Category Archives: Clocks and Clouds

Math and Myth – John Forbes Nash

NASH

John Forbes Nash

Born: 13 June 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia, USA
Died: 23 May 2015 in New Jersey, USA

John F Nash’s father, also called John Forbes Nash so we shall refer to him as John Nash Senior, was a native of Texas. John Nash Senior was born in 1892 and had an unhappy childhood from which he escaped when he studied electrical engineering at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical. After military service in France during World War I, John Nash Senior lectured on electrical engineering for a year at the University of Texas before joining the Appalachian Power Company in Bluefield, West Virginia. John F Nash’s mother, Margaret Virginia Martin, was known as Virginia. She had a university education, studying languages at the Martha Washington College and then at West Virginia University. She was a school teacher for ten years before meeting John Nash Senior, and the two were married on 6 September 1924.

Johnny Nash, as he was called by his family, was born in Bluefield Sanitarium and baptised into the Episcopal Church. He was [2]:-

… a singular little boy, solitary and introverted …

but he was brought up in a loving family surrounded by close relations who showed him much affection. After a couple of years Johnny had a sister when Martha was born. He seems to have shown a lot of interest in books when he was young but little interest in playing with other children. It was not because of lack of children that Johnny behaved in this way, for Martha and her cousins played the usual childhood games: cutting patterns out of books, playing hide-and-seek in the attic, playing football. However while the others played together Johnny played by himself with toy airplanes and matchbox cars.

His mother responded by enthusiastically encouraging Johnny’s education, both by seeing that he got good schooling and also by teaching him herself. Johnny’s father responded by treating him like an adult, giving him science books when other parents might give their children colouring books.

Johnny’s teachers at school certainly did not recognise his genius, and it would appear that he gave them little reason to realise that he had extraordinary talents. They were more conscious of his lack of social skills and, because of this, labelled him as backward. Although it is easy to be wise after the event, it now would appear that he was extremely bored at school. By the time he was about twelve years old he was showing great interest in carrying out scientific experiments in his room at home. It is fairly clear that he learnt more at home than he did at school.

Martha seems to have been a remarkably normal child while Johnny seemed different from other children. She wrote later in life (see [2]):-

Johnny was always different. [My parents] knew he was different. And they knew he was bright. He always wanted to do things his way. Mother insisted I do things for him, that I include him in my friendships. … but I wasn’t too keen on showing off my somewhat odd brother.

His parents encouraged him to take part in social activities and he did not refuse, but sports, dances, visits to relatives and similar events he treated as tedious distractions from his books and experiments.

Nash first showed an interest in mathematics when he was about 14 years old. Quite how he came to read E T Bell’s Men of Mathematics is unclear but certainly this book inspired him. He tried, and succeeded, in proving for himself results due to Fermat which Bell stated in his book. The excitement that Nash found here was in contrast to the mathematics that he studied at school which failed to interest him.

He entered Bluefield College in 1941 and there he took mathematics courses as well as science courses, in particular studying chemistry, which was a favourite topic. He began to show abilities in mathematics, particularly in problem solving, but still with hardly any friends and behaving in a somewhat eccentric manner, this only added to his fellow pupils view of him as peculiar. He did not consider a career in mathematics at this time, however, which is not surprising since it was an unusual profession. Rather he assumed that he would study electrical engineering and follow his father but he continued to conduct his own chemistry experiments and was involved in making explosives which led to the death of one of his fellow pupils. [2]:-

Boredom and simmering adolescent aggression led him to play pranks, occasionally ones with a nasty edge.

He caricatured classmates he disliked with weird cartoons, enjoyed torturing animals, and once tried to get his sister to sit in a chair he had wired up with batteries.

Nash won a scholarship in the George Westinghouse Competition and was accepted by the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) which he entered in June 1945 with the intention of taking a degree in chemical engineering. Soon, however, his growing interest in mathematics had him take courses on tensor calculus and relativity. There he came in contact with John Synge who had recently been appointed as Head of the Mathematics Department and taught the relativity course. Synge and the other mathematics professors quickly recognised Nash’s remarkable mathematical talents and persuaded him to become a mathematics specialist. They realised that he had the talent to become a professional mathematician and strongly encouraged him.

Nash quickly aspired to great things in mathematics. He took the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition twice but, although he did well, he did not make the top five. It was a failure in Nash’s eyes and one which he took badly. The Putnam Mathematics Competition was not the only thing going badly for Nash. Although his mathematics professors heaped praise on him, his fellow students found him a very strange person. Physically he was strong and this saved him from being bullied, but his fellow students took delight in making fun of Nash who they saw as an awkward immature person displaying childish tantrums. One of his fellow students wrote:-

He was a country boy unsophisticated even by our standards. He behaved oddly, playing a single chord on a piano over and over, leaving a melting ice cream cone melting on top of his cast-off clothing, walking on his roommate’s sleeping body to turn off the light.

Another wrote:-

He was extremely lonely.

And a third fellow student wrote:-

We tormented poor John. We were very unkind. We were obnoxious. We sensed he had a mental problem.

He showed homosexual tendencies, climbing into bed with the other boys who reacted by making fun of the fact that he was attracted to boys and humiliated him. They played cruel pranks on him and he reacted by asking his fellow students to challenge him with mathematics problems. He ended up doing the homework of many of the students.

Nash received a BA and an MA in mathematics in 1948. By this time he had been accepted into the mathematics programme at Harvard, Princeton, Chicago and Michigan. He felt that Harvard was the leading university and so he wanted to go there, but on the other hand their offer to him was less generous than that of Princeton. Nash felt that Princeton were keen that he went there while he felt that his lack of success in the Putnam Mathematics Competition meant that Harvard were less enthusiastic. He took a while to make his decision, while he was encouraged by Synge and his other professors to accept Princeton. When Lefschetz offered him the most prestigious Fellowship that Princeton had, Nash made his decision to study there.

In September 1948 Nash entered Princeton where he showed an interest in a broad range of pure mathematics: topology, algebraic geometry, game theory and logic were among his interests but he seems to have avoided attending lectures. Usually those who decide not to learn through lectures turn to books but this appears not to be so for Nash, who decided not to learn mathematics “second-hand” but rather to develop topics himself. In many ways this approach was successful for it did contribute to him developing into one of the most original of mathematicians who would attack a problem in a totally novel way.

In 1949, while studying for his doctorate, he wrote a paper which 45 years later was to win a Nobel prize for economics. During this period Nash established the mathematical principles of game theory. P Ordeshook wrote:-

The concept of a Nash equilibrium n-tuple is perhaps the most important idea in noncooperative game theory. … Whether we are analysing candidates’ election strategies, the causes of war, agenda manipulation in legislatures, or the actions of interest groups, predictions about events reduce to a search for and description of equilibria. Put simply, equilibrium strategies are the things that we predict about people.

Milnor, who was a fellow student, describes Nash during his years at Princeton in [6]:-

He was always full of mathematical ideas, not only on game theory, but in geometry and topology as well. However, my most vivid memory of this time is of the many games which were played in the common room. I was introduced to Go and Kriegspiel, and also to an ingenious topological game which we called Nash in honor of the inventor.

In fact the game “Nash” was almost identical to Hex which had been invented independently by Piet Hein in Denmark.

Here are three comments from fellow students:-

Nash was out of the ordinary. If he was in a room with twenty people, and they were talking, if you asked an observer who struck you as odd it would have been Nash. It was not anything he consciously did. It was his bearing. His aloofness.

Nash was totally spooky. He wouldn’t look at you. he’d take a lot of time answering a question. If he thought the question was foolish he wouldn’t answer at all. He had no affect. It was a mixture of pride and something else. He was so isolated but there really was underneath it all a warmth and appreciation of people.

A lot of us would discount what Nash said. … I wouldn’t want to listen. You didn’t feel comfortable with the person.

He had ideas and was very sure they were important. He went to see Einstein not long after he arrived in Princeton and told him about an idea he had regarding gravity. After explaining complicated mathematics to Einstein for about an hour, Einstein advised him to go and learn more physics. Apparently a physicist did publish a similar idea some years later.

In 1950 Nash received his doctorate from Princeton with a thesis entitled Non-cooperative Games. In the summer of that year he worked for the RAND Corporation where his work on game theory made him a leading expert on the Cold War conflict which dominated RAND’s work. He worked there from time to time over the next few years as the Corporation tried to apply game theory to military and diplomatic strategy. Back at Princeton in the autumn of 1950 he began to work seriously on pure mathematical problems. It might seem that someone who had just introduced ideas which would, one day, be considered worthy of a Nobel Prize would have no problems finding an academic post. However, Nash’s work was not seen at the time to be of outstanding importance and he saw that he needed to make his mark in other ways. We should also note that it was not really a move towards pure mathematics for he had always considered himself a pure mathematician. He had already obtained results on manifolds and algebraic varieties before writing his thesis on game theory. His famous theorem, that any compact real manifold is diffeomorphic to a component of a real-algebraic variety, was thought of by Nash as a possible result to fall back on if his work on game theory was not considered suitable for a doctoral thesis. He said in a recent interview:-

I developed a very good idea in pure mathematics. I got what became Real Algebraic Manifolds. I could have published that earlier, but it wasn’t rushed to publication. I took some time in writing it up. Somebody suggested that I was a prodigy. Another time it was suggested that I should be called “bug brains”, because I had ideas, but they were sort of buggy or not perfectly sound. So that might have been an anticipation of mental problems. I mean, taking it at face value.

In 1952 Nash published Real Algebraic Manifolds in the Annals of Mathematics. The most important result in this paper is that two real algebraic manifolds are equivalent if and only if they are analytically homeomorphic. Although publication of this paper on manifolds established him as a leading mathematician, not everyone at Princeton was prepared to see him join the Faculty there. This was nothing to do with his mathematical ability which everyone accepted as outstanding, but rather some mathematicians such as Artin felt that they could not have Nash as a colleague due to his aggressive personality.

