that “if in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul.” [1] There are several indications, though, that Poe could have gained access to German literature and to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s writings through Gillies’s translation of The Devil’s Elixirs, through Carlyle’s publication of the German Romance, through Sir Walter Scott’s essay on Hoffmann’s use of the supernatural, or through readings of his own in English translation. As the editor of several prominent journals such as the Southern Literary Messenger, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Graham’s Magazine, the Mirror, and the Broadway Journal, Poe was well acquainted with publications by European writers and even accused other American authors of plagiarizing their ideas. [2] While some critics have noted the similarities between “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs, scholarship on the double in these works still requires further investigation beyond a positivistic approach. This article traces the developmental stages of the double in “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs according to a reading of Freud’s essay “The Uncanny.” It also examines the impact of the double on the lives of the protagonists and analyzes Poe’s and Hoffmann’s overall statement on the divided self.

The historical background of the double is rooted in the philosophical, literary, and scientific theories of German Romanticism, which illustrate the Romantic poet’s constant struggle within himself to reach beyond his own existence. In terms of German philosophy, the double is steeped in Fichtean Idealism, according to which the ego creates and projects itself onto the world, and in Schelling’s concept of “identity” as developed in his philosophy of nature, which illustrates the interaction of the individual with its counterpart in nature. From a literary perspective, the double signifies the Romantic poet’s continuous longing for the infinite, which can never be fulfilled. Since the Romantic ego is continuously striving for something higher than itself, the Romantic poet finds himself divided into two parts: one is rooted in his mortal existence, the other pursues a higher transcendental harmony with the infinite. Typically, Romantic literature abounds with references that illustrate the discrepancy between the “real” and the “ideal,” that seek to express the sublime, the longing for mystical and spiritual unity, and the interaction between man and nature.

The interest in supernatural or unexplained phenomena such as hypnosis, telepathy, sleepwalking, insanity, drives, and in the subconscious also contributed to the motif of the double in Romantic literature. Students of the German physician Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) developed a scientific method of delving into the human psyche that provided the medium with access to the patient’s inner world and secrets that lay beyond human existence. This new scientific approach became the cutting-edge development in scientific research to approach the mysteries of the spiritual world and the dark side of the human mind. The Romantic poet, therefore, employed the motif of the double as the chance to investigate the passions and illnesses of the human mind and to examine the presence of a supernatural world.

Prior to the advent of Romanticism, the motif of the double existed for the sake of comedy through the mistaken identity of characters such as one finds in Plautus’s Menaechmi or Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Romanticism gave the double its psychological depth by endowing it with the meaning of “the admonishing angel, the good repressed ego, or the tenacious devil” [3] and by building around it a canon of literature that included Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s Der Zauberring (1813), Adelbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814), and Jean Paul Richter’s Siebenkäs (1776-97). [4] In American literature, there is virtually no tradition of the double, and the motif has been taken from German philosophical, literary, and scientific theory. Even though Poe asserts that he borrowed the motif of the double in “William Wilson” from an article by Washington Irving, [5] it is well known that the latter also drew extensively on German literature for his short stories and sketches. [6]

In Freud’s essay “The Uncanny” (1919), the psychoanalyst asserts that the creation of the double is a means for the individual to safeguard himself “against the destruction of the ego” and a kind of primitive narcissism and self-love. [7] In this duplication process, the double becomes the manifestation of the ego’s repressed drives and desires, finding expression in human form. Through the psychological distance between the double and the self, the individual is able to evaluate his own behavior and to develop a conscience for his improvement. This means that once the critical stage of the Doppelgängertum has been reached, the double either provides the individual with the necessary impetus for a conscience or the double becomes the “uncanny herald of death.” [8] The characters of Medardus and Wilson undergo similar stages of development in respect to the double, including the formation of narcissistic tendencies in their formative years, the repression of sexual desires and power, and, in the words of Freud, the development of “ego-duplication,” “ego-separation,” and “ego-substitution.” [9] However, Wilson is never able to develop a “conscience” and to rejoin his second self, bringing about his own destruction.

Poe’s short story “William Wilson” is less complicated than Hoffmann’s novel, although the main character undergoes a similar process of development. Wilson is a child at a boarding school in England and grows up within the tranquil and solitary walls of the institution. He believes to be in control of his classmates, with one exception: William Wilson, the double. From their very first encounter the double proves to be superior to Wilson, offering him advice and admonishing him for his wrongdoing. After the double exposes Wilson to his fellow students for cheating at cards, and after following him to the various capitals of Europe and stopping him from committing adultery, Wilson revolts and murders his double in a duel. In retrospect, the narrator remarks that he has in fact destroyed himself by having murdered his double.

In the first stage of his development, Wilson reveals the narcissism of his early years by asserting that he had “ascendancy over” other children and that he “was left to the guidance of [his] own will, and became … the master of [his] own actions” so that he “grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions.” [10] At the same time, however, Wilson deplores his authority over others and states that “if there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master-mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions” (WW 431). In other words, Wilson is aware of the control that he has over others and he rejects this authority as a kind of “unqualified despotism.” As a result of the wish to save himself from his uncontrollable behavior, Wilson creates a double that functions as a conscience and helps him control his desire for manipulation and power. In producing a double that embodies the positive side of his being, Wilson subconsciously prevents himself from taking part in drunkenness, cheating, and adultery, and thereby protects himself from harm. Still, he regards the protective behavior of the double as “impertinent and dogged interference” (WW 432), although he inadvertently realizes that the double’s moral sense is “proof of his true superiority” (WW 432).

In Hoffmann’s novel, an orphan child is brought up in a secluded monastery under serene and pious conditions. With the coming of adolescence the child, Medardus, begins to develop sexual urges and rebels against the authority of the monastery. After drinking the forbidden elixir of Saint Anthony, that had been placed in his safekeeping, Medardus undergoes a change of personality and becomes a popular orator at the monastery. Sensing that Medardus is acting out of his own self-interest and the desire to gain his independence, Prior Leonardus implores him to leave the monastery and go on an important mission to Rome. On his way through the mountains, Medardus comes across his double (actually his own brother) asleep on the precipice of a cliff. When Medardus awakens him, the double becomes frightened and falls to his death in the abyss. Medardus then takes on the identity of the double by putting on his clothes and assuming his position at the castle. When he arrives at the double’s residence, Medardus discovers that an intricate plot is already underway between Viktorin (the double) and his lover, Euphemie, concerning the murder of his half-brother, Hermogen. Mistaken by the entire family for the actual Count Viktorin, Medardus becomes Euphemie’s lover and a conspirator to the murder of Hermogen. At the same time, Medardus recognizes Hermogen’s sister, Aurelie, as the woman from the confessional in the monastery who proclaimed her love for him. In a moment of anger, Medardus poisons Euphemie and murders Hermogen in a fight. After the double appears to him in the hallway (Viktorin had crawled out of the abyss), Medardus flees from the castle and the scene of the crime. For the remainder of the novel, Medardus attempts to hide his identity by moving from place to place (the village, the forester’s house, the prince’s residence) and in the process slowly discovers his past.

While Wilson attempts to save himself by creating a double that functions as a conscience, Medardus produces a double that allows him to live out the sexual fantasies and need for authority that he has repressed as a monk. [11] Like Wilson, who grows up in the solitary environment of a boarding school and gradually develops his desire to control others, Medardus reveals his need for power by preaching at a monastery. After having consumed Saint Anthony’s forbidden elixir, Medardus gives a sermon in a crowded church in order to win the desired admiration of his congregation and even claims of himself: “I am Saint Anthony” (DE 33). His repressed sexual desires are unleashed once he drinks the sacred potion and hears the confession of a young woman in the church: “‘You-you yourself, Medardus, are the one that I so inexpressibly love!’” (DE 41) He decides to leave the monastery “in order to hold this woman in [his] arms and to still the burning desire inside of [himself]” (DE 42). Medardus compares the young woman in the confessional with the portrait of Saint Rosalia in the church, which serves as a fetish for his sexual desires.

Wolfgang Nehring claims that “the entire vision is an erotic dream for Medardus, which surprisingly for the protagonist himself, moves from the subconscious to consciousness. From now on Medardus acknowledges his desires and attempts to fulfill them outside of the monastery.” [12] Medardus therefore creates a double (Viktorin) who enables him to pursue his sexual interests outside of the monastery through his relationships with Euphemie and Aurelie. As a result of Viktorin’s alleged sudden death, Medardus not only replaces him sexually in his affair with Euphemie, but he is also able to fulfill his taboo sexual desires with Saint Rosalia through his relationship with Aurelie. Hoffmann’s novel can be regarded as an encounter between Medardus and the manifestation of his sexual fantasies: as Medardus is composed of the negative side of Viktorin and the positive side of his grandfather Francesco, his female counterpart also embodies the femme fatale Euphemie and the saint-like qualities of Aurelie.

In both texts the double is a manifestation of the characters’ innermost drives and desires, which find expression in human form. In The Devil’s Elixirs, the double functions as an “id” who carries out devious actions and forces Medardus to examine his life, whereas Wilson’s double serves as a “conscience” who admonishes him for his wrongdoing. Wilson expresses his need for self-control and discipline through a double who has the same “identity of name” (WW 432), the “same age” (WW 434), the “same height” (WW 434), “entered the school upon the same day” (WW 432), and keeps a constant watch over him and prevents him from acting immorally. Whereas Wilson’s “ego-duplication” exists from the very onset of the story through the presence of the second William Wilson, his actual separation from the double takes place upon secretly entering the double’s room one evening in order to play a joke on him. Finding the double asleep in bed, Wilson is confounded by the fact that the second self is not a mere imitation but actually exists independently of himself. Wilson’s response to this encounter with the double is not one of recognition that would allow him to look at himself objectively, but rather one of fear, an encounter that causes him to flee throughout the story. “Awe-stricken, and with a creeping shudder, I extinguished the lamp, passed silently from the chamber, and left, at once, the halls of that old academy, never to enter them again” (WW 437).

In their first encounter after this frightful evening, the narrator explains that he had invited some friends to his room and the wine was flowing freely, when the double appeared at the door and interrupted the party by “whisper[ing] the words ‘William Wilson!’ in [his] ear” (WW 439). Once again, as Wilson is cheating at cards, the double enters the scene in order to reveal the main character’s devious activity to the others: “Gentlemen…. You are, beyond doubt, uninformed of the true character of the person who has to-night won at écarté a large sum of money from Lord Glendinning…. Please to examine, at your leisure, the inner linings of the cuff of his left sleeve” (WW 443). Finally, the double disturbs Wilson just as he is about to make advances towards the beautiful wife of Duke Di Broglio at a party in Rome, and Wilson feels “a light hand placed upon [his] shoulder, and that ever-remembered, low, damnable whisper within [his] ear” (WW 446). Wilson believes that the double interrupts him throughout his life in order “to frustrate those schemes, or to disturb those actions, which, if fully carried out, might have resulted in bitter mischief” (WW 445). However, during these episodes Wilson never reflects upon his own actions as being dishonest or immoral, but rather claims that his “natural rights of self-agency” are “so pertinaciously, so insultingly denied” (WW 445) by the double.

In The Devil’s Elixirs, Saint Anthony’s wine enables the main character to delve into the darker side of his mind, to give moving sermons, and to conjure up lustful visions of Saint Rosalia in church: “I drank again, and the desire of a new magnificent life rose up inside of me” (DE 37). In “William Wilson,” the protagonist lives out his repressed desires and gives the double the greatest resistance under the influence of alcohol. It is precisely during these moments of drunkenness that the double appears before Wilson to admonish him for his actions. During the first major encounter with the double, Wilson remarks that he was “madly flushed with … intoxication” (WW 438) and “was in the act of insisting upon a toast” (438) when his double appeared at the door. It is also in this inebriated condition that Wilson finally summons up the courage to oppose his double openly and to challenge him to a duel: “I had given myself up entirely to wine; and its maddening influence upon my hereditary temper rendered me more and more impatient of control. I began to murmur-to hesitate-to resist” (WW 446).

Similar to Wilson, who refuses to accept the existence of his second self, Medardus represses the existence of his double (Viktorin) by causing him to fall from a ledge of a cliff into a dark abyss. In order to hide from his true self, Medardus pretends to be Viktorin, taking on the identity of the double, who is posing as a monk: “I am that, which I appear to be, and do not appear to be that, which I am; I am an inexplicable riddle to myself; my being has been divided in two!” (DE 59). Since Viktorin slowly climbs out of the abyss and returns to haunt Medardus throughout the novel, one can see that the double and the sexual manifestations that he represents are only repressed and eventually surface in human form. The first sign of the repressed double reemerging (ego-separation) occurs in the hallway of the castle following the murders of Euphemie and Hermogen. Similar to Wilson, who is terrified by the initial vision of his own double, Medardus flees from the castle and attempts to hide from the darker side of himself by concealing his habit-”I hid the frock in a hollow tree” (WW 79)-and by changing his physical appearance through new clothes and a haircut. Unlike Wilson, however, Medardus, in his various encounters with the double, undergoes a process of development that enables him to create a conscience and to reflect upon his actions by the end of the novel.

Most important among these encounters with the double are the scenes in the forester’s lodge and in prison, and the confrontation with the double on the way to his execution. In the first instance, Medardus spends a night at the forester’s house in the woods after his carriage leaves him stranded there, and during the night the double (Viktorin) dressed as a monk enters Medardus’s room and climbs onto his bed (ego-substitution). In this key scene, the double is pointing to the psychological battle between Medardus and his second self, which would provide one of them with supremacy. Medardus, however, does not recognize the double as a manifestation of his repressed desires, but instead sees him as something strangely apart from himself: “you are not me; you are the devil” (DE 105). The forester explains that the double “is said to have committed a terrible sin by misusing a relic and has been banned from the monastery” (DE 114) and that he exhibited uncontrollable sexual behavior by trying to seduce his daughter, “whose door he kicked in with his foot” (DE 111). At this point in his development, however, Medardus is being torn apart through his second ego: “divided in my being more than ever, I became ambiguous to myself, and an inner horror enveloped my soul with destructive power” (DE 116).

After Medardus has been charged with the murder of Euphemie and Hermogen at the prince’s residence, the double whispers to him in his dark prison cell, “lit-tle broth-er … lit-tle broth-er … Me-dar-dus … I am here … am here … op-open up … up … we wa-want to go into the wo-woods … go into the woods!” (DE 165). In the appellation “little brother,” which can refer to the fact that Medardus is a monk or that he is the brother of the double, Medardus recognizes his own voice and repeats, “Me-dar-dus … Me-dar-dus!” (DE 165) The response, “lit-tle broth-er … lit-tle broth-er, did … you, you recognize m-me … recognize me?” (DE 165), points to the fact that Medardus is on his way to recognizing the darker side of his self. A few days later, Medardus again experiences the double. This time, he emerges through the floor of the cell with a knife in his hand, calling, “Lit-tle broth-er! Lit-tle broth-er, Medar-dus is here-here, come up … take this, take this! … break out … break out … into the wo-woods … into the woods!” (DE 171-72). Through this metaphorical scene of the double literally breaking through the subconscious of the main character, Medardus moves closer to the realization that the double is part of him, and he sees his own figure in the dark hole of the floor: “the full light of the lamp fell upon his face-I recognized myself-I lost consciousness” (DE 172).

Whereas Hoffmann employs the floor of the prison cell and the deep abyss of the “Teufelsgrund” as metaphors of the human subconscious, Poe draws upon the complex arrangement of rooms in the boarding school as analogous to the various parts of the human mind. Wilson describes his school, which is watched over by the Reverend Dr. Bransby, as having “no end to its windings-to its incomprehensible subdivisions” (WW 429), and that many of the rooms were “merest closets” (WW 436), “capable of accommodating but a single individual. One of these small apartments was occupied by Wilson” (WW 436). Wilson’s flight from this institution to the capitals of Europe is an expression of freedom; however, it is an escape that offers him no reconciliation with his divided self: “I fled in vain. My evil destiny pursued me as if in exultation…. Years flew, while I experienced no relief” (WW 444-45).

When Medardus sees his double being carried away in a carriage to his execution, he is confronted with the evil side of his being and his own devious actions. Although he is about to fulfill his innermost desire and marry Aurelie, whom he associates with Saint Rosalia, Medardus openly admits that he is the murderer of Hermogen: “I … I, your beloved, your fiancé, am Medardus … your brother’s murderer” (DE 206). It is through the double that Medardus is prevented from marrying his half-sister Aurelie and that he recognizes his involvement in the murder of Euphemie and Hermogen. In a fight analogous to William Wilson’s duel with his double, Medardus wrestles with his second self for his ego and thus starts the process of reconciliation with himself.

William Wilson’s final confrontation with his double takes place at Duke Di Brogio’s party in Naples, where he is again plagued by the moral voice of his second self. Unlike Medardus, who gradually learns from his various encounters with the double and is able to develop a conscience, Wilson does not yet realize that the double’s function is to bring about a moral change in himself. According to Freud’s theory of the double, the second self can either bring about a moral change in the individual through the development of a conscience or it can ultimately cause the character’s own destruction. Angered by another intrusion by the double and unable to comprehend the significance of the encounter, Wilson decides that he “would submit no longer to be enslaved” (WW 446). In the ensuing confrontation, Wilson challenges his double to a duel that ends with the murder of Wilson’s moral self. Instead of conceding victory to Wilson, the double sternly informs him: “You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead-dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist-and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself” (WW 448). At the moment of running his sword through the double, Wilson sees his own reflection in what appears to be “a large mirror” (WW 447), “all pale and dabbled in blood” (WW 448), and realizes that he has murdered his own conscience, and, in effect, has brought about the moral death of himself. As Hoffmann’s depiction of the double suggests, one needs both the positive and negative sides of the self to exist. Since the “ego-substitution,” the murder, and the recognition of the double happen at the same time, Wilson is unable to bring both halves of his being together and is forced to seek reconciliation post facto through the narration of his story. In retrospect, Wilson refers to himself as an “outcast of all outcasts most abandoned” (WW 426) and asserts that he “might, to-day, have been a better, and thus a happier man, had [he] less frequently rejected the counsels embodied in those meaning[ful] whispers which [he] then but too cordially hated and too bitterly despised” (WW 435).

Medardus’s final stage of development begins with seeing his double being brought to the execution and ends with the writing of his memoirs at the monastery. While Aurelie is about to take her vows to become a nun, the double enters the church and stabs her on the altar before the entire congregation. After the double flees from the church, and the painter Francesco steps down from the painting of Saint Rosalia, Aurelie explains to Medardus that the phenomenon of the double is the battle between good and evil over his soul, and that its resolution lifts the divine curse on his family. As a final penance for his transgressions, Medardus writes down the story of his life. Unlike Wilson, who writes the story of his double in order to justify his own mistakes, Medardus writes his life story in order to relive the past as a kind of psychotherapy: “I did as the prior asked. Oh!-indeed it happened as he said!-pain and bliss, horror and desire-dismay and delight rushed forth inside of me when I wrote down the story of my life” (288).

The use of the double in “William Wilson” and The Devil’s Elixirs shows an overwhelming affinity between Poe and Hoffmann in terms of motifs, symbolism, and stages of development. While the double in “William Wilson” serves as a “conscience” for the main character’s moral development, the double in The Devil’s Elixirs functions as an “id” that allows Medardus to live out his sexual fantasies and need for power. In both cases, however, the double provides an impetus for the protagonists’ improvement through a process of duplication, separation, and substitution. Medardus is able to embrace both halves of his divided self and to learn to be a better person, whereas Wilson rejects the advice of his double and, in effect, brings about his own moral death. For this reason, Wilson can only comfort himself afterwards through the narration of his story. Medardus, on the other hand, returns to his life at the monastery as a complete being and sets out to write down the story of his life.

Notes

[1] Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Thomas Ollive Mabbott, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969-78) 473.
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[2] The most famous accusations of plagiarism are aimed at Nathaniel Hawthorne (Godey’s Lady’s Book, Nov. 1847) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (New York Evening Mirror, Jan. 1845; Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Feb. 1849).
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[3] Elisabeth Frenzel, Motive der Weltliteratur (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1992) 101; my translation.
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[4] The German writer Jean Paul Richter coined the phrase Doppelgänger in this novel Siebenkäs by claiming that “Doppeltgänger” are people who can see themselves (Frenzel 102).
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[5] Washington Irving, “An Unwritten Drama of Lord Byron,” The Gift for 1836 166-67.
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[6] Henry A. Pochmann, German Culture in America: Philosophical and Literary Influences, 1600-1900. (1957; rpt. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1978) 367-81.
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[7] Sigmund Freud, “Das Unheimliche,” Psychologische Schriften, vol. 4 (Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, 1970) 258; my translation.
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[8] Freud 258.
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[9] Freud 257.
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[10] Poe, “William Wilson,” Collected Works., vol. 2, 427. Subsequent references are to this edition and appear in the text in parentheses following the abbreviation WW.
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[11] All translations from The Devil’s Elixirs are my own and are based on E. T. A. Hoffmann, “Die Elixiere des Teufels,” Sämtliche Werke, vol. 2 (München: Winkler, 1970). Subsequent references are to this edition and appear in the text in parentheses following the abbreviation DE.
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[12] Wolfgang Nehring, “E. T. A. Hoffmann: Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815/16),” Romane und Erzählungen der deutschen Romantik, ed. Paul Michael Lützeler (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1981) 344; my translation.

(Courtesy of Patrick Labriola, Bonn, Germany)
see also

 

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WILLIAM WILSON
by Edgar Allan Poe
(1839)

What say of it? what say (of) CONSCIENCE grim, That spectre in my path?

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Chamberlayne’s Pharronida.

LET me call myself, for the present, William Wilson. The fair page now lying before me need not be sullied with my real appellation. This has been already too much an object for the scorn –for the horror –for the detestation of my race. To the uttermost regions of the globe have not the indignant winds bruited its unparalleled infamy? Oh, outcast of all outcasts most abandoned! –to the earth art thou not forever dead? to its honors, to its flowers, to its golden aspirations? –and a cloud, dense, dismal, and limitless, does it not hang eternally between thy hopes and heaven?

I would not, if I could, here or to-day, embody a record of my later years of unspeakable misery, and unpardonable crime. This epoch –these later years –took unto themselves a sudden elevation in turpitude, whose origin alone it is my present purpose to assign. Men usually grow base by degrees. From me, in an instant, all virtue dropped bodily as a mantle. From comparatively trivial wickedness I passed, with the stride of a giant, into more than the enormities of an Elah-Gabalus. What chance –what one event brought this evil thing to pass, bear with me while I relate. Death approaches; and the shadow which foreruns him has thrown a softening influence over my spirit. I long, in passing through the dim valley, for the sympathy –I had nearly said for the pity –of my fellow men. I would fain have them believe that I have been, in some measure, the slave of circumstances beyond human control. I would wish them to seek out for me, in the details I am about to give, some little oasis of fatality amid a wilderness of error. I would have them allow –what they cannot refrain from allowing –that, although temptation may have erewhile existed as great, man was never thus, at least, tempted before –certainly, never thus fell. And is it therefore that he has never thus suffered? Have I not indeed been living in a dream? And am I not now dying a victim to the horror and the mystery of the wildest of all sublunary visions?

I am the descendant of a race whose imaginative and easily excitable temperament has at all times rendered them remarkable; and, in my earliest infancy, I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly developed; becoming, for many reasons, a cause of serious disquietude to my friends, and of positive injury to myself. I grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions. Weak-minded, and beset with constitutional infirmities akin to my own, my parents could do but little to check the evil propensities which distinguished me. Some feeble and ill-directed efforts resulted in complete failure on their part, and, of course, in total triumph on mine. Thenceforward my voice was a household law; and at an age when few children have abandoned their leading-strings, I was left to the guidance of my own will, and became, in all but name, the master of my own actions.

My earliest recollections of a school-life, are connected with a large, rambling, Elizabethan house, in a misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient. In truth, it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.

It gives me, perhaps, as much of pleasure as I can now in any manner experience, to dwell upon minute recollections of the school and its concerns. Steeped in misery as I am –misery, alas! only too real –I shall be pardoned for seeking relief, however slight and temporary, in the weakness of a few rambling details. These, moreover, utterly trivial, and even ridiculous in themselves, assume, to my fancy, adventitious importance, as connected with a period and a locality when and where I recognise the first ambiguous monitions of the destiny which afterwards so fully overshadowed me. Let me then remember.

The house, I have said, was old and irregular. The grounds were extensive, and a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of our domain; beyond it we saw but thrice a week –once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighbouring fields –and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one church of the village. Of this church the principal of our school was pastor. With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast, —could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!

At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate. It was riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes. What impressions of deep awe did it inspire! It was never opened save for the three periodical egressions and ingressions already mentioned; then, in every creak of its mighty hinges, we found a plenitude of mystery –a world of matter for solemn remark, or for more solemn meditation.

The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having many capacious recesses. Of these, three or four of the largest constituted the play-ground. It was level, and covered with fine hard gravel. I well remember it had no trees, nor benches, nor anything similar within it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front lay a small parterre, planted with box and other shrubs; but through this sacred division we passed only upon rare occasions indeed –such as a first advent to school or final departure thence, or perhaps, when a parent or friend having called for us, we joyfully took our way home for the Christmas or Midsummer holy-days.

But the house! –how quaint an old building was this! –to me how veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its windings –to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were innumerable –inconceivable –and so returning in upon themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered upon infinity. During the five years of my residence here, I was never able to ascertain with precision, in what remote locality lay the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and some eighteen or twenty other scholars.

The school-room was the largest in the house –I could not help thinking, in the world. It was very long, narrow, and dismally low, with pointed Gothic windows and a celling of oak. In a remote and terror-inspiring angle was a square enclosure of eight or ten feet, comprising the sanctum, “during hours,” of our principal, the Reverend Dr. Bransby. It was a solid structure, with massy door, sooner than open which in the absence of the “Dominic,” we would all have willingly perished by the peine forte et dure. In other angles were two other similar boxes, far less reverenced, indeed, but still greatly matters of awe. One of these was the pulpit of the “classical” usher, one of the “English and mathematical.” Interspersed about the room, crossing and recrossing in endless irregularity, were innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, and time-worn, piled desperately with much-bethumbed books, and so beseamed with initial letters, names at full length, grotesque figures, and other multiplied efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little of original form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge bucket with water stood at one extremity of the room, and a clock of stupendous dimensions at the other.

Encompassed by the massy walls of this venerable academy, I passed, yet not in tedium or disgust, the years of the third lustrum of my life. The teeming brain of childhood requires no external world of incident to occupy or amuse it; and the apparently dismal monotony of a school was replete with more intense excitement than my riper youth has derived from luxury, or my full manhood from crime. Yet I must believe that my first mental development had in it much of the uncommon –even much of the outre. Upon mankind at large the events of very early existence rarely leave in mature age any definite impression. All is gray shadow –a weak and irregular remembrance –an indistinct regathering of feeble pleasures and phantasmagoric pains. With me this is not so. In childhood I must have felt with the energy of a man what I now find stamped upon memory in lines as vivid, as deep, and as durable as the exergues of the Carthaginian medals.

Yet in fact –in the fact of the world’s view –how little was there to remember! The morning’s awakening, the nightly summons to bed; the connings, the recitations; the periodical half-holidays, and perambulations; the play-ground, with its broils, its pastimes, its intrigues; –these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, an universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and spirit-stirring. “Oh, le bon temps, que ce siecle de fer!”

In truth, the ardor, the enthusiasm, and the imperiousness of my disposition, soon rendered me a marked character among my schoolmates, and by slow, but natural gradations, gave me an ascendancy over all not greatly older than myself; –over all with a single exception. This exception was found in the person of a scholar, who, although no relation, bore the same Christian and surname as myself; –a circumstance, in fact, little remarkable; for, notwithstanding a noble descent, mine was one of those everyday appellations which seem, by prescriptive right, to have been, time out of mind, the common property of the mob. In this narrative I have therefore designated myself as William Wilson, –a fictitious title not very dissimilar to the real. My namesake alone, of those who in school phraseology constituted “our set,” presumed to compete with me in the studies of the class –in the sports and broils of the play-ground –to refuse implicit belief in my assertions, and submission to my will –indeed, to interfere with my arbitrary dictation in any respect whatsoever. If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions.

Wilson’s rebellion was to me a source of the greatest embarrassment; –the more so as, in spite of the bravado with which in public I made a point of treating him and his pretensions, I secretly felt that I feared him, and could not help thinking the equality which he maintained so easily with myself, a proof of his true superiority; since not to be overcome cost me a perpetual struggle. Yet this superiority –even this equality –was in truth acknowledged by no one but myself; our associates, by some unaccountable blindness, seemed not even to suspect it. Indeed, his competition, his resistance, and especially his impertinent and dogged interference with my purposes, were not more pointed than private. He appeared to be destitute alike of the ambition which urged, and of the passionate energy of mind which enabled me to excel. In his rivalry he might have been supposed actuated solely by a whimsical desire to thwart, astonish, or mortify myself; although there were times when I could not help observing, with a feeling made up of wonder, abasement, and pique, that he mingled with his injuries, his insults, or his contradictions, a certain most inappropriate, and assuredly most unwelcome affectionateness of manner. I could only conceive this singular behavior to arise from a consummate self-conceit assuming the vulgar airs of patronage and protection.

Perhaps it was this latter trait in Wilson’s conduct, conjoined with our identity of name, and the mere accident of our having entered the school upon the same day, which set afloat the notion that we were brothers, among the senior classes in the academy. These do not usually inquire with much strictness into the affairs of their juniors. I have before said, or should have said, that Wilson was not, in the most remote degree, connected with my family. But assuredly if we had been brothers we must have been twins; for, after leaving Dr. Bransby’s, I casually learned that my namesake was born on the nineteenth of January, 1813 –and this is a somewhat remarkable coincidence; for the day is precisely that of my own nativity.