Halmos received the following letter in early 1953 from Warren Ambrose relating to Nash (see for example [2]):-

There’s no significant news from here, as always. Martin is appointing John Nash to an Assistant Professorship (not the Nash at Illinois, the one out of Princeton by Steenrod) and I’m pretty annoyed at that. Nash is a childish bright guy who wants to be “basically original,” which I suppose is fine for those who have some basic originality in them. He also makes a damned fool of himself in various ways contrary to this philosophy. He recently heard of the unsolved problem about imbedding a Riemannian manifold isometrically in Euclidean space, felt that this was his sort of thing, provided the problem were sufficiently worthwhile to justify his efforts; so he proceeded to write to everyone in the math society to check on that, was told that it probably was, and proceeded to announce that he had solved it, modulo details, and told Mackey he would like to talk about it at the Harvard colloquium. Meanwhile he went to Levinson to inquire about a differential equation that intervened and Levinson says it is a system of partial differential equations and if he could only [get] to the essentially simpler analog of a single ordinary differential equation it would be a damned good paper – and Nash had only the vaguest notions about the whole thing. So it is generally conceded he is getting nowhere and making an even bigger ass of himself than he has been previously supposed by those with less insight than myself. But we’ve got him and saved ourselves the possibility of having gotten a real mathematician. He’s a bright guy but conceited as Hell, childish as Wiener, hasty as X, obstreperous as Y, for arbitrary X and Y.

Ambrose, the author of this letter, and Nash had rubbed each other the wrong way for a while. They had played silly pranks on each other and Ambrose seems not to have been able to ignore Nash’s digs in the way others had learned to do. It had been Ambrose who had said to Nash:-

If you’re so good, why don’t you solve the embedding theorem for manifolds.

From 1952 Nash had taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but his teaching was unusual (and unpopular with students) and his examining methods were highly unorthodox. His research on the theory of real algebraic varieties, Riemannian geometry, parabolic and elliptic equations was, however, extremely deep and significant in the development of all these topics. His paper C1 isometric imbeddings was published in 1954 and Chern, in a review, noted that it:-

… contains some surprising results on the C1-isometric imbedding into an Euclidean space of a Riemannian manifold with a positive definite C0-metric.

Nash continued to develop this work in the paper The imbedding problem for Riemannian manifolds published in 1956. This paper contains his famous deep implicit function theorem. After this Nash worked on ideas that would appear in his paper Continuity of solutions of parabolic and elliptic equations which was published in the American Journal of Mathematics in 1958. Nash, however, was very disappointed when he discovered that E De Giorgi had proved similar results by completely different methods.

The outstanding results which Nash had obtained in the course of a few years put him into contention for a 1958 Fields’ Medal but since his work on parabolic and elliptic equations was still unpublished when the Committee made their decisions he did not make it. One imagines that the Committee would have expected him to be a leading contender, perhaps even a virtual certainty, for a 1962 Fields’ Medal but mental illness destroyed his career long before those decisions were made.

During his time at MIT Nash began to have personal problems with his life which were in addition to the social difficulties he had always suffered. Colleagues said:-

Nash was always forming intense friendships with men that had a romantic quality. He was very adolescent, always with the boys. He was very experimental – mostly he just kissed.

He met Eleanor Stier and they had a son, John David Stier, who was born on 19 June 1953. Eleanor was a shy girl, lacking confidence, a little afraid of men, did not want to be involved. She found in Nash someone who was even less experienced than she was and found that attractive. [2]:-

Nash was looking for emotional partners who were more interested in giving than receiving, and Eleanor, was very much that sort.

Nash did not want to marry Eleanor although she tried hard to persuade him. In the summer of 1954, while working for RAND, Nash was arrested in a police operation to trap homosexuals. He was dismissed from RAND.

One of Nash’s students at MIT, Alicia Larde, became friendly with him and by the summer of 1955 they were seeing each other regularly. He also had a special friendship with a male graduate student at this time: Jack Bricker. Eleanor found out about Alicia in the spring of 1956 when she came to Nash’s house and found him in bed with Alicia. Nash said to a friend:-

My perfect little world is ruined, my perfect little world is ruined.

Alicia did not seem too upset at discovering that Nash had a child with Eleanor and deduced that since the affair had been going on for three years, Nash was probably not serious about her. In 1956 Nash’s parents found out about his continuing affair with Eleanor and about his son John David Stier. The shock may have contributed to the death of Nash’s father soon after, but even if it did not Nash may have blamed himself. In February of 1957 Nash married Alicia; by the autumn of 1958 she was pregnant but, a couple of months later near the end of 1958, Nash’s mental state became very disturbed.

At a New Year’s Party Nash appeared at midnight dressed only with a nappy and a sash with “1959” written on it. He spent most of the evening curled up, like the baby he was dressed as, on his wife’s lap. Some described his behaviour as stranger than usual. On 4 January he was back at the university and started to teach his game theory course. His opening comments to the class were:-

The question occurs to me. Why are you here?

One student immediately dropped the course! Nash asked a graduate student to take over his course and vanished for a couple of weeks. When he returned he walked into the common room with a copy of the New York Times saying that it contained encrypted messages from outer space that were meant only for him. For a few days people thought he was playing an elaborate private joke.

Norbert Wiener was one of the first to recognize that Nash’s extreme eccentricities and personality problems were actually symptoms of a medical disorder. After months of bizarre behaviour, Alicia had her husband involuntarily hospitalised at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital outside of Boston. Upon his release, Nash abruptly resigned from MIT, withdrew his pension, and went to Europe, where he intended to renounce his US citizenship. Alicia left her newborn son with her mother, and followed the ill Nash. She then had Nash deported – back to the United States.

After their return, the two settled in Princeton where Alicia took a job. Nash’s illness continued, transforming him into a frightening figure. He spent most of his time hanging around on the Princeton campus, talking about himself in the third person as Johann von Nassau, writing nonsensical postcards and making phone calls to former colleagues. They stoically listened to his endless discussions of numerology and world political affairs. Her husband’s worsening condition depressed Alicia more and more.

In January 1961 the despondent Alicia, John’s mother, and his sister Martha made the difficult decision to commit him to Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey where he endured insulin-coma therapy, an aggressive and risky treatment, five days a week for a month and a half. A long sad episode followed which included periods of hospital treatment, temporary recovery, then further treatment. Alicia divorced Nash in 1962. Nash spent a while with Eleanor and John David. In 1970 Alicia tried to help him taking him in as a boarder, but he appeared to be lost to the world, removed from ordinary society, although he spent much of his time in the Mathematics Department at Princeton. The book [2] is highly recommended for its moving account of Nash’s mental sufferings.

Slowly over many years Nash recovered. He delivered a paper at the tenth World Congress of Psychiatry in 1996 describing his illness; it is reported in [3]. He was described in 1958 as the:-

… most promising young mathematician in the world …

but he soon began to feel that:-

… the staff at my university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later all of Boston were behaving strangely towards me. … I started to see crypto-communists everywhere … I started to think I was a man of great religious importance, and to hear voices all the time. I began to hear something like telephone calls in my head, from people opposed to my ideas. …The delirium was like a dream from which I seemed never to awake.

Despite spending periods in hospital because of his mental condition, his mathematical work continued to have success after success. He said:-

I would not dare to say that there is a direct relation between mathematics and madness, but there is no doubt that great mathematicians suffer from maniacal characteristics, delirium and symptoms of schizophrenia.

In the 1990s Nash made a recovery from the schizophrenia from which he had suffered since 1959. His ability to produce mathematics of the highest quality did not totally leave him. He said:-

I would not treat myself as recovered if I could not produce good things in my work.

Nash was awarded (jointly with Harsanyi and Selten) the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his work on game theory. In 1999 he was awarded the Leroy P Steele Prize by the American Mathematical Society:-

… for a seminal contribution to research.

Nash and Louis Nirenberg were awarded the Abel prize in 2015 for:

… striking and seminal contributions to the theory of nonlinear partial differential equations and its applications to geometric analysis.

A few days after picking up the prize in Norway, Nash and his wife Alicia were killed in an accident to their taxi on the New Jersey turnpike.

Article by: J J O’Connor and E F Robertson

Click on this link to see a list of the Glossary entries for this page
List of References (10 books/articles)

Some Quotations (2)

Mathematicians born in the same country

Additional Material in MacTutor

Raoul Bott on John Nash

Honours awarded to John F Nash
(Click below for those honoured in this way)
Nobel Prize    1994
AMS Steele Prize    1999
Abel Prize    2015
Popular biographies list    Number 25
Other Web sites

Encyclopaedia Britannica
Nobel prize winners
Nobel prizes site (An autobiography of Nash and his Nobel prize presentation speech)
Nash’s home page
AMS [registration required]
PBS
Mathematical Genealogy Project

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“Maelzel’s Chess-Player” and Poe’s Reverse Constraints

Maelzel

 

 

Antebellum AI:

“Maelzel’s Chess-Player” and
Poe’s Reverse Constraints

Abstract In his essay “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846), Edgar Allan Poe
describes how he composed his lyric poem “The Raven” by following a series of
predetermined steps. My essay shows how Poe’s description of composition as rule
following both has suggestive affinities with and significantly alters the Oulipian
understanding of constraints as axioms that precede composition. Looking closely
at Poe’s earlier essay “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” (1836) and the way it anticipates more
recent debates in artificial intelligence, I show how Poe’s (1984d [1846]: 13) constraint,
as stated in “The Philosophy of Composition,” “I prefer commencing with
the consideration of an effect,” is a matter of concealing a decade of experimentation
in previous magazine essays with the effect of a poetry-making algorithm.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect.

—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”

Poe and Rules

In his 1838 tale “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” Edgar Allan Poe
caricatures some formulas of British magazine writing of the time, namely,
the display of erudition and the sensational depiction of death. The
story is both a transcript of Signora Psyche Zenobia’s discussion with a
“Mr. Blackwood” and a facsimile of the story she proceeds to write based
on his advice. This advice includes everything from using “very black ink”
to making sure one’s writing contains “taste, terror, sentiment, metaphysics
and erudition” (Poe 1978b [1838]: 339). Zenobia manages to bungle most
of Mr. Blackwood’s rules, notably his suggestion that she make literary
allusions in foreign languages. Thus Cervantes’s (2003: 708)

Ven muerte, tan escondida
Que no te sienta venir
Porque el placer del morir
No me torne a dar la vida

(Come, death, so secret, so still
I do not hear your approach
so that the pleasure of dying
does not bring me back to life)

becomes, in Zenobia’s version:

Vanny Buren, tan escondida
Query no te senty venny
Pork and pleasure, delly morry
Nommy, torny, darry, widdy!
(Poe 1978b [1838]: 354)

If the paradox of Death’s approach rousing the dead back to life is lost in
Zenobia’s rendering, the original nevertheless prefigures her own sensational
fate—as she tells it in her story, her head is sliced off by the hands
of a giant clock. That her narration continues, Orpheus-like, even after the
Scythe of Time has had its way with her is part of Poe’s send-up of the kind
of thing he imagined a Blackwood’s audience liking (erudition plus shock).
But in casting his tale in the form of a “how-to” manual, which, if followed,
will lead to the composition of a tale suitable for publication in Blackwood’s,
Poe, as Thomas O. Mabbot puts it, “consciously describes some of his own
methods” (Poe 1978a: 335). In a period when innovators like Poe were constantly
having to come up with ways of filling the columns of American

the kind of literary journalism found in Blackwood’s. Thomas O. Mabbott writes that Poe was
“undoubtedly familiar with Blackwood’s Magazine . . . since his foster father dealt in imported
books and periodicals [and so Blackwood’s] provided a source for ideas made use of, in one
way or another, in many of Poe’s stories” (Poe 1978a: 357).

2. In fact these lines are not even Cervantes’s (2003: 708) but are quoted from Commander
Escrivá, “a fifteenth century poet from Valencia, whose work was greatly admired by many
writers of the Golden Age.” In the prologue to Don Quixote, Cervantes himself spoofs the idea
of rules for literary composition (ibid.: 3–9).
magazines (Poe is of course the inventor of, among other things, the detective
story), “How to Write a Blackwood Article” is not only an example of
Poe’s shrewd imitative ability but an index to his own growing interest in
literary composition as rule following.

Four years after “How to Write a Blackwood Article” appeared in the
American Museum (under the title “The Psyche Zenobia”), Poe published
a review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales in Graham’s Magazine.
Deepening his interest in the idea of compositional rules, he couched his
praise for Hawthorne in the following terms:

We need only here say, upon this topic [of the superiority of the tale as a literary
form] that, in almost all classes of composition, the unity of effect or impression
is a point of the greatest importance. . . . A skilful literary artist has constructed
a tale [and has] conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect
to be wrought out. . . . And here it will be seen how full of prejudice are the
usual animadversions against those tales of effect many fine examples of which
were found in the earlier numbers of Blackwood. (Poe 1984c [1842]: 571–73)

In the four years that separate the Hawthorne review from “How to Write
a Blackwood Article,” Poe both has changed his tone from parody to
approval (he may as well be talking about his own earlier piece when he
condemns the “prejudice [of the] usual animadversions against . . . Black-
wood”) and has arrived at a more explicit formulation of his ideas about
compositional rules. Whereas in “How to Write a Blackwood Article” such
rules were a matter of imitating (and caricaturing) the “fine examples” of
Blackwood’s, the Hawthorne review abstracts a general principle from those
earlier examples: the production of “a certain single or unique effect.” In
this way, Poe hints at what will become the premise for his later essay, “The
Philosophy of Composition” (1846), in which he tells us that in all of his
literary compositions he has “prefer[red] commencing with the consideration
of an effect” (Poe 1984d [1846]: 13).

In what follows, I want to consider Poe’s emphasis on “effects” in light of
the Oulipian notion of “constraint” as “a strict and clearly definable rule,
method or procedure or structure that generates [a] work” (Mathews and
Brotchie 2005: 131). While Oulipian constraints are formal rules for generating
“potential” literary works, this does not mean that texts arising from
the use of constraints are “demonstrations” in the sense that mathematical
proofs are demonstrations. That is, while Oulipian constraints are indeed
“axioms”—“Proposition 14: A constraint is an axiom of a text” (Roubaud
1986: 89)—the relation between a constraint and its potential text is not
analogous to the proof-like relation between axioms and theorems. As
Jacques Roubaud (ibid.), himself a mathematician, puts it in an essay on
Raymond Queneau: “One may think that a text composed according to a
given constraint (or several constraints) will be the equivalent of a theorem.
It is a fairly interesting hypothesis. It is nonetheless true that the foreseeable
passage from the statement of the constraint to its ‘consequence,’ the
text, remains in a profound metaphorical vagueness.” Such “metaphorical
vagueness,” I take it, refers to the fact that the results of the application
of a constraint are not formally derived in the way that theorems are formally
derived from axioms. For example, and to invoke one of the more
celebrated Oulipian works, the move from Georges Perec’s adoption of a
lipogrammatic constraint (the removal of the letter e from the alphabet) to
the final shape and makeup of La disparition (1969) could not be described
as one of necessity.

Emphasizing the way Oulipian constraints are defined as preceding literary
composition, Eve Célia Morisi (2008: 113) points out that in the case
of Poe’s “Philosophy of Composition,” “constraints . . . no longer come
first, prior to the writing, and are no longer preeminent. Their formulation
follows the poem’s composition instead of preceding it, and therefore cannot
be proved to have presided over it . . . [and thus] the a posteriori writing
of ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ symbolically destabilizes the notion of
literary constraint.” Poe’s description of how he composed “The Raven” is
(of course) formulated a posteriori; but rather than “destabilizing the very
notion of constraints” (what Morisi [ibid.] also calls his “capsizing” the
notion of constraint), Poe leads us to rethink how constraints might work.
If “commencing with the consideration of an effect” (Poe 1984d [1846]: 13)
can be thought of as a constraint, then in Poe’s case it will remain a consistent
starting point no matter how unforeseeably myriad or “vague” its consequences.
If Poe seems to be saying that “The Raven”—in all of its jumpy,
trochaic detail—arose step-by-step from a series of axiom-like rules, then
this is just the effect he hopes to create in “The Philosophy of Composition”:
the sleight of hand by which a constraint derived a posteriori is
made to look like one which has preceded composition. Thus what Morisi
(2008: 111) calls a “textual inconsistency,” rendering Poe’s account of the
composition of “The Raven” “inauthentic” (ibid.: 112), misses the point,
since “inauthenticity” is just what enables Poe to create his desired effect.
And if Stuart Levine (2009: 58) is no doubt right when he says “no critic,
no literary historian, no poet has ever believed that Poe literally wrote

4. According to the Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics, a theorem is a “statement derived from
premises” (Nelson 2008: 417).

‘The Raven’ as systematically . . . as he says [he had],” this does not change
the fact that Poe was trying to get his antebellum audience to believe that
“The Raven” had been so composed and so remains in accord with his
declared constraint of “commencing with the consideration of effects.” It is
perhaps in this sense that Harry Mathews and Alastair Brotchie (2005: 211)
include Poe in their list of “anticipatory plagiarists” who were “creating
paleo-Oulipian texts without acknowledgment.”

In what follows, I want to uncover a precedent for Poe’s reverse constraints—
the way “effects” are a matter of both enticing and duping an
audience—in looking closely at his essay “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” (1836),
a piece that predates both “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and the
Hawthorne review. When Poe attended an exhibition of Johann Nepomuk
Maelzel’s automaton chess player in Richmond in 1836, he saw not just a
machine that seemed to play (and win at) chess but the effect the performance
had on an audience. Poe treated this performance, I want to argue,
as a model for the kind of effect he wanted the magazine article (whether
short story, poem, or critical essay) to have on a reader. What struck Poe
about the exhibition was the combination of a carefully controlled management
of theatrical artifice with the sensational notion of a thinking
machine. “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” sets up the relation between rule following—
a chess-playing machine would need to follow programmable
rules for making meaningful (and not just random) chess moves—and the
creation of the effect of such a mechanical intelligence. Poe’s earlier essay, I
want to argue, serves as a template for the way his proposed starting point
of the “consideration of an effect,” in “The Philosophy of Composition”
is, as John Tresch (1997: 289) has put it, his “attempt [to] present himself
explicitly as a poetry-automaton.”

Many literary scholars have characterized Poe’s tone of clinical detachment
in “The Philosophy of Composition” as a matter of theatricality and
showmanship. Kenneth Burke (1966: 25), for example, suspects that Poe’s
essay was written “for purposes of showmanship or to compensate for
his own personal shortcomings by representing himself as a paragon of
rational control.” Daniel Hoffman (1972: 83) is careful to mention that Poe
“compar[es] the composing of a poem to the management of theatrical
props and machinery.” Eliza Richards (2004: 53) compares Poe to a “show
man [who] opens the curtains on the theatricality of the lyric.” Lois Davis
Vines (1992: 105) says that in “allowing spectators to witness the process of
creation,” Poe gives them access to an “intellectual drama.” And Levine
(2009: 72) says that Poe “makes obvious use of stage effects of the sort
popular in productions in American cities.”