It may seem strange that in spite of the continual anxiety occasioned me by the rivalry of Wilson, and his intolerable spirit of contradiction, I could not bring myself to hate him altogether. We had, to be sure, nearly every day a quarrel in which, yielding me publicly the palm of victory, he, in some manner, contrived to make me feel that it was he who had deserved it; yet a sense of pride on my part, and a veritable dignity on his own, kept us always upon what are called “speaking terms,” while there were many points of strong congeniality in our tempers, operating to awake me in a sentiment which our position alone, perhaps, prevented from ripening into friendship. It is difficult, indeed, to define,or even to describe, my real feelings towards him. They formed a motley and heterogeneous admixture; –some petulant animosity, which was not yet hatred, some esteem, more respect, much fear, with a world of uneasy curiosity. To the moralist it will be unnecessary to say, in addition, that Wilson and myself were the most inseparable of companions.

It was no doubt the anomalous state of affairs existing between us, which turned all my attacks upon him, (and they were many, either open or covert) into the channel of banter or practical joke (giving pain while assuming the aspect of mere fun) rather than into a more serious and determined hostility. But my endeavours on this head were by no means uniformly successful, even when my plans were the most wittily concocted; for my namesake had much about him, in character, of that unassuming and quiet austerity which, while enjoying the poignancy of its own jokes, has no heel of Achilles in itself, and absolutely refuses to be laughed at. I could find, indeed, but one vulnerable point, and that, lying in a personal peculiarity, arising, perhaps, from constitutional disease, would have been spared by any antagonist less at his wit’s end than myself; –my rival had a weakness in the faucal or guttural organs, which precluded him from raising his voice at any time above a very low whisper. Of this defect I did not fall to take what poor advantage lay in my power.

Wilson’s retaliations in kind were many; and there was one form of his practical wit that disturbed me beyond measure. How his sagacity first discovered at all that so petty a thing would vex me, is a question I never could solve; but, having discovered, he habitually practised the annoyance. I had always felt aversion to my uncourtly patronymic, and its very common, if not plebeian praenomen. The words were venom in my ears; and when, upon the day of my arrival, a second William Wilson came also to the academy, I felt angry with him for bearing the name, and doubly disgusted with the name because a stranger bore it, who would be the cause of its twofold repetition, who would be constantly in my presence, and whose concerns, in the ordinary routine of the school business, must inevitably, on account of the detestable coincidence, be often confounded with my own.

The feeling of vexation thus engendered grew stronger with every circumstance tending to show resemblance, moral or physical, between my rival and myself. I had not then discovered the remarkable fact that we were of the same age; but I saw that we were of the same height, and I perceived that we were even singularly alike in general contour of person and outline of feature. I was galled, too, by the rumor touching a relationship, which had grown current in the upper forms. In a word, nothing could more seriously disturb me, although I scrupulously concealed such disturbance,) than any allusion to a similarity of mind, person, or condition existing between us. But, in truth, I had no reason to believe that (with the exception of the matter of relationship, and in the case of Wilson himself,) this similarity had ever been made a subject of comment, or even observed at all by our schoolfellows. That he observed it in all its bearings, and as fixedly as I, was apparent; but that he could discover in such circumstances so fruitful a field of annoyance, can only be attributed, as I said before, to his more than ordinary penetration.

His cue, which was to perfect an imitation of myself, lay both in words and in actions; and most admirably did he play his part. My dress it was an easy matter to copy; my gait and general manner were, without difficulty, appropriated; in spite of his constitutional defect, even my voice did not escape him. My louder tones were, of course, unattempted, but then the key, it was identical; and his singular whisper, it grew the very echo of my own.

How greatly this most exquisite portraiture harassed me, (for it could not justly be termed a caricature,) I will not now venture to describe. I had but one consolation –in the fact that the imitation, apparently, was noticed by myself alone, and that I had to endure only the knowing and strangely sarcastic smiles of my namesake himself. Satisfied with having produced in my bosom the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle in secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was characteristically disregardful of the public applause which the success of his witty endeavours might have so easily elicited. That the school, indeed, did not feel his design, perceive its accomplishment, and participate in his sneer, was, for many anxious months, a riddle I could not resolve. Perhaps the gradation of his copy rendered it not so readily perceptible; or, more possibly, I owed my security to the master air of the copyist, who, disdaining the letter, (which in a painting is all the obtuse can see,) gave but the full spirit of his original for my individual contemplation and chagrin.

I have already more than once spoken of the disgusting air of patronage which he assumed toward me, and of his frequent officious interference withy my will. This interference often took the ungracious character of advice; advice not openly given, but hinted or insinuated. I received it with a repugnance which gained strength as I grew in years. Yet, at this distant day, let me do him the simple justice to acknowledge that I can recall no occasion when the suggestions of my rival were on the side of those errors or follies so usual to his immature age and seeming inexperience; that his moral sense, at least, if not his general talents and worldly wisdom, was far keener than my own; and that I might, to-day, have been a better, and thus a happier man, had I less frequently rejected the counsels embodied in those meaning whispers which I then but too cordially hated and too bitterly despised.

As it was, I at length grew restive in the extreme under his distasteful supervision, and daily resented more and more openly what I considered his intolerable arrogance. I have said that, in the first years of our connexion as schoolmates, my feelings in regard to him might have been easily ripened into friendship: but, in the latter months of my residence at the academy, although the intrusion of his ordinary manner had, beyond doubt, in some measure, abated, my sentiments, in nearly similar proportion, partook very much of positive hatred. Upon one occasion he saw this, I think, and afterwards avoided, or made a show of avoiding me.

It was about the same period, if I remember aright, that, in an altercation of violence with him, in which he was more than usually thrown off his guard, and spoke and acted with an openness of demeanor rather foreign to his nature, I discovered, or fancied I discovered, in his accent, his air, and general appearance, a something which first startled, and then deeply interested me, by bringing to mind dim visions of my earliest infancy –wild, confused and thronging memories of a time when memory herself was yet unborn. I cannot better describe the sensation which oppressed me than by saying that I could with difficulty shake off the belief of my having been acquainted with the being who stood before me, at some epoch very long ago –some point of the past even infinitely remote. The delusion, however, faded rapidly as it came; and I mention it at all but to define the day of the last conversation I there held with my singular namesake.

The huge old house, with its countless subdivisions, had several large chambers communicating with each other, where slept the greater number of the students. There were, however, (as must necessarily happen in a building so awkwardly planned,) many little nooks or recesses, the odds and ends of the structure; and these the economic ingenuity of Dr. Bransby had also fitted up as dormitories; although, being the merest closets, they were capable of accommodating but a single individual. One of these small apartments was occupied by Wilson.

One night, about the close of my fifth year at the school, and immediately after the altercation just mentioned, finding every one wrapped in sleep, I arose from bed, and, lamp in hand, stole through a wilderness of narrow passages from my own bedroom to that of my rival. I had long been plotting one of those ill-natured pieces of practical wit at his expense in which I had hitherto been so uniformly unsuccessful. It was my intention, now, to put my scheme in operation, and I resolved to make him feel the whole extent of the malice with which I was imbued. Having reached his closet, I noiselessly entered, leaving the lamp, with a shade over it, on the outside. I advanced a step, and listened to the sound of his tranquil breathing. Assured of his being asleep, I returned, took the light, and with it again approached the bed. Close curtains were around it, which, in the prosecution of my plan, I slowly and quietly withdrew, when the bright rays fell vividly upon the sleeper, and my eyes, at the same moment, upon his countenance. I looked; –and a numbness, an iciness of feeling instantly pervaded my frame. My breast heaved, my knees tottered, my whole spirit became possessed with an objectless yet intolerable horror. Gasping for breath, I lowered the lamp in still nearer proximity to the face. Were these –these the lineaments of William Wilson? I saw, indeed, that they were his, but I shook as if with a fit of the ague in fancying they were not. What was there about them to confound me in this manner? I gazed; –while my brain reeled with a multitude of incoherent thoughts. Not thus he appeared –assuredly not thus –in the vivacity of his waking hours. The same name! the same contour of person! the same day of arrival at the academy! And then his dogged and meaningless imitation of my gait, my voice, my habits, and my manner! Was it, in truth, within the bounds of human possibility, that what I now saw was the result, merely, of the habitual practice of this sarcastic imitation? Awe-stricken, and with a creeping shudder, I extinguished the lamp, passed silently from the chamber, and left, at once, the halls of that old academy, never to enter them again.

After a lapse of some months, spent at home in mere idleness, I found myself a student at Eton. The brief interval had been sufficient to enfeeble my remembrance of the events at Dr. Bransby’s, or at least to effect a material change in the nature of the feelings with which I remembered them. The truth –the tragedy –of the drama was no more. I could now find room to doubt the evidence of my senses; and seldom called up the subject at all but with wonder at extent of human credulity, and a smile at the vivid force of the imagination which I hereditarily possessed. Neither was this species of scepticism likely to be diminished by the character of the life I led at Eton. The vortex of thoughtless folly into which I there so immediately and so recklessly plunged, washed away all but the froth of my past hours, engulfed at once every solid or serious impression, and left to memory only the veriest levities of a former existence.

I do not wish, however, to trace the course of my miserable profligacy here –a profligacy which set at defiance the laws, while it eluded the vigilance of the institution. Three years of folly, passed without profit, had but given me rooted habits of vice, and added, in a somewhat unusual degree, to my bodily stature, when, after a week of soulless dissipation, I invited a small party of the most dissolute students to a secret carousal in my chambers. We met at a late hour of the night; for our debaucheries were to be faithfully protracted until morning. The wine flowed freely, and there were not wanting other and perhaps more dangerous seductions; so that the gray dawn had already faintly appeared in the east, while our delirious extravagance was at its height. Madly flushed with cards and intoxication, I was in the act of insisting upon a toast of more than wonted profanity, when my attention was suddenly diverted by the violent, although partial unclosing of the door of the apartment, and by the eager voice of a servant from without. He said that some person, apparently in great haste, demanded to speak with me in the hall.

Wildly excited with wine, the unexpected interruption rather delighted than surprised me. I staggered forward at once, and a few steps brought me to the vestibule of the building. In this low and small room there hung no lamp; and now no light at all was admitted, save that of the exceedingly feeble dawn which made its way through the semi-circular window. As I put my foot over the threshold, I became aware of the figure of a youth about my own height, and habited in a white kerseymere morning frock, cut in the novel fashion of the one I myself wore at the moment. This the faint light enabled me to perceive; but the features of his face I could not distinguish. Upon my entering he strode hurriedly up to me, and, seizing me by. the arm with a gesture of petulant impatience, whispered the words “William Wilson!” in my ear.

I grew perfectly sober in an instant. There was that in the manner of the stranger, and in the tremulous shake of his uplifted finger, as he held it between my eyes and the light, which filled me with unqualified amazement; but it was not this which had so violently moved me. It was the pregnancy of solemn admonition in the singular, low, hissing utterance; and, above all, it was the character, the tone, the key, of those few, simple, and familiar, yet whispered syllables, which came with a thousand thronging memories of bygone days, and struck upon my soul with the shock of a galvanic battery. Ere I could recover the use of my senses he was gone.

Although this event failed not of a vivid effect upon my disordered imagination, yet was it evanescent as vivid. For some weeks, indeed, I busied myself in earnest inquiry, or was wrapped in a cloud of morbid speculation. I did not pretend to disguise from my perception the identity of the singular individual who thus perseveringly interfered with my affairs, and harassed me with his insinuated counsel. But who and what was this Wilson? –and whence came he? –and what were his purposes? Upon neither of these points could I be satisfied; merely ascertaining, in regard to him, that a sudden accident in his family had caused his removal from Dr. Bransby’s academy on the afternoon of the day in which I myself had eloped. But in a brief period I ceased to think upon the subject; my attention being all absorbed in a contemplated departure for Oxford. Thither I soon went; the uncalculating vanity of my parents furnishing me with an outfit and annual establishment, which would enable me to indulge at will in the luxury already so dear to my heart, –to vie in profuseness of expenditure with the haughtiest heirs of the wealthiest earldoms in Great Britain.

Excited by such appliances to vice, my constitutional temperament broke forth with redoubled ardor, and I spurned even the common restraints of decency in the mad infatuation of my revels. But it were absurd to pause in the detail of my extravagance. Let it suffice, that among spendthrifts I out-Heroded Herod, and that, giving name to a multitude of novel follies, I added no brief appendix to the long catalogue of vices then usual in the most dissolute university of Europe.

It could hardly be credited, however, that I had, even here, so utterly fallen from the gentlemanly estate, as to seek acquaintance with the vilest arts of the gambler by profession, and, having become an adept in his despicable science, to practise it habitually as a means of increasing my already enormous income at the expense of the weak-minded among my fellow-collegians. Such, nevertheless, was the fact. And the very enormity of this offence against all manly and honourable sentiment proved, beyond doubt, the main if not the sole reason of the impunity with which it was committed. Who, indeed, among my most abandoned associates, would not rather have disputed the clearest evidence of his senses, than have suspected of such courses, the gay, the frank, the generous William Wilson –the noblest and most commoner at Oxford –him whose follies (said his parasites) were but the follies of youth and unbridled fancy –whose errors but inimitable whim –whose darkest vice but a careless and dashing extravagance?

I had been now two years successfully busied in this way, when there came to the university a young parvenu nobleman, Glendinning –rich, said report, as Herodes Atticus –his riches, too, as easily acquired. I soon found him of weak intellect, and, of course, marked him as a fitting subject for my skill. I frequently engaged him in play, and contrived, with the gambler’s usual art, to let him win considerable sums, the more effectually to entangle him in my snares. At length, my schemes being ripe, I met him (with the full intention that this meeting should be final and decisive) at the chambers of a fellow-commoner, (Mr. Preston,) equally intimate with both, but who, to do him Justice, entertained not even a remote suspicion of my design. To give to this a better colouring, I had contrived to have assembled a party of some eight or ten, and was solicitously careful that the introduction of cards should appear accidental, and originate in the proposal of my contemplated dupe himself. To be brief upon a vile topic, none of the low finesse was omitted, so customary upon similar occasions that it is a just matter for wonder how any are still found so besotted as to fall its victim.

We had protracted our sitting far into the night, and I had at length effected the manoeuvre of getting Glendinning as my sole antagonist. The game, too, was my favorite ecarte!. The rest of the company, interested in the extent of our play, had abandoned their own cards, and were standing around us as spectators. The parvenu, who had been induced by my artifices in the early part of the evening, to drink deeply, now shuffled, dealt, or played, with a wild nervousness of manner for which his intoxication, I thought, might partially, but could not altogether account. In a very short period he had become my debtor to a large amount, when, having taken a long draught of port, he did precisely what I had been coolly anticipating –he proposed to double our already extravagant stakes. With a well-feigned show of reluctance, and not until after my repeated refusal had seduced him into some angry words which gave a color of pique to my compliance, did I finally comply. The result, of course, did but prove how entirely the prey was in my toils; in less than an hour he had quadrupled his debt. For some time his countenance had been losing the florid tinge lent it by the wine; but now, to my astonishment, I perceived that it had grown to a pallor truly fearful. I say to my astonishment. Glendinning had been represented to my eager inquiries as immeasurably wealthy; and the sums which he had as yet lost, although in themselves vast, could not, I supposed, very seriously annoy, much less so violently affect him. That he was overcome by the wine just swallowed, was the idea which most readily presented itself; and, rather with a view to the preservation of my own character in the eyes of my associates, than from any less interested motive, I was about to insist, peremptorily, upon a discontinuance of the play, when some expressions at my elbow from among the company, and an ejaculation evincing utter despair on the part of Glendinning, gave me to understand that I had effected his total ruin under circumstances which, rendering him an object for the pity of all, should have protected him from the ill offices even of a fiend.

What now might have been my conduct it is difficult to say. The pitiable condition of my dupe had thrown an air of embarrassed gloom over all; and, for some moments, a profound silence was maintained, during which I could not help feeling my cheeks tingle with the many burning glances of scorn or reproach cast upon me by the less abandoned of the party. I will even own that an intolerable weight of anxiety was for a brief instant lifted from my bosom by the sudden and extraordinary interruption which ensued. The wide, heavy folding doors of the apartment were all at once thrown open, to their full extent, with a vigorous and rushing impetuosity that extinguished, as if by magic, every candle in the room. Their light, in dying, enabled us just to perceive that a stranger had entered, about my own height, and closely muffled in a cloak. The darkness, however, was now total; and we could only feel that he was standing in our midst. Before any one of us could recover from the extreme astonishment into which this rudeness had thrown all, we heard the voice of the intruder.

“Gentlemen,” he said, in a low, distinct, and never-to-be-forgotten whisper which thrilled to the very marrow of my bones, “Gentlemen, I make no apology for this behaviour, because in thus behaving, I am but fulfilling a duty. You are, beyond doubt, uninformed of the true character of the person who has to-night won at ecarte a large sum of money from Lord Glendinning. I will therefore put you upon an expeditious and decisive plan of obtaining this very necessary information. Please to examine, at your leisure, the inner linings of the cuff of his left sleeve, and the several little packages which may be found in the somewhat capacious pockets of his embroidered morning wrapper.”

While he spoke, so profound was the stillness that one might have heard a pin drop upon the floor. In ceasing, he departed at once, and as abruptly as he had entered. Can I –shall I describe my sensations? –must I say that I felt all the horrors of the damned? Most assuredly I had little time given for reflection. Many hands roughly seized me upon the spot, and lights were immediately reprocured. A search ensued. In the lining of my sleeve were found all the court cards essential in ecarte, and, in the pockets of my wrapper, a number of packs, facsimiles of those used at our sittings, with the single exception that mine were of the species called, technically, arrondees; the honours being slightly convex at the ends, the lower cards slightly convex at the sides. In this disposition, the dupe who cuts, as customary, at the length of the pack, will invariably find that he cuts his antagonist an honor; while the gambler, cutting at the breadth, will, as certainly, cut nothing for his victim which may count in the records of the game.

Any burst of indignation upon this discovery would have affected me less than the silent contempt, or the sarcastic composure, with which it was received.

“Mr. Wilson,” said our host, stooping to remove from beneath his feet an exceedingly luxurious cloak of rare furs, “Mr. Wilson, this is your property.” (The weather was cold; and, upon quitting my own room, I had thrown a cloak over my dressing wrapper, putting it off upon reaching the scene of play.) “I presume it is supererogatory to seek here (eyeing the folds of the garment with a bitter smile) for any farther evidence of your skill. Indeed, we have had enough. You will see the necessity, I hope, of quitting Oxford –at all events, of quitting instantly my chambers.”

Abased, humbled to the dust as I then was, it is probable that I should have resented this galling language by immediate personal violence, had not my whole attention been at the moment arrested by a fact of the most startling character. The cloak which I had worn was of a rare description of fur; how rare, how extravagantly costly, I shall not venture to say. Its fashion, too, was of my own fantastic invention; for I was fastidious to an absurd degree of coxcombry, in matters of this frivolous nature. When, therefore, Mr. Preston reached me that which he had picked up upon the floor, and near the folding doors of the apartment, it was with an astonishment nearly bordering upon terror, that I perceived my own already hanging on my arm, (where I had no doubt unwittingly placed it,) and that the one presented me was but its exact counterpart in every, in even the minutest possible particular. The singular being who had so disastrously exposed me, had been muffled, I remembered, in a cloak; and none had been worn at all by any of the members of our party with the exception of myself. Retaining some presence of mind, I took the one offered me by Preston; placed it, unnoticed, over my own; left the apartment with a resolute scowl of defiance; and, next morning ere dawn of day, commenced a hurried journey from Oxford to the continent, in a perfect agony of horror and of shame.

I fled in vain. My evil destiny pursued me as if in exultation, and proved, indeed, that the exercise of its mysterious dominion had as yet only begun. Scarcely had I set foot in Paris ere I had fresh evidence of the detestable interest taken by this Wilson in my concerns. Years flew, while I experienced no relief. Villain! –at Rome, with how untimely, yet with how spectral an officiousness, stepped he in between me and my ambition! At Vienna, too –at Berlin –and at Moscow! Where, in truth, had I not bitter cause to curse him within my heart? From his inscrutable tyranny did I at length flee, panic-stricken, as from a pestilence; and to the very ends of the earth I fled in vain.

And again, and again, in secret communion with my own spirit, would I demand the questions “Who is he? –whence came he? –and what are his objects?” But no answer was there found. And then I scrutinized, with a minute scrutiny, the forms, and the methods, and the leading traits of his impertinent supervision. But even here there was very little upon which to base a conjecture. It was noticeable, indeed, that, in no one of the multiplied instances in which he had of late crossed my path, had he so crossed it except to frustrate those schemes, or to disturb those actions, which, if fully carried out, might have resulted in bitter mischief. Poor justification this, in truth, for an authority so imperiously assumed! Poor indemnity for natural rights of self-agency so pertinaciously, so insultingly denied!

I had also been forced to notice that my tormentor, for a very long period of time, (while scrupulously and with miraculous dexterity maintaining his whim of an identity of apparel with myself,) had so contrived it, in the execution of his varied interference with my will, that I saw not, at any moment, the features of his face. Be Wilson what he might, this, at least, was but the veriest of affectation, or of folly. Could he, for an instant, have supposed that, in my admonisher at Eton –in the destroyer of my honor at Oxford, –in him who thwarted my ambition at Rome, my revenge at Paris, my passionate love at Naples, or what he falsely termed my avarice in Egypt, –that in this, my arch-enemy and evil genius, could fall to recognise the William Wilson of my school boy days, –the namesake, the companion, the rival, –the hated and dreaded rival at Dr. Bransby’s? Impossible! –But let me hasten to the last eventful scene of the drama.

Thus far I had succumbed supinely to this imperious domination. The sentiment of deep awe with which I habitually regarded the elevated character, the majestic wisdom, the apparent omnipresence and omnipotence of Wilson, added to a feeling of even terror, with which certain other traits in his nature and assumptions inspired me, had operated, hitherto, to impress me with an idea of my own utter weakness and helplessness, and to suggest an implicit, although bitterly reluctant submission to his arbitrary will. But, of late days, I had given myself up entirely to wine; and its maddening influence upon my hereditary temper rendered me more and more impatient of control. I began to murmur, –to hesitate, –to resist. And was it only fancy which induced me to believe that, with the increase of my own firmness, that of my tormentor underwent a proportional diminution? Be this as it may, I now began to feel the inspiration of a burning hope, and at length nurtured in my secret thoughts a stern and desperate resolution that I would submit no longer to be enslaved.

It was at Rome, during the Carnival of 18–, that I attended a masquerade in the palazzo of the Neapolitan Duke Di Broglio. I had indulged more freely than usual in the excesses of the wine-table; and now the suffocating atmosphere of the crowded rooms irritated me beyond endurance. The difficulty, too, of forcing my way through the mazes of the company contributed not a little to the ruffling of my temper; for I was anxiously seeking, (let me not say with what unworthy motive) the young, the gay, the beautiful wife of the aged and doting Di Broglio. With a too unscrupulous confidence she had previously communicated to me the secret of the costume in which she would be habited, and now, having caught a glimpse of her person, I was hurrying to make my way into her presence. –At this moment I felt a light hand placed upon my shoulder, and that ever-remembered, low, damnable whisper within my ear.

In an absolute phrenzy of wrath, I turned at once upon him who had thus interrupted me, and seized him violently by tile collar. He was attired, as I had expected, in a costume altogether similar to my own; wearing a Spanish cloak of blue velvet, begirt about the waist with a crimson belt sustaining a rapier. A mask of black silk entirely covered his face.

“Scoundrel!” I said, in a voice husky with rage, while every syllable I uttered seemed as new fuel to my fury, “scoundrel! impostor! accursed villain! you shall not –you shall not dog me unto death! Follow me, or I stab you where you stand!” –and I broke my way from the ball-room into a small ante-chamber adjoining –dragging him unresistingly with me as I went.

Upon entering, I thrust him furiously from me. He staggered against the wall, while I closed the door with an oath, and commanded him to draw. He hesitated but for an instant; then, with a slight sigh, drew in silence, and put himself upon his defence.

The contest was brief indeed. I was frantic with every species of wild excitement, and felt within my single arm the energy and power of a multitude. In a few seconds I forced him by sheer strength against the wainscoting, and thus, getting him at mercy, plunged my sword, with brute ferocity, repeatedly through and through his bosom.

At that instant some person tried the latch of the door. I hastened to prevent an intrusion, and then immediately returned to my dying antagonist. But what human language can adequately portray that astonishment, that horror which possessed me at the spectacle then presented to view? The brief moment in which I averted my eyes had been sufficient to produce, apparently, a material change in the arrangements at the upper or farther end of the room. A large mirror, –so at first it seemed to me in my confusion –now stood where none had been perceptible before; and, as I stepped up to it in extremity of terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and dabbled in blood, advanced to meet me with a feeble and tottering gait.

Thus it appeared, I say, but was not. It was my antagonist –it was Wilson, who then stood before me in the agonies of his dissolution. His mask and cloak lay, where he had thrown them, upon the floor. Not a thread in all his raiment –not a line in all the marked and singular lineaments of his face which was not, even in the most absolute identity, mine own!

It was Wilson; but he spoke no longer in a whisper, and I could have fancied that I myself was speaking while he said:

“You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead –dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist –and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself.”


The Sandman

The Sandman

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Click picture to read on

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There is nobody in the world who knows so many stories as Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely. In the evening, while the children are seated at the table or in their little chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in his socks, then he opens the doors without the slightest noise, and throws a small quantity of very fine dust in their eyes, just enough to prevent them from keeping them open, and so they do not see him. Then he creeps behind them, and blows softly upon their necks, till their heads begin to droop. But Ole-Luk-Oie does not wish to hurt them, for he is very fond of children, and only wants them to be quiet that he may relate to them pretty stories, and they never are quiet until they are in bed and asleep. As soon as they are asleep, Ole-Luk-Oie seats himself upon the bed. He is nicely dressed; his coat is made of silken fabric; it is impossible to say of what color, for it changes from green to red, and from red to blue as he turns from side to side. Under each arm he carries an umbrella; one of them, with pictures on the inside, he spreads over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful stories the whole night. But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreams at all.

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The Sandman
by E.T.A. Hoffmann

NATHANEL TO LOTHAIRE

Certainly you must all be uneasy that I have not written for so long – so very long. My mother, am sure, is angry, and Clara will believe that I am passing my time in dissipation, entirely forgetful of her fair, angelic image that is so deeply imprinted on my heart. Such, however, is not the case. Daily and hourly I think of you all; and the dear form of my lovely Clara passes before me in my dreams, smiling upon me with her bright eyes as she did when I was among you. But how can I write to you in the distracted mood which has been disturbing my every thought! A horrible thing has crossed my path. Dark forebodings of a cruel, threatening fate tower over me like dark clouds, which no friendly sunbeam can penetrate. I will now tell you what has occurred. I must do so – that I plainly see – the mere thought of it sets me laughing like a madman. Ah, my dear Lothaire, how shall I begin ? How shall I make you in any way realize that what happened to me a few days ago can really have had such a fatal effect on my life? If you were here you could see for yourself; but, as it is, you will certainly take me for a crazy fellow who sees ghosts. To be brief, this horrible occurrence, the painful impression of which I am in vain endeavoring to throw off, is nothing more than this – that some days ago, namely on the 30th of October at twelve o’clock noon, a barometer-dealer came into my room and offered me his wares. I bought nothing, and threatened to throw him downstairs, upon which he took himself off of his own accord.

Only circumstances of the most peculiar kind, you will suspect, and exerting the greatest influence over my life, can have given any import to this occurrence. Moreover, the person of that unlucky dealer must have had an evil effect upon me. So it was, indeed. I must use every endeavor to collect myself, and patiently and quietly tell you so much of my early youth as will bring the picture plainly and clearly before your eyes. As I am about to begin, I fancy that I hear you laughing, and Clara exclaiming, ‘Childish stories indeed!’ Laugh at me, I beg of you, laugh with all your heart. But, oh God! my hair stands on end, and it is in mad despair that I seem to be inviting your laughter, as Franz Moor did Daniel’s in Schiller’s play. But to my story.

Excepting at dinner-time I and my brothers and sisters used to see my father very little during the day. He was, perhaps, busily engaged at his ordinary profession. After supper, which was served according to the old custom at seven o’clock, we all went with my mother into my father’s study, and seated ourselves at the round table, where he would smoke and drink his large glass of beer. Often he told us wonderful stories, and grew so warm over them that his pipe continually went out. Whereupon I had to light it again with a burning spill, which I thought great sport. Often, too, he would give us picture-books, and sit in his arm-chair, silent and thoughtful, puffing out such thick clouds of smoke that we all seemed to be swimming in the clouds. On such evenings as these my mother was very melancholy, and immediately the clock struck nine she would say: ‘Now, children, to bed – to bed! The Sandman’s coming, I can see.’ And indeed on each occasion I used to hear something with a heavy, slow step come thudding up the stairs. That I thought must be the Sandman.

Once when the dull noise of footsteps was particularly terrifying I asked my mother as she bore us away: ‘Mamma, who is this naughty Sandman, who always drives us away from Papa? What does he look like?’

‘There is no Sandman, dear child,’ replied my mother. ‘When I say the Sandman’s coming, I only mean that you’re sleepy and can’t keep your eyes open – just as if sane had been sprinkled into them.’

This answer of my mother’s did not satisfy me – nay, the thought soon ripened in my childish mind the she only denied the Sandman’s existence to prevent our being terrified of him. Certainly I always heard him coming up the stairs. Most curious to know more of this Sandman and his particular connection with children, I at last asked the old woman who looked after my youngest sister what sort of man he was.

‘Eh, Natty,’ said she, ‘don’t you know that yet? He is a wicked man, who comes to children when they won’t go to bed, and throws a handful of sand into their eyes, so that they start out bleeding from their heads. He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children, who sit in the nest up there. They have crooked beaks like owls so that they can pick up the eyes of naughty human children.’

A most frightful picture of the cruel Sandman became impressed upon my mind; so that when in the evening I heard the noise on the stairs I trembled with agony and alarm, and my mother could get nothing out of me but the cry, ‘The Sandman, the Sandman!’ stuttered forth through my tears. I then ran into the bedroom, where the frightful apparition of the Sandman terrified me during the whole night.

I had already grown old enough to realize that the nurse’s tale about him and the nest of children in the crescent moon could not be quite true, but nevertheless this Sandman remained a fearful spectre, and I was seized with the utmost horror when I heard him once, not only come up the stairs, but violently force my father’s door open and go in. Sometimes he stayed away for a long period, but after that his visits came in close succession. This lasted for years, but I could not accustom myself to the terrible goblin; the image of the dreadful Sandman did not become any fainter. His intercourse with my father began more and more to occupy my fancy. Yet an unconquerable fear prevented me from asking my father about it. But if I, I myself, could penetrate the mystery and behold the wondrous Sandman – that was the wish which grew upon me with the years. The Sandman had introduced me to thoughts of the marvels and wonders which so readily gain a hold on a child’s mind. I enjoyed nothing better than reading or hearing horrible stories of goblins, witches, pigmies, etc.; but most horrible of all was the Sandman, whom I was always drawing with chalk or charcoal on the tables, cupboards and walls, in the oddest and most frightful shapes.

When I was ten years old my mother removed me from the night nursery into a little chamber situated in a corridor near my father’s room. Still, as before, we were obliged to make a speedy departure on the stroke of nine, as soon as the unknown step sounded on the stair. From my little chamber I could hear how he entered my father’s room, and then it was that I seemed to detect a thin vapor with a singular odor spreading through the house. Stronger and stronger, with my curiosity, grew my resolution somehow to make the Sandman’s acquaintance. Often I sneaked from my room to the corridor when my mother had passed, but never could I discover anything; for the Sandman had always gone in at the door when I reached the place where I might have seen him. At last, driven by an irresistible impulse, I resolved to hide myself in my father’s room and await his appearance there.

From my father’s silence and my mother’s melancholy face I perceived one evening that the Sandman was coming. I, therefore, feigned great weariness, left the room before nine o’clock, and hid myself in a corner close to the door. The house-door groaned and the heavy, slow, creaking step came up the passage and towards the stairs. My mother passed me with the rest of the children. Softly, very softly, I opened the door of my father’s room. He was sitting, as usual, stiff end silent, with his back to the door. He did not perceive me, and I swiftly darted into the room and behind the curtain which covered an open cupboard close to the door, in which my father’s clothes were hanging. The steps sounded nearer and nearer – there was a strange coughing and scraping and murmuring without. My heart trembled with anxious expectation. A sharp step close, very close, to the door – the quick snap of the latch, and the door opened with a rattling noise. Screwing up my courage to the uttermost, I cautiously peeped out. The Sandman was standing before my father in the middle of the room, the light of the candles shone full upon his face. The Sandman, the fearful Sandman, was the old advocate Coppelius, who had often dined with us.

But the most hideous form could not have inspired me with deeper horror than this very Coppelius. Imagine a large broad-shouldered man, with a head disproportionately big, a face the color of yellow ochre, a pair of bushy grey eyebrows, from beneath which a pair of green cat’s eyes sparkled with the most penetrating luster, and with a large nose curved over his upper lip. His wry mouth was often twisted into a malicious laugh, when a couple of dark red spots appeared upon his cheeks, and a strange hissing sound was heard through his gritted teeth. Coppelius always appeared in an ashen-gray coat, cut in old fashioned style, with waistcoat and breeches of the same color, while his stockings were black, and his shoes adorned with agate buckles.

His little peruke scarcely reached farther than the crown of his head, his curls stood high above his large red ears, and a broad hair-bag projected stiffly from his neck, so that the silver clasp which fastened his folded cravat might be plainly seen. His whole figure was hideous and repulsive, but most disgusting to us children were his coarse brown hairy fists. Indeed we did not like to eat anything he had touched with them. This he had noticed, and it was his delight, under some pretext or other, to touch a piece of cake or some nice fruit, that our kind mother might quietly have put on our plates, just for the pleasure of seeing us turn away with tears in our eyes, in disgust and abhorrence, no longer able to enjoy the treat intended for us. He acted in the same manner on holidays, when my father gave us a little glass of sweet wine. Then would he swiftly put his hand over it, or perhaps even raise the glass to his blue lips, laughing most devilishly, and we could only express our indignation by silent sobs. He always called us the little beasts; we dared not utter a sound when he was present, end we heartily cursed the ugly, unkind man who deliberately marred our slightest pleasures. My mother seemed to hate the repulsive Coppelius as much as we did, since as soon as he showed himself her liveliness, her open and cheerful nature, were changed for a gloomy solemnity. My father behaved towards him as though he were a superior being, whose bad manners were to be tolerated and who was to be kept in good humor at any cost. He need only give the slightest hint, and favorite dishes were cooked, the choicest wines served.

When I now saw this Coppelius, the frightful and terrific thought took possession of my soul, that indeed no one but he could be the Sandman. But the Sandman was no longer the bogy of a nurse’s tale, who provided the owl’s nest in the crescent moon with children’s eyes. No, he was a hideous, spectral monster, who brought with him grief, misery and destruction – temporal and eternal – wherever he appeared.

I was riveted to the spot, as if enchanted. At the risk of being discovered and, as I plainly foresaw, of being severely punished, I remained with my head peeping through the curtain. My father received Coppelius with solemnity.

‘Now to our work!’ cried the latter in a harsh, grating voice, as he flung off his coat.

My father silently and gloomily drew off his dressing gown, and both attired themselves in long black frocks. Whence they took these I did not see. My father opened the door of what I had always thought to be a cupboard. But I now saw that it was no cupboard, but rather a black cavity in which there was a little fireplace. Coppelius went to it, and a blue flame began to crackle up on the hearth. All sorts of strange utensils lay around. Heavens! As my old father stooped down to the fire, he looked quite another man. Some convulsive pain seemed to have distorted his mild features into a repulsive, diabolical countenance. He looked like Coppelius, whom I saw brandishing red-hot tongs, which he used to take glowing masses out of the thick smoke; which objects he afterwards hammered. I seemed to catch a glimpse of human faces lying around without any eyes – but with deep holes instead.

‘Eyes here’ eyes!’ roared Coppelius tonelessly. Overcome by the wildest terror, I shrieked out and fell from my hiding place upon the floor. Coppelius seized me and, baring his teeth, bleated out, ‘Ah – little wretch – little wretch!’ Then he dragged me up and flung me on the hearth, where the fire began to singe my hair. ‘Now we have eyes enough – a pretty pair of child’s eyes,’ he whispered, and, taking some red-hot grains out of the flames with his bare hands, he was about to sprinkle them in my eyes.

My father upon this raised his hands in supplication, crying: ‘Master, master, leave my Nathaniel his eyes!’

Whereupon Coppelius answered with a shrill laugh: ‘Well, let the lad have his eyes and do his share of the world’s crying, but we will examine the mechanism of his hands and feet.’

And then he seized me so roughly that my joints cracked, and screwed off my hands and feet, afterwards putting them back again, one after the other. ‘There’s something wrong here,’ he mumbled. ‘But now it’s as good as ever. The old man has caught the idea!’ hissed and lisped Coppelius. But all around me became black, a sudden cramp darted through my bones and nerves – and I lost consciousness. A gentle warm breath passed over my face; I woke as from the sleep of death. My mother had been stooping over me.

‘Is the Sandman still there?’ I stammered.

‘No, no, my dear child, he has gone away long ago – he won’t hurt you!’ said my mother, kissing her darling, as he regained his senses.

Why should I weary you, my dear Lothaire, with diffuse details, when I have so much more to tell ? Suffice it to say that I had been discovered eavesdropping and ill-used by Coppelius. Agony and terror had brought on delirium and fever, from which I lay sick for several weeks.

‘Is the Sandman still there?’ That was my first sensible word and the sign of my amendment – my recovery. I have only to tell you now of this most frightful moment in all my youth, and you will be convinced that it is no fault of my eyes that everything seems colorless to me. You will, indeed, know that a dark fatality has hung over my life a gloomy veil of clouds, which I shall perhaps only tear away in death.

Coppelius was no more to be seen; it was said he had left the town.

About a year might have elapsed, and we were sitting, as of old, at the round table. My father was very cheerful, and was entertaining us with stories about his travels in his youth; when, as the clock struck nine, we heard the house-door groan on its hinges, and slow steps, heavy as lead, creaked through the passage and up the stairs.

‘That is Coppelius,’ said my mother, turning pale.

‘Yes! – that is Coppelius” repeated my father in a faint, broken voice. The tears started to my mother’s eyes.

‘But father – father!’ she cried, ‘must it be so?’

‘He is coming for the last time, I promise you,’ was the answer. ‘Only go now, go with the children – go – go to bed. Good night!’

I felt as if I were turned to cold, heavy stone – my breath stopped. My mother caught me by the arm as I stood immovable. ‘Come, come, Nathaniel!’ I allowed myself to be led, and entered my chamber! ‘Be quiet – be quiet – go to bed – go to sleep!’ cried my mother after me; but tormented by restlessness and an inward anguish perfectly indescribable, I could not close my eyes.

The hateful, abominable Coppelius stood before me with fiery eyes, and laughed maliciously at me. It was in vain that I endeavored to get rid of his image. About midnight there was a frightful noise, like the firing of a gun. The whole house resounded. There was a rattling and rustling by my door, and the house door was closed with a violent bang.

‘That is Coppelius !’ I cried, springing out of bed in terror.

Then there was a shriek, as of acute, inconsolable grief. I darted into my father’s room; the door was open, a suffocating smoke rolled towards me, and the servant girl cried: ‘Ah, my master, my master!’ On the floor of the smoking hearth lay my father dead, with his face burned, blackened and hideously distorted – my sisters were shrieking and moaning around him – and my mother had fainted.

‘Coppelius! – cursed devil! You have slain my father!’ I cried, and lost my senses.

When, two days afterwards, my father was laid in his coffin, his features were again as mild and gentle as they had been in his life. My soul was comforted by the thought that his compact with the satanic Coppelius could not have plunged him into eternal perdition.

The explosion had awakened the neighbors, the occurrence had become common talk, and had reached the ears of the magistracy, who wished to make Coppelius answerable. He had, however, vanished from the spot, without leaving a trace.

If I tell you, my dear friend, that the barometer-dealer was the accursed Coppelius himself, you will not blame me for regarding so unpropitious a phenomenon as the omen of some dire calamity. He was dressed differently, but the figure and features of Coppelius are too deeply imprinted in my mind for an error in this respect to be possible. Besides, Coppelius has not even altered his name. He describes himself, I am told, as a Piedmontese optician, and calls himself Giuseppe Coppola.

I am determined to deal with him, and to avenge my father’s death, be the issue what it may.

Tell my mother nothing of the hideous monster’s appearance. Remember me to my dear sweet Clara, to whom I will write in a calmer mood. Farewell.

CLARA TO NATHANIEL

It is true that you have not written to me for a long time; but, nevertheless, I believe that I am still in your mind and thoughts. For assuredly you were thinking of me most intently when, designing to send your last letter to my brother Lothaire, you directed it to me instead of to him. I joyfully opened the letter, and did not perceive my error till I came to the words: ‘Ah, my dear Lothaire.’

NO, by rights I should have read no farther, but should have handed over the letter to my brother. Although you have often, in your childish teasing mood, charged me with having such a quiet, womanish, steady disposition, that, even if the house were about to fall in, I should smooth down a wrong fold in the window curtain in a most ladylike manner before I ran away, I can hardly tell you how your letter shocked me. I could scarcely breathe—–the light danced before my eyes.

Ah, my dear Nathaniel, how could such a horrible thing have crossed your path ? To be parted from you, never to see you again – the thought darted through my breast like a burning dagger. I read on and on. Your description of the repulsive Coppelius is terrifying. I learned for the first time the violent manner of your good old father’s death. My brother Lothaire, to whom I surrendered the letter, sought to calm me, but in vain. The fatal barometer dealer, Giuseppe Coppola, followed me at every step; and I am almost ashamed to confess that he disturbed my healthy and usually peaceful sleep with all sorts of horrible visions. Yet soon even the next day – I was quite changed again. Do not be offended, dearest one, if Lothaire tells you that in spite of your strange fears that Coppelius will in some manner injure you, I am in the same cheerful and unworried mood as ever.

I must honestly confess that, in my opinion, all the terrible things of which you speak occurred merely in your own mind, and had little to do with the actual external world. Old Coppelius may have been repulsive enough, but his hatred of children was what really caused the abhorrence you children felt towards him.

In your childish mind the frightful Sandman in the nurse’s tale was naturally associated with old Coppelius. Why, even if you had not believed in the Sandman, Coppelius would still have seemed to you a monster, especially dangerous to children. The awful business which he carried on at night with your father was no more than this: that they were making alchemical experiments in secret, which much distressed your mother since, besides a great deal of money being wasted, your father’s mind was filled with a fallacious desire after higher wisdom, and so alienated from his family – as they say is always the case with such experimentalists. Your father, no doubt, occasioned his own death, by some act of carelessness of which Coppelius was completely guiltless. Let me tell you that I yesterday asked our neighbor, the apothecary, whether such a sudden and fatal explosion was possible in these chemical experiments?

‘Certainly,’ he replied and, after his fashion, told me at great length and very circumstantially how such an event might take place, uttering a number of strange-sounding names which I am unable to recollect. Now, I know you will be angry with your Clara; you will say that her cold nature is impervious to any ray of the mysterious, which often embraces man with invisible arms; that she only sees the variegated surface of the world, and is as delighted as a silly child at some glittering golden fruit, which contains within it a deadly poison.

Ah ! my dear Nathaniel! Can you not then believe that even in open, cheerful, careless minds may dwell the suspicion of some dread power which endeavors to destroy us in our own selves ? Forgive me, if I, a silly girl, presume in any manner to present to you my thoughts on such an internal struggle. I shall not find the right words, of course, and you will laugh at me, not because my thoughts are foolish, but because I express them so clumsily.

If there is a dark and hostile power, laying its treacherous toils within us, by which it holds us fast and draws us along the path of peril and destruction, which we should not otherwise have trod; if, I say there is such a power, it must form itself inside us and out of ourselves, indeed; it must become identical with ourselves. For it is only in this condition that we can believe in it, and grant it the room which it requires to accomplish its secret work. Now, if we have a mind which is sufficiently firm, sufficiently strengthened by the joy of life, always to recognize this strange enemy as such, and calmly to follow the path of our own inclination and calling, then the dark power will fail in its attempt to gain a form that shall be a reflection of ourselves. Lothaire adds that if we have willingly yielded ourselves up to the dark powers, they are known often to impress upon our minds any strange, unfamiliar shape which the external world has thrown in our way; so that we ourselves kindle the spirit, which we in our strange delusion believe to be speaking to us. It is the phantom of our own selves, the close relationship with which, and its deep operation on our mind, casts us into hell or transports us into heaven.

You see, dear Nathaniel, how freely Lothaire and I are giving our opinion on the subject of the dark powers; which subject, to judge by my difficulties in writing down. its most important features, appears to be a complicated one. Lothaire’s last words I do not quite comprehend. I can only suspect what he means, and yet I feel as if it were all very true. Get the gruesome advocate Coppelius, and the barometer-dealer, Giuseppe Coppola, quite out of your head, I beg of you. Be convinced that these strange fears have no power over you, and that it is only a belief in their hostile influence that can make them hostile in reality. If the great disturbance in your mind did not speak from every line of your letter, if your situation did not give me the deepest pain, I could joke about the Sandman-Advocate and the barometer dealer Coppelius. Cheer up, I have determined to play the part of your guardian-spirit. If the ugly Coppelius takes it into his head to annoy you in your dreams, I’ll scare him away with loud peals of laughter. I am not a bit afraid of him nor of his disgusting hands; he shall neither spoil my sweetmeats as an Advocate, nor my eyes as a Sandman. Ever yours, my dear Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL TO LOTHAIRE

I am very sorry that in consequence of the error occasioned by my distracted state of mind, Clara broke open the letter intended for you, and read it. She has written me a very profound philosophical epistle, in which she proves, at great length, that Coppelius and Coppola only exist in my own mind, and are phantoms of myself, which will be dissipated directly I recognize them as such. Indeed, it is quite incredible that the mind which so often peers out of those bright, smiling, childish eyes with all the charm of a dream, could make such intelligent professorial definitions. She cites you – you, it seems have been talking about me. I suppose you read her logical lectures, so that she may learn to separate and sift all matters acutely. No more of that, please. Besides, it is quite certain that the barometer-dealer, Giuseppe Coppola, is not the advocate Coppelius. I attend the lectures of the professor of physics, who has lately arrived. His name is the same as that of the famous natural philosopher Spalanzani, and he is of Italian origin. He has known Coppola for years and, moreover, it is clear from his accent that he is really a Piedmontese. Coppelius was a German, but I think no honest one. Calmed I am not, and though you and Clara may consider me a gloomy visionary, I cannot get rid of the impression which the accursed face of Coppelius makes upon me. I am glad that Coppola has left the town – so Spalanzani says.

This professor is a strange fellow – a little round man with high cheek-bones, a sharp nose, pouting lips and little, piercing eyes. Yet you will get a better notion of him than from this description, if you look at the portrait of Cagliostro, drawn by Chodowiecki in one of the Berlin annuals; Spalanzani looks like that exactly. I lately went up his stairs, and perceived that the curtain, which was generally drawn completely over a glass door, left a little opening on one side. I know not what curiosity impelled me to look through. A very tall and slender lady, extremely well-proportioned and most splendidly attired, sat in the room by a little table on which she had laid her arms, her hands being folded together. She sat opposite the door, so that I could see the whole of her angelic countenance. She did not appear to see me, and indeed there was something fixed about her eyes as if, I might almost say, she had no power of sight. It seemed to me that she was sleeping with her eyes open. I felt very uncomfortable, and therefore I slunk away into the lecture-room close at hand.

Afterwards I learned that the form I had seen was that of Spalanzani’s daughter Olympia, whom he keeps confined in a very strange and barbarous manner, so that no one can approach her. After all, there may be something the matter with her; she is half-witted perhaps, or something of the kind. But why should I write you all this? I could have conveyed it better and more circumstantially by word of mouth. For I shall see you in a fortnight. I must again behold my dear, sweet angelic Clara. My evil mood will then be dispersed, though I must confess that it has been struggling for mastery over me ever since her sensible but vexing letter. Therefore I do not write to her today. A thousand greetings, etc.

Nothing more strange and chimerical can be imagined than the fate of my poor friend, the young student Nathaniel, which I, gracious reader, have undertaken to tell you. Have you ever known something that has completely filled your heart, thoughts and senses, to the exclusion of every other object? There was a burning fermentation within you; your blood seethed like a molten glow through your veins, sending a higher color to your cheeks. Your glance was strange, as if you were seeking in empty space forms invisible to all other eyes, and your speech flowed away into dark sighs. Then your friends asked you: ‘What is it, my dear sir?’ ‘What is the matter?’ And you wanted to draw the picture in your mind in all its glowing tints, in all its light and shade, and labored hard to find words only to begin. You thought that you should crowd together in the very first sentence all those wonderful, exalted, horrible, comical, frightful events, so as to strike every hearer at once as with an electric shock. But every word, every thing that takes the form of speech, appeared to you colorless, cold and dead. You hunt and hunt, and stutter and stammer, and your friends’ sober questions blow like icy wind upon your internal fire until it is almost out. Whereas if, like a bold painter, you had first drawn an outline of the internal picture with a few daring strokes, you might with small trouble have laid on the colors brighter and brighter, and the living throng of varied shapes would have borne your friends away with it. Then they would have seen themselves, like you, in the picture that your mind had bodied forth. Now I must confess to you, kind reader, that no one has really asked me for the history of the young Nathaniel, but you know well enough that I belong to the queer race of authors who, if they have anything in their minds such as I have just described, feel as if everyone who comes near them, and the whole world besides, is insistently demanding: ‘What is it then – tell it, my dear friend?’

Thus was I forcibly compelled to tell you of the momentous life of Nathaniel. The marvelous singularity of the story filled my entire soul, but for that very reason and because, my dear reader, I had to make you equally inclined to accept the uncanny, which is no small matter, I was puzzled how to begin Nathaniel’s story in a manner as inspiring, original and striking as possible. ‘Once upon a time,’ the beautiful beginning of every tale, was too tame. ‘In the little provincial town of S____ lived’ – was somewhat better, as it at least prepared for the climax. Or should I dart at once, medias in res, with “‘Go to the devil,” cried the student Nathaniel with rage and horror in his wild looks, when the barometer-dealer, Giuseppe Coppola . . .?’ – I had indeed already written this down, when I fancied that I could detect something ludicrous in the wild looks of the student Nathaniel, whereas the story is not comical at all. No form of language suggested itself to my mind which seemed to reflect ever in the slightest degree the coloring of the internal picture. I resolved that I would not begin it at all.

So take, gentle reader, the three letters. which friend Lothaire was good enough to give me, as the sketch of the picture which I shall endeavor to color more and more brightly as I proceed with my narrative. Perhaps, like a good portrait-painter, I may succeed in catching the outline in this way, so that you will realize it is a likeness even without knowing the original, and feel as if you had often seen the person with your own corporeal eyes. Perhaps, dear reader, you will then believe that nothing is stranger and madder than actual life; which the poet can only catch in the form of a dull reflection in a dimly polished mirror.

To give you all the information that you will require for a start, we must supplement these letters with the news that shortly after the death of Nathaniel’s father, Clara and Lothaire, the children of a distant relative, who had likewise died and left them orphans, were taken by Nathaniel’s mother into her own home. Clara and Nathaniel formed a strong attachment for each other; and no one in the world having any objection to make, they were betrothed when Nathaniel left the place to pursue his studies in G___ . And there he is, according to his last letter, attending the lectures of the celebrated professor of physics, Spalanzani.

Now, I could proceed in my story with confidence, but at this moment Clara’s picture stands so plainly before me that I cannot turn away; as indeed was always the case when she gazed at me with one of her lovely smiles. Clara could not by any means be reckoned beautiful, that was the opinion of all who are by their calling competent judges of beauty. Architects, nevertheless, praised the exact symmetry of her frame, and painters considered her neck, shoulders and bosom almost too chastely formed; but then they all fell in love with her wondrous hair and coloring, comparing her to the Magdalen in Battoni’s picture at Dresden. One of them, a most fantastical and singular fellow, compared Clara’s eyes to a lake by Ruysdael, in which the pure azure of a cloudless sky, the wood and flowery field, the whole cheerful life of the rich landscape are reflected. Poets and composers went still further. ‘What is a lake what is a mirror!’ said they. ‘Can we look upon the girl without wondrous, heavenly music flowing towards us from her glances, to penetrate our inmost soul so that all there is awakened and stirred? If we don’t sing well then, there is not much in us, as we shall learn from the delicate smile which plays on Clara’s lips, when we presume to pipe up before her with something intended to pass for a song, although it is only a confused jumble of notes.’

So it was. Clara had the vivid fancy of a cheerful, unembarrassed child; a deep, tender, feminine disposition; an acute, clever understanding. Misty dreamers had not a chance with her; since, though she did not talk – talking would have been altogether repugnant to her silent nature – her bright glance and her firm ironical smile would say to them: ‘Good friends, how can you imagine that I shall take your fleeting shadowy images for real shapes imbued with life and motion ?’ On this account Clara was censured by many as cold, unfeeling and prosaic; while others, who understood life to its clear depths, greatly loved the feeling, acute, childlike girl; but none so much as Nathaniel, whose perception in art and science was clear and strong. Clara was attached to her lover with all her heart, and when he parted from her the first cloud passed over her life. With what delight, therefore, did she rush into his arms when, as he had promised in his last letter to Lothaire, he actually returned to his native town and entered his mother’s room! Nathaniel’s expectations were completely fulfilled; for directly he saw Clara he thought neither of the Advocate Coppelius nor of her ‘sensible’ letter. All gloomy forebodings had gone.

However, Nathaniel was quite right, when he wrote to his friend Lothaire that the form of the repulsive barometer-dealer, Coppola, had had a most evil effect on his life. All felt, even in the first days, that Nathaniel had undergone a complete change in his whole being. He sank into a gloomy reverie, and behaved in a strange manner that had never been known in him before. Everything, his whole life, had become to him a dream and a foreboding, and he was always saying that man, although he might think himself free, only served for the cruel sport of dark powers These he said it was vain to resist; man must patiently resign himself to his fate. He even went so far as to say that it is foolish to think that we do anything in art and science according to our own independent will; for the inspiration which alone enables us to produce anything does not proceed from within ourselves, but is the effect of a higher principle without.

To the clear-headed Clara this mysticism was in the highest degree repugnant, but contradiction appeared to be useless. Only when Nathaniel proved that Coppelius was the evil principle, which had seized him at the moment when he was listening behind the curtain, and that this repugnant principle would in some horrible manner disturb the happiness of their life, Clara grew very serious, and said: ‘Yes, Nathaniel, you are right. Coppelius is an evil, hostile principle; he can produce terrible effects, like a diabolical power that has come visibly into life; but only if you will not banish him from your mind and thoughts. So long as you believe in him, he really exists and exerts his influence; his power lies only in your belief.’

Quite indignant that Clara did not admit the demon’s existence outside his own mind, Nathaniel would then come out with all the mystical doctrine of devils and powers of evil. But Clara would break off peevishly by introducing some indifferent matter, to the no small annoyance of Nathaniel. He thought that such deep secrets were closed to cold, unreceptive minds, without being clearly aware that he was counting Clara among these subordinate natures; and therefore he constantly endeavored to initiate her into the mysteries. In the morning, when Clara was getting breakfast ready, he stood by her, reading out of all sorts of mystical books till she cried: ‘But dear Nathaniel, suppose I blame you as the evil principle that has a hostile effect upon my coffee? For if, to please you, I drop everything and look in your eyes while you read, my coffee will overflow into the fire, and none of you will get any breakfast.’

Nathaniel closed the book at once and hurried indignantly to his chamber. Once he had a remarkable forte for graceful, lively tales, which he wrote down, and to which Clara listened with the greatest delight; now his creations were gloomy, incomprehensible and formless, so that although, out of compassion, Clara did not say so, he plainly felt how little she was interested. Nothing was more unbearable to Clara than tediousness; her looks and words expressed mental drowsiness which she could not overcome. Nathaniel’s productions were, indeed, very tedious. His indignation at Clara’s cold, prosaic disposition constantly increased; and Clara could not overcome her dislike of Nathaniel’s dark, gloomy, boring mysticism, so that they became mentally more and more estranged without either of them perceiving it. The shape of the ugly Coppelius, as Nathaniel himself was forced to confess, was growing dimmer in his fancy, and it often cost him some pains to draw him with sufficient color in his stories, where he figured as the dread bogy of ill omen.

It occurred to him, however, in the end to make his gloomy foreboding, that Coppelius would destroy his happiness, the subject of a poem. He represented himself and Clara as united by true love, but occasionally threatened by a black hand, which appeared to dart into their lives, to snatch away some new joy just as it was born. Finally, as they were standing at the altar, the hideous Coppelius appeared and touched Clara’s lovely eyes. They flashed into Nathaniel’s heart, like bleeding sparks, scorching and burning, as Coppelius caught him, and flung him into a flaming, fiery circle, which flew round with the swiftness of a storm, carrying him along with it, amid its roaring. The roar is like that of the hurricane, when it fiercely lashes the foaming waves, which rise up, like black giants with white heads, for the furious combat. But through the wild tumult he hears Clara’s voice: ‘Can’t you see me then? Coppelius has deceived you. Those, indeed, were not my eyes which so burned in your breast – they were glowing drops of your own heart’s blood. I have my eyes still – only look at them!’ Nathaniel reflects: ‘That is Clara, and I am hers for ever!’ Then it seems to him as though this thought has forcibly entered the fiery circle, which stands still, while the noise dully ceases in the dark abyss. Nathaniel looks into Clara’s eyes, but it is death that looks kindly upon him from her eyes

While Nathaniel composed this poem, he was very calm and collected; he polished and improved every line, and having subjected himself to the fetters of metre, he did not rest till all was correct and melodious. When at last he had finished and read the poem aloud to himself, a wild horror seized him. ‘Whose horrible voice is that?’ he cried out. Soon, however, the whole appeared to him a very successful work, and he felt that it must rouse Clara’s cold temperament, although he did not clearly consider why Clara was to be excited, nor what purpose it would serve to torment her with frightful pictures threatening a horrible fate, destructive to their love. Both of them – that is to say, Nathaniel and Clara – were sitting in his mother’s little garden, Clara very cheerful, because Nathaniel had not teased her with his dreams and his forebodings during the three days in which he had been writing his poem.

He was even talking cheerfully, as in the old days, about pleasant matters, which caused Clara to remark: ‘Now for the first time I have you again! Don’t you see that we have driven the ugly Coppelius away?’

Not till then did it strike Nathaniel that he had in his pocket the poem, which he had intended to read. He at once drew the sheets out and began, while Clara, expecting something tedious as usual, resigned herself and began quietly to knit. But as the dark cloud rose ever blacker and blacker, she let the stocking fall and looked him full in the face. He was carried irresistibly along by his poem, an internal fire deeply reddened his cheeks, tears flowed from his eyes.

At last, when he had concluded, he groaned in a state of utter exhaustion and, catching Clara’s hand, sighed forth, as if melted into the most inconsolable grief: ‘Oh Clara! – Clara!’ Clara pressed him gently to her bosom, and said softly, but very solemnly and sincerely: ‘Nathaniel, dearest Nathaniel, do throw that mad, senseless, insane stuff into the fire!’

Upon this Nathaniel sprang up enraged and, thrusting Clara from him, cried: ‘Oh, inanimate, accursed automaton!’

With which he ran off; Clara, deeply offended, shed bitter tears, and sobbed aloud: ‘Ah, he has never loved me, for he does not understand me.’

Lothaire entered the arbor; Clara was obliged to tell him all that had occurred. He loved his sister with all his soul, and every word of her complaint fell like a spark of fire into his heart, so that the indignation which he had long harbored against the visionary Nathaniel now broke out into the wildest rage. He ran to Nathaniel and reproached him for his senseless conduce towards his beloved sister in hard words, to which the infuriated Nathaniel retorted in the same style. The appellation of ‘fantastical, mad fool,’ was answered by that of ‘miserable commonplace fellow.’ A duel was inevitable. They agreed on the following morning, according to the local student custom, to fight with sharp rapiers on the far side of the garden. Silently and gloomily they slunk about. Clara had overheard the violent dispute and, seeing the fencing-master bring the rapiers at dawn, guessed what was to occur.