But none of these critics traces such “stage effects” and “showmanship”
back to Poe’s witnessing, and writing about, the sensational spectacle of
the mechanical chess player. Nor do they consider that part of the performance
of “The Philosophy of Composition” is precisely the way it creates
the illusion of a literary composition which appears to arise by necessity
from the following out of a set of axiom-like rules. If Poe (1984d [1846]: 15)
says he composed “The Raven,” “step by step to its completion with the
rigid consequence of a mathematical problem,” he simultaneously conceals
a series of prior experiments like “How to Write a Blackwood Article,”
the Hawthorne review, and the essay on the chess player itself. “Maelzel’s
Chess-Player” lays out in detail Poe’s interest in the way the careful creation
of surface effects—what appears to be going on—informed his understanding
of how literary compositions could produce similar effects on a
reader. Such illusionism is analogous, I would argue, to the reversal at
work when “effects” are generated from a hoax-like transposition of an a
posteriori explanation into an axiomatic starting point. “The Philosophy
of Composition” makes a “constraint” not out of the determinate algorithmic
series by which Poe claims to have composed the poem but from the
effect of having composed the poem in this way.

Antebellum AI

“Perhaps no exhibition of the kind has ever elicited so general attention
as the Chess-Player of Maelzel” (Poe 1984b [1836]: 1253). So begins the
unsigned editorial Poe contributed in 1836 to a new Virginia magazine
called the Southern Literary Messenger. In it he attempts to debunk the illusion
produced by the chess-playing automaton of the Bavarian inventor
Maelzel, a traveling exhibition he saw on a number of occasions during one
of its U.S. tours. Closely observing the way Maelzel’s machine appeared

6. Maelzel purchased the chess automaton (sometimes called “the Turk” because of its
sultan’s attire) from the German inventor Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen. After touring
Europe a number of times and being sold to Maelzel, the chess player made a series of
appearances (often accompanied by musical automatons) along the eastern seaboard of the
United States in the 1820s and 1830s (Standage 2002). Before seeing Maelzel’s chess player,
Poe relied heavily on pamphlet copies of David Brewster’s Letters on Natural Magic for his
knowledge of the machine. Poe’s essay appeared in the April 1836 issue of the Southern Literary
Messenger. For a detailed publication history of how Brewster’s writings about the chess
machine reached North American periodicals, see Wimsatt 1939: 144–46.
to win chess games against volunteers picked from the audience, Poe was
fascinated by the effect it had on a paying spectator and was convinced that
the machine was a fake.

Poe (1984b [1836]: 1253) begins his essay by pointing out the distinction
between a piece of mechanism and a human mind. “Everywhere
men of mechanical genius, of great general acuteness, and discriminative
understanding . . . make no scruple in pronouncing the Automaton a pure
machine, unconnected with human agency in its movements.” Poe (ibid.:
1255) then compares the chess-playing automaton to Charles Babbage’s
difference engine, saying that a machine able to win at chess must be a far
more complex mechanism than a machine that merely churns out sums:

It will perhaps be said in reply that a machine such as [Babbage’s calculating
machine] is altogether above comparison with the Chess-Player of Maelzel.
By no means—it is altogether beneath it [since] arithmetical or algebraical
calculations are, from their very nature, fixed and determinate. Certain data
being given, certain results necessarily and inevitably follow. These results have
dependence upon nothing, and are influenced by nothing but the data originally
given. And the question to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final
determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject
to no modification. This being the case we can without difficulty conceive the
possibility of so arranging a piece of mechanism, that upon starting it in accordance
with the data of the question to be solved, it should continue its movements
regularly, progressively and undeviatingly towards the required solution,
since these movements, however complex, are never imagined to be otherwise
than finite and determinate.

Poe is concerned here with making the distinction between Babbage’s difference
engine and Maelzel’s chess player as that between a “determinate”
calculation and making inferences about data that cannot be known in
advance. A machine like Babbage’s calculator “proceeds . . . to its final
determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and

7. Interestingly, von Kempelen himself alludes to the importance of the “effect” of the
machine upon a spectator in a quotation Poe includes in his essay: “[The chess player] is
a very ordinary piece of mechanism—a bagatelle whose effects appeared so marvelous only
from the boldness of the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods adopted for
promoting the illusion” (Poe 1984b [1836]: 1256–57).
8. Babbage was a British mathematician who takes his place in history as the inventor of
the first programmable calculating machine. For accounts of Babbage’s place in the history
of computing, see Morrison and Morrison 1961; Haugeland 1986; Breton 1990; Swade
2000.
9. The difference between intelligence understood as rational calculation and intelligence
understood as skillful coping in the world (and so involving embodied experience) is the
main animating issue in research and debate on artificial intelligence. See especially Haugeland
1986; Boden 1990; Dennett 1998; and Dreyfus 1999.
subject to no modification,” since it treats the data fed into it in a “fixed and
determinate” manner, with the conclusion implicit in the premises from
the beginning, just as a deductive inference moves from a major premise,
through a particular case, and to the conclusion by necessity. 0 Maelzel’s
chess player, on the other hand, would have to respond in real time to an
opponent’s chess moves and convert those data into meaningful moves of
its own. Thus with the chess player,

there is no determinate progression. No one move in chess necessarily follows
upon any one other. From no particular disposition of the men at one period
of a game can we predicate their disposition at a different period. Let us place
the first move in a game of chess in juxta-position with the data of an algebraical
question, and their great difference will be immediately perceived. From
the latter . . . the second step of the question, dependent thereupon, inevitably
follows. It is modeled by the data. It must be thus and not otherwise.
But from the first move in a game of chess no especial second move flows of
necessity. (Ibid.: 1256)

If algebraic data, according to Poe, advance inexorably from premise
to conclusion, moves made by the mechanical chess player would occur
without such predeterminations. Poe’s contrasting of Babbage’s difference
engine and Maelzel’s chess-playing machine is thus a matter of spelling out
the difference between a priori deductions and a posteriori inductions—
a distinction that will serve as the basis for his argument attempting to
debunk the machine as a fake.

For Poe’s readership, the most captivating question concerns whether or
not somebody is concealed within the machine—a question that amounts, for
the antebellum audience, to “Can a mechanical contraption actually think?”
or, to update the wording, “Is there such a thing as artificial intelligence?”
Poe (ibid.: 1264) takes up this question with a lesson in inductive reasoning:

Some person is concealed in the box during the whole time of exhibiting the
interior. We object, however, to the whole verbose description of the manner in
which the partitions are shifted, to accommodate the movement of the person
concealed. We object to it as a mere theory assumed in the first place, and to
which circumstances are afterwards made to adapt themselves. It was not and
could not have been arrived at by any inductive reasoning. In whatever way the
shifting is managed, it is of course concealed at every step from observation.

As with the distinction between the “determinate calculations” of Babbage’s
calculating engine and the more improvisatory making of chess
moves, Poe will not accept the inference based on a “mere theory assumed
in the first place.” One should not speculate about hidden partitions,
because one should not make inferences about what cannot be observed.
As a matter of fact, Poe was only partly correct in his assessment of the
chess player’s mechanism—yes, there was somebody concealed within the
cabinet guiding the movements of the chess player’s mechanical arm, and
his or her remaining concealed during Maelzel’s exposing of the cabinet’s
interior did depend on movable partitions. But what concerns us here is
less the final accuracy of his inferences than the way the staged effect of
Maelzel’s performance serves as a kind of template for Poe’s later devising
the constraint of “commencing with a consideration of effects.” In making
explicit the link between the mechanical chess player enchanting spectators
with the effect of artificial intelligence and a kind of magazine writing
that would entice potential readers of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe
translates the effect of the exhibition into a writing designed to seize a
reader’s attention. This dynamic, which James Berkley (2004: 369) calls
Poe’s “tak[ing] up and usurp[ing] the sublime theatricality that had previously
belonged to [the exhibition of ] Maelzel’s Chess Player,” is, as I will
show below, the germ for Poe’s reverse constraints.

Deep Blue

It is just this dynamic—the way the difference between Babbage-like
necessity and real chess moves can be manipulated for the creation of a
theatrical effect—that animates some of the key debates in a more recent
discussion about artificial intelligence. Describing the chess match in 1996
between IBM’s Deep Blue computer and Russian chess champion Gary
Kasparov, John Searle (1999) writes:

When it was first announced that Deep Blue had beaten Gary Kasparov, . . . I
suspect that the attitude of the general public was that what was going on inside
Deep Blue was much the same sort of thing as what was going on inside Kasparov.
. . . [But, unlike Deep Blue,] Kasparov was consciously looking at a chessboard,
studying the position and trying to figure out his next move. He was also
planning overall strategy and no doubt having peripheral thoughts about earlier
matches, the significance of victory or defeat, etc. . . . [he] was, quite literally,
playing chess. None of this whatever happened inside Deep Blue.

In contrast with the description of what Kasparov was doing when he was
playing chess, this is how Searle (ibid.) describes Deep Blue:

11. For a detailed description of the truth behind Maelzel’s illusion, see Standage 2002:
194–221.
12. Searle’s example is a slightly altered version of the “Chinese Room” argument from

Imagine that a man who does not know how to play chess is locked inside a
room, and there he is given a set of, to him, meaningless symbols. Unknown to
him, these represent positions on a chessboard. He looks up in a book what he is
supposed to do, and he passes back more meaningless symbols. We can suppose
that if the rule book, i.e., the program, is skillfully written, he will win chess
games. People outside the room will say, “This man understands chess, and in
fact he is a good chess player because he wins.” They will be totally mistaken.
The man understands nothing of chess, he is just a computer. The point of the
parable is this: if the man does not understand chess on the basis of running the
chess-playing program, neither does any other computer solely on that basis.