Having reached the place of combat, Lothaire and Nathaniel had in gloomy silence flung off their coats, and with the lust of battle in their flaming eyes were about to fall upon one another, when Clara rushed through the garden door, crying aloud between her sobs: ‘You wild cruel men! Strike me down before you attack each other. For how can I live on if my lover murders my brother, or my brother murders my lover.’

Lothaire lowered his weapon, and looked in silence on the ground; but in Nathaniel’s heart, amid the most poignant sorrow, there revived all his love for the beautiful Clara, which he had felt in the prime of his happy youth. The weapon fell from his hand, he threw himself at Clara’s feet. ‘Can you ever forgive me, my only – my beloved Clara? Can you forgive me, my dear brother, Lothaire?’

Lothaire was touched by the deep contrition of his friend; all three embraced in reconciliation amid a thousand tears, and vowed eternal love and fidelity.

Nathaniel felt as though a heavy and oppressive burden had been rolled away, as though by resisting the dark power that held him fast he had saved his whole being, which had been threatened with annihilation. Three happy days he passed with his dear friends, and then went to G___ , where he intended to stay a year, and then to return to his native town for ever.

All that referred to Coppelius was kept a secret from his mother. For it was well known that she could not think of him without terror since she, as well as Nathaniel, held him guilty of causing her husband’s death.

How surprised was Nathaniel when, proceeding to his lodging, he saw that the whole house was burned down, and that only the bare walls stood up amid the ashes. However, although fire had broken out in the laboratory of the apothecary who lived on the ground-floor, and had therefore consumed the house from top to bottom, some bold active friends had succeeded in entering Nathaniel’s room in the upper story in time to save his books, manuscripts and instruments. They carried all safe and sound into another house, where they took a room, to which Nathaniel moved at once. He did not think it at all remarkable that he now lodged opposite to Professor Spalanzani; neither did it appear singular when he perceived that his window looked straight into the room where Olympia often sat alone, so that he could plainly recognize her figure, although the features of her face were indistinct and confused. At last it struck him that Olympia often remained for hours in that attitude in which he had once seen her through the glass door, sitting at a little table without any occupation, and that she was plainly enough looking over at him with an unvarying gaze. He was forced to confess that he had never seen a more lovely form but, with Clara in his heart, the stiff Olympia was perfectly indifferent to him. Occasionally, to be sure, he gave a transient look over his textbook at the beautiful statue, but that was all.

He was just writing to Clara, when he heard a light tap at the door; it stopped as he answered, and the repulsive face of Coppola peeped in. Nathaniel’s heart trembled within him, but remembering what Spalanzani had told him about his compatriot Coppola, and also the firm promise he had made to Clara with respect to the Sandman Coppelius, he felt ashamed of his childish fear and, collecting himself with all his might, said as softly and civilly as possible: ‘I do not want a barometer, my good friend; pray go.’

Upon this, Coppola advanced a good way into the room, his wide mouth distorted into a hideous laugh, and his little eyes darting fire from beneath their long grey lashes: ‘Eh, eh – no barometer – no barometer?’ he said in a hoarse voice, ‘I have pretty eyes too – pretty eyes!’

‘Madman!’ cried Nathaniel in horror. ‘How can you have eyes? Eyes?’

But Coppola had already put his barometer aside and plunged his hand into his wide coat-pocket, whence he drew lorgnettes and spectacles, which he placed upon the table.

‘There – there – spectacles on the nose, those are my eyes – pretty eyes!’ he gabbled, drawing out more and more spectacles, until the whole table began to glisten and sparkle in the most extraordinary manner.

A thousand eyes stared and quivered, their gaze fixed upon Nathaniel; yet he could not look away from the table, where Coppola kept laying down still more and more spectacles, and all those flaming eyes leapt in wilder and wilder confusion, shooting their blood red light into Nathaniel’s heart.

At last, overwhelmed with horror, he shrieked out: ‘Stop, stop, you terrify me!’ and seized Coppola by the arm, as he searched his pockets to bring out still more spectacles, although the whole table was already covered.

Coppola gently extricated himself with a hoarse repulsive laugh; and with the words: ‘Ah, nothing for you – but here are pretty glasses!’ collected all the spectacles, packed them away, and from the breast-pocket of his coat drew forth a number of telescopes large and small. As soon as the spectacles were removed Nathaniel felt quite easy and, thinking of Clara, perceived that the hideous phantom was but the creature of his own mind, that this Coppola was an honest optician and could not possibly be the accursed double of Coppelius. Moreover, in all the glasses which Coppola now placed on the table, there was nothing remarkable, or at least nothing so uncanny as in the spectacles; and to set matters right Nathaniel resolved to make a purchase. He took up a little, very neatly constructed pocket telescope, and looked through the window to try it. Never in his life had he met a glass which brought objects so clearly and sharply before his eyes. Involuntarily he looked into Spalanzani’s room; Olympia was sitting as usual before the little table, with her arms laid upon it, and her hands folded.

For the first time he could see the wondrous beauty in the shape of her face; only her eyes seemed to him singularly still and dead. Nevertheless, as he looked more keenly through the glass, it seemed to him as if moist moonbeams were rising in Olympia’s eyes. It was as if the power of seeing were being kindled for the first time; her glances flashed with constantly increasing life. As if spellbound, Nathaniel reclined against the window, meditating on the charming Olympia. A humming and scraping aroused him as if from a dream.

Coppola was standing behind him: ‘Tre zecchini – three ducats!’ He had quite forgotten the optician, and quickly paid him what he asked. ‘Is it not so ? A pretty glass – a pretty glass ?’ asked Coppola, in his hoarse, repulsive voice, and with his malicious smile.

‘Yes – yes,’ replied Nathaniel peevishly; ‘Good-bye, friend.’

Coppola left the room, but not without casting many strange glances at Nathaniel. He heard him laugh loudly on the stairs.

‘Ah,’ thought Nathaniel, ‘he is laughing at me because, no doubt, I have paid him too much for this little glass.’

While he softly uttered these words, it seemed as if a deep and lugubrious sigh were sounding fearfully through the room; and his breath was stopped by inward anguish. He perceived, however, that it was himself that had sighed.

‘Clara is right,’ he said to himself, ‘in taking me for a senseless dreamer, but it is pure madness – nay, more than madness, that the stupid thought of having paid Coppola too much for the glass still pains me so strangely. I cannot see the cause.’

He now sat down to finish his letter to Clara; but a glance through the window assured him that Olympia was still sitting there, and he instantly sprang up, as if impelled by an irresistible power, seized Coppola’s glass, and could not tear himself away from the seductive sight of Olympia till his friend and brother Sigismund called him to go to Professor Spalanzani’s lecture. The curtain was drawn close before the fatal room, and he could see Olympia no longer, nor could he upon the next day or the next, although he scarcely ever left his window and constantly looked through Coppola’s glass. On the third day the windows were completely covered. In utter despair, filled with a longing and a burning desire, he ran out of the town-gate. Olympia’s form floated before him in the air, stepped forth from the bushes, and peeped at him with large beaming eyes from the clear brook. Clara’s image had completely vanished from his mind; he thought of nothing but Olympia, and complained aloud in a murmuring voice: ‘Ah, noble, sublime star of my love, have you only risen upon me to vanish immediately, and leave me in dark hopeless night?’

As he returned to his lodging, however, he perceived a great bustle in Spalanzani’s house. The doors were wide open, all sorts of utensils were being carried in, the windows of the first floor were being taken out, maid-servants were going about sweeping and dusting with great hairbrooms, and carpenters and upholsterers were knocking and hammering within. Nathaniel remained standing in the street in a state of perfect wonder, when Sigismund came up to him laughing, and said: ‘Now, what do you say to our old Spalanzani?’

Nathaniel assured him that he could say nothing because he knew nothing about the professor, but on the contrary perceived with astonishment the mad proceedings in a house otherwise so quiet and gloomy. He then learnt from Sigismund that Spalanzani intended to give a grand party on the following day – a concert and ball – and that half the university was invited. It was generally reported that Spalanzani, who had so long kept his daughter most scrupulously from every human eye, would now let her appear for the first time.

Nathaniel found a card of invitation, and with heart beating high went at the appointed hour to the professor’s, where the coaches were already arriving and the lights shining in the decorated rooms. The company was numerous and brilliant. Olympia appeared dressed with great richness and taste. Her beautifully shaped face and her figure roused general admiration. The somewhat strange arch of her back and the wasp-like thinness of her waist seemed to be produced by too tight lacing. In her step and deportment there was something measured and stiff, which struck many as unpleasant, but it was ascribed to the constraint produced by the company. The concert began. Olympia played the harpsichord with great dexterity, and sang a virtuoso piece, with a voice like the sound of a glass bell, clear and almost piercing. Nathaniel was quite enraptured; he stood in the back row, and could not perfectly recognize Olympia’s features in the dazzling light. Therefore, quite unnoticed, he took out Coppola’s glass and looked towards the fair creature. Ah! then he saw with what a longing glance she gazed towards him, and how every note of her song plainly sprang from that loving glance, whose fire penetrated his inmost soul. Her accomplished roulades seemed to Nathaniel the exultation of a mind transfigured by love, and when at last, after the cadence, the long trill sounded shrilly through the room, he felt as if clutched by burning arms. He could restrain himself no longer, but with mingled pain and rapture shouted out, ‘Olympia!’

Everyone looked at him, and many laughed. The organist of the cathedral made a gloomier face than usual, and simply said: ‘Well, well.’

The concert had finished, the ball began. ‘To dance with her – with her!’ That was the aim of all Nathaniel’s desire, of all his efforts; but how to gain courage to ask her, the queen of the ball? Nevertheless – he himself did not know how it happened – no sooner had the dancing begun than he was standing close to Olympia, who had not yet been asked to dance. Scarcely able to stammer out a few words, he had seized her hand. Olympia’s hand was as cold as ice; he felt a horrible deathly chill thrilling through him. He looked into her eyes, which beamed back full of love and desire, and at the same time it seemed as though her pulse began to beat and her life’s blood to flow into her cold hand. And in the soul of Nathaniel the joy of love rose still higher; he clasped the beautiful Olympia, and with her flew through the dance. He thought that his dancing was usually correct as to time, but the peculiarly steady rhythm with which Olympia moved, and which often put him completely out, soon showed him that his time was most defective. However, he would dance with no other lady, and would have murdered anyone who approached Olympia for the purpose of asking her. But this only happened twice, and to his astonishment Olympia remained seated until the next dance, when he lost no time in making her rise again.

Had he been able to see any other object besides the fair Olympia, all sorts of unfortunate quarrels would have been inevitable. For the quiet, scarcely suppressed laughter which arose among the young people in every corner was manifestly directed towards Olympia, whom they followed with very curious glances – one could not tell why. Heated by the dance and by the wine, of which he had freely partaken, Nathaniel had laid aside all his ordinary reserve. He sat by Olympia with her hand in his and, in a high state of inspiration, told her his passion, in words which neither he nor Olympia understood.

Yet perhaps she did; for she looked steadfastly into his face and sighed several times, ‘Ah, ah!’ Upon this, Nathaniel said, ‘Oh splendid, heavenly lady! Ray from the promised land of love – deep soul in whom all my being is reflected !’ with much more stuff of the like kind. But Olympia merely went on sighing, ‘Ah – ah!’

Professor Spalanzani occasionally passed the happy pair, and smiled on them with a look of singular satisfaction. To Nathaniel, although he felt in quite another world, it seemed suddenly as though Professor Spalanzani’s face was growing considerably darker, and when he looked around he perceived, to his no small horror, that the last two candles in the empty room had burned down to their sockets, and were just going out. The music and dancing had ceased long ago.

‘Parting – parting!’ he cried in wild despair; he kissed Olympia’s hand, he bent towards her mouth, when his glowing lips were met by lips cold as ice! Just as when he had touched her cold hand, he felt himself overcome by horror; the legend of the dead bride darted suddenly through his mind, but Olympia pressed him fast, and her lips seemed to spring to life at his kiss. Professor Spalanzani strode through the empty hall, his steps caused a hollow echo, and his figure, round which a flickering shadow played, had a fearful, spectral appearance.

‘Do you love me, do you love me, Olympia? Only one word! Do you love me?’ whispered Nathaniel; but as she rose Olympia only sighed, ‘Ah – ah!’

‘Yes, my gracious, my beautiful star of love,’ said Nathaniel, ‘you have risen upon me, and you will shine, for ever lighting my inmost soul.’

‘Ah – ah!’ replied Olympia, as she departed. Nathaniel followed her; they both stood before the professor.

‘You have had a very animated conversation with my daughter,’ said he, smiling; ‘So, dear Herr Nathaniel, if you have any pleasure in talking with a silly girl, your visits shall be welcome.’

Nathaniel departed with a whole heaven beaming in his heart. The next day Spalanzani’s party was the general subject of conversation. Notwithstanding that the professor had made every effort to appear splendid, the wags had all sorts of incongruities and oddities to talk about. They were particularly hard upon the dumb, stiff Olympia whom, in spite of her beautiful exterior, they considered to be completely stupid, and they were delighted to find in her stupidity the reason why Spalanzani had kept her so long concealed. Nathaniel did not hear this without secret anger. Nevertheless he held his peace. ‘For,’ thought he, ‘is it worth while convincing these fellows that it is their own stupidity that prevents their recognizing Olympia’s deep, noble mind?’

One day Sigismund said to him: ‘Be kind enough, brother, to tell me how a sensible fellow like you could possibly lose your head over that wax face, over that wooden doll up there?’

Nathaniel was about to fly out in a passion, but he quickly recollected himself and retorted: ‘Tell me, Sigismund, how it is that Olympia’s heavenly charms could escape your active and intelligent eyes, which generally perceive things so clearly? But, for that very reason, Heaven be thanked, I have not you for my rival; otherwise, one of us must have fallen a bleeding corpse!’

Sigismund plainly perceived his friend’s condition. So he skillfully gave the conversation a turn and, after observing that in love-affairs there was no disputing about the object, added: ‘Nevertheless, it is strange that many of us think much the same about Olympia. To us – pray do not take it ill, brother she appears singularly stiff and soulless. Her shape is well proportioned – so is her face – that is true! She might pass for beautiful if her glance were not so utterly without a ray of life – without the power of vision. Her pace is strangely regular, every movement seems to depend on some wound-up clockwork. Her playing and her singing keep the same unpleasantly correct and spiritless time as a musical box, and the same may be said of her dancing. We find your Olympia quite uncanny, and prefer to have nothing to do with her. She seems to act like a living being, and yet has some strange peculiarity of her own.’

Nathaniel did not completely yield to the bitter feeling which these words of Sigismund’s roused in him, but mastered his indignation, and merely said with great earnestness, ‘Olympia may appear uncanny to you, cold, prosaic man. Only the poetical mind is sensitive to its like in others. To me alone was the love in her glances revealed, and it has pierced my mind and all my thought; only in the love of Olympia do I discover my real self. It may not suit you that she does not indulge in idle chit-chat like other shallow minds. She utters few words, it is true, but these few words appear as genuine hieroglyphics of the inner world, full of love and deep knowledge of the spiritual life, and contemplation of the eternal beyond. But you have no sense for all this, and my words are wasted on you.’

‘God preserve you, brother,’ said Sigismund very mildly almost sorrowfully. ‘But you seem to me to be in an evil way. You may depend upon me, if all – no, no, I will not say anything further.’

All of a sudden it struck Nathaniel that the cold, prosaic Sigismund meant very well towards him; he therefore shook his proffered hand very heartily.

Nathaniel had totally forgotten the very existence of Clara, whom he had once loved; his mother, Lothaire – all had vanished from his memory; he lived only for Olympia, with whom he sat for hours every day, uttering strange fantastical stuff about his love, about the sympathy that glowed to life, about the affinity of souls, to all of which Olympia listened with great devotion. From the very bottom of his desk he drew out all that he had ever written. Poems, fantasies, visions, romances, tales – this stock was daily increased by all sorts of extravagant sonnets, stanzas and canzoni, and he read them all tirelessly to Olympia for hours on end. Never had he known such an admirable listener. She neither embroidered nor knitted, she never looked out of the window, she fed no favorite bird, she played neither with lapdog nor pet cat, she did not twist a slip of paper or anything else in her hand, she was not obliged to suppress a yawn by a gentle forced cough. In short, she sat for hours, looking straight into her lover’s eyes, without stirring, and her glance became more and more lively and animated Only when Nathaniel rose at last, and kissed her hand and her lips did she say, ‘Ah, ah!’ to which she added: ‘Good night, dearest.’

‘Oh deep, noble mind!’ cried Nathaniel in his own room, ‘you, you alone, dear one, fully understand me.’

He trembled with inward rapture, when he considered the wonderful harmony that was revealed more and more every day between his own mind and that of Olympia. For it seemed to him as if Olympia had spoken concerning him and his poetical talent out of the depths of his own mind; as if her voice had actually sounded from within himself. That must indeed have been the case, for Olympia never uttered any words whatever beyond those which have already been recorded. Even when Nathaniel, in clear and sober moments, as for instance upon waking in the morning, remembered Olympia’s utter passivity and her painful lack of words, he merely said: ‘Words words! The glance of her heavenly eye speaks more than any language here below. Can a child of heaven adapt herself to the narrow confines drawn by a miserable mundane necessity?’

Professor Spalanzani appeared highly delighted at the intimacy between his daughter and Nathaniel. To the latter he gave the most unequivocal signs of approbation; and when Nathaniel ventured at last to hint at a union with Olympia, his whole face smiled as he observed that he would leave his daughter a free choice in the matter. Encouraged by these words and with burning passion in his heart, Nathaniel resolved to implore Olympia on the very next day to say directly and in plain words what her kind glance had told him long ago; namely, that she loved him. He sought the ring which his mother had given him at parting, to give it to Olympia as a symbol of his devotion, of his life which budded forth and bloomed with her alone. Clara’s letters and Lothaire’s came to his hands during the search; but he flung them aside indifferently, found the ring, pocketed it and hastened over to Olympia. Already on the steps, in the hall, he heard a strange noise, which seemed to proceed from Spalanzani’s room. There was a stamping, a clattering, a pushing, a banging against the door, intermingled with curses and imprecations.

Let go – let go! Rascal! – Scoundrel ! – Body and soul I’ve risked upon it! – Ha, ha, ha! – That’s not what we agreed to! – I, I made the eyes! – I made the clockwork! – Stupid blockhead with your clockwork! – Accursed dog of a bungling watch-maker! – OR with you ! – Devil ! – Stop ! – Pipe-maker! – Infernal beast! – Stop ! – Get out! – Let go!’

These words were uttered by the voices of Spalanzani and the hideous Coppelius, who were raging and wrangling together. Nathaniel rushed in, overcome by the most inexpressible anguish.
Hoffmann/Sandmann: Gavarni (1843) – 9

The professor was holding a female figure fast by the shoulders, the Italian Coppola grasped it by the feet, and there they were tugging and pulling, this way and that, contending for the possession of it with the utmost fury. Nathaniel started back with horror when in the figure he recognized Olympia. Boiling with the wildest indignation, he was about to rescue his beloved from these infuriated men. But at that moment Coppola, whirling round with the strength of a giant, wrenched the figure from the professor’s hand, and then dealt him a tremendous blow with the object itself, which sent him reeling and tumbling backwards over the table, upon which stood vials, retorts, bottles and glass cylinders. All these were dashed to a thousand shivers. Now Coppola flung the figure across his shoulders, and with a frightful burst of shrill laughter dashed down the stairs, so fast that the feet of the figure, which dangled in the most hideous manner, rattled with a wooden sound on every step.

Nathaniel stood paralyzed; he had seen but too plainly that Olympia’s waxen, deathly-pale countenance had no eyes, but black holes instead – she was, indeed, a lifeless doll. Spalanzani was writhing on the floor; the pieces of glass had cut his head, his breast and his arms, and the blood was spurting up as from so many fountains. But he soon collected all his strength.

‘After him – after him – what are you waiting for ? Coppelius, Coppelius – has robbed me of my best automaton – a work of twenty years – body and soul risked upon it – the clockwork – the speech – the walk, mine; the eyes stolen from you. The infernal rascal – after him; fetch Olympia – there you see the eyes!’

And now Nathaniel saw that a pair of eyes lay upon the ground, staring at him; these Spalanzani caught up, with his unwounded hand, and flung into his bosom. Then madness seized Nathaniel in its burning claws, and clutched his very soul, destroying his every sense and thought.

‘Ho – ho – ho – a circle of fire! of fire! Spin round, circle! Merrily, merrily! Ho, wooden doll – spin round, pretty doll!’ he cried, flying at the professor, and clutching at his throat.

He would have strangled him had not the noise attracted a crowd, who rushed in and forced Nathaniel to let go, thus saving the professor, whose wounds were immediately dressed. Sigismund, strong as he was, was not able to master the mad Nathaniel, who kept crying out in a frightening voice: ‘Spin round, wooden doll!’ and laid about him with clenched fists. At last the combined force of many succeeded in overcoming him, in flinging him to the ground and binding him. His words were merged into one hideous roar like that of a brute, and in this insane condition he was taken raging to the mad-house.

Before I proceed to tell you, gentle reader, what more befell the unfortunate Nathaniel, should you by chance take an interest in that skilful optician and automaton-maker Spalanzani, I can inform you that he was completely healed of his wounds. He was, however, obliged to leave the university, because Nathaniel’s story had created a sensation, and it was universally considered a quite unpardonable trick to smuggle a wooden doll into respectable tea-parties in place of a living person – for Olympia had been quite a success at tea-parties. The lawyers called it a most subtle deception, and the more culpable, inasmuch as he had planned it so artfully against the public that not a single soul – a few cunning students excepted – had detected it, although all now wished to play the wiseacre, and referred to various facts which had appeared to them suspicious. Nothing very clever was revealed in this way. Would it strike anyone as so very suspicious, for instance, that, according to the expression of an elegant tea-ite, Olympia had, contrary to all usage, sneezed oftener than she had yawned ? ‘The former,’ remarked this fashionable person, ‘was the sound of the concealed clockwork winding itself up. Moreover, it had creaked audibly.’ And so on.

The professor of poetry and eloquence took a pinch of snuff, clapped the lid of his box to, cleared his throat, and said solemnly: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, do you not perceive where the trick lies? It is all an allegory – a sustained metaphor – you understand me – sapient! sat.

But many were not satisfied with this; the story of the automaton had struck deep root into their souls and, in fact, a pernicious mistrust of human figures in general had begun to creep in. Many lovers, to be quite convinced that they were not enamoured of wooden dolls, would request their mistresses to sing and dance a little out of time, to embroider and knit, and play with their lapdogs, while listening to reading, etc., and, above all, not merely to listen, but also sometimes to talk, in such a manner as presupposed actual thought and feeling. With many the bond of love became firmer and more entrancing, though others, on the contrary, slipped gently out of the noose. One cannot really answer for this,’ said some. At tea parties yawning prevailed to an incredible extent, and there was no sneezing at all, that all suspicion might be avoided. Spalanzani, as already stated, was obliged to decamp, to escape a criminal prosecution for fraudulently introducing an automaton into human society. Coppola had vanished also.

Nathaniel awakened as from a heavy, frightful dream; as he opened his eyes, he felt an indescribable sensation of pleasure glowing through him with heavenly warmth. He was in bed in his own room, in his father s house, Clara was stooping over him, and Lothaire and his mother were standing near.

‘At last, at last, beloved Nathaniel, you have recovered from your serious illness – now you are mine again!’ said Clara, from the very depth of her soul, and clasped Nathaniel in her arms.

It was with mingled sorrow and delight that the bright tears fell from his eyes, as he answered with a deep sigh: ‘My own – my own Clara!’

Sigismund, who had faithfully remained with his friend in his hour of trouble, now entered. Nathaniel stretched out his hand to him. ‘And you, faithful brother, have you not deserted me?’

Every trace of Nathaniel’s madness had vanished, and he soon gained strength under the care of his mother, his beloved and his friends. Good fortune also had visited the house, for a miserly old uncle of whom nothing had been expected had died, leaving their mother, besides considerable property, an estate in a pleasant spot near the town. Thither Nathaniel decided to go, with his Clara, whom he now intended to marry, his mother and Lothaire. He had grown milder and more docile than ever he had been before, and now, for the first time, he understood the heavenly purity and the greatness of Clara’s mind. No one, by the slightest hint, reminded him of the past.

Only, when Sigismund took leave of him, Nathaniel said: ‘Heavens, brother, I was in an evil way, but a good angel led me betimes on to the path of light! Ah, that was Clara!’

Sigismund did not let him carry the discourse further for fear that grievous recollections might burst forth in all their lurid brightness.

At about this time the four lucky persons thought of going to the estate. It was noon and they were walking in the streets of the city, where they had made several purchases. The high steeple of the townhall was already casting its gigantic shadow over the market-place.

‘Oh,’ said Clara, ‘let us climb it once more and look out at the distant mountains!’

No sooner said than done. Nathaniel and Clara both ascended the steps, the mother returned home with the servant, and Lothaire, who was not inclined to clamber up so many stairs, chose to remain below. The two lovers stood arm-in-arm on the highest gallery of the tower, and looked down upon the misty forests, behind which the blue mountains rose like a gigantic city.

‘Look there at that curious little grey bush,’ said Clara. ‘It actually looks as if it were striding towards us.’

Nathaniel mechanically put his hand into his breast pocket – he found Coppola’s telescope, and pointed it to one side. Clara was in the way of the glass. His pulse and veins leapt convulsively. Pale as death, he stared at Clara, soon streams of fire flashed and glared from his rolling eyes, he roared frightfully, like a hunted beast.Then he sprang high into the air and. punctuating his words with horrible laughter, he shrieked out in a piercing tone, ‘Spin round, wooden doll! – spin round!’ Then seizing Clara with immense force, he tried to hurl her down, but with the desperate strength of one battling against death she clutched the railings.

Lothaire heard the’ raging of the madman – he heard Clara’s shriek of agony – fearful forebodings darted through his mind, he ran up, the door to the second flight was fastened, Clara’s shrieks became louder and still louder. Frantic with rage and anxiety, he threw himself against the door, which finally burst open. Clara’s voice was becoming weaker and weaker. ‘Help – help save me!’ With these words the voice seemed to die on the air.

‘She is gone – murdered by that madman!’ cried Lothaire.

The door of the gallery was also closed, but despair gave him a giant’s strength, and he burst it from the hinges. Heavens! Grasped by the mad Nathaniel, Clara was hanging in the air over the gallery – with one hand only she still held one of the iron railings. Quick as lightning, Lothaire caught his sister and drew her in, at the same moment striking the madman in the face with his clenched fist to such effect that he reeled and let go his prey.

Lothaire ran down with his fainting sister in his arms. She was saved. Nathaniel went raging about the gallery, leaping high in the air and crying, ‘Circle of fire’spin round! spin round!’

The people collected at the sound of his wild shrieks and among them, prominent for his gigantic stature, was the advocate Coppelius, who had just come to the town, and was proceeding straight to the market-place. Some wished to climb up and secure the madman, but Coppelius only laughed, saying, ‘Ha, ha – just wait – he will soon come down of his own accord,’ and looked up like the rest Nathaniel suddenly stood still as if petrified.

Then, perceiving Coppelius, he stooped down, and yelled out, ‘Ah, pretty eyes – pretty eyes!’ with which he sprang over the railing.

When Nathaniel lay on the stone pavement with his head shattered, Coppelius had disappeared in the crowd.

Many years afterwards it is said that Clara was seen in a remote spot, sitting hand in hand with a kind-looking man before the door of a country house, while two lively boys played before her. From this it may be inferred that she at last found a quiet domestic happiness suitable to her serene and cheerful nature, a happiness which the morbid Nathaniel would never have given her.

(Translation by John Oxenford)

 

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E T A Hoffmann

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                          Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann – Biography

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (January 24, 1776-June 25, 1822) was originally named Ernst Theodor Wilhem Hoffmann. Around 1813 in honor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he changed his middle name from Wilhelm to Amadeus (although Hoffman would continue to use Wilhelm in official documents.) He wrote under the name E. T. A. Hoffman. He is renowned for his writing, music composition, and painting. Hoffman became a prominent figure in European Romanticism with his supernatural stories in which the dark and disturbing sides of human nature are explored.

The fantastical and lyrical nature of Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann’s literature lent itself to musical interpretation. Richard Wagner adapted selections from Die Serapionsbrüder for the composition of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Die Serapionsbrüder would also serve as the source text for scores by Jacques Offenbach and Paul Hindemith. Perhaps most famously, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky used a Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann story as the basis for The Nutcracker.

On January 24, 1776, Hoffmann was born in Konigsberg, Prussia. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was the youngest of three children. His parents separated when he was young. His mother moved young Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann into the care of her relatives. His mother, her sisters and her brother, Otto Wilhelm Doerffer, were instrumental in raising Hoffmann. Although Hoffmann was fond of his aunts, he would lampoon his uncle.

From 1781 until 1792, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was educated at the Burgschule where he was trained in the classics. Hoffmann also learned drawing and musical counterpoint during this time. His creativity flourished, and Hoffman augmented his education by reading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Schiller, Sterne, and Jonathan Swift. In 1792, Ernst Theodor Amadaues Hoffmann attended lectures given by Immanuel Kant at the University of Konigsberg.

Hoffmann was a talented piano player and gave music lessons. These lessons led to one of the more contentious events in his life. He was infatuated with Dora Hatt, a married student who was ten years Hoffman’s senior. Her family objected to the instructor’s attentions. The family cajoled one of Hoffman’s relatives to get him a provincial posting in Prussian Silesia.

In 1798, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (who was the clerk of Johann Ludwig Doerfler, his uncle) moved with his uncle’s office from Glogau in Prussian Siliensia to Berlin. During Hoffmann’s residence, he continued with his examinations while pursuing his creative vision. He attempted to have his operetta Die Maske produced. Unfortunately by the time a theater responded, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann had left the city.

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann served as a Prussian law officer in the Polish territories from 1800 until 1806. In 1802, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann married Marianna Teckla Michalina Rorer (Trchinska.) Part of his employment responsibilities was to create surnames for the Jewish population. His entire attitude towards his entire work life was negative if his drawings of himself drowning in mud while being surrounded by peasants are indicative. In 1804, Hoffmann was transferred to a post in Warsaw. He became part of the literary community that included Rahel Levin, Friedrich de la Motte-Baron Fouque, and Adelbert von Chamisso. This period helped shaped Hoffman’s later writing.

When Napoleonic forces seized Warsaw, they dismantled the Prussian governmental machinery. Most of Ernst Amadeus Hoffmann’s colleagues fled, but a prolonged illness prevented the young Hoffmann family a real chance of escape. An attempt to leave the occupied zone failed since the French forces refused to issue Hoffmann a passport. Removed from his bureaucratic form of employment Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, his wife and young daughter eventually moved to Berlin. French-occupied Berlin was a difficult environment for Hoffman to eke out a living. He resorted to borrowing money. He often starved, and his daughter would die during this period.

In 1808. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann and his wife moved to Bamberg. Hoffmann was employed as theater manager. However, Hoffman was unable to improve the performances at the theater. Hoffmann was forced out of this job. The newspaper Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung hired Hoffman as a music critic. In writing about music, he garnered acclaim. Ludwig van Beethoven would admire Hoffmann’s criticism on his music.

In 1809, Hoffmann’s Ritter Gluck was a crucial story in his oeuvre. In this tale, Hoffmann presents a man who believes he meets the composer Christophe Willibald Gluck decades after his death. This story marked a moment when Hoffmann’s reputation amongst his contemporaries was secured. The unsettling character and the uncanny beauty of the music described in the piece highlight Hoffmann’s skill at the production of a style that left its mark on Romanticism.

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was hired by the Bamberg Theatre in 1810. He worked in many capacities including decorating, writing and performing the duties of a stagehand. He also resumed giving music lessons, but as before he was infatuated with one of his students. In this occurrence, the students family found a husband for the young lady with the hopes that this would prevent Hoffman from escalating his intentions.

In 1813, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann became the musical director for Joseph Seconda’s opera company, which was at the time in Dresden. Renewed war between Prussian and Napoleonic forces complicated the travels. When the Hoffmanns arrived in Dresden, they discovered that Seconda had already left for Leipzig. Hoffmann again tried to follow, but the bridges out of the city had been destroyed. Hoffmann spent his day observing the carnage of the fighting. In late May, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was finally able to render-vu with the opera company.

The armistice in June allowed the company to return to Dresden, but after the end of the armistice the Hoffmanns had to leave their home. Because of the hostilities, Horrman witnessed many deaths. Hoffmann’s observations on the Battle of Dresden were recored in Vision auf dem Schlachtfeld bei Dresden.

After a period of contention with Seconda, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann returned to his legal profession. The period after Napoleon’s defeat marked a turning point in Hoffmann’s bureaucratic career. Hoffmann was appointed to the court of appeals (1814) and he eventually became a councilor (1816.)

Hoffmann turned more intently to his musical interests. In 1811, he wrote and staged the ballet Arlequin. In 1816, Hoffmann composed Undine. an opera. During 1816, he also wrote Phantasiestücke in Callots Manier. His reputation was bolstered by this publication. To address the aesthetic his aesthetic project, Hoffman wrote “The Perfect Stage Manager.” In the passage below (translated by Francis J. Nock), Hoffmann explains the nature of art is that:

“If perhaps you have not already noticed it yourselves, I will herewith reveal to you that the poets and musicians are in an extremely dangerous league against the audience. For their aim is nothing less than to drive the spectator out of the real world where he is so well off…when they have complelety separated him from everything that he previously knew and liked, to torment him with all possible emotions and passions extremely prejudicial to his health.”

His creative career was also reaching a high mark. Publication sought Hoffmann’s contributions. At times his work in the latter period was spotty, many of Hoffmann’s most significant works also dated from this period. Tribulations, however, were soon to file. Alcoholism and syphilis led to a creeping paralysis which seems to have fully incapacitated him by 1821. His work from 1822 had to be dictated to his wife or an assistant. He was also caught up in a purge of liberal thinkers. He was never officially reprimanded, but his loyalties were questioned and his reputation tarnished. He finally died of the June of 1822.

The writings of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann include Die Elixiere des Teufels, and Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr nebst fragmentarischer Biographie des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreisler, Nachtstücke, Die Serapionsbrüde, and Die Maske.

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Please note also :

https://www.academia.edu/4663791/_Secret_Mechanism_Les_Contes_dHoffmann_and_the_Intermedial_Uncanny_in_the_Metropolitan_Operas_Live_in_HD_Series


Der Magnetiseur

Der Magnetisuer

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E.T.A. Hoffmann

Der Magnetiseur

Eine Familienbegebenheit (Erstdruck 1814)

Träume sind Schäume

„Träume sind Schäume“, sagte der alte Baron, indem er die Hand nach der Klingelschnur ausstreckte, um den alten Kaspar herbeizurufen, der ihm ins Zimmer leuchten sollte; denn es war spät geworden, ein kalter Herbstwind strich durch den übel verwahrten Sommersaal, und Maria, in ihren Shawl fest eingewickelt, schien mit halbgeschlossenen Augen sich des Einschlummerns nicht mehr erwehren zu können. – „Und doch“, fuhr er fort, die Hand wieder zurückziehend, und aus dem Lehnstuhl vorgebeugt beide Arme auf die Kniee stützend – „und doch erinnere ich mich manches merkwürdigen Traumes aus meiner Jugendzeit!“ – „Ach, bester Vater“, fiel Ottmar ein, „welcher Traum ist denn nicht merkwürdig, aber nur die, welche irgend eine auffallende Erscheinung verkündigen – mit Schillers Worten: die Geister, die den großen Geschicken voranschreiten – die uns gleich mit Gewalt in das dunkle geheimnisvolle Reich stoßen, dem sich unser befangener Blick nur mit Mühe erschließt, nur die ergreifen uns mit einer Macht, deren Einwirkung wir nicht ableugnen können.“

„Träume sind Schäume“, wiederholte der Baron mit dumpfer Stimme, „und selbst in diesem Weidspruch der Materialisten, die das Wunderbarste ganz natürlich, das Natürlichste aber oft abgeschmackt und unglaublich finden“, erwiderte Ottmar, „liegt eine treffende Allegorie.“ – „Was wirst du in dem alten verbrauchten Sprichwort wieder Sinniges finden?“ fragte gähnend Maria. – Lachend erwiderte Ottmar mit Prosperos Worten: „Zieh deiner Augen Fransenvorhang auf, und hör mich freundlich an! – Im Ernst, liebe Maria, wärst du weniger schläfrig, so würdest du selbst schon geahnet haben, daß, da von einer über alle Maßen herrlichen Erscheinung im menschlichen Leben, nämlich vom Traume die Rede ist, ich mir bei der Zusammenstellung mit Schaum auch nur den edelsten denken kann, den es gibt. – Und das ist denn doch offenbar der Schaum des gärenden, zischenden, brausenden Champagners, den du abzunippen auch nicht verschmähst, unerachtet du sonst recht jüngferlich und zünferlich allen Rebensaft schnöde verachtest. Sieh die tausend kleinen Bläschen, die perlend im Glase aufsteigen und oben im Schaume sprudeln, das sind die Geister, die sich ungeduldig von der irdischen Fessel loslösen; und so lebt und webt im Schaum das höhere geistige Prinzip, das frei von dem Drange des Materiellen frisch die Fittige regend, in dem fernen uns allen verheißenen himmlischen Reiche sich zu dem verwandten höheren Geistigen freudig gesellt, und alle wundervollen Erscheinungen in ihrer tiefsten Bedeutung wie das Bekannteste aufnimmt und erkennt. Es mag daher auch der Traum von dem Schaum, in welchem unsere Lebensgeister, wenn der Schlaf unser extensives Leben befängt, froh und frei aufsprudeln, erzeugt werden und ein höheres intensives Leben beginnen, in dem wir alle Erscheinungen der uns fernen Geisterwelt nicht nur ahnen, sondern wirklich erkennen, ja in dem wir über Raum und Zeit schweben.“ – „Mich dünkt“, unterbrach ihn der alte Baron, wie sich von einer Erinnerung, in die er versunken, gewaltsam losreißend, „ich höre deinen Freund Alban sprechen. Ihr kennt mich als euern unzubekehrenden Gegner; so ist das alles, was du soeben gesagt, recht schön anzuhören, und gewisse empfindliche oder empfindelnde Seelen mögen sich daran ergötzen, allein schon der Einseitigkeit wegen unwahr. Nach dem, was du da von der Verbindung mit der Geisterwelt, und was weiß ich, schwärmtest, sollte man glauben, der Traum müsse den Menschen in den glückseligsten Zustand versetzen; aber alle die Träume, welche ich deshalb merkwürdig nenne, weil der Zufall ihnen eine gewisse Einwirkung in mein Leben gab – Zufall nenne ich nämlich ein gewisses Zusammentreffen an und für sich selbst fremdartiger Begebenheiten, die nun sich zu einer Totalerscheinung verbinden – alle diese Träume, sage ich, waren unangenehm, ja qualvoll, daß ich oft darüber erkrankte, wiewohl ich mich alles Nachgrübelns darüber enthielt, da es damals noch nicht Mode war, auf alles, was die Natur weise uns fern gerückt hat, Jagd zu machen.“ – „Sie wissen, bester Vater“, erwiderte Ottmar, „wie ich über das alles, was Sie Zufall, Zusammentreffen der Umstände und sonst nennen, mit meinem Freunde Alban denke. – Und was die Mode des Nachgrübelns betrifft, so mag mein guter Vater daran denken, daß diese Mode, als in der Natur des Menschen begründet, uralt ist. Die Lehrlinge zu Sais“ – „Halt“, fuhr der Baron auf, „vertiefen wir uns weiter nicht in ein Gespräch, das ich heute um so mehr zu meiden Ursache habe, als ich mich gar nicht aufgelegt fühle, es mit deinem überbrausenden Enthusiasmus für das Wunderbare aufzunehmen. Nicht leugnen kann ich, daß mich gerade heute am neunten September eine Erinnerung aus meinen Jugendjahren befängt, die ich nicht los werden kann, und sollte ich euch das Abenteuer erzählen, so würde Ottmar den Beweis darin finden, wie ein Traum, oder ein träumerischer Zustand, der sich auf eine ganz eigene Weise an die Wirklichkeit knüpfte, von dem feindlichsten Einfluß auf mich war.“ – „Vielleicht, bester Vater“, sagte Ottmar, „geben Sie mir und meinem Alban einen herrlichen Beitrag zu den vielfachen Erfahrungen, die die jetzt aufgestellte Theorie des magnetischen Einflusses, die von der Untersuchung des Schlafs und des Träumens ausgeht, bestätigen.“ – „Schon das Wort, magnetisch, macht mich erbeben“, zürnte der Baron; „aber jeder nach seiner Weise, und wohl euch, wenn die Natur es leidet, daß ihr mit täppischen Händen an ihrem Schleier zupft, und eure Neugierde nicht mit euerm Untergange bestraft.“ – „Lassen Sie uns, bester Vater!“ erwiderte Ottmar, „nicht über Dinge streiten, die aus der innersten Überzeugung hervorgehen; aber die Erinnerung aus Ihrer Jugendzeit, darf sich denn die nicht in Worten aussprechen?“ – Der Baron setzte sich tief in den Lehnstuhl zurück, und indem er, wie er zu tun pflegte, wenn sein Innerstes angeregt wurde, den seelenvollen Blick in die Höhe richtete, fing er an:

„Ihr wißt, daß ich meine militärische Bildung auf der Ritterakademie in B. erhielt. Unter den dort angestellten Lehrern befand sich nun ein Mann, der mir ewig unvergeßlich bleiben wird; ja ich kann noch jetzt an ihn nicht denken ohne innern Schauer, ohne Entsetzen, möcht ich sagen. Es ist mir oft, als würde er gespenstisch durch die Tür hineinschreiten. – Seine Riesengröße wurde noch auffallender durch die Hagerkeit seines Körpers, der nur aus Muskeln und Nerven zu bestehen schien; er mochte in jüngern Jahren ein schöner Mann gewesen sein, denn noch jetzt warfen seine großen schwarzen Augen einen brennenden Blick, den man kaum ertragen konnte; ein tiefer Fünfziger hatte er die Kraft und die Gewandtheit eines Jünglings; alle seine Bewegungen waren rasch und entschieden. Im Fechten auf Stoß und Hieb war er dem Geschicktesten überlegen, und das wildeste Pferd drückte er zusammen, daß es unter ihm ächzte. Er war ehemals Major in dänischen Diensten gewesen, und hatte, wie man sagte, deshalb flüchten müssen, weil er seinen General im Duell erstochen. Manche behaupteten, dies sei nicht im Duell geschehen, sondern auf ein beleidigendes Wort vom General habe er, ehe dieser sich zur Wehr setzen konnte, ihm den Degen durch den Leib gerannt. Genug, er war aus Dänemark herübergeflüchtet, und mit dem Majors-Range bei der Ritterakademie zum höhern Unterricht in der Fortifikation angestellt. Im höchsten Grade jähzornig, konnte ihn ein Wort, ein Blick in Wut setzen, er bestrafte die Zöglinge mit ausgedachter Grausamkeit, und doch hing alles an ihm auf eine ganz unbegreifliche Weise. So hatte einmal die gegen alle Regel und Ordnung harte Behandlung eines Zöglings die Aufmerksamkeit der Obern erregt, und es wurde eine Untersuchung verfügt; aber gerade dieser Zögling klagte sich nur selbst an, und sprach so eifrig für den Major, daß er aller Schuld entbunden werden mußte. Bisweilen hatte er Tage, in denen er sich selbst nicht ähnlich war. Der sonst harte polternde Ton seiner tiefen Stimme hatte dann etwas unbeschreiblich Sonores, und von seinem Blick konnte man sich nicht losreißen. Gutmütig und weich übersah er jede kleine Ungeschicklichkeit, und wenn er diesem oder jenem, dem etwas besonders gelungen, die Hand drückte, so war es, als habe er ihn, wie durch eine unwiderstehliche Zauberkraft zu seinem Leibeignen gemacht, denn den augenblicklichen schmerzvollsten Tod hätte er gebieten können, und sein Wort wäre erfüllt worden. Auf solche Tage folgte aber gewöhnlich ein schrecklicher Sturm, vor dem jeder sich verbergen oder flüchten mußte. Dann zog er in aller Frühe seine rote dänische Staatsuniform an und lief mit Riesenschritten, gleichviel, war es Sommer oder Winter, in dem großen Garten, der sich an das Palais der Ritterakademie anschloß, rastlos den ganzen Tag umher. Man hörte ihn mit schrecklicher Stimme und mit den heftigsten Gestikulationen dänisch sprechen – er zog den Degen – er schien es mit einem fürchterlichen Gegner zu tun zu haben – er empfing – er parierte Stöße – endlich war durch einen wohlberechneten Stoß der Gegner gefallen, und unter den gräßlichsten Flüchen und Verwünschungen schien er den Leichnam mit den Füßen zu zermalmen. Nun flüchtete er mit unglaublicher Schnelle durch die Alleen, er erkletterte die höchsten Bäume und lachte dann höhnisch herab, daß uns, die wir es bis in das Zimmer hören konnten, das Blut in den Adern erstarrte. Gewöhnlich tobte er auf diese Art vierundzwanzig Stunden, und man bemerkte, daß er in der Tag- und Nachtgleiche jedesmal von diesem Paroxismus befallen wurde. Den Tag darauf schien er von allem, was er unternommen, auch nicht das mindeste zu ahnen, nur war er störrischer, jähzorniger, härter als je, bis er wieder in jene gutmütige Stimmung geriet. Ich weiß nicht woher die wunderlichen, abenteuerlichen Gerüchte kamen, die von ihm unter den Dienstboten der Akademie und sogar in der Stadt unter dem gemeinen Volke verbreitet wurden. So hieß es von ihm, er könne das Feuer besprechen, und Krankheiten durch das Auflegen der Hände, ja durch den bloßen Blick heilen, und ich erinnere mich, daß er einmal Leute, die durchaus von ihm auf diese Art geheilt sein wollten, mit Stockschlägen verjagte. Ein alter Invalide, der zu meiner Aufwartung bestimmt war, äußerte ganz unverhohlen, daß man wohl wisse, wie es mit dem Herrn Major nicht natürlich zugehe, und daß vor vielen Jahren einmal im Sturm auf der See der böse Feind zu ihm getreten, und ihm Rettung aus der Todesnot, sowie übermenschliche Kraft, allerlei Wunderbares zu wirken, verheißen, welches er denn angenommen und sich dem Bösen ergeben habe; nun habe er oft harte Kämpfe mit dem Bösen zu bestehen, den man bald als schwarzer Hund, bald als ein anderes häßliches Tier im Garten umherlaufen sehe, aber über kurz oder lang werde der Major doch gewiß auf eine schreckliche Weise unterliegen müssen. So albern und abgeschmackt mir diese Erzählungen vorkamen, so konnte ich mich doch eines gewissen innern Schauers nicht erwehren, und unerachtet ich die ganz besondere Zuneigung, die der Major mir allein vor allen andern bewies, mit getreuer Anhänglichkeit erwiderte, so mischte sich doch in mein Gefühl für den sonderbaren Mann ein unbegreifliches Etwas, das mich unaufhörlich verfolgte, und das ich mir selbst nicht erklären konnte. Es war, als würde ich von einem höhern Wesen gezwungen, treu an dem Mann zu halten, als würde der Augenblick des Aufhörens meiner Liebe auch der Augenblick des Unterganges sein. Erfüllte mich nun mein Beisammensein mit ihm auch mit einem gewissen Wohlbehagen, so war es doch wieder eine gewisse Angst, das Gefühl eines unwiderstehlichen Zwanges, das mich auf eine unnatürliche Art spannte, ja das mich innerlich erbeben machte. War ich lange bei ihm gewesen, ja hatte er mich besonders freundlich behandelt und mir, wie er dann zu tun pflegte, mit starr auf mich geheftetem Blick meine Hand in der seinigen festhaltend, allerlei Seltsames erzählt, so konnte mich jene ganz eigne wunderbare Stimmung bis zur höchsten Erschöpfung treiben. Ich fühlte mich krank und matt zum Umsinken. – Ich übergehe alle die sonderbaren Auftritte, die ich mit meinem Freunde und Gebieter hatte, wenn er sogar an meinen kindischen Spielen teilnahm, und fleißig an der unüberwindlichen Festung mit bauen half, die ich in dem Garten nach den strengsten Regeln der Befestigungskunst anlegte – ich komme zur Hauptsache. – Es war, wie ich mich genau erinnere, in der Nacht vom achten auf den neunten September im Jahr 17- als ich lebhaft, als geschähe es wirklich, träumte, der Major öffne leise meine Tür, käme langsam an mein Bett geschritten und lege, mich mit seinen hohlen schwarzen Augen auf furchtbare Weise anstarrend, die rechte Hand auf meine Stirn über die Augen, und doch könne ich ihn vor mir stehen sehn. – Ich ächzte vor Beklemmung und Entsetzen – da sprach er mit dumpfer Stimme: ‚Armes Menschenkind, erkenne deinen Meister und Herrn! – Was krümmst und windest du dich in deiner Knechtschaft, die du vergebens abzuschütteln strebst? – Ich bin dein Gott, der dein Innerstes durchschaut, und alles was du darin jemals verborgen hast oder verbergen willst, liegt hell und klar vor mir. Damit du aber nicht wagst, an meiner Macht über dich, du Erdenwurm, zu zweifeln, will ich auf eine dir selbst sichtbarliche Weise in die geheimste Werkstatt deiner Gedanken eindringen.‘ – Plötzlich sah ich ein spitzes glühendes Instrument in seiner Hand, mit dem er in mein Gehirn fuhr. Über den fürchterlichen Schrei des Entsetzens, den ich ausstieß, erwachte ich in Angstschweiß gebadet – ich war der Ohnmacht nahe. Endlich erholte ich mich, aber eine dumpfe schwüle Luft erfüllte das Zimmer, es war mir, als höre ich die Stimme des Majors, der, wie aus weiter Ferne, mich mehrmals bei dem Vornamen rief. Ich hielt dies für die Nachwirkung des gräßlichen Traums; ich sprang aus dem Bette, ich öffnete die Fenster, um die freie Luft hineinströmen zu lassen in das schwüle Zimmer. Aber welch ein Schreck ergriff mich, als ich in der mondhellen Nacht den Major in seiner Staatsuniform, ganz so wie er mir im Traum erschienen, durch die Hauptallee nach dem Gattertor, das aufs freie Feld führte, schreiten sah; er riß es auf, ging hindurch, warf die Flügel hinter sich zu, daß Riegel und Angel klirrend und rasselnd zusammensprangen und das Getöse weit in der stillen Nacht widerhallte. – Was war das, was will der Major in der Nacht draußen im Felde? dachte ich, und es überfiel mich eine unbeschreibliche Angst und Unruhe. Wie von unwiderstehlicher Gewalt getrieben, zog ich mich schnell an, weckte den guten Inspektor, einen frommen Greis von siebzig Jahren, den einzigen, den der Major selbst in seinem ärgsten Paroxismus scheute und schonte, und erzählte ihm meinen Traum sowie den Vorgang nachher. Der Alte wurde sehr aufmerksam und sagte: ‚Auch ich habe das Gattertor stark zuwerfen gehört, es aber für Täuschung gehalten‘; auf jeden Fall möge wohl etwas Besonderes mit dem Major vorgegangen und deshalb es gut sein, in seinem Zimmer nachzusehen. Die Hausglocke weckte Zöglinge und Lehrer, und wir gingen mit Lichtern wie in feierlicher Prozession, durch den langen Gang nach den Zimmern des Majors. Die Tür war verschlossen, und vergebliche Versuche, sie mit dem Hauptschlüssel zu öffnen, überzeugten uns, daß von innen der Riegel vorgeschoben war. Auch die Haupttür, durch die der Major hätte gehen müssen, um in den Garten zu kommen, war verschlossen und verriegelt, wie den Abend zuvor. Man erbrach endlich, als alles Rufen ohne Antwort blieb, die Tür des Schlafzimmers und – mit starrem gräßlichen Blick, blutigen Schaum vor dem Munde, lag der Major in seiner roten dänischen Staatsuniform, den Degen mit zusammengekrampfter Hand festhaltend, tot auf der Erde! – Alle Versuche, ihn wieder in das Leben zu bringen, blieben fruchtlos.“ – Der Baron schwieg – Ottmar war im Begriff etwas zu sagen, doch unterließ er es und schien, die Hand an die Stirn gelegt, alles, was er vielleicht über die Erzählung äußern wollte, erst im Innern zu regeln und zu ordnen. Maria unterbrach das Stillschweigen, indem sie rief: „Ach, bester Vater! – welche schauerliche Begebenheit, ich sehe den fürchterlichen Major in seiner dänischen Uniform vor mir stehen, den Blick starr auf mich gerichtet; um meinen Schlaf in dieser Nacht ist es geschehen.“ – Der Maler Franz Bickert, nun schon seit fünfzehn Jahren im Hause des Barons als wahrer Hausfreund, hatte, wie er manchmal pflegte, bisher an dem Gespräch gar keinen Anteil genommen, sondern war mit über den Rücken zusammengeflochtenen Armen, allerlei skurrile Gesichter schneidend und wohl gar bisweilen einen possierlichen Sprung versuchend, auf und ab geschritten. Nun brach er los: „Die Baronesse hat ganz recht – wozu schauerliche Erzählungen, wozu abenteuerliche Begebenheiten gerade vor dem Schlafengehen? Das ist wenigstens ganz gegen meine Theorie vom Schlafen und Träumen, die sich auf die Kleinigkeit von ein paar Millionen Erfahrungen stützt. – Wenn der Herr Baron nur lauter Unglücksträume hatte, so war es bloß, weil er meine Theorie nicht kannte, und also danach nicht verfahren konnte. Wenn Ottmar von magnetischen Einflüssen – Planetenwirkung und was weiß ich, spricht, so mag er nicht unrecht haben, aber meine Theorie schmiedet den Panzer, den kein Mondstrahl durchdringt.“ – „Nun so bin ich denn wirklich auf deine vortreffliche Theorie begierig“, sagte Ottmar. „Laß den Franz nur reden“, fiel der Baron ein, „er wird uns bald von allem, was und wie er will, überzeugen.“ Der Maler setzte sich Marien gegenüber, und indem er mit komischem Anstande und mit einem höchst skurrilen süßlichen Lächeln eine Prise nahm, fing er an:

„Geehrte Versammlung! Träume sind Schäume, das ist ein altes körnichtes, recht ehrlich deutsches Sprichwort, aber Ottmar hat es so fein gewendet, so subtilisiert, daß ich, indem er sprach, in meinem Haupte ordentlich die Bläschen fühlte, die aus dem Irdischen entwickelt aufstiegen, um sich mit dem höheren geistigen Prinzip zu vermählen. Aber ist es denn nicht wieder unser Geist, der den Hefen bereitet, aus dem jene subtileren Teile, die auch nur das Erzeugnis eines und desselben Prinzips sind, emporsteigen ? – Findet unser Geist in sich selbst allein alle Elemente, alles Zubehör, woraus er, um in dem Gleichnis zu bleiben, jenen Hefen bereitet, oder kommt ihm außerhalb ihm Liegendes dabei zu Hülfe ? frage ich ferner, und antworte schnell: Die ganze Natur mit allen ihren Erscheinungen steht ihm nicht sowohl bei, als sie selbst in Raum und Zeit die Werkstatt darbietet, in welcher er, sich ein freier Meister wähnend, nur als Arbeiter für ihre Zwecke schafft und wirkt. Wir stehen mit allen Außendingen, mit der ganzen Natur in solch enger psychischer und physischer Verbindung, daß das Loslösen davon, sollte es möglich sein, auch unsere Existenz vernichten würde. Unser sogenanntes intensives Leben wird von dem extensiven bedingt, es ist nur ein Reflex von diesem, in dem aber die Figuren und Bilder, wie in einem Hohlspiegel aufgefangen, sich oft in veränderten Verhältnissen und daher wunderlich und fremdartig darstellen, unerachtet auch wieder diese Karikaturen im Leben ihre Originale finden. Ich behaupte keck, daß niemals ein Mensch im Innern etwas gedacht oder geträumt hat, wozu sich nicht die Elemente in der Natur finden ließen; aus ihr heraus kann er nun einmal nicht. – Abgesehen von äußern unabwendbaren Eindrücken, die unser Gemüt aufregen und in eine unnatürliche Spannung versetzen, z. B. plötzlicher Schreck – großes Herzeleid u.s.w., so meine ich, daß unser Geist, hält er sich bescheiden in den ihm angewiesenen Schranken, aus den angenehmsten Erscheinungen des Lebens bequem den Hefen bereiten kann, aus dem dann die Bläschen aufsteigen, die nach Ottmars Ausspruch den Schaum des Traums bilden. Ich, meinesteils, dessen gute Laune vorzüglich abends unverwüstlich ist, wie man mir einräumen wird, präpariere förmlich die Träume der Nacht, indem ich mir tausend närrische Dinge durch den Kopf laufen lasse, die mir dann nachts meine Fantasie in den lebendigsten Farben auf eine höchst ergötzliche Weise darstellt; am liebsten sind mir aber meine theatralischen Darstellungen.“ – „Was meinst du damit?“ fragte der Baron. – „Wir sind“, fuhr Bickert fort, „im Traum, wie schon ein geistreicher Schriftsteller bemerkt hat, die herrlichsten Schauspieldichter und Schauspieler, indem wir jeden außer uns liegenden Charakter mit allen seinen individuellsten Zügen richtig auffassen und mit der vollendetsten Wahrheit darstellen. Darauf baue ich denn, und denke so manchmal an die vielfachen komischen Abenteuer auf meinen Reisen, an manche komische Charaktere, mit denen ich lebte, und da gibt mir denn nachts meine Fantasie, indem sie diese Personen mit allen ihren närrischen Zügen und Albernheiten auftreten läßt, das ergötzlichste Schauspiel von der Welt. Es ist, als habe ich mir abends vorher nur den Cannevas, die Skizze des Stücks gegeben, und im Traum würde dann alles mit Feuer und Leben nach des Dichters Willen improvisiert. Ich trage die ganze Sacchische Truppe in mir, die das Gozzische Märchen mit allen aus dem Leben gegriffenen Nuancen so lebendig darstellt, daß das Publikum, welches ich auch wieder selbst repräsentiere, daran als an etwas Wahrhaftiges glaubt. – Wie gesagt, von diesen gleichsam willkürlich erregten Träumen rechne ich jeden ab, den eine besondere durch äußere Zufälle herbeigeführte Gemütsstimmung, oder ein äußerer physischer Eindruck erzeugt. So werden alle diejenigen Träume, welche beinahe jeden bisweilen quälen, als da sind: vom Turm fallen, enthauptet werden u.s.w. von irgend einem physischen Schmerz erzeugt, den der Geist, im Schlaf von dem animalischen Leben mehr getrennt und für sich allein arbeitend, nach seiner Weise deutet und ihm die fantastische Ursache gibt, die gerade in die Reihe seiner Vorstellungen paßt. Ich erinnere mich, im Traum in einer lustigen Punschgesellschaft gewesen zu sein; ein mir wohlbekannter Bramarbas von Offizier zog unaufhörlich einen Studenten auf, bis dieser ihm ein Glas ins Gesicht warf; nun entstand eine allgemeine Schlägerei, und ich, der ich Frieden stiften wollte, wurde hart an der Hand verwundet, so, daß der brennende Schmerz mich weckte – und siehe da! – meine Hand blutete wirklich, denn an einer starken in der Bettdecke verborgenen Nadel hatte ich sie aufgerissen.“ – „Ei, Franz!“ rief der Baron, „das war kein angenehmer Traum, den du dir bereitet.“ – „Ach, ach!“ sagte der Maler mit kläglicher Stimme, „wer kann dafür, was uns oft das Schicksal als Strafe auferlegt. Auch ich habe freilich schreckliche, qualvolle, entsetzliche Träume gehabt, die mir Angstschweiß auspreßten, die mich außer mich selbst setzten.“ – „Heraus damit“, rief Ottmar, „und sollte es deine Theorie über den Haufen werfen.“ – „Aber um des Himmels willen“, klagte Maria, „wollt ihr denn meiner gar nicht schonen?“ – „Nein“, rief Franz, „nun keine Schonung mehr! – Auch ich habe das Entsetzliche geträumt, so gut wie einer. – War ich nicht bei der Prinzessin von Amaldasongi zum Tee eingeladen? hatte ich nicht den herrlichsten Tressenrock an mit gestickter Weste? sprach ich nicht das reinste Italienisch – lingua toscana in bocca romana ? – war ich nicht verliebt in die herrliche Frau, wie es einem Künstler wohl ansteht? sagte ich ihr nicht die erhabensten, göttlichsten, poetischsten Dinge, als ein zufällig abwärts gerichteter Blick mich zu meinem Entsetzen wahrnehmen ließ, daß ich mich zwar auf das sorgfältigste hofmäßig eingekleidet, aber das Beinkleid vergessen hatte?“ – Noch ehe jemand über die Unart zürnen konnte, fuhr Bickert in Begeisterung fort: „Gott! was soll ich noch von manchen Höllenqualen meiner Träume sagen! War ich nicht wieder in mein zwanzigstes Jahr zurückgegangen, und wollte auf dem Ball mit den gnädigen Fräuleins sehr tanzen? hatte ich nicht mein letztes Geld daran gewandt, einem alten Rock durch schickliches Umkehren einige Neuheit geben zu lassen, und ein Paar weißseidene Strümpfe zu kaufen? – und als ich endlich glücklich vor der Tür des von tausend Lichtern und schön geputzten Menschen schimmernden Saals angekommen und mein Billet abgegeben, öffnete da nicht ein teuflischer Hund von Portier ein kleines Ofenloch, und sagte zum Erdrosseln höflich: ich möge doch nur gefälligst hineinspazieren, denn da müßte man durch, um in den Saal zu kommen? Aber alles dieses sind Kleinigkeiten gegen den gräßlichen Traum, der mich gestern nacht geängstiget und gefoltert hat. Ach! – ich war ein Bogen Kavalierpapier, ich saß recht in der Mitte als Wasserzeichen, und jemand – es war ja eigentlich ein weltbekannter Satan von Dichter, aber mag’s bei jemand bleiben – dieser Jemand hatte also eine unmenschlich lange, übel-zweispaltig-zahnichtgeschnittene Truthahnsfeder und kratzte auf mir Armen herum, indem er diabolische holperichte Verse niederschrieb. Hat nicht ein anderer anatomischer Satan mich einmal zu seiner Lust, wie eine Gliederpuppe, auseinandergenommen, und nun allerlei teuflische Versuche angestellt? – Z. B. wie es wohl aussehen würde, wenn mir aus dem Nacken ein Fuß wüchse, oder der rechte Arm sich zum linken Bein gesellte?“ – Der Baron und Ottmar unterbrachen den Maler durch ein schallendes Gelächter, die ernste Stimmung war verschwunden, und der Baron fing an: „Sag ich es denn nicht, daß in unserm kleinen Familienzirkel der alte Franz der wahrhafte Maître de Plaisir ist ? – Wie pathetisch fing er nicht seine Diskussion über unser Thema an, und um so herrlicher war die Wirkung des humoristischen Scherzes, den er zuletzt ganz unerwartet losbrannte, und der wie mit einer gewaltsamen Explosion unsern feierlichen Ernst zerstörte; mit einem Ruck waren wir aus der Geisterwelt heraus in das wirkliche, lebendige, frohe Leben.“ – „Glaubt ja nicht“, erwiderte Bickert, „daß ich als euer Pagliasso Spaß gemacht habe, um euch aufzuheitern. Nein! jene abscheuligen Träume haben mich wirklich gequält, und es mag sein, daß ich sie mir unbewußt auch selbst bereitet habe.“ – „Unser Franz“, fiel Ottmar ein, „hat rücksichts seiner Theorie des Entstehens der Träume manche Erfahrung für sich, indessen war sein Vortrag, was den Zusammenhang und die Folgerungen aus hypothetischen Prinzipien betrifft, eben nicht zu rühmen. Überdem gibt es eine höhere Art des Träumens, und nur diese hat der Mensch in dem gewissen beseelenden und beseligenden Schlafe, der ihm vergönnt, die Strahlen des Weltgeistes, dem er sich näher geschwungen, in sich zu ziehen, die ihn mit göttlicher Kraft nähren und stärken.“ – „Gebt acht“, sagte der Baron, „Ottmar wird gleich wieder auf seinem Steckenpferde sitzen, um einen Ritt in das unbekannte Reich zu machen, welches wir Ungläubigen, wie er behauptet, nur von ferne, wie Moses das gelobte Land, erblicken können. Aber wir wollen es ihm schwer machen, uns zu verlassen – es ist eine recht unfreundliche Herbstnacht, wie wäre es, wenn wir noch ein Stündchen zusammenblieben, wenn wir Feuer in den Kamin legen ließen, und Maria uns nach ihrer Art einen köstlichen Punsch bereitete, den wir vorderhand wenigstens als den Geist annehmen könnten, der unsere muntere Laune nährte und stärkte.“ – Bickert schaute wie mit verklärtem Blick zum Himmel hinauf, stark seufzend, und neigte sich dann schnell in demütig bittender Stellung zu Marien herab. Maria, die so lange ziemlich stumm und in sich gekehrt dagesessen, lachte, wie sie selten zu tun pflegte, recht herzlich über des alten Malers possierliche Stellung, und stand dann schnell auf, um alles nach des Barons Wünschen sorglich zu veranstalten. Bickert trippelte geschäftig hin und her, er half Kasparn das Holz herbeitragen, und indem er, auf einem Knie ruhend, in seitwärts gedrehter Stellung die Flamme anblies, rief er Ottmarn unaufhörlich zu, sich doch als sein gelehriger Schüler zu zeigen, und schnell ihn als gute Studie zu zeichnen, mit genauer Beachtung des Feuereffekts und der schönen Reflexe, in denen jetzt sein Gesicht erglühe. Der alte Baron wurde immer heiterer, und ließ sich sogar, welches nur in den gemütlichsten Stunden geschah, sein langes türkisches Rohr, dem ein seltener Bernstein zum Mundstück diente, reichen. – Als nun der feine flüchtige Duft des türkischen Tabaks durch den Saal zog, und Maria auf den Zucker, den sie selbst in Stücke zerschlagen, den Zitronensaft in den silbernen Punschnapf tröpfelte, war es allen, als ginge ihnen ein freundlicher heimatlicher Geist auf, und das innere Wohlbehagen, das er erzeuge, müsse den Genuß des Augenblicks so anregen und beleben, daß alles Vorher und Nachher farblos und unbeachtet bliebe. – „Wie ist es doch so eigen“, fing der Baron an, „daß Marien die Bereitung des Punsches immer so wohl gerät, ich mag ihn kaum anders genießen. Ganz vergebens ist ihr genauester Unterricht über das Verhältnis der Bestandteile, und was weiß ich sonst. – So hatte einmal in meiner Gegenwart ganz nach Mariens Weise unsere launische Katinka den Punsch bereitet, aber ich habe kein Glas herunterbringen können; es ist, als ob Maria noch eine Zauberformel über den Trank spräche, die ihm eine besondere magische Kraft gäbe.“ – „Ist es denn anders?“ rief Bickert, „es ist der Zauber der Zierlichkeit, der Anmut, mit dem Maria alles, was sie tut, belebt; schon das Bereitensehen des Punsches macht ihn herrlich und schmackhaft.“ – „Sehr galant“, fiel Ottmar ein, „aber mit deiner Erlaubnis, liebe Schwester! nicht ganz wahr. Ich stimme darin dem guten Vater bei, daß alles, was du bereitest, was durch deine Hände gegangen, auch mir bei dem Genuß, bei der Berührung ein inneres Wohlbehagen erregt. Den Zauber, der dies bewirkt, suche ich aber in tieferen geistigen Beziehungen, und nicht in deiner Schönheit und Anmut, wie Bickert, der natürlicherweise alles nur darauf bezieht, weil er dir den Hof gemacht hat schon seit deinem achten Jahr.“ – „Was ihr nur noch heute aus mir machen werdet“, rief Maria mit heiterm Ton; „kaum habe ich die nächtlichen Fantasien und Erscheinungen überstanden, so findest du in mir selbst etwas Geheimnisvolles, und wenn ich auch weder an den fürchterlichen Major, noch sonst an irgend einen Doppeltgänger mehr denke, so laufe ich doch Gefahr, mir selbst gespenstisch zu werden und vor meinem eigenen Bilde im Spiegel zu erschrecken.“ – „Das wäre denn doch arg“, sagte der Baron lachend, „wenn ein sechszehnjähriges Mädchen nicht mehr in den Spiegel sehen dürfte, ohne Gefahr ihr eigenes Bild für eine gespenstische Erscheinung zu halten. Aber wie kommt es, daß wir heute von dem fantastischen Zeuge nicht loskommen können?“ – „Und daß“, erwiderte Ottmar, „Sie selbst, guter Vater, mir unwillkürlich jeden Augenblick Gelegenheit geben, mich über alle jene Dinge auszusprechen, die Sie als unnütze, ja sündliche Geheimniskrämerei geradehin verwerfen, und deshalb meinen guten Alban – gestehen Sie es nur – nicht recht leiden mögen. Den Forschungstrieb, den Drang zum Wissen, den die Natur selbst in uns legte, kann sie nicht strafen, und es scheint vielmehr, als ob, je nachdem er in uns tätig wirkt, wir desto fähiger würden, auf einer Stufenleiter, die sie uns selbst hingestellt hat, zum Höheren emporzuklimmen.“ – „Und wenn wir uns recht hoch glauben“, fiel Bickert ein, „schändlich hinunterzupurzeln, und an dem Schwindel, der uns ergriff, zu bemerken, daß die subtile Luft in der obern Region für unsere schweren Köpfe nicht taugt.“ – „Ich weiß nicht“, antwortete Ottmar, „was ich aus dir, Franz! seit einiger Zeit, ja ich möchte sagen, seitdem Alban im Hause ist, machen soll. Sonst hingst du mit ganzer Seele, mit dem ganzen Gemüte am Wunderbaren, du sannst über die farbigen Flecken, über die sonderbaren Figuren auf Schmetterlingsflügeln, auf Blumen, auf Steinen nach, du“ – „Halt!“ rief der Baron, „nicht lange dauert’s, so sind wir in unser altes Kapitel geraten. Alles das, was du mit deinem mystischen Alban aus allen Winkeln, ja ich möchte sagen, gleichsam aus einer fantastischen Rumpelkammer zusammensuchst, um daraus ein künstliches Gebäude, dem jedes feste Fundament fehlt, aufzuführen, rechne ich zu den Träumen, die nach meinem Grundsatz Schäume sind und bleiben. Der Schaum, den das Getränk aufwirft, ist unhaltbar, geschmacklos, kurz, ebensowenig das höhere Resultat der innern Arbeit, als die Späne, welche dem Drechsler wegfliegen, die, hat der Zufall ihnen auch eine gewisse Form gegeben, man doch wohl nie für das Höhere halten wird, welches der Künstler bei seiner Arbeit bezweckte. Übrigens ist mir Bickerts Theorie so einleuchtend, daß ich mich ihrer praktisch zu bedienen suchen werde.“ – „Da wir doch nun einmal von den Träumen nicht loskommen“, sagte Ottmar, „so sei es mir erlaubt, eine Begebenheit zu erzählen, die mir neulich Alban mitteilte, und die uns alle in der gemütlichen Stimmung erhalten wird, in der wir uns jetzt befinden.“ – „Nur unter der Bedingung“, erwiderte der Baron, „magst du erzählen: daß du von dem letztern überzeugt bist, und daß Bickert frei seine Anmerkungen dreinwerfen darf.“ – „Sie sprechen mir aus der Seele, lieber Vater!“ sagte Maria, „denn Albans Erzählungen sind gemeinhin, wenn auch nicht schrecklich und schauderhaft, doch auf eine solche seltsame Weise spannend, daß der Eindruck zwar in gewisser Art wohltätig ist, aber man sich doch erschöpft fühlt.“ – „Meine gute Maria wird mit mir zufrieden sein“, erwiderte Ottmar, „und Bickerts Anmerkungen darf ich mir deshalb verbitten, weil er in meiner Erzählung eine Bestätigung seiner Theorie des Träumens zu finden glauben wird. Mein guter Vater soll sich aber überzeugen, wie unrecht er meinem guten Alban und der Kunst tut, welche auszuüben ihm Gott die Macht verliehen.“ – „Ich werde“, sagte Bickert, „jede Anmerkung, die schon auf die Zunge gekommen, mit Punsch herabspülen, aber Gesichter schneiden muß ich frei können, soviel ich will, das lasse ich mir nicht nehmen.“ – „Das sei dir vergönnt“, rief der Baron, und Ottmar fing nun ohne weitere Vorrede zu erzählen an:

„Meinem Alban wurde auf der Universität in J. ein Jüngling bekannt, dessen vorteilhaftes Äußere bei dem ersten Blick jeden einnahm, und der daher überall mit Zutrauen und Wohlwollen empfangen wurde. Das gleiche Studium der Arzneikunde, und der Umstand, daß beide im regen Eifer für ihre Wissenschaft in einem Frühkollegium immer die ersten der sich Versammelnden waren und sich zu einander gesellten, führte bald ein näheres Verhältnis herbei, das endlich, da Theobald (so nannte Alban seinen Freund) mit ganzer Seele, mit dem treuesten Gemüt sich hingab, in die engste Freundschaft überging. Theobald entwickelte immer mehr einen überaus zarten, beinahe weiblich weichlichen Charakter und eine idyllische Schwärmerei, welche in der jetzigen Zeit, die wie ein geharnischter Riese, nicht dessen achtend, was die donnernden Tritte zermalmen, vorüberschreitet, sich so kleinlich, so süßlich ausnahm, daß die mehrsten ihn darob verlachten. Nur Alban, seines Freundes zartes Gemüt schonend, verschmähte es nicht, ihm in seine kleinen fantastischen Blumengärten zu folgen, wiewohl er nicht unterließ, ihn dann auch oft wieder in die rauhen Stürme des wirklichen Lebens zurückzuführen, und so jeden Funken von Kraft und Mut, der vielleicht im Innern glimmte, zur Flamme zu entzünden. Alban glaubte um so mehr dies seinem Freunde schuldig zu sein, als er die Universitätsjahre für die einzige Zeit halten mußte, die dem Manne in jetziger Zeit so nötige Kraft, tapfern Widerstand zu leisten, da wo unvermutet, wie ein Blitz aus heitrer Luft, das Unglück einschlägt, in Theobald zu wecken und zu stärken. Theobalds Lebensplan war nämlich ganz nach seiner einfachen, nur die nächste Umgebung beachtenden Sinnesart zugeschnitten. Nach vollendeten Studien und erlangter Doktorwürde, wollte er in seine Vaterstadt zurückkehren, dort die Tochter seines Vormundes, (er war elternlos), mit der er aufgewachsen, heiraten, und, im Besitz eines beträchtlichen Vermögens, ohne Praxis zu suchen, nur sich selbst und der Wissenschaft leben. Der wieder erweckte tierische Magnetismus sprach seine ganze Seele an, und indem er unter Albans Leitung eifrig alles, was je darüber geschrieben, studierte, und selbst auf Erfahrungen ausging, wandte er sich bald, jedes physische Medium, als der tiefen Idee rein psychisch wirkender Naturkräfte zuwider, verwerfend, zu dem sogenannten Barbareiischen Magnetismus, oder der älteren Schule der Spiritualisten.“ – Sowie Ottmar das Wort: Magnetismus, aussprach, zuckte es auf Bickerts Gesicht, erst leise, dann aber crescendo durch alle Muskeln, so daß zuletzt wie ein Fortissimo solch eine über alle Maßen tolle Fratze dem Baron ins Gesicht guckte, daß dieser im Begriff war, hell aufzulachen, als Bickert aufsprang und anfangen wollte zu dozieren; in dem Augenblick reichte ihm Ottmar ein Glas Punsch, das er in voller Bosheit hineinschluckte, während Ottmar in seiner Erzählung fortfuhr: „Alban war früher, und zwar als noch ganz in der Stille sich nur hie und da die Lehre von dem tierischen Magnetismus fortpflanzte, dem Mesmerismus mit Leib und Seele ergeben, und verteidigte selbst die Herbeiführung der gewaltsamen Krisen, welche Theobald mit Abscheu erfüllten. Indem nun beide Freunde ihre verschiedenen Meinungen in dieser Materie zum Gegenstande mannigfacher Diskussionen machten, kam es, daß Alban, der manche von Theobald gemachte Erfahrung nicht leugnen konnte, und den Theobalds liebliche Schwärmerei von dem rein psychischen Einflusse unwillkürlich hinriß, sich auch mehr zum psychischen Magnetismus hinneigte, und zuletzt der neueren Schule, die wie die Puysegursche beide Arten verbindet, ganz anhing, ohne daß der sonst so leicht fremde Überzeugungen auffassende Theobald auch nur im mindesten von seinem System abwich, sondern beharrlich jedes physische Medium verwarf. Seine ganze Muße – und daher sein Leben wollte er dazu verwenden, soviel als möglich in die geheimnisvollen Tiefen der psychischen Einwirkungen zu dringen, und fortwährend seinen Geist fester und fester darauf fixierend, sich rein erhaltend von allem dem Widerstrebenden, ein würdiger Lehrling der Natur zu werden. In dieser Hinsicht sollte sein kontemplatives Leben eine Art Priestertum sein, und ihn wie in immer höheren Weihen zum Betreten der innersten Gemächer in dem großen Isistempel heiligen. Alban, der von des Jünglings frommem Gemüte alles hoffte, bestärkte ihn in diesem Vorsatz, und als nun endlich Theobald seinen Zweck erreicht und in die Heimat zurückkehrte, war Albans letztes Wort: er solle treu bleiben dem, was er begonnen. – Bald darauf erhielt Alban von seinem Freunde einen Brief, dessen Mangel an Zusammenhang von der Verzweiflung, ja von der innern Zerrüttung zeugte, die ihn ergriffen. Sein ganzes Lebensglück, schrieb er, sei dahin; in den Krieg müsse er, denn dort wäre das Mädchen seiner Seele hingezogen aus stiller Heimat, und nur der Tod könne ihn von dem Elend, in dem er dahinschmachte, erlösen. Alban hatte nicht Ruh, nicht Rast; auf der Stelle reiste er zu seinem Freunde, und es gelang ihm nach mehreren vergeblichen Versuchen, den Unglücklichen wenigstens bis zu einem gewissen Grade zu beruhigen. – Bei dem Durchmarsch fremder Truppen, so erzählte die Mutter der Geliebten Theobalds, wurde ein italienischer Offizier in das Haus einquartiert, der sich bei dem ersten Blick auf das heftigste in das Mädchen verliebte, und der mit dem Feuer, das seiner Nation eigen, sie bestürmend, und dabei mit allem ausgestattet, was der Weiber Herz befängt, in wenigen Tagen ein solches Gefühl in ihr erweckte, daß der arme Theobald ganz vergessen war, und sie nur in dem Italiener lebte und webte. Er mußte fort in den Krieg, und nun verfolgte das Bild des Geliebten, wie er in gräßlichen Kämpfen blute, wie er, zu Boden geworfen, sterbend ihren Namen rufe, unaufhörlich das arme Mädchen, so daß sie in eine wirkliche Verstandesverwirrung geriet, und den unglücklichen Theobald, als er wiederkehrte und die frohe Braut in seine Arme zu schließen hoffte, gar nicht wiedererkannte. Kaum war es Alban gelungen, Theobald wieder ins Leben zurückzuführen, als er ihm das untrügliche Mittel vertraute, das er ersonnen, ihm die Geliebte wiederzugeben, und Theobald fand Albans Rat so aus seiner innersten Überzeugung entnommen, daß er keinen Augenblick an dem glücklichsten Erfolg zweifelte; er gab sich allem gläubig hin, was der Freund als wahr erkannt hatte. – Ich weiß, Bickert!“ (unterbrach sich hier Ottmar) „was du jetzt sagen willst, ich fühle deine Pein, es ergötzt mich die komische Verzweiflung, in der du jetzt das Glas Punsch ergreifst, das dir Maria so freundlich reicht. Aber schweige, ich bitte dich – dein sauersüßes Lächeln ist die schönste Anmerkung, viel besser als jedes Wort, jede Redensart, die du nur ersinnen könntest, um mir allen Effekt zu verderben. Aber was ich euch zu sagen habe, ist so herrlich und so wohltuend, daß du selbst zum gemütvollsten Anteil bekehrt werden wirst. Also merk auf, und Sie, bester Vater! werden mir auch eingestehen, daß ich mein Wort im ganzen Umfange erfülle.“ Der Baron ließ es bei einem: hm, hm, bewenden, und Maria schaute Ottmarn mit klarem Blick ins Auge, indem sie gar lieblich das Köpfchen auf die Hand stützte, so daß die blonden Locken in üppiger Fülle über den Arm wallten. – „Waren des Mädchens Tage“, fuhr Ottmar in seiner Erzählung fort, „qualvoll und schrecklich, so waren die Nächte geradezu verderbend. Alle schrecklichen Bilder, die sie tagsüber verfolgten, traten dann mit verstärkter Kraft hervor. Mit herzzerschneidendem Ton rief sie den Namen ihres Geliebten, und in halberstickten Seufzern schien sie bei seinem blutigen Leichnam die Seele auszuatmen. Wenn nun eben nächtlich die schrecklichsten Träume das arme Mädchen ängsteten, führte die Mutter Theobald an ihr Bett. Er setzte sich daneben hin, und den Geist mit der ganzen Kraft des Willens auf sie fixierend, schaute er sie mit festem Blicke an. Nachdem er dies einige Mal wiederholt, schien der Eindruck ihrer Träume schwächer zu werden, denn der Ton, mit dem sie sonst den Namen des Offiziers gewaltsam hervorschrie, hatte nicht mehr das die ganze Seele Durchdringende, und tiefe Seufzer machten der gepreßten Brust Luft. – Nun legte Theobald auf ihre Hand die seinige, und nannte leise, ganz leise seinen Namen. Bald zeigte sich die Wirkung. Sie nannte nun den Namen des Offiziers abgebrochen, es war, als müßte sie sich auf jede Silbe, auf jeden Buchstaben besinnen, als dränge sich etwas Fremdes in die Reihe ihrer Vorstellungen. – Bald darauf sprach sie gar nicht mehr, nur eine Bewegung der Lippen zeigte, daß sie sprechen wollte, und wie durch irgend eine äußere Einwirkung daran verhindert würde. Dies hatte wieder einige Nächte hindurch gedauert; nun fing Theobald an, ihre Hand in der seinigen festhaltend und mit leiser Stimme in abgebrochenen Sätzen zu sprechen. Es war die frühe Kinderzeit, in die er sich zurückversetzte. Bald sprang er mit Augusten (erst jetzt fällt mir wieder der Name des Mädchens ein) in des Onkels großem Garten umher, und pflückte von den höchsten Bäumen die schönsten Kirschen für sie, denn immer das Beste wußte er den Blicken der anderen Kinder zu entziehen und es ihr zuzustecken. Bald hatte er den Onkel mit Bitten so lange gequält, bis er ihm das schöne teure Bilderbuch mit den Trachten fremder Nationen hervorgelangt. Nun durchblätterten beide Kinder, auf einem Lehnstuhl zusammen knieend über den Tisch gelehnt, das Buch. Immer war ein Mann und eine Frau in der Gegend ihres Landes abgebildet, und immer waren es Theobald und Auguste. In solchen fremden Gegenden, seltsamlich gekleidet, wollten sie allein sein, und mit den schönen Blumen und Kräutern spielen. – Wie erstaunte die Mutter, als Auguste in einer Nacht zu sprechen begann und ganz in Theobalds Ideen einging. Auch sie war das siebenjährige Mädchen, und nun spielten beide ihre Kinderspiele durch. Auguste führte selbst die charaktervollsten Begebenheiten ihrer Kinderjahre herbei. Sie war immer sehr heftig, und lehnte sich oft gegen ihre ältere Schwester, die übrigens von wirklich bösartiger Natur, sie unverdienterweise quälte, förmlich auf, welches manchen tragikomischen Vorfall veranlaßte. So saßen die drei Kinder einmal an einem Winterabend beisammen, und die ältere Schwester, übellauniger als je, quälte die kleine Auguste mit ihrem Eigensinn, daß diese vor Zorn und Unmut weinte. Theobald zeichnete, wie gewöhnlich, allerlei Figuren, denen er dann eine sinnige Deutung zu geben wußte; um besser zu sehen, wollte er das Licht putzen, löschte es aber unversehens aus; da benutzte Auguste schnell die Gelegenheit, und gab zur Wiedervergeltung des erlittenen Verdrusses der älteren Schwester eine derbe Ohrfeige. Das Mädchen lief weinend und schreiend zum Vater, dem Onkel Theobalds, und klagte, wie Theobald das Licht ausgelöscht und sie dann geschlagen habe. Der Onkel eilte herbei, und als er Theobald seine gehässige Bosheit vorhielt, leugnete dieser, der die Schuldige wohl kannte, die Tat keinesweges. Auguste war zerrissen von innerem Gram, als sie ihren Theobald beschuldigen hörte, er habe, um alles auf sie schieben zu können, erst das Licht ausgelöscht und dann geschlagen; aber je mehr sie weinte, desto mehr tröstete sie der Onkel, daß nun ja doch der Täter entdeckt und alle List des boshaften Theobalds vereitelt sei. Als nun der Onkel zur harten Strafe schritt, da brach ihr das Herz, sie klagte sich an, sie gestand alles, allein in diesem Selbstbekenntnis fand der Onkel nur die überschwengliche Liebe des Mädchens zu dem Knaben, und gerade Theobalds Standhaftigkeit, der sich mit wahrhaftem Heroismus glücklich fühlte, für Augusten zu leiden, gab ihm den Anlaß, ihn als den halsstarrigsten Buben bis aufs Blut zu züchtigen. Augustens Schmerz war grenzenlos, alle ihre Heftigkeit, ihr gebieterisches Wesen war verschwunden, der sanfte Theobald war nun ihr Gebieter, dem sie sich willig schmiegte; mit ihrem Spielzeug, mit ihren schönsten Puppen konnte er schalten und walten, und wenn er sonst, um nur bei ihr bleiben zu dürfen, sich fügen mußte, Blätter und Blumen für ihre kleine Küche zu suchen, so ließ sie es sich jetzt gefallen, ihm durchs Gesträuch auf dem mutigen Steckenhengst zu folgen. Aber so wie das Mädchen jetzt mit ganzer Seele an ihm hing, so war es auch, als habe das für sie erlittene Unrecht Theobalds Zuneigung zur glühendsten Liebe entzündet. Der Onkel bemerkte alles, aber nur dann, als er in späteren Jahren zu seinem Erstaunen den wahren Zusammenhang jenes Vorfalls erfuhr, zweifelte er nicht länger an der tiefen Wahrheit der wechselseitigen Liebe, die die Kinder geäußert, und billigte mit ganzer Seele die innigste Verbindung, in die sie für ihr ganzes Leben treten zu wollen erklärten. Eben jener tragikomische Vorfall sollte auch jetzt das Paar aufs neue vereinigen. – Auguste fing seine Darstellung von dem Moment an, als der Onkel zürnend hineinfuhr, und Theobald unterließ nicht, richtig in seine Rolle einzugreifen. Bis jetzt war Auguste am Tage still und in sich gekehrt gewesen, aber an dem Morgen nach jener Nacht äußerte sie ganz unerwartet der Mutter, wie sie seit einiger Zeit lebhaft von Theobald träume, und warum er denn nicht käme, ja nicht einmal schriebe. Immer mehr stieg diese Sehnsucht, und nun zögerte Theobald nicht länger, als käme er erst jetzt von der Reise, vor Augusten zu erscheinen; sorgfältig hatte er nämlich seit dem schrecklichen Augenblick, als Auguste ihn nicht wiedererkannte, vermieden, sich vor ihr sehen zu lassen. Auguste empfing ihn mit der höchsten Aufwallung der innigsten Liebe. Bald nachher gestand sie unter vielen Tränen, wie sie sich gegen ihn vergangen; wie es einem Fremden auf eine seltsame Weise gelungen, sie von ihm abwendig zu machen, so daß sie, wie von einer fremden Gewalt befangen, ganz aus ihrem eigenen Wesen herausgetreten sei, aber Theobalds wohltätige Erscheinung in lebhaften Träumen, habe die feindlichen Geister, die sie bestrickt, verjagt; ja, sie müsse gestehen, daß sie jetzt nicht einmal des Fremden äußere Gestalt sich ins Gedächtnis zurückrufen könne, und nur Theobald lebe in ihrem Innern. Alban und Theobald, beide waren überzeugt, daß Augusten der wirkliche Wahnsinn, von dem sie ergriffen worden, gänzlich verlassen hatte, und kein Hindernis stand der Vereinigung des –“

So wollte Ottmar seine Erzählung endigen, als Maria mit einem dumpfen Schrei ohnmächtig vom Stuhle in die Arme des schnell herbeigesprungenen Bickert sank. Der Baron fuhr entsetzt auf, Ottmar eilte Bickerten zu Hülfe, und beide brachten Marien auf das Sofa. Sie lag totenbleich da, jede Spur des Lebens war auf dem krampfhaft verzogenen Gesichte verschwunden. – „Sie ist tot, sie ist tot!“ schrie der Baron. – „Nein“, rief Ottmar, „sie soll leben, sie muß leben. Alban wird helfen.“ –„Alban! Alban! kann der Tote erwecken“, schrie Bickert auf; in dem Augenblick öffnete sich die Tür, und Alban trat herein. Mit dem ihm eignen imponierenden Wesen trat er schweigend vor die Ohnmächtige. Der Baron sah ihm mit zornglühendem Gesichte ins Auge – keiner vermochte zu sprechen. Alban schien nur Marien zu gewahren; er heftete seinen Blick auf sie; „Maria, was ist Ihnen?“ sprach er mit feierlichem Ton, und es zuckte durch ihre Nerven. Jetzt faßte er ihre Hand. Ohne sich von ihr wegzuwenden, sagte er: „Warum dieses Erschrecken, meine Herren? der Puls geht leise, aber gleich – ich finde das Zimmer voll Dampf, man öffne ein Fenster, gleich wird sich Maria von dem unbedeutenden ganz gefahrlosen Nervenzufall erholen.“ Bickert tat es, da schlug Maria die Augen auf; ihr Blick fiel auf Alban. „Verlaß mich, entsetzlicher Mensch, ohne Qual will ich sterben“, lispelte sie kaum hörbar, und indem sie, sich von Alban abwendend, das Gesicht in die Sofakissen verbarg, sank sie in einen tiefen Schlaf, wie man an den schweren Atemzügen bemerken konnte. Ein seltsames, furchtbares Lächeln durchflog Albans Gesicht; der Baron fuhr auf, er schien etwas mit Heftigkeit sagen zu wollen. Alban faßte ihn scharf ins Auge, und mit einem Tone, in dem, des Ernstes unerachtet, eine gewisse höhnende Ironie lag, sprach er: „Ruhig, Herr Baron! die Kleine ist etwas ungeduldig, aber erwacht sie aus ihrem wohltätigen Schlafe, welches genau morgens um sechs Uhr geschehen wird, so gebe man ihr zwölf von diesen Tropfen, und alles ist vergessen.“ – Er reichte Ottmarn das Fläschchen, das er aus der Tasche gezogen, und verließ langsamen Schrittes den Saal.