Searle couches his concern over the confusion of “understanding” with
the running of a program (in this case, a man in a room converting symbols
from a book into chess moves) as something an audience presumes
to be going on “inside” Deep Blue. For Searle, it is a mistake to imagine
the complexity of human neurochemistry as being synonymous with the
manipulation of “meaningless” tokens. Poe’s analysis of Maelzel’s chess
player is also a matter of making the distinction between a “pure machine”
that would win at chess due entirely to a formal system of symbol manipulation
and the theatrical effect of such a machine. This effect is something
close to what those standing outside the room in Searle’s example perceive
when they see chess moves made upon a chessboard. Deep Blue, perpetually
translating “meaningless [to it] symbols” into moves in the game,
creates the illusory effect of somebody (or something) that “knows” how to
play chess, just as Maelzel’s exhibition—as the word exhibition literally indicates—“
showed mechanism without itself being mechanical, and provoked
evaluation of the secret workings of the machine, beyond the spectacle of
its effect” (Sussman 1999: 83). Whatever the relative abilities of Maelzel’s
chess player and Deep Blue, then, the link between Poe and Searle is their
having in common the way theatrical artifice works to generate the effect
of a machine that thinks.

This resemblance between their descriptions of Maelzel’s chess player
and of IBM’s Deep Blue nevertheless arises from a very important differ-

his essay “Minds, Brains, and Programs” (1990). The essay is a critique of what Searle calls
“strong AI,” the claim that intelligence is formal symbol manipulation. Searle thinks that
no system of formal symbol manipulation can amount to intelligence understood as belief
and intentionality. For some counterarguments to Searle’s critique of “strong AI,” see Boden
1990; Copeland 1993.

13. An important practical difference here between Poe and Searle is that Searle is talking
about an algorithm that really can play good chess, whereas Poe had no concept of something
as sophisticated as Deep Blue (with processors able to make about 200 billion calculations
per second). But in 1836 Poe was justified in his skepticism about such a mechanical
intelligence.

For Poe, winning at chess serves as a valid example of thinking (as
something Babbage’s machine cannot do), whereas for Searle, winning at
chess might be merely the result of a program translating symbols into
positions on a grid. Unlike Deep Blue, Kasparov was “consciously looking
at a chessboard, studying the position and trying to figure out his next
move . . . planning overall strategy . . . having peripheral thoughts about
earlier matches, the significance of victory or defeat,” all things that the
IBM machine does not do, because it is not (and cannot be) programmed to
do them. Thus winning at chess is not, for Searle, an example of thinking,
whereas simply playing chess is, with all of the errant, peripheral thoughts
that would accompany such an activity (like “What time were we supposed
to meet?” or “I wonder what this chessboard is made of ?” or “I smell
smoke; is the building on fire?”—all cognitive operations of which Deep
Blue would be incapable). While Poe was, as Shaun Rosenheim (1997: 100–
101) points out, “striving toward a notion of artificial intelligence” in his
essay on the chess player, by the time we get to Searle the effect of thinking
shifts from a surface illusion of intelligence to machines that actually play
chess (and win, even against human world champions) but for all that do
not “understand” chess.

At issue in the convergence, and divergence, between Poe and Searle
is the relation between artificial intelligence and what we might call artificed
intelligence. Whether you are standing outside the sealed room saying
“this man understands chess” or are convinced by the performance of a
chess-playing automaton, in both cases the question of what is to count as
evidence of intelligence is bound up with the observable effects of intelligence.
This is exactly what Poe takes up from the performance of Maelzel’s
chess player and will later use as the basis for the constraint he claims
has guided all of his compositions. If audiences remained captivated by
the illusion of a piece of mechanism able to do things that they felt only a
human being could do (an issue that continues into the present, as we’ve
seen with Searle’s argument), then Poe sees this as an opportunity to dazzle
his readers by presenting himself as a poetry-making machine.

Reverse Constraints

Just prior to the publication of his poem “The Raven,” Poe published an
essay, “A Chapter of Suggestions,” in which he proposed an idea for a new
kind of magazine essay:

An excellent Magazine paper might be written upon the subject of the progressive
steps by which any great work of art—especially literary art—attained
completion. How vast a dissimilarity always exists between the germ and the
fruit—between the work and its original conception! Sometimes the original
conception is abandoned, or left out of sight altogether [but] pen should never
touch paper, until at least a well-digested general purpose be established. In
fiction, the dénouement—in all other composition the intended effect should be
definitely considered and arranged, before writing the first word: and no word
should be then written which does not tend, or form a part of a sentence which
tends, to the development of . . . the strengthening of the effect. (Quoted in
Levine 2009: 56)

When “The Philosophyof Composition” appeared in Graham’s in April 1846,
much of the material of this essay (which appeared in the Opal in 1845)
was reworked for the larger audience Poe had gained with the intervening
publication of “The Raven,” a poem that brought him wide fame. Levine
(ibid.: 55, 59) writes that it was a “crowd-pleaser [and its] fame [was] probably
critical [to Poe’s] decision to write an essay on how a poem is made,”
and Richards (2004: 53) says that “The Philosophy of Composition” “rode
the wave of [‘The Raven’s’] success.” Such descriptions make clear Poe’s
keen sense of an expanded audience for the just previously published idea
about an essay that would explain the compositional process.

Modifying slightly, but tellingly, the language of “A Chapter of Suggestions”
for his now more confident performance in front of the audience he
had amassed with “The Raven,” Poe (1984d [1846]: 14) begins his account
in “The Philosophy of Composition” as follows:

I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any
author who would . . . detail step by step, the processes by which any one of his
compositions attained its ultimate point of completion. . . . Most writers—poets
in especial—prefer having it understood that they compose in a fine frenzy—an
ecstatic intuition—and would positively shudder at letting the public take a
peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought . . .
in a word, at the wheels and pinions—the tackle for scene shifting—the step ladders
and demontraps—the cock’s feathers, the red paint and the black patches,
which, in ninety nine cases out of the hundred, constitute the properties of the
literary histrio.

Poe’s rhetoric here, in which literary production is propelled by the “wheels
and pinions” of hidden contraptions and the “tackle for scene shifting” of
the theater, recasts Maelzel’s mechanical spectacle into the backdrop for
his constraint of effects. But something curious occurs in this comparison.
What Poe (ibid.: 13) had derided as mere “calculation” in the essay on the
chess player has now been elevated to the process by which he claims to
have made “The Raven”:

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality
always in view . . . I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects,
or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is
susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?” Having chosen
a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can best be
wrought by incident or tone—whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone,
or the converse, or by peculiarity of both incident and tone—afterward looking
about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best
aid me in the construction of the effect.

The “combination of event and tone” that Poe “selects” here, I would
argue, is the one he remembers being impressed by in Maelzel’s exhibition,
but meanwhile he has inverted the very distinction that had earlier
enabled him to debunk the machine as a fake. If Poe, as Tresch (1997: 288)
says, “claims his own mode of poetic production is just as mechanical as
that by which Babbages’s calculator produced his table,” then here Poe
both redeploys the idea of determinate necessity and uses it to conceal the
chain of tentative experiments that have led to the essay of compositional
theory. And when he says that he “look[ed] about [him] (or rather within)”
for a place to begin, he further compounds observational sense perception
with the “within” of a rational starting point, again fusing a Babbage-like
rationalism with the act of “selecting” from the amassed devices of his
own earlier essayistic experiments. Even more strikingly, in reusing, with
only slight modification, an entire paragraph from “A Chapter of Suggestions”
for “The Philosophy of Composition,” and at just the moment when
he reintroduces the idea for a magazine piece that would detail the steps
by which a literary work is made, Poe replaces an all-too-human process
with the effect of a completely determined process. Indeed, Poe’s modifications
of the earlier version are precisely the figures of mechanism (“wheels
and pinions”) and theater (“tackles for scene shifting”) that he picked up
from Maelzel’s performing automaton (and which anticipate Searle’s man-
computer transmitting “meaningless symbols” that look like chess moves
to the spectators outside the sealed room). At the same time, the earlier
version’s admission of the “dissimilarity [which] always exists between the
germ and the fruit” of a compositional idea is replaced in “The Philosophy
of Composition” with a desire to show in detail how a work “attained its
ultimate point of completion” through rational control rather than through
the “fine frenzy” of “inspiration.”

In finding new use for earlier published material to be presented before
a larger audience, Poe’s showman-like instincts tend toward the concealment
of the “vacillating crudities” of earlier trials through the claim that
he has composed “The Raven” with the “precision and rigid consequence
of a mathematical problem.” Rather than dismissing this last claim as a
piece of strident hyperbole, we should read it against Poe’s (1984b [1836]:
1255) earlier assessment of Babbage’s calculating engine: “The question
to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final determination, by a
succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject to no modification.”
So if the lesson in logic Poe dramatized in the Maelzel essay was
that one ought to make inferences based on observation alone (rather than
beginning, like Mr. Blackwood and Babbage, with axiomatic premises),
then in “The Philosophy of Composition” that insight is reversed so that
Poe can turn his own process of composition into something like the working
out of a “mathematical problem.” All of this puts Poe “in a position
directly analogous to that of the exhibitor of the chess-playing automaton”
(Tresch 1997: 289), only here he’s reversed the logic earlier used to debunk
the machine as a hoax—that predetermined calculations could never be
enough to get a machine to win at chess—in order to create his desired
effect of having composed “The Raven” in accordance with rules postulated
in the first place.

Following the precedent of Maelzel to the end, Poe thus perpetrates a
hoax. Like Maelzel narrowly masking the sound of a hidden chess master’s
sneeze with a crank of ersatz clockwork, Poe (1984d [1846]: 17) divines his
starting point a posteriori:

I betook myself to ordinary induction, with the view of obtaining some artistic
piquancy which might serve me as a key-note in the construction of the
poem. . . . I did not fail to perceive immediately that no one [artistic effect]
had been so universally employed as that of the refrain. The universality of
its employment sufficed to assure me of its intrinsic value, and spared me the
necessity of submitting it to analysis.

“Ordinary induction” is here illusorily raised to the level of a “universal”
rule, but the fact that such a posteriori inferences are always open to
revision, and so cannot serve as immutable universals, in no way makes
Poe’s constraint of “commencing with the consideration of an effect”
inconsistent with his overall compositional practice. For the sleight of hand
by which an ordinary induction is elevated to the status of a timeless axiom
is precisely the effect Poe hopes to create for the audience of “The Philosophy
of Composition.” Just as Poe invokes a Babbage-like determinism to
conceal the chain of writing experiments that have led up to this essay, so
here he consolidates and makes explicit that effect in turning an “ordinary
induction” into a “universal” rule. And just as Maelzel opens the front of
the cabinet box and rotates it 360° on its iron castors to assure his audience
that no person is concealed within it, only to allow the chess master
crouched inside to shift in sync with mechanically contrived partitions, so
Poe will show us the “wheels and pinions” that churned out “The Raven”
while dramatically unveiling its “commencement” after the fact.

Poe’s description of the individual steps by which he composed “The
Raven” shows this reversal of constraint at work so as to foreground the
precedent of Maelzel’s machine (and of Poe’s prescient prefiguring of more
recent debates in artificial intelligence) in yet another way. If an algorithm
is “a mechanical procedure for solving a problem in a finite number of
steps” (Nelson 2008: 7), then Poe (1984d [1846]: 14) echoes this definition
in describing how he wrote his poem “step by step,” in accordance with
an algorithm that might look something like this:

1. Intend to compose a poem that should suit at once the critical and the
popular taste.
2. Conceive the proper length of the poem.
3. Design the poem in accordance with the universal rule that Beauty is
the sole legitimate province of the poem.
4. Select the tone of the poem in accordance with the rule that melancholy
is the most legitimate of poetic tones.
5. Use the device of the refrain in the poem.
6. Apply the refrain throughout the poem.
7. Select the phoneme ‘or’ as a sound for the refrain.
8. Select ‘Nevermore’ as a word embodying this sound.
9. Select a raven as a non-reasoning creature capable of uttering the
refrain.
10. Select the death of a beautiful woman as the most melancholy topic
according to the universal understanding of mankind.
11. Combine the idea of a lover lamenting his deceased mistress and a
raven continuously repeating the word “Nevermore.”
12. Begin to compose “The Raven.” (Ibid.: 14–20)
There could be no more aggressive overturning of the romantic shibboleths
of organic expressivity than this recipe for cranking out poetic effects.
As a “healthy corrective to over-romantic portrayals of the poetic process”
(Levine 2009: 57), such a procedure is a matter of moving mechanically
through a series of steps. While we are told we are reading an essay about
the assembly of “The Raven,” in fact we are—if we pay close enough
attention to Poe’s literary illusionism—witnessing a literary performance in
which what appears to be a poetry-making algorithm in fact conceals the
tentative experiments of a working magazinist—the author of “Maelzel’s
Chess-Player,” “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” the review of Hawthorne’s
Twice-Told Tales, “The Raven,” “A Chapter of Suggestions,” and
“The Philosophy of Composition.” Far from an airtight sequence of determinate,
algorithmic steps, these steps amount, as Levine (ibid.) has put it, to
“a lot of bumbling efforts, false starts [and] failed experiments.”

If the success of “The Raven” led to a (relatively) large audience eager to
catch a glimpse of the workshop of a famous poet, it accordingly provoked
Poe into wanting to stage himself as an uncanny poetry-making machine.
And this, then, is just the “effect” he wanted to create in “The Philosophy of
Composition.” That the essay purports to attribute such “effects” to “The
Raven” and not explicitly to the essay explaining its composition (as I am
claiming it does) does not make it any less accordant with Poe’s proposed
constraint. Indeed, the essay becomes all the more striking, since Poe adds
to the effect of presenting himself as a poetry-making machine the further
effect of claiming to tell us how he made “The Raven,” when in fact he is
using the poem as a stage for a striking essay of literary theory in which he
presents himself as a kind of literary computer. Thus the whole move from
“The Raven” to “The Philosophy of Composition” creates a discontinuity
between the mournful lyricism of the poem and the machinelike detachment
of the essay, such that, as Richards (2004: 53) puts it, the “dramatic
difference between his critical and poetic voices enhances his authorial
mystique.” We might say that this difference heightens the “effect” of his
authorial mystique.

I agree, then, that this operation “reverses constraint” (Morisi 2008: 113).
But to say that because of this reversal Poe’s essay “does not seem to call
for a comparison with an Oulipian enterprise that meticulously defines its
literary constraints before applying them with rigor” (ibid.) is to deny that
illusions like these could count as “effects” in the sense Poe uses the word—
as a guiding rule for composition.

Conclusion

The specific question I have tried to raise here is whether Poe’s line—“I
prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect”—can be thought of
as an Oulipian constraint, and I think it can. To the argument that Poe does
not use constraints in the conventionally Oulipian way—since he declares
such constraints only after the work is finished—I have responded that part
of what Poe means by “effect” is the way the reader is led to believe that
“The Raven” had been so composed; that we suspect the explanation of
“The Philosophy of Composition” to be hoax only heightens the effect.
Poe’s essay “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” is the precedent for such “reverse”
constraints, I have argued, because he sees in the exhibition the way a surface
artifice of a priori axioms (artificial intelligence) conceals a series of a
posteriori inferences (a person crouched inside the machine making chess
moves that do not necessarily follow). For Poe, this means turning a decade
of toil in the columns of American magazines into the cool announcement
that his compositions are the result of a step-by-step algorithmic procedure.
Finally, if it has been throughout a logic of the hoax that has led Poe to
his reverse constraints, then he is the “anticipatory plagiarist” of a further
feature of Oulipian practice, as François Le Lionnais (1973: 18) described it
in the first Oulipo manifesto: “When they are the product of poets, amusement,
farce and hoax [supercheries] still belong to poetry. Potential literature
therefore remains the most serious thing in the world.”

References

Allen, Michael L.
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Berkley, James

2004 “Post-Human Mimesis and the Debunked Machine: Reading Environmental Appropriation
in ‘Maelzel’s Chess Player’ and ‘The Man That Was Used Up’,” Comparative
Literature Studies 41 (3): 356–76.

Boden, Margaret
1990 “Escaping from the Chinese Room,” in The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, edited by
Margaret Boden, 89–104 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Breton, Philippe
1990 Une histoire de l’informatique (Paris: Seuil).
Burke, Kenneth
1966 Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Cervantes, Miguel
2003 Don Quixote, translated by Edith Grossman (New York: Ecco).
Copeland, Jack
1993 “The Curious Case of the Chinese Room,” in Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Introduction,
121–32 (London: Blackwell).
Dennett, Daniel
1998 Brainchildren (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Dreyfus, Hubert
1999 What Computers Still Can’t Do (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Haugeland, John
1986 Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Hoffman, Daniel
1972 Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (New York: Avon).
Le Lionnais, François
1973 “La Lipo (Le premier manifeste),” in Oulipo 1973: 15–18.

1 Poetics Today 31:1

Levine, Stuart

2009 “Notes on ‘The Philosophy of Composition,’” in Edgar Allan Poe, Critical Theory: The
Major Documents, edited by Stuart Levine and Susan F. Levine, 55–60, 71–76 (Urbana:
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Mathews, Harry, and Alastair Brotchie, eds.
2005 Oulipo Compendium (London: Atlas).
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1941 The Basic Works of Aristotle (New York: Random House).
Morisi, Eve Célia
2008 “The OuliPoe; or, Constraint and (Contre-)Performance: ‘The Philosophy of Composition’
and the Oulipian Manifestos,” Comparative Literature 60 (2): 107–24.
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1961 Charles Babbage and His Calculating Engines (New York: Dover).
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1986 Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press).
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2008 Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics (London: Penguin).
Oulipo
1973 La littérature potentielle: Créations, recréations, recreations (Paris: Gallimard).
Perec, Georges
1969 La disparition (Paris: Gallimard).
Poe, Edgar Allan
1978a Tales and Sketches. Vol. 1, 1831–1842, edited by Thomas O. Mabbott (Urbana: Univer

sity of Illinois Press).
1978b [1838] “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” in Poe 1978a: 336–57.
1984a Essays and Reviews, edited by G. R. Thompson (New York: Library of America).
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1984d [1846] “The Philosophy of Composition,” in Poe 1984a: 13–25.

Richards, Eliza
2004 Gender and the Poetics of Reception in Poe’s Circle (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press).
Rosenheim, Shaun
1997 The Cryptographic Imagination (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).
Roubaud, Jacques
1986 “Mathematics in the Method of Raymond Queneau,” in Motte 1986: 79–96.
Searle, John
1990 “Minds, Brains, and Programs,” in The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, edited by
Margaret Boden, 67–88 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
1999 “I Married a Computer,” New York Review of Books, April 8, http://www.nybooks.com/
articles/539.
Silverman, Kenneth
1991 Edgar A. Poe: A Biography (New York: Harper Perennial).
Standage, Tom
2002 The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine (New
York: Walker).
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1999 “Performing the Intelligent Machine: Deception and Enchantment in the Life of the
Automaton Chess Player,” Drama Review 43 (3): 81–96.
Swade, Doron
2000 The Cogwheel Brain: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer (London:
Little, Brown).

Grimstad • Antebellum AI 1

Tresch, John
1997 “‘The Potent Magic of Verisimilitude’: Edgar Allan Poe within the Mechanical Age,”
British Journal for the History of Science 30: 275–90.
Vines, Lois Davis
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1939 “Poe and the Chess Automaton,” American Literature 11: 138–51.

_______________________________________________________

(Courtesy of Paul Grimstad Yale University)

 

 

 

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The Mysteries of Entropy

MANTAR_YANTAR_X23

 

 

 

 

The question  what LIFE is and NOT, is a
basic question in the evolution of the human mind
and reflects also the different states of the human mind.

Through recorded history it,s well known that
there are different states of understanding life
itself it,s conditions and it,s so called laws.

The emerging of the sciences from way back
before ancient greek to much older type of civilistations
show remarkable efforts in understanding LIFE by
systematic analytic techniques.

From a spohisticated point of view the noble reader
may take the Text below as an neo-philosophic
approach to the essence of reality.

(R51 Ed.)

                                  WHAT IS LIFE?

ERWIN SCHRODINGER
First published 1944

What is life? The Physical Aspect of the Living
Cell.
Based on lectures delivered under the auspices of
the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at
Trinity College, Dublin, in February 1943.
To the memory of My Parents

Preface

A scientist is supposed to have a complete and
thorough I of knowledge, at first hand, of some
subjects and, therefore, is usually expected not to
write on any topic of which he is not a life,
master. This is regarded as a matter of noblesse
oblige. For the present purpose I beg to renounce
the noblesse, if any, and to be the freed of the
ensuing obligation. My excuse is as follows: We
have inherited from our forefathers the keen
longing for unified, all-embracing knowledge.
The very name given to the highest institutions
of learning reminds us, that from antiquity to and
throughout many centuries the universal aspect
has been the only one to be given full credit. But
the spread, both in and width and depth, of the
multifarious branches of knowledge by during
the last hundred odd years has confronted us
with a queer dilemma. We feel clearly that we
are only now beginning to acquire reliable
material for welding together the sum total of all
that is known into a whole; but, on the other
hand, it has become next to impossible for a
single mind fully to command more than a small
specialized portion of it. I can see no other
escape from this dilemma (lest our true who aim
be lost for ever) than that some of us should
venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and
theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete
knowledge of some of them -and at the risk of
making fools of ourselves. So much for my
apology. The difficulties of language are not
negligible. One’s native speech is a closely fitting
garment, and one never feels quite at ease when
it is not immediately available and has to be
replaced by another. My thanks are due to Dr
Inkster (Trinity College, Dublin), to Dr Padraig
Browne (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth) and,
last but not least, to Mr S. C. Roberts. They were
put to great trouble to fit the new garment on me
and to even greater trouble by my occasional
reluctance to give up some ‘original’ fashion of
my own. Should some of it have survived the
mitigating tendency of my friends, it is to be put
at my door, not at theirs. The head-lines of the
numerous sections were originally intended to be
marginal summaries, and the text of every
chapter should be read in continuo. E.S.
Dublin September 1944

Homo liber nulla de re minus quam de morte
cogitat; et ejus sapientia non mortis sed vitae
meditatio est. SPINOZA’S Ethics, Pt IV, Prop.
67

(There is nothing over which a free man ponders
less than death; his wisdom is, to meditate not on
death but on life.)

CHAPTER 1

The Classical Physicist’s Approach to the Subject

This little book arose from a course of public
lectures, delivered by a theoretical physicist to an
audience of about four hundred which did not
substantially dwindle, though warned at the
outset that the subject-matter was a difficult one
and that the lectures could not be termed popular,
even though the physicist’s most dreaded
weapon, mathematical deduction, would hardly
be utilized. The reason for this was not that the
subject was simple enough to be explained
without mathematics, but rather that it was much
too involved to be fully accessible to
mathematics. Another feature which at least
induced a semblance of popularity was the
lecturer’s intention to make clear the fundamental
idea, which hovers between biology and physics,
to both the physicist and the biologist. For
actually, in spite of the variety of topics
involved, the whole enterprise is intended to
convey one idea only -one small comment on a
large and important question. In order not to lose
our way, it may be useful to outline the plan very
briefly in advance. The large and important and
very much discussed question is: How can the
events in space and time which take place
within the spatial boundary of a living organism
be accounted for by physics and chemistry? The
preliminary answer which this little book will
endeavor to expound and establish can be
summarized as follows: The obvious inability of
present-day physics and chemistry to account for
such events is no reason at all for doubting that
they can be accounted for by those sciences.

STATISTICAL PHYSICS. THE
FUNDAMENTAL W DIFFERENCE IN
STRUCTURE

That would be a very trivial remark if it were
meant only to stimulate the hope of achieving in
the future what has not been achieved in the past.
But the meaning is very much more positive, viz.
that the inability, up to the present moment, is
amply accounted for. Today, thanks to the
ingenious work of biologists, mainly of
geneticists, during the last thirty or forty years,
enough is known about the actual material
structure of organisms and about their
functioning to state that, and to tell precisely
why present-day physics and chemistry could not
possibly account for what happens in space and
time within a living organism. The arrangements
of the atoms in the most vital parts of an
organism and the interplay of these arrangements
differ in a fundamental way from all those
arrangements of atoms which physicists and
chemists have hitherto made the object of their
experimental and theoretical research. Yet the
difference which I have just termed fundamental
is of such a kind that it might easily appear slight
to anyone except a physicist who is thoroughly
imbued with the knowledge that the laws of
physics and chemistry are statistical throughout.
For it is in relation to the statistical point of view
that the structure of the vital parts of living
organisms differs so entirely from that of any
piece of matter that we physicists and chemists
have ever handled physically in our laboratories
or mentally at our writing desks. It is well-nigh
unthinkable that the laws and regularities thus
discovered should happen to apply immediately
to the behaviour of systems which do not exhibit
the structure on which those laws and regularities
are based. The non-physicist cannot be expected
even to grasp let alone to appreciate the
relevance of the difference in ‘statistical
structure’ stated in terms so abstract as I have
just used. To give the statement life and colour,
let me anticipate what will be explained in much
more detail later, namely, that the most essential
part of a living cell-the chromosome fibre may
suitably be called an aperiodic crystal. In physics
we have dealt hitherto only with periodic
crystals. To a humble physicist’s mind, these are
very interesting and complicated objects; they
constitute one of the most fascinating
and complex material structures by which
inanimate nature puzzles his wits. Yet, compared
with the aperiodic crystal, they are rather plain
and dull. The difference in structure is of the
same kind as that between an ordinary wallpaper
in which the same pattern is repeated again and
again in regular periodicity and a masterpiece of
embroidery, say a Raphael tapestry, which shows
no dull repetition, but an elaborate, coherent,
meaningful design traced by the great master. In
But the meaning is very much more positive, viz.
that the inability, up to the present moment, is
amply accounted for. Today, thanks to the
ingenious work of biologists, mainly of
geneticists, during the last thirty or forty years,
enough is known about the actual material
structure of organisms and about their
functioning to state that, and to tell precisely
why present-day physics and chemistry could not
possibly account for what happens in space and
time within a living organism. The arrangements
of the atoms in the most vital parts of an
organism and the interplay of these arrangements
differ in a fundamental way from all those
arrangements of atoms which physicists and
chemists have hitherto made the object of their
experimental and theoretical research. Yet the
difference which I have just termed fundamental
is of such a kind that it might easily appear slight
to anyone except a physicist who is thoroughly
imbued with the knowledge that the laws of
physics and chemistry are statistical throughout.
For it is in relation to the statistical point of view
that the structure of the vital parts of living
organisms differs so entirely from that of any
piece of matter that we physicists and chemists
have ever handled physically in our laboratories
or mentally at our writing desks. It is well-nigh
unthinkable that the laws and regularities thus
discovered should happen to apply immediately
to the behaviour of systems which do not exhibit
the structure on which those laws and regularities
are based. The non-physicist cannot be expected
even to grasp let alone to appreciate the
relevance of the difference in ‘statistical
structure’ stated in terms so abstract as I have
just used. To give the statement life and colour,
let me anticipate what will be explained in much
more detail later, namely, that the most essential
part of a living cell-the chromosome fibre may
suitably be called an aperiodic crystal. In physics
we have dealt hitherto only with periodic
crystals. To a humble physicist’s mind, these are
very interesting and complicated objects; they
constitute one of the most fascinating
and complex material structures by which
inanimate nature puzzles his wits. Yet, compared
with the aperiodic crystal, they are rather plain
and dull. The difference in structure is of the
same kind as that between an ordinary wallpaper
in which the same pattern is repeated again and
again in regular periodicity and a masterpiece of
embroidery, say a Raphael tapestry, which shows
no dull repetition, but an elaborate, coherent,
meaningful design traced by the great master. In

calling the periodic crystal one of the most
complex objects of his research, I had in mind
the physicist proper. Organic chemistry, indeed,
in investigating more and more complicated
molecules, has come very much nearer to that
‘aperiodic crystal’ which, in my opinion, is the
material carrier of life. And therefore it is small
wonder that the organic chemist has already
made large and important contributions to the
problem of life, whereas the physicist has made
next to none.

THE NAIVE PHYSICIST’S APPROACH TO
THE SUBJECT

After having thus indicated very briefly the
general idea -or rather the ultimate scope -of our
investigation, let me describe the line of attack. I
propose to develop first what you might call ‘a
naive physicist’s ideas about organisms’, that is,
the ideas which might arise in the mind of a
physicist who, after having learnt his physics
and, more especially, the statistical foundation of
his science, begins to think about organisms and
about the way they behave and function and who
comes to ask himself conscientiously whether
he, from what he has learnt, from the point of
view of his comparatively simple and clear and
humble science, can make any relevant
contributions to the question. It will turn out that
he can. The next step must be to f compare his
theoretical anticipations with the biological facts.
It will then turn out that -though on the whole his
ideas seem quite sensible -they need to be
appreciably amended. In this way we shall
gradually approach the correct view -or, to put it
more modestly, the one that I propose as the
correct one. Even if I should be right in this, I do
not know whether my way of approach is really
the best and simplest. But, in short, it was mine.
The ‘naive physicist’ was myself. And I could not
find any better or clearer way towards the goal
than my own crooked one.

WHY ARE THE ATOMS SO SMALL?

A good method of developing ‘the naive
physicist’s ideas’ is to start from the odd, almost
ludicrous, question: Why are atoms so small? To
begin with, they are very small indeed. Every
little piece of matter handled in everyday life
contains an enormous number of them. Many
examples have been devised to bring this fact
home to an audience, none of them more
impressive than the one used by Lord Kelvin:
Suppose that you could mark the molecules in a
glass of water; then pour the contents of the glass
into the ocean and stir the latter thoroughly so as
to distribute the marked molecules uniformly
throughout the seven seas; if then you took a
glass of water anywhere out of the ocean, you
would find in it about a hundred of your marked
molecules. The actual sizes of atoms lie between
about 1/5000 and 1/2000 the wave-length of
yellow light. The comparison is significant,
because the wave-length roughly indicates the
dimensions of the smallest grain still
recognizable in the microscope. Thus it will be
seen that such a grain still contains thousands of
millions of atoms. Now, why are atoms so
small? Clearly, the question is an evasion. For it
is not really aimed at the size of the atoms. It is
concerned with the size of organisms, more
particularly with the size of our own corporeal
selves. Indeed, the atom is small, when referred
to our civic unit of length, say the yard or the
metre. In atomic physics one is accustomed to
use the so-called Angstrom (abbr. A), which is
the 10throughout the seven seas; if then you took a
glass of water anywhere out of the ocean, you
would find in it about a hundred of your marked
molecules. The actual sizes of atoms lie between
about 1/5000 and 1/2000 the wave-length of
yellow light. The comparison is significant,
because the wave-length roughly indicates the
dimensions of the smallest grain still
recognizable in the microscope. Thus it will be
seen that such a grain still contains thousands of
millions of atoms. Now, why are atoms so
small? Clearly, the question is an evasion. For it
is not really aimed at the size of the atoms. It is
concerned with the size of organisms, more
particularly with the size of our own corporeal
selves. Indeed, the atom is small, when referred
to our civic unit of length, say the yard or the
metre. In atomic physics one is accustomed to
use the so-called Angstrom (abbr. A), which is
the 10lOth part of a metre, or in decimal notation
0.0000000001 metre. Atomic diameters range
between 1 and 2A. Now those civic units (in
relation to which the atoms are so small) are
closely related to the size of our bodies. There is
a story tracing the yard back to the humour of an
English king whom his councillors asked what
unit to adopt -and he stretched out his arm
sideways and said: ‘Take the distance from the
middle of my chest to my fingertips, that will do
all right.’ True or not, the story is significant for
our purpose. The king would naturally I indicate
a length comparable with that of his own body,
knowing that anything else would be very
inconvenient. With all his predilection for the
Angstrom unit, the physicist prefers to be told
that his new suit will require six and a half yards
of tweed -rather than sixty-five thousand
millions of Angstroms of tweed. It thus being
settled that our question really aims at the ratio
of two lengths -that of our body and that of the
atom -with an incontestable priority of
independent existence on the side of the atom,
the question truly reads: Why must our bodies be
so large compared with the atom? I can imagine
that many a keen student of physics or chemistry
may have deplored the fact that everyone of our
sense organs, forming a more or less substantial
part of our body and hence (in view of the
magnitude of the said ratio) being itself
composed of innumerable atoms, is much too
coarse to be affected by the impact of a single
atom. We cannot see or feel or hear the single
atoms. Our hypotheses with regard to them differ
widely from the immediate findings of our gross
sense organs and cannot be put to the test of
direct inspection. Must that be so? Is there an
intrinsic reason for it? Can we trace back this
state of affairs to some kind of first principle, in
order to ascertain and to understand why nothing
else is compatible with the very laws of
Nature? Now this, for once, is a problem which
the physicist is able to clear up completely. The
answer to all the queries is in the affirmative.

THE WORKING OF AN ORGANISM
REQUIRES EXACT PHYSICAL LAWS

If it were not so, if we were organisms so
sensitive that a single atom, or even a few atoms,
could make a perceptible impression on our
senses -Heavens, what would life be like! To
stress one point: an organism of that kind would
most certainly not be capable of developing the
kind of orderly thought which, after passing
through a long sequence of earlier stages,
ultimately results in forming, among many other
ideas, the idea of an atom. Even though we select
this one point, the following considerations
would essentially apply also to the functioning of
organs other than the brain and the sensorial
system. Nevertheless, the one and only thing of
paramount interest to us in ourselves is, that we
feel and think and perceive. To the physiological
process which is responsible for thought and
sense all the others play an auxiliary part, at least
from the human point of view, if not from that of
purely objective biology. Moreover, it will
greatly facilitate our task to choose for
investigation the process which is closely
accompanied by subjective events, even though
we are ignorant of the true nature of this close
parallelism. Indeed, in my view, it lies outside
the range of natural science and very probably of
human understanding altogether. We are thus
faced with the following question: Why should
an organ like our brain, with the sensorial system
attached to it, of necessity consist of an
enormous number of atoms, in order that its
physically changing state should be in close and
intimate correspondence with a highly developed
thought? On what grounds is the latter task of the
said organ incompatible with being, as a whole
or in some of its peripheral parts which interact
directly with the environment, a mechanism
sufficiently refined and sensitive to respond to
and register the impact of a single atom from
outside? The reason for this is, that what we call
thought (1) is itself an orderly thing, and (2) can
only be applied to material, i.e. to perceptions or
experiences, which have a certain degree of
orderliness. This has two consequences. First, a
physical organization, to be in close
correspondence with thought (as my brain is
with my thought) must be a very well-ordered
organization, and that means that the events that
happen within it must obey strict physical laws,
at least to a very high degree of accuracy.
Secondly, the physical impressions made upon
that physically well-organized system by other
bodies from outside, obviously correspond to the
perception and experience of the corresponding
thought, forming its material, as I have called it.
Therefore, the physical interactions between our
system and others must, as a rule, themselves
possess a certain degree of physical orderliness,
that is to say, they too must obey strict physical
laws to a certain degree of accuracy.
dence with thought (as my brain is
with my thought) must be a very well-ordered
organization, and that means that the events that
happen within it must obey strict physical laws,
at least to a very high degree of accuracy.
Secondly, the physical impressions made upon
that physically well-organized system by other
bodies from outside, obviously correspond to the
perception and experience of the corresponding
thought, forming its material, as I have called it.
Therefore, the physical interactions between our
system and others must, as a rule, themselves
possess a certain degree of physical orderliness,
that is to say, they too must obey strict physical
laws to a certain degree of accuracy.

PHYSICAL LAWS REST ON ATOMIC
STATISTICS AND ARE THEREFORE ONLY
APPROXIMATE

And why could all this not be fulfilled in the case
of an organism composed of a moderate number
of atoms only and sensitive already to the impact
of one or a few atoms only? Because we know
all atoms to perform all the time a completely
disorderly heat motion, which, so to speak,
opposes itself to their orderly behaviour and does
not allow the events that happen between a small
number of atoms to enrol themselves according
to any recognizable laws. Only in the cooperation
of an enormously large number of
atoms do statistical laws begin to operate and
control the behaviour of these assemblies with an
accuracy increasing as the number of atoms
involved increases. It is in that way that the
events acquire truly orderly features. All the
physical and chemical laws that are known to
play an important part in the life of organisms
are of this statistical kind; any other kind of
lawfulness and orderliness that one might think
of is being perpetually disturbed and made
inoperative by the unceasing heat motion of the
atoms.

THEIR PRECISION IS BASED ON THE
LARGE OF NUMBER OF ATOMS
INTERVENING
FIRST EXAMPLE (PARAMAGNETISM)
Let me try to illustrate this by a few examples,
picked somewhat at random out of thousands,
and possibly not just the best ones to appeal to a
reader who is learning for the first time about
this condition of things -a condition which in
modern physics and chemistry is as fundamental
as, say, the fact that organisms are composed of
cells is in biology, or as Newton’s Law in
astronomy, or even as the series of integers, 1, 2,
3, 4, 5, …in mathematics. An entire newcomer
should not expect to obtain from the following
few pages a full understanding and appreciation
of the subject, which is associated with the
illustrious names of Ludwig Boltzmann and
Willard Gibbs and treated in textbooks under the
name of ‘statistical thermodynamics’. If you fill
an oblong quartz tube with oxygen gas and put it
into a magnetic field, you find that the gas is
magnetized. The magnetization is due to the fact
that the oxygen molecules are little magnets and
tend to orientate themselves parallel to the field,
like a compass needle. But you must not think
that they actually all turn parallel. For if you
double the field, you get double the
magnetization in your oxygen body, and that
proportionality goes on to extremely high field
strengths, the magnetization increasing at the rate
of the field you apply. This is a particularly clear
example of a purely statistical law. The
orientation the field tends to produce is
continually counteracted by the heat motion,
which works for random orientation. The effect
of this striving is, actually, only a small
preference for acute over obtuse angles between
the dipole axes and the field. Though the single
atoms change their orientation incessantly, they
produce on the average (owing to their enormous
number) a constant small preponderance of
orientation in the direction of the field and
proportional to it. This ingenious explanation is
due to the French physicist P. Langevin. It can
be checked in the following way. If the observed
weak magnetization is really the outcome of rival
tendencies, namely, the magnetic field, which
aims at combing all the molecules parallel, and
the heat motion, which makes for random
orientation, then it ought to be possible to
increase the magnetization by weakening the
heat motion, that is to say, by lowering the
temperature, instead of reinforcing the field. That
is confirmed by experiment, which gives the
magnetization inversely proportional