„Da haben wir den Wunder-Doktor!“ rief Bickert, als man die schlafende Marie in ihr Zimmer gebracht, und Ottmar den Saal verlassen hatte. – „Der tiefsinnige Blick des Geistersehers – das feierliche Wesen – das prophetische Voraussagen – das Fläschchen mit dem Wunderelixier. – Ich habe nur gepaßt, ob er nicht, wie Schwedenborg, vor unsern Augen in der Luft verdampfen, oder wenigstens, wie Beireis, mit dem urplötzlich aus Schwarz in Rot umgefärbten Frack zum Saal hinausschreiten würde.“ – „Bickert!“ antwortete der Baron, der starr und stumm in den Lehnstuhl gedrückt, Marien wegbringen gesehen: „Bickert! was ist aus unserm frohen Abend geworden! – aber gefühlt im Innern habe ich es, daß mich noch heute etwas Unglückliches treffen, ja daß ich noch Alban aus besonderm Anlaß sehen würde. – Und gerade in dem Augenblicke als ihn Ottmar zitierte, erschien er wie der waltende Schutzgeist. Sage mir, Bickert! – kam er nicht durch jene Tür?“ – „Allerdings“, erwiderte Bickert, „und erst jetzt fällt es mir ein, daß er wie ein zweiter Cagliostro uns ein Kunststückchen gemacht hat, das uns in der Angst und Not ganz entgangen; die einzige Tür des Vorzimmers da drüben habe ich ja von innen verschlossen, und hier ist der Schlüssel – einmal habe ich mich aber doch geirrt und sie offen gelassen.“ – Bickert untersuchte die Tür, und zurückkehrend rief er mit Lachen: „Der Cagliostro ist fertig, die Tür ist richtig fest verschlossen wie vorher.“ – „Hm“, sagte der Baron, „der Wunder-Doktor fängt an in einen gemeinen Taschenspieler überzugehen.“ – „Es tut mir leid“, erwiderte Bickert, „Alban hat den allgemeinen Ruf eines geschickten Arztes, und wahr ist es, daß, als unsere Marie, die sonst so gesund gewesen, an den heillosen Nervenübeln erkrankte, und alle Mittel scheiterten, sie durch Albans magnetische Kur in wenigen Wochen geheilt wurde. – Schwer entschlossest du dich dazu, nur auf vieles Zureden Ottmars, und weil du die herrliche Blume, die sonst ihr Haupt keck und frei zur Sonne emporrichtete, immer mehr hinwelken sahst.“ – „Glaubst du, daß ich wohl getan habe, Ottmarn nachzugeben?“ fragte der Baron. „In jener Zeit allerdings“, erwiderte Bickert, „aber Albans verlängerte Gegenwart ist mir gerade nicht angenehm; und was den Magnetismus betrifft“ – „Den verwirfst du ganz und gar“, fiel der Baron ein. „Mit nichten“, antwortete Bickert. „Nicht Zeuge mancher dadurch herbeigeführter Erscheinung hätte ich sein dürfen, um daran zu glauben – ja ich fühle es nur zu sehr, wie alle die wunderbaren Beziehungen und Verknüpfungen des organischen Lebens der ganzen Natur in ihm liegen. All unser Wissen darüber ist und bleibt aber Stückwerk, und sollte der Mensch den völligen Besitz dieses tiefen Naturgeheimnisses erlangen, so käme es mir vor, als habe die Mutter unversehens ein schneidendes Werkzeug verloren, womit sie manches Herrliche zur Lust und Freude ihrer Kinder geformt; die Kinder fänden es, verwundeten sich aber selbst damit, im blinden Eifer, es der Mutter im Formen und Bilden nachmachen zu wollen.“ – „Meine innerste Meinung hast du richtig ausgesprochen“, sagte der Baron, „was aber besonders den Alban betrifft, so liegt es dunkel in meiner Seele, wie ich mir all die besonderen Gefühle, die mich in seiner Nähe befangen, zusammenreimen und erklären soll; zuweilen glaube ich über ihn ganz im klaren zu sein. – Seine tiefe Wissenschaft machte ihn zum Schwärmer, aber sein Eifer, sein Glück erwirbt ihm Achtung! Allein, nur wenn ich ihn nicht sehe, erscheint er mir so; nahet er sich mir, so ist jenes Bild aus der Perspektive gerückt, und deformierte Züge, die mit einer furchtbaren Charakteristik im einzelnen sich doch nicht zum Ganzen fügen wollen, erfüllen mich mit Grauen. Als Ottmar ihn vor mehreren Monaten als seinen innigsten Freund zu uns brachte, war es mir, als habe ich ihn irgend einmal schon gesehen; seine Feinheit, sein gewandtes Betragen gefielen mir, aber im ganzen war mir seine Gegenwart nicht wohltuend. Bald darauf, und zwar, wie es mir schon oft schwer aufs Herz gefallen, gleich nach Albans Erscheinung erkrankte, wie du weißt, Maria auf eine ganz seltsame Weise, und ich muß es gestehen, Alban, als er endlich herbeigerufen wurde, unterzog sich der Kur mit einem beispiellosen Eifer, mit einer Ergebenheit, mit einer Liebe und Treue, die ihm bei dem glücklichsten Erfolg die höchste, unzweideutigste Liebe und Achtung erwerben mußte. Ich hätte ihn mit Gold überschütten mögen, aber jedes Wort des Dankes wurde mir schwer; ja, in eben dem Grade, als die magnetische Kur anschlug, erfüllte sie mich mit Abscheu und Alban wurde mir mit jedem Tage verhaßter. Zuweilen war es mir, als könne er mich aus der dringendsten Lebensgefahr retten, ohne auch nur im mindesten für sich bei mir zu gewinnen. Sein feierliches Wesen, seine mystischen Reden, seine Charlatanerien, wie er z.B. die Ulmen, die Linden und was weiß ich noch was für Bäume magnetisiert, wenn er, mit ausgestreckten Armen nach Norden gerichtet, von dem Weltgeist neue Kraft in sich zieht; alles spannt mich auf eine gewisse Weise, trotz der herzlichen Verachtung, die ich dagegen spüre. Aber, Bickert! merk wohl auf! – Die sonderbarste Erscheinung dünkt mir, daß, seitdem Alban hier ist, ich öfter als je an meinen dänischen Major, von dem ich vorhin erzählt habe, denken muß. – Jetzt, eben jetzt, als er so höhnisch, so wahrhaft diabolisch lächelte, und mich mit seinen großen pechschwarzen Augen anstarrte, da stand der Major ganz vor mir – die Ähnlichkeit ist auffallend.“ – „Und“, fiel Bickert ein, „so ist mit einem Mal deine seltsame Empfindung, deine Idiosynkrasie erklärt. Nicht Alban, nein, der dänische Major ist es, der dich ängstigt und quält; der wohltuende Arzt trägt die Schuld seiner Habichtsnase und seiner schwarzen feurigen Augen; beruhige dich ganz und schlage dir alles Böse aus dem Sinn. – Alban mag ein Schwärmer sein, aber er will gewiß das Gute und vollbringt es, und so lasse man ihm seine Charlatanerien als ein unschädliches Spielwerk, und achte ihn als den geschickten, tiefschauenden Arzt.“ – Der Baron stand auf und sagte, indem er Bickerts beide Hände faßte: „Franz, das hast du gegen deine innere Überzeugung gesprochen; es soll ein Palliativmittel sein für meine Angst, für meine Unruhe. – Aber – tief liegt es in meiner Seele: Alban ist mein feindlicher Dämon – Franz, ich beschwöre dich! sei achtsam – rate – hilf – stütze, wenn du an meinem morschen Familiengebäude etwas wanken siehst. Du verstehst mich – kein Wort weiter.“

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Der Magnetisuer_02

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Die Freunde umarmten sich, und Mitternacht war längst vorüber, als jeder gedankenvoll mit unruhigem, aufgeregtem Gemüt in sein Zimmer schlich. Punkt sechs Uhr erwachte Maria, wie es Alban vorausgesagt, man gab ihr zwölf Tropfen aus dem Fläschchen, und zwei Stunden später trat sie heiter und blühend in das Gesellschaftszimmer, wo der Baron, Ottmar und Bickert sie freudig empfingen. Alban hatte sich in sein Zimmer eingeschlossen und sagen lassen, wie ihn eine dringende Korrespondenz den ganzen Tag über darin festhalten werde.
Mariens Brief an Adelgunde

So hast Du Dich endlich aus den Stürmen, aus den Bedrängnissen des bösen Krieges gerettet, und eine sichere Freistatt gefunden? – Nein! ich kann es Dir nicht sagen, geliebte Herzensfreundin, was ich empfand, als ich nach so langer, langer Zeit endlich Deine kleinen niedlichen Schriftzüge wiedererblickte. Vor lauter Ungeduld hätte ich beinahe den festgesiegelten Brief zerrissen. Erst habe ich gelesen und gelesen, und ich wußte doch nicht was darin gestanden, bis ich endlich ruhiger wurde, und nun mit Entzücken erfuhr, daß Dein teurer Bruder, mein geliebter Hypolit, wohl ist, daß ich ihn bald wiedersehen werde. Also keiner meiner Briefe hat dich erreicht? Ach, liebe Adelgunde! Deine Marie ist recht krank gewesen, recht sehr krank, aber nun ist alles wieder besser, wiewohl mein Übel von einer solchen mir selbst unbegreiflichen Art war, daß ich noch jetzt mich ordentlich entsetze, wenn ich daran denke, und Ottmar und der Arzt sagen, diese Empfindung sei eben auch noch Krankheit, die von Grund aus gehoben werden müsse. Verlange nicht, daß ich Dir sagen soll, was mir eigentlich gefehlt hat; ich weiß es selbst nicht; kein Schmerz, kein mit Namen zu sagendes Leiden, und doch alle Ruhe, alle Heiterkeit hin. – Alles kam mir verändert vor. – Laut gesprochene Worte, Fußtritte bohrten wie Stacheln in meinen Kopf. Zuweilen hatte alles um mich herum, leblose Dinge, Stimme und Klang, und neckte und quälte mich mit wundersamen Zungen; seltsame Einbildungen rissen mich heraus aus dem wirklichen Leben. Kannst Du es Dir denken, Adelgundchen, daß die närrischen Kindermärchen vom grünen Vogel, vom Prinzen Pakardin, von Trebisond und was weiß ich sonst, die uns Tante Klara so hübsch zu erzählen wußte, nun auf eine für mich schreckbare Weise ins Leben traten, denn ich selbst unterlag ja den Verwandlungen, die der böse Zauberer über mich verhängte – ja es ist wohl lächerlich zu sagen, wie diese Albernheiten so feindselig auf mich wirkten, daß ich zusehends matter und kraftloser wurde. Indem ich mich oft über ein Unding, über ein Nichts bis zum Tode betrüben, und wieder eben über solch ein Nichts bis zur Ausgelassenheit erfreuen konnte, zehrte sich mein Selbst auf in den gewaltsamen Ausbrüchen einer innern mir unbekannten Kraft. – Gewisse Dinge, die ich sonst gar nicht beachtete, fielen mir jetzt nicht allein auf, sondern konnten mich recht quälen. So hatte ich einen solchen Abscheu gegen Lilien, daß ich jedesmal ohnmächtig wurde, sobald, war es auch in weiter Ferne, eine blühte; denn aus ihren Kelchen sah ich glatte, glänzende, züngelnde Basiliske auf mich zuspringen. Doch was trachte ich, Dir, liebe Adelgunde, auch nur eine Idee von dem Zustande zu geben, den ich nicht Krankheit nennen möchte, wenn er mich nicht immer mehr und mehr ermattet hätte; mit jedem Tage schwächer werdend, sah ich den Tod vor Augen. – Nun muß ich Dir aber etwas Besonderes sagen – nämlich, was mein Genesen betrifft, das habe ich einem herrlichen Mann zu danken, den Ottmar schon früher ins Haus gebracht, und der in der Residenz unter all den großen und geschickten Ärzten der einzige sein soll, der das Geheimnis besitzt, eine solche sonderbare Krankheit, wie die meinige, schnell und sicher zu heilen. – Das Besondere ist aber, daß in meinen Träumen und Erscheinungen immer ein schöner ernster Mann im Spiele war, der, unerachtet seiner Jugend, mir wahrhafte Ehrfurcht einflößte, und der bald auf diese, bald auf jene Weise, aber immer in langen Talaren gekleidet, mit einer diamantnen Krone auf dem Haupte, mir wie der romantische König in der märchenhaften Geisterwelt erschien und allen bösen Zauber löste. Ich mußte ihm lieb und innig verwandt sein, denn er nahm sich meiner besonders an, und ich war ihm dafür mit meinem Leben verpflichtet. Bald kam er mir vor wie der weise Salomo, und dann mußte ich auch wieder auf ganz ungereimte Weise an den Sarastro in der Zauberflöte denken, wie ich ihn in der Residenz gesehen. – Ach, liebe Adelgunde, wie erschrak ich nun, als ich auf den ersten Blick in Alban jenen romantischen König aus meinen Träumen erkannte. – Alban ist nämlich eben der seltene Arzt, den Ottmar schon vor langer Zeit einmal als seinen Herzensfreund aus der Residenz mitbrachte; indessen war er mir damals bei dem kurzen Besuch so gleichgültig geblieben, daß ich mich nachher nicht einmal seines Äußern zu entsinnen wußte. – Alsdann aber, als er wiederkam, zu meiner Heilung berufen, wußte ich mir selbst von der innern Empfindung, die mich durchdrang, nicht Rechenschaft zu geben. – So wie Alban überhaupt in seiner Bildung, in seinem ganzen Betragen, eine gewisse Würde, ich möchte sagen, etwas Gebietendes hat, das ihn über seine Umgebung erhebt, so war es mir gleich, als er seinen ernsten durchdringenden Blick auf mich richtete: ich müßte alles unbedingt tun, was er gebieten würde, und als ob er meine Genesung nur recht lebhaft wollen dürfe, um mich ganz herzustellen. Ottmar sagte: ich solle durch den sogenannten Magnetismus geheilt werden, und Alban werde durch gewisse Mittel mich in einen exaltierten Zustand setzen, in dem ich schlafend, und in diesem Schlaf erwachend, selbst meine Krankheit genau einsehen und die Art meiner Kur bestimmen werde. Du glaubst nicht, liebe Adelgunde, welch ein eignes Gefühl von Angst – Furcht, ja Grausen und Entsetzen mich durchbebte, wenn ich an den bewußtlosen und doch höher lebenden Zustand dachte, und doch war es mir nur zu klar, daß ich mich vergebens dagegen sträuben würde, was Alban beschlossen. – Jene Mittel sind angewendet worden, und ich habe, meiner Scheu, meiner Furcht zum Trotz, nur wohltätige Folgen gespürt. – Meine Farbe, meine Munterkeit ist wiedergekehrt, und statt der entsetzlichen Spannung, in der mir oft das Gleichgültigste zur Qual wurde, befinde ich mich in einem ziemlich ruhigen Zustande. Jene närrischen Traumbilder sind verschwunden, und der Schlaf erquickt mich, indem selbst das tolle Zeug, was mir oft darin vorkommt, statt mich zu quälen, mich belebt und erheitert. – Denke einmal, liebe Adelgunde, ich träume jetzt oft: ich könne mit geschlossenen Augen, als sei mir ein anderer Sinn aufgegangen, Farben erkennen, Metalle unterscheiden, lesen u.s.w. sobald es nur Alban verlange; ja oft gebietet er mir mein Inneres zu durchschauen und ihm alles zu sagen, was ich darin erblicke, und ich tue es mit der größten Bestimmtheit; zuweilen muß ich plötzlich an Alban denken, er steht vor mir, und ich versinke nach und nach in einen träumerischen Zustand, dessen letzter Gedanke, in dem mein Bewußtsein untergeht, mir fremde Ideen bringt, welche mit besonderem, ich möchte sagen, golden glühendem Leben mich durchstrahlen, und ich weiß, daß Alban diese göttlichen Ideen in mir denkt, denn er ist dann selbst in meinem Sein, wie der höhere belebende Funke, und entfernt er sich, was nur geistig geschehen kann, da die körperliche Entfernung gleichgültig ist, so ist alles erstorben. Nur in diesem mit Ihm und in Ihm Sein kann ich wahrhaftig leben, und es müßte, wäre es ihm möglich, sich mir geistig ganz zu entziehn, mein Selbst in toter Öde erstarren; ja, indem ich dieses schreibe, fühle ich nur zu sehr, daß nur Er es ist, der mir den Ausdruck gibt, mein Sein in ihm wenigstens anzudeuten. – Ich weiß nicht, Adelgundchen, ob ich Dir nicht fremdartig oder vielleicht als eine fantastische Schwärmerin erc scheine, ob Du mich überhaupt verstehst, und es war mir, als ob eben jetzt leise und wehmütig der Name: Hypolit, über Deine Lippen gleite. – Glaube mir, daß Hypolit nie inniger von mir geliebt wurde, ich nenne ihn oft im frommen Gebet um sein Heil. – Die heiligen Engel mögen ihn schirmen vor jedem feindlichen Streich, der ihm in wilder Feldschlacht droht. Aber, seitdem Alban mein Herr und Meister ist, dünkt es mich, nur durch ihn könne ich meinen Hypolit stärker und inniger lieben, und als habe ich die Macht, mich wie sein Schutzgeist zu ihm zu schwingen, und ihn mit meinem Gebet, wie mit einem Seraphsfittig, zu umhüllen, so daß der Mord ihn vergebens listig spähend umschleicht. Alban, der hohe, herrliche Mann, führt mich als die durch das höhere Leben geweihte Braut in seine Arme; aber nicht ohne seinen Meister darf das Kind sich in die Stürme der Welt wagen. – Erst seit wenigen Tagen erkenne ich ganz Albans wahrhaftige Größe. – Aber glaubst du wohl, liebe Adelgunde, daß, als ich noch kränker und über alle Maßen reizbar war, sich oft niedrige Zweifel gegen meinen Herrn und Meister in meiner Brust erhoben? – Da hielt ich es denn für gesündigt gegen Liebe und Treue, wenn selbst im Gebet für meinen Hypolit Albans Gestalt in meinem Innern aufstieg, zürnend und drohend, daß ich ohne ihn mich hinauswagen wolle aus dem Kreise, den er mir beschrieben, wie ein böses Kind, das des Vaters Warnung vergessend, hinauslaufe aus dem friedlichen Garten in den Wald, wo feindliche Tiere blutgierig hinter den grünen anmutigen Büschen lauern. Ach, Adelgunde! – diese Zweifel quälten mich schrecklich. Lache mich recht aus, wenn ich Dir sage, daß ich sogar auf den Gedanken geriet: Alban wolle mich künstlich umstricken, und unter dem Schein des heiligen Wunders, irdische Liebe in meinem Innern entzünden. – Ach, Hypolit! – Neulich saßen wir, der Vater, der Bruder, der alte Bickert und ich traulich abends beisammen; Alban war, wie es seine Gewohnheit ist, noch auf weitem Spaziergange begriffen. Es war die Rede von Träumen, und der Vater sowie Bickert wußten davon allerlei Wunderbares und Ergötzliches zu sagen. Da nahm auch Ottmar das Wort, und erzählte, wie nach Albans Rat, und unter seiner Leitung, es einem seiner Freunde gelungen sei, eines Mädchens innige Liebe dadurch zu gewinnen, daß er, ohne ihr Wissen, wenn sie schlief, in ihrer Nähe war, und ihre innersten Gedanken durch magnetische Mittel auf sich leitete. Dazu kam, daß der Vater und auch mein alter treuer Bickert sich, wie sie noch nie in meiner Gegenwart getan, bestimmt und hart gegen den Magnetismus, und auch in gewisser Art gegen Alban erklärten – alle Zweifel gegen den Meister erwachten mit doppelter Stärke in meiner Seele – wie wenn er sich geheimer höllischer Mittel bediente, mich zu seiner Sklavin zu fesseln; wie wenn er dann geböte, ich solle, nur ihn in Sinn und Gedanken tragend, Hypolit lassen? Ein nie gekanntes Gefühl ergriff mich mit tötender Angst; ich sah Alban in seinem Zimmer mit unbekannten Instrumenten und häßlichen Pflanzen und Tieren und Steinen und blinkenden Metallen umgeben, wie er in krampfhafter Bewegung seltsame Kreise mit den Armen und Händen beschrieb. Sein Gesicht, sonst so ruhig und ernst, war zur grausigen Larve verzogen, und aus seinen glutroten Augen schlängelten sich in ekelhafter Schnelle blanke, glatte Basiliske, wie ich sie sonst in den Lilienkelchen zu erblicken wähnte. Da war es, als gleite ein eiskalter Strom über meinen Rücken hin, ich erwachte aus meinem Ohnmacht ähnlichen Zustande; Alban stand vor mir – aber, du heiliger Gott! nicht er war’s, nein! jene entsetzliche Larve, die meine Einbildung geschaffen! – Wie habe ich am andern Morgen mich vor mir selbst geschämt! – Alban war mit meinen Zweifeln gegen ihn bekannt, und nur in seiner gütigen Milde hat er mir wohl verschwiegen, daß er es auch wohl wußte, wie ich ihn selbst mir gebildet, denn er lebt ja in meinem Innern und weiß meine geheimsten Gedanken, die ich in Frömmigkeit und Demut auch nicht trachte ihm zu verschweigen. Übrigens machte er aus meinem krankhaften Anfall nicht viel, sondern schob alles auf den Dunst des türkischen Tabaks, den mein Vater an jenem Abende geraucht. Du hättest nur sehen sollen, mit welchem gütigen Ernst, mit welcher väterlichen Sorglichkeit mich jetzt der herrliche Meister behandelte. Es ist nicht allein der Körper, den er gesund zu erhalten weiß, nein! – es ist der Geist, den er dem höhern Leben zuführt. Könnte meine liebe, treue Adelgunde nur hier sein und sich an dem wahrhaft frommen Leben erlaben, das wir in friedlicher Stille führen. Bickert ist noch der frohe Alte wie immer, nur mein Vater und Ottmar sind zuweilen in sonderbarer Verstimmung; den im treibenden Leben wühlenden Männern mag oft unsere Einförmigkeit nicht zusagen. – Alban spricht ganz herrlich über die Sagen und Mythen der alten Ägypter und Indier, oft versinke ich darüber, zumal unter den großen Buchen im Park, unwillkürlich in einen Schlaf, von dem ich wie neu belebt erwache. Ich komme mir dann beinahe vor, wie die Miranda in Shakespeares Sturm, die von Prospero vergebens ermuntert wird, seine Erzählung zu hören. Recht mit Prosperos Worten sagte neulich Ottmar zu mir: „Gib deiner Müdigkeit nach – du kannst nicht anders.“

Nun, Adelgundchen! hast Du mein inneres Leben ganz, ich habe Dir alles erzählt, und das tut meinem Herzen wohl. Beiliegende Zeilen für Hypolit u.s.w.
Fragment von Albans Brief an Theobald

– – – zurückgeblieben ist. Die Frömmigkeit schließt das Frommtun in sich, und jedes Frommtun ist eine Heuchelei, sei es auch nicht sowohl um andere zu betrügen, als sich selbst an dem Reflex des in unechtem Golde bunkernden Strahlenscheins zu ergötzen, mit dem man sich zum Heiligen gekrönt hat. – Regten sich denn in Deiner eigenen Brust nicht manchmal Gefühle, die Du, mein lieber Bramin! mit dem, was Du aus Gewohnheit, und bequem in dem Geleise bleibend, das die verjährte Ammenmoral eingefurcht hat, als gut und weise erkennen willst, nicht zusammenreimen konntest? Alle diese Zweifel gegen die Tugendlehre der Mutter Gans, alle diese über die künstlichen Ufer des durch Moralsysteme eingedämmten Stroms überbrausenden Neigungen, der unwiderstehliche Drang, den Fittig, den man kräftig befiedert an den Schultern fühlt, frisch zu schütteln und sich dem Höhern zuzuschwingen, sind die Anfechtungen des Satans, vor denen die aszetischen Schulmeister warnen. Wir sollen wie gläubige Kinder die Augen zudrücken, um an dem Glanz und Schimmer des heil. Christs, den uns die Natur überall in den Weg stellt, nicht zu erblinden. – Jede Neigung, die den höheren Gebrauch der inneren Kräfte in Anspruch nimmt, kann nicht verwerflich sein, sondern muß eben aus der menschlichen Natur entsprungen und in ihr begründet, nach der Erfüllung des Zwecks unseres Daseins streben. Kann dieser denn ein anderer sein, als die höchstmöglichste, vollkommenste Ausbildung und Anwendung unserer physischen und psychischen Kräfte? – Ich weiß, daß ohne weiter zu reden, ich Dich, mein lieber Bramin! (so, und nicht anders, muß ich Dich nach deinen Lebensansichten nennen) schon zum Widerspruch gereizt habe, da Dein ganzes Tun und Treiben der innigen Meinung entgegenstrebt, die ich nur angedeutet. – Sei indessen überzeugt, daß ich Dein kontemplatives Leben und Deine Bemühungen, durch immer geschärfteres Anschauen in die Geheimnisse der Natur einzudringen, achte; aber statt Dich an dem Glanz des diamantnen Schlüssels in stiller untätiger Betrachtung zu erfreuen, ergreife ihn keck und kühn, und öffne die geheimnisvolle Pforte, vor der Du sonst stehen bleiben wirst in Ewigkeit. – Du bist zum Kampfe gerüstet, was weilst Du in träger Ruhe? – Alle Existenz ist Kampf und geht aus dem Kampfe hervor. In einem fortsteigenden Klimax wird dem Mächtigern der Sieg zuteil, und mit dem unterjochten Vasallen vermehrt er seine Kraft. – Du weißt, lieber Theobald! wie ich immer diesen Kampf auch im geistigen Leben statuiert, wie ich keck behauptet, daß eben die geheimnisvolle geistige Übermacht dieses oder jenes Schoßkindes der Natur, die Herrschaft, die er sich anmaßen darf, ihm auch Nahrung und Kraft zu immer höherem Schwunge gibt. Die Waffe, mit der wir, denen die Kraft und Übermacht inwohnt, diesen geistigen Kampf gegen das untergeordnete Prinzip kämpfen und uns dasselbe unterjochen, ist uns, ich möchte sagen, sichtbarlich in die Hand gegeben. Wie ist es doch gekommen, daß man jenes Eindringen, jenes gänzliche Inunsziehen und Beherrschen des außer uns liegenden geistigen Prinzips durch uns bekannt gewordene Mittel, Magnetismus genannt hat, da diese Benennung nicht genügt, oder vielmehr, als von einer einzelnen physisch wirkenden Kraft hergenommen, gar nicht das bezeichnet, was wir darunter verstanden wissen wollen. Es mußte gerade ein Arzt sein, der zuerst von meinem Geheimnisse zur Welt sprach, das eine unsichtbare Kirche wie ihren besten Schatz im stillen aufbewahrte, um eine ganz untergeordnete Tendenz als den einzigen Zweck der Wirkung aufzustellen, denn so wurde der Schleier gewebt, den die blöden Augen der Ungeweihten nicht durchdringen. – Ist es denn nicht lächerlich zu glauben, die Natur habe uns den wunderbaren Talisman, der uns zum König der Geister macht, anvertraut, um Zahnweh oder Kopfschmerz, oder was weiß ich sonst, zu heilen? – Nein, es ist die unbedingte Herrschaft über das geistige Prinzip des Lebens, die wir, immer vertrauter werdend mit der gewaltigen Kraft jenes Talismans, erzwingen. Sich unter seinem Zauber schmiegend, muß das unterjochte fremde Geistige nur in uns existieren, und mit seiner Kraft nur uns nähren und stärken! – Der Fokus, in dem sich alles Geistige sammelt, ist Gott! – Je mehr Strahlen sich zur Feuerpyramide sammeln – desto näher ist der Fokus! – Wie breiten sich diese Strahlen aus – sie umfassen das organische Leben der ganzen Natur, und es ist der Schimmer des Geistigen, der uns in Pflanze und Tier unsere durch dieselbe Kraft belebten Genossen erkennen läßt. – Das Streben nach jener Herrschaft ist das Streben nach dem Göttlichen, und das Gefühl der Macht steigert in dem Verhältnis seiner Stärke den Grad der Seligkeit. Der Inbegriff aller Seligkeit ist im Fokus! – Wie klein und erbärmlich erscheint mir alles Geschwätz über jene herrliche Kraft, die den Geweihten verliehen, und es ist wohl zu begreifen, daß nur die höhere Ansicht als der Ausdruck der inneren Weihe auch die höhere Wirksamkeit herbeiführt. – Nach allem diesem wirst Du glauben müssen, daß mir bei der Anwendung alle physischen Mittel fremd geworden, allein es ist dem nicht so. Hier ist es, wo wir noch im Dunkeln tappen, solange uns die geheime Verbindung des Geistigen mit dem Körper nicht klar vor Augen liegt, und ich möchte sagen, die physischen Hülfsmittel sind uns nur wie Zeichen des Herrschers in die Hand gegeben, denen sich unbekannte Vasallen unterwerfen. – Ich weiß selbst nicht, wie ich dazu gekommen bin, Dir, mein Theobald, so viel über einen Gegenstand zu sagen, von dem ich ungern spreche, da ich es fühle, wie nur die aus einer besondern innern geistigen Organisation entsprießende Überzeugung den leeren Worten Gewicht und Nachdruck geben muß. Deinen Vorwurf, einer lebhaft aufwallenden Neigung gefolgt zu sein, und gegen Deine sogenannten moralischen Ansichten gesündigt zu haben, wollte ich beantworten, und jetzt erst werde ich gewahr, daß ich Dir neulich meine Verhältnisse in dem Hause des Barons viel zu rhapsodisch entwickelte, um nicht mißverstanden zu werden. – Ich gebe mir Zeit und Mühe, manches von meinem Eintritt in dies Haus nachzuholen, und wenn mein lieber frommer Bramin in einem höher beschwingten Augenblick mir nur einigermaßen in mein Gebiet folgen will, so werde ich von aller Schuld gereinigt sein.

Ottmar ist nun einmal einer von den vielen Menschen, die, nicht ohne Geist und Verstand, ja selbst mit einer enthusiastischen Lebendigkeit, alles Neue im Gebiet der Wissenschaft auffassen; aber eben dieses Auffassen ist ihr letzter Zweck, und es ist nur die Kenntnis der Form, die sie, der inneren Kraft sich freuend, mit leichter Mühe erringen. Mit dieser Kenntnis ist ihr Geist, dem selbst die Ahnungen des Innern fremd bleiben, zufrieden; dem Gemüt, das man ihnen nicht absprechen kann, fehlt Tiefe. – Ottmar hat sich, wie Du weißt, an mich gedrängt, und, indem er mir wie der Koryphäus einer ganz überzahlreichen Klasse von jungen Leuten, wie sie jetzt so häufig angetroffen werden, erschien, ergötzte es mich, mit ihm höhnend zu spielen. Mein Zimmer hat er mit einer Ehrfurcht betreten, als sei es das innerste heiligste Gemach im Tempel zu Sais, und da er sich als mein Schüler willig unter meine Zuchtrute schmiegte, hielt ich es für billig, ihm manches unschuldige Spielzeug anzuvertrauen, das er triumphierend den Knaben vorwies, und recht groß tat mit der Liebe des Meisters. – Als ich seinen Bitten nachgab und ihn auf seines Vaters Gut begleitete, fand ich in dem Baron, seinem Vater, einen störrischen Alten, umgeben von einem wunderlichen humoristischen alten Maler, der manchmal den weinerlichen moralischen Pagliasso macht. – Was ich Dir über den Eindruck, den Marie auf mich machte, früher gesagt habe, weiß ich nicht mehr; aber ich fühle es in diesem Augenblick, daß es schwer sein wird, mich so darüber auszusprechen, daß ich von Dir ganz verstanden werde. – In Wahrheit, ich muß mich darauf beziehen, daß Du mich kennst ja daß Du von jeher mein ganzes Tun und Treiben in den höheren Tendenzen, die dem Volke ewig verschlossen, begriffen. Du bist daher überzeugt, daß eine schlanke Gestalt, die wie eine herrliche Pflanze, in zartem Wuchs üppige Blätter und Blüten treibend, aufgeschossen; ein blaues Auge, das emporblickend sich nach dem zu sehnen scheint, was die fernen Wolken verschleiern – kurz, daß ein engelschönes Mädchen mich nicht in den süßlich schmachtenden Zustand des lächerlichen Amoroso versetzen kann. – Es war einzig und allein die augenblickliche Erkenntnis der geheimen geistigen Beziehung zwischen Marien und mir, die mich mit dem wunderbarsten Gefühl durchbebte. Der innigsten Wonne mischte sich ein schneidender, stechender Grimm bei, den die Opposition in Marien erzeugte – eine fremde feindliche Kraft widerstrebte meiner Einwirkung und hielt Mariens Geist befangen. Mit ganzer Macht meinen Geist darauf fixierend, wurde ich den Feind gewahr, und in vollem Kampf suchte ich alle Strahlen, die aus Mariens Innern mir zuströmten, wie in einem Brennspiegel aufzufangen. Der alte Maler beachtete mich mehr als die übrigen es taten; er schien die innere Spannung, die Marie in mir hervorgebracht, zu ahnen. Vielleicht war es mein Blick, der mich verriet, denn so zwängt der Körper den Geist ja ein, daß die leiseste seiner Bewegungen in den Nerven oszillierend nach außen wirkt, und die Gesichtszüge – wenigstens den Blick des Auges verändert. Wie ergötzte es mich aber, daß er die Sache so gemein nahm; er sprach unaufhörlich von dem Grafen Hypolit, Mariens Verlobtem Bräutigam, und daß er die bunte Musterkarte von allen seinen Tugenden recht mit Behagen vor mir ausbreitete, diente mir nur dazu, die läppischen Verhältnisse, welche die Menschen in einfältiger kindischer Tätigkeit anknüpfen, im Innersten zu belachen, und mich meiner tiefern Erkenntnis jener Verbindungen, die die Natur knüpft, und der Kraft diese zu hegen und zu pflegen, zu erfreuen. – Marien ganz in mein Selbst zu ziehen, ihre ganze Existenz, ihr Sein so in dem meinigen zu verweben, daß die Trennung davon sie vernichten muß, das war der Gedanke, der, mich hoch beseligend, nur die Erfüllung dessen aussprach, was die Natur wollte. Diese innigste geistige Verbindung mit dem Weibe, im Seligkeitsgefühl jeden andern als den höchsten ausgeschrieenen tierischen Genuß himmelhoch überflügelnd, ziemt dem Priester der Isis, und Du kennst mein System in diesem Punkt, ich darf nichts weiter darüber sagen. Die Natur organisierte das Weib in allen seinen Tendenzen passiv. – Es ist das willige Hingeben, das begierige Auffassen des fremden außerhalb liegenden, das Anerkennen und Verehren des höheren Prinzips, worin das wahrhaft kindliche Gemüt besteht, das nur dem Weibe eigen und das ganz zu beherrschen, ganz in sich aufzunehmen, die höchste Wonne ist. – Von diesen Augenblicken an blieb ich, unerachtet ich mich wieder, wie Du weißt, von dem Gute des Barons entfernte, Marien geistig nah, und welcher Mittel ich mich bediente, insgeheim mich auch körperlich ihr zu nahen, um kräftiger zu wirken, mag ich Dir nicht sagen, da manches sich kleinlich ausnehmen würde, unerachtet es zu dem vorgesetzten Zweck führte. – Maria fiel bald darauf in einen fantastischen Zustand, den Ottmar natürlicherweise für eine Nervenkrankheit halten mußte, und ich kam wieder als Arzt in das Haus, wie ich es vorausgesehen. – Maria erkannte in mir den, der ihr schon oft in der Glorie der beherrschenden Macht als ihr Meister im Traume erschienen, und alles, was sie nur dunkel geahnet, sah sie nun hell und klar mit ihres Geistes Augen. – Nur meines Blicks, meines festen Willens bedurfte es, sie in den sogenannten somnambulen Zustand zu versetzen, der nichts anders war, als das gänzliche Hinaustreten aus sich selbst und das Leben in der höheren Sphäre des Meisters. Es war mein Geist, der sie dann willig aufnahm und ihr die Schwingen gab, dem Kerker, mit dem sie die Menschen überbaut hatten, zu entschweben. Nur in diesem Sein in mir kann Marie fortleben, und sie ist ruhig und glücklich. – Hypolits Bild kann in ihr nur noch in schwachen Umrissen existieren, und auch diese sollen bald in Duft zerfließen. Der Baron und der alte Maler sehen mich mit feindlichen Blicken an, aber es ist herrlich, wie sich auch da die Kraft bewährt, die mir die Natur verliehen. Ein unheimliches Gefühl mag es sein, daß sie widerstrebend doch den Meister erkennen müssen. Du weißt, auf welche wunderbare Weise ich mir einen Schatz geheimer Kenntnisse gesammelt. Nie hast Du das Buch lesen mögen, unerachtet es Dich überrascht haben würde, wie noch in keinem der physikalischen Lehrbücher solche herrliche Kombinationen mancher Naturkräfte und ihrer Wirkung, so wie hier entwickelt sind. Ich verschmähe es nicht, manches sorglich zu bereiten; und kann man es denn Trug nennen, wenn der gaffende Pöbel über etwas erschrickt und staunt, das er mit Recht für wunderbar hält, da die Kenntnis der nächsten Ursache nicht das Wundervolle, sondern nur die Überraschung vernichtet? – Hypolit ist Obrister in . . . en Diensten, mithin im Felde; ich wünsche nicht seinen Tod; er mag zurückkommen, und mein Triumph wird herrlicher sein, denn der Sieg ist gewiß. Sollte sich der Gegner kräftiger zeigen als ich es gedacht, so wirst Du mir im Gefühl meiner Kraft zutrauen, daß etc. – -
Das einsame Schloß

Das Gewitter war vorüber, und in rotem Feuer brennend brach die sinkende Sonne durch die finsteren Wolken, die schnell fliehend in den tiefen Gründen verdampften. Der Abendwind rührte seine Fittige, und wie in schwellenden Wogen strömten die Wohlgerüche, die aus Bäumen, Blumen, Grasern emporstiegen, durch die warme Luft. Als ich aus dem Walde trat, lag das freundliche Dorf, dessen Nähe mir der Postillion verheißen, dicht vor mir im blumigen Wiesengrunde, und hoch hervor ragten die gotischen Türme des Schlosses, dessen Fenster im Schein der Sonne glühten, als wollten innere Flammen hervorbrechen. Glockengeläute und geistlicher Gesang tönten

zu mir herüber; in der Ferne sah ich einen feierlichen Leichenzug auf der Straße von dem Schlosse her nach dem Kirchhofe wallen; als ich endlich ankam, war der Gesang verstummt; man hatte nach der dortigen Sitte den Sarg geöffnet, vor dem Grabe niedergesetzt, und der Pfarrer hielt den Leichen-Sermon Sie waren im Begriff den Deckel auf den Sarg zu heben, als ich hinzutrat und den Toten erblickte. Es war ein hochbejahrter Mann, der mit heiterm Gesicht unentstellt dalag, als schlummerte er sanft und friedlich. Der alte Bauer sagte tief gerührt: „Sieh, wie unser alter Franz so schön daliegt; Gott schenke mir ein so frommes Ende – ja! – selig sind, die in dem Herrn entschlafen.“ – Mir war es, als sei dies die rechte Totenfeier für den frommen Entschlafenen, und des Bauers einfache Worte die herrlichste Leichenrede. – Sie senkten den Sarg hinab, und als nun die Erdschollen mit dumpfem Klang hinabfielen, ergriff mich die bitterste Wehmut, als läge der Herzensfreund in der toten kalten Erde. – Eben wollte ich den Berg hinaufsteigen, auf dem das Schloß lag, als mir der Pfarrer entgegentrat, bei dem ich mich nach dem Toten, den man eben zu Grabe getragen, erkundigte. Der alte Maler Franz Bickert, der seit drei Jahren allein in dem verödeten Schloß gewohnt und den Kastellan gemacht hatte, war es, den man beerdigt hatte. Ich wünschte in das Schloß zu gehen; der Geistliche hatte bis zur Ankunft des Bevollmächtigten des jetzigen Besitzers die Schlüssel übernommen, und ich trat nicht ohne Schauer in die verödeten weiten Säle, wo sonst fröhliche Menschen gehauset, und worin nun eine Totenstille herrschte. Bickert hatte sich in den letzten drei Jahren, die er wie ein Einsiedler in dem Schlosse zubrachte, auf eine wunderliche Weise mit der Kunst beschäftigt. Ohne alle Hülfe, selbst was die mechanischen Vorrichtungen betrifft, unternahm er es, den ganzen obern Stock, in welchem er selbst ein Zimmer bewohnte, im gotischen Stil auszumalen, und auf den ersten Blick ahnte man in den fantastischen Zusammenstellungen fremdartiger Dinge, wie sie dem Charakter der gotischen Verzierungen eigen, tiefsinnige Allegorien. Sehr oft wiederholt war eine häßliche Teufelsgestalt, die ein schlafendes Mädchen belauscht. – Ich eilte nach Bickerts Zimmer. – Der Lehnstuhl stand noch so abgerückt vom Tische, auf dem eine angefangene Zeichnung lag, als sei Bickert eben von der Arbeit aufgestanden; ein grauer Überrock hing auf der Lehne, und ein kleines graues Mützchen lag neben der Zeichnung. – Es war, als werde im Augenblick der Alte mit dem freundlichen frommen Gesichte, über das selbst die Qual des Todes keine Macht gehabt, hineintreten und den Fremden mit offener Gutherzigkeit in seiner Werkstatt bewillkommen. – Ich eröffnete dem Geistlichen meinen Wunsch, mehrere Tage, ja vielleicht Wochen, im Schlosse zu wohnen. Das schien ihm befremdlich; er äußerte, wie leid es ihm täte, meinen Wunsch nicht erfüllen zu können, da bis zur Ankunft des Bevollmächtigten die gerichtliche Siegelung vorgenommen werden müsse, und kein Fremder im Schlosse wohnen dürfe. „Wie aber“, fuhr ich fort, „wenn ich dieser Bevollmächtigte selbst wäre?“ indem ich ihm die ausgedehnte Vollmacht des Barons von F., als des jetzigen Besitzers, vorwies. Er erstaunte nicht wenig, und überschüttete mich mit Höflichkeitsbezeigungen. Er bot mir Zimmer im Pfarrgebäude an, da mir die Wohnung im öden Schlosse doch wahrscheinlich nicht zusagen werde. Ich lehnte dies ab; ich blieb im Schlosse, und es waren Bickerts nachgelassene Papiere, die mich in den Stunden der Muße auf das anziehendste beschäftigten. – Bald fanden sich ein paar Blätter vor, die in kurzen hingeworfenen Notizen, nach Art eines Tagebuchs, Aufschluß über die Katastrophe gaben, in der ein ganzer Zweig einer bedeutenden Familie unterging. Durch die Zusammenstellung mit einem ziemlich humoristischen Aufsatz: Träume sind Schäume, und den Fragmenten zweier Briefe, die dem Maler auf ganz eigne Weise zu Händen gekommen sein müssen, rundet sich das Ganze.
Aus Bickerts Tagebuch

Hab ich mich denn nicht trotz dem h. Antonius mit dreitausend Teufeln herumgebalgt, und mich ebenso tapfer gehalten? – Sieht man dem Volke keck ins Auge, so verdunstet es von selbst in Staub und Rauch. – Könnte Alban in meiner Seele lesen, so würde er eine förmliche Abbitte und Ehrenerklärung darin finden, daß ich ihm alles Satanische aufgebürdet, was eine allzurege Fantasie mir in grellen Farben dargestellt, zu eigner Buße und Belehrung! – Er ist da! – frisch – gesund – herrlich blühend – Apollos Locken, Jovis hohe Stirn – ein Aug wie Mars, des Götter-Herolds Stellung – ja ganz wie Hamlet den Helden schildert. – Maria ist nicht mehr auf der Erde, sie schwebt im strahlenden Himmel – Hypolit und Maria – welch ein Paar!

Aber trauen kann ich ihm doch nicht – warum verschließt er sich in sein Zimmer ? – warum schleicht er in der Nacht auf den Zehen umher, wie der lauernde Mord? – ich kann ihm nicht trauen! – Zuweilen ist es mir, als müßte ich ihm in möglichster Kürze und Schnelligkeit meinen Stockdegen durch den Leib rennen und nachher höflich sagen: „Pardonnez!“ – Ich kann ihm nicht trauen!

Sonderbares Ereignis! – Als ich meinen Freund, mit dem ich in die Nacht hinein manches vom Herzen zum Herzen gesprochen, über den Korridor in sein Zimmer begleitete, rauschte eine hagere Figur im weißen Schlafrock mit dem Licht in der Hand vorüber. – Der Baron schrie auf: „- Der Major! – Franz! – der Major!“ – Es war unbestritten Alban, und nur die Beleuchtung von unten herauf mochte sein Gesicht, welches alt und häßlich schien, verzerren. – Er kam von der Seite, wie aus Mariens Zimmern. Der Baron bestand darauf, zu ihr zu gehen. Sie schlief ruhig, wie ein frommer Engel Gottes. – Morgen ist endlich der lang ersehnte Tag! – Glücklicher Hypolit! – Aber jene Erscheinung erfüllt mich mit Grausen, unerachtet ich mich zu überzeugen bemühe, daß es Alban war. – Sollte der feindliche Dämon, der sich dem Baron schon in früher Jugend verkündete, nun wie ein über ihn waltendes böses Prinzip wieder sichtbarlich, und das Gute entzweiend ins Leben treten? Doch weg mit den finstern Ahnungen! – Überzeuge dich, Franz! daß das häßliche träumerische Zeug oft das Erzeugnis des verdorbenen Magens ist. – Sollte man nicht Diavolinis verschlucken, um sich gegen die Unbill böser Träume zu verwahren ?

Gerechter Gott! – Sie ist hin – hin! – Ew. Hochgeboren soll ich melden, wie es mit dem Tode der holdseligen Baronesse Marie zugegangen, des Familien-Archivs wegen – ich habe durchaus wenig Sinn für diplomatische Geschäfte. – Hätte mir Gott nicht das bißchen Faust verliehen des Malens halber! – Aber so viel ist gewiß, daß sie in dem Augenblick, als Hypolit sie vor dem Altar in seine Arme schließen wollte, tot – tot – tot niedersank – das übrige empfehle ich der Gerechtigkeit Gottes.

Ja, Du warst es! – Alban – hämischer Satan! – Du hast sie gemordet mit höllischen Künsten; welcher Gott hat es Hypolit offenbart! – Du bist entflohen, aber flieh nur – verbirg Dich im Mittelpunkt der Erde, die Rache wird Dich auffinden und zermalmen.

Nein, ich kann Dich nicht entschuldigen, Ottmar! – Du warst es, der sich von dem Satan verlocken ließ, von Dir fordert Hypolit die Geliebte seiner Seele! – Sie haben heute zu harte Worte gewechselt, der Zweikampf ist unvermeidlich.

Hypolit ist geblieben! – Wohl ihm! er sieht sie wieder. – Unglücklicher Ottmar! – Unglücklicher Vater!

Exeunt omnes! – Friede und ewige Ruhe den Verstorbenen! – Heute am neunten September in der Mitternachtsstunde starb mein Freund in meinen Armen! – Wie bin ich doch so wunderbar getröstet, da ich weiß, daß ich ihn bald wiedersehe. – Die Nachricht, daß Ottmar auf erhabene Weise gebüßt, durch den Heldentod in der Schlacht, zerschnitt den letzten Faden, der den Geist noch an das Irdische knüpfte. – Hier im Schlosse will ich bleiben, in den Zimmern will ich wandeln, wo sie lebten und mich liebten. – Oft werd ich ihre Stimme hören – manches freundliche Wort der holdseligen frommen Maria, mancher gemütliche Scherz des unwandelbaren Freundes, wird wie ein Geisterruf widerhallen und mich aufrecht und stark erhalten, des Lebens Bürde leicht zu tragen. – Es gibt für mich keine Gegenwart mehr, nur der Vergangenheit glückliche Tage schließen sich an das ferne Jenseits, das mich oft in wunderbaren Träumen mit lieblichem Schimmer, aus dem die geliebten Freunde lächelnd mir zuwinken, umfängt. – Wann! – wann werde ich zu euch hinüberwallen?

Und er ist hinüber!

*

Der Magnetisuer_03

A recommended Analysis of “Der Magnetiseur”

can be found here :

http://www.goethezeitportal.de/fileadmin/PDF/db/wiss/hoffmann/schweizer_hoffmann_magnetiseur.pdf


আলী আকবর খাঁ-Rag Madan Manjari-আলী আকবর খাঁ

Ali Akbar Khan

Ali Akbar Khan

আলী আকবর খাঁ

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, who passed away on June 18 (2009), was perhaps the most gifted of all the instrumentalists to have graced the Hindustani music scene in the past hundred years, that is, in the era of recorded music and the public concert stage. Those who have had the privilege of having heard sarod players of generations earlier than Ali Akbar’s have, almost to the man, put their prejudices aside, to acknowledge him as the most complete of all the instrumentalists. His knowledge of the grammar of ragas was formidable. In this respect, he was equal to his sister, the unsung genius Annapoorna Debi, and his former brother-in-law Pandit Ravi Shankar. His interpretation of the roop and aakaar, inner and outer raiments of many ragas, left both the connoisseur and the layman utterly astonished.

Much has been said of his command of varying tempi – laya – and rightly so; it was as adventurous as that of his confrere, Ravi Shankar, but something in his mercurial personality made it so beguiling. Mind you, this quality would come and go; he was not a consistent performer, but when it was there he was the King. The romantic vaishnav in him would have scoffed at the idea. On a good day, his laya manipulation combined with his insight into a given raga could create magic.

Those who have heard him live or in a recording, on a good day, have been on to profound revelations, whose nature could be universal and personal, nay private, all at once. His ebullience and introversion easily made him the most exciting instrumentalist in Hindustani music, indeed music of any genre. The tributes that have poured in almost immediately after his passing bear this out. Pop, classical, jazz musicians as well as those from Hindustani and Carnatic traditions, have acknowledged him as a towering genius and a very giving human being.

The making of Ali Akbar Khan Saheb survives as much in his music as in the anecdotes narrated by others and by him. When the martinet-guru Ustad Allauddin Khan, his father, told his other gifted pupil, Ravi Shankar, to wear bangles for playing the sitar too softly though tunefully in 1938, the lad, stung to the core, left in tears for the Maihar railway station (in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh).

Ali Akbar, then all of 16, was dispatched by his compassionate mother, Medina Bibi, to fetch Ravi. When the cosseted Ravi, still stung by his guru’s remark seemed reluctant to return, Ali Akbar took off his shirt and showed him the welts his father’s cane had made on his back. The two guru bhais quietly returned home to their practice.

According to Pandit Ravi Shankar, whenever Allauddin Khan Saheb was away, Ali Akbar would cut loose, albeit in a most innocent way. Uday Shankar, the pioneering Indian dancer and Ravi’s elder brother, took the irascible ustad to Europe as the music director of his dance troupe.

Young Ali Akbar, at home, promptly bought himself a gramophone and a set of 78 RPMs of Krishna Chandra Dey’s soul-stirring kirtan-based songs. He also took to playing football with the local boys. The end result of this brief vacation from practice, or riyaaz, was predictable. Allauddin Khan Saheb, on his return from Europe, gave his son a sound thrashing and made him practice twice as hard as before.

Ali Akbar Saheb had inherited not only his father’s gargantuan appetite for diverse musical influences within the Hindustani tradition but also his ability to make them an organic part of his own expression. He was, to use that most hackneyed of expressions, able to be both creative and original, almost always, in his use of this huge base of musical learning. His gats, big and small, in various ragas always take the listener by surprise.

Take his 1967 EMI recording of raga Desh, accompanied by Shankar Ghosh on the tabla. It is, of course, deeply poignant but it also has flashes of his then troubled personality.

One may argue that every performance by an artist, be it a vocalist or an instrumentalist, is autobiographical. True, but Ali Akbar’s Desh is palpably different from that of a Desh played by Radhika Mohan Moitra or his disciple Buddhadev Dasgupta or Amjad Ali Khan, though each may have played a memorable version. Those fortunate enough to hear Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Saheb, Amjad Ali’s illustrious father, in his prime, maintain that he had made Desh his own.
AN AURAL PORTRAIT

Any raga played by Ali Akbar Khan received his distinctive, multidimensional treatment. If it were not facetious, one could call his treatment of a raga poetically cubist, to borrow an analogy from 20th century Western painting. The same 1967 recording containing Desh also has a haunting alap in Desh Malhar. This recording is the most perceptive aural “portrait” of the man. We do not know if his later recordings in ragas such as Madan Manjari, his own creation, Chandranandan, Alamgiri, Malayalam, Puriya Kalyan, Gauri Manjari, Medhavi and Jogiya Kalengra, among others, were not an elaborate concealment of his true personality despite their obvious merit. While recordings such as these reveal his enormous erudition in Hindustani music, they also, ironically, mitigate the passionate quest of his youth and late middle age, and bring about a mellowness, charming and welcome though not entirely natural.

His dramatic renderings of ragas such as Bilas Khani Todi, Jaijawanti, Darbari Kanara, Mian Ki Todi, Yaman Kalyan, Ramdasi Malhar, Bageshshri Kannada and Suha Sugrai have even made the Jades listen to these ragas with a new attentiveness. Hardly any instrumentalist has made a recording of a deceptive raga such as Chayanat sound so exquisite and yet not without its mystery.

Most musicians of undoubted talent, both vocalists and instrumentalists, would fall for the obvious sweetness of the raga and be content with it. Not so Ali Akbar. He added to its burnished glow a pilgrim’s quest.

When his musical quest was at odds with his personal longings, there were fireworks. Until he met Mary, his fourth and final wife and the mother of his son Alam some 30 years ago, his private life, to put it mildly, was turbulent. Why he parted from his second wife, the mother of his sons Ashish, Dhyanesh, Pranesh, Samaresh, Aparesh and daughter Shri, is a mystery. His union with his third wife Rajdulari, a talented singer, was tempestuous. They split, but not before recording together in 1967 a long-playing disc with raga Kirwani on one side and Yamani Bilawal on the other. Mahapurush Mishra was on the tabla.
FILM MUSIC FOR FINANCES

Before he went to the United States in 1955 and later settled down there, first in Berkeley, California, and later in Marin County, north of San Francisco, his financial position was precarious. So was Ravi Shankar’s. They composed music for mostly Hindi films individually and played when required in orchestras for other film composers. Ali Akbar’s sarod solo carried Chetan Anand’s Buddhist story of renunciation, Anjali. Earlier, for the same director, he composed the haunting, 19-minute ragamalika composition, “Ek Taraf Haeye Shaadmaani…”, memorably rendered by Lata Mangeshkar.

He did not like composing for films particularly. In 1957, paradoxically, he allowed his friend Ritwik Ghatak to persuade him to compose the music for the path-breaking film Ajaantrik. Ghatak had his own story to tell regarding the film’s music. He told this writer in 1975: “Ali Akbar was a little nervous about composing the music for Ajaantrik, especially after Ravi Shankar’s success with Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. On the first day of the recording he turned up with 60 musicians. Without turning a hair, we recorded with them and paid them off. Then we ordered some food and Ali Akbar’s favourite Gold Spot whisky. Towards morning he started playing Bilaskhani Todi. It was a grand experience. I had already alerted recordist Satyen Chatterjee and his colleague Jyoti Chatterjee. They recorded it beautifully.” Ali Akbar Khan’s background score for Ajaantrik is amongst the most apposite in cinema.

There is a story about Ali Akbar Khan from those times, that is, the mid-1950s, narrated by his admirer and lay pupil Sandhya Sen. He told her that he had just received his fee after his Sunday morning concert at Basusri Cinema in south Calcutta and a nimble-fingered man picked his pocket and swiftly made his way through the crowd. The whole action was watched by an admiring Khan Saheb. When asked later by an astonished and angry friend why he did not raise an alarm, Ali Akbar Khan said that he did not want to spoil the lovely after-concert mood that everyone had got into.
DUETS WITH RAVI SHANKAR

Duets with his formidable “adversary”, Ravi Shankar, remain a benchmark for all such ventures in Hindustani instrumental music. His own darting, spontaneous musical inventions are held in exquisite balance by Ravi Shankar’s unfailing sense of form and a complementarity of ideas. Nowhere perhaps in the history of Hindustani and Carnatic music, indeed in music, eastern or Western, have two musicians created compositions in which one person’s idea results in the birth of a new one while adhering to the form outlined by a given raga and the tala (beat cycle) and laya so required. A perfect example is their 1963 rendering of raga Shri with Alla Rakha on the tabla.

There is also a 1972 recording of Hem Bihag, Manj Khammaj and Sindu Bhairavi. Also with Alla Rakha on the tabla. The recordings of ragas Khammaj and Durga come to mind. A 1971 duet of Mishr Jhinjhoti also comes to mind, as does a 1964 interpretation of Palas Kafi and Bilaskhani Todi accompanied by Kanai Dutta on the tabla. There are, of course, very many more recordings of Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan playing together superbly. Not many are readily available but nonetheless are there in the collections of archives abroad, and with connoisseurs. They played less and less together as relations soured between(….).

In all fairness it must be remembered that it was Ravi Shankar who helped Ali Akbar find his footing in the West, particularly in the U.S.

Ali Akbar Khan’s musical education, like that of his fellow pupils, particularly Annapoorna and Ravi Shankar, took place in far away Maihar in a quiet, ashram-like atmosphere. Ustad Allauddin Khan, a devotee of Maa Sharada, believed that the pursuit of music was akin to prayer. He felt that many musicians of his time had cheapened it by pandering to the moneyed philistines. He wished to restore the pristine glory of Hindustani music sullied by public performers such as the Mirasis. In order to achieve his objective he was unbelievably harsh with his most gifted pupils, more so with his gregarious son. Life was practice, practice and more practice. Everything else was secondary.

When Ali Akbar came out into the world he was full of goodwill and music, the likes of which had never been heard before. He also had the appetite of a sensualist and the temperament of an old-time East Bengal village patriarch, with the kindness, benevolence and bursts of temper to go with it. When he came to negotiate the modern world, he was quite often baffled by it. He got around it by teaching and the Ali Akbar College of Music at San Rafael, California, his creation, became the finest institution in the world for teaching Hindustani music. As a teacher, he always tried to live up to the ideals of his giving father.

After all the panegyrics die down and people pay attention to the music, and the music alone, they will understand what a magnificent musician Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was. He was prone to the vagaries of mood, could play badly if something irritated him very much, but when the muses were kind, he made music fit for the Gods.

(Courtesy of PARTHA CHATTERJEE)

***

Please note also :

http://aliakbarkhanlibrary.com/library_site/


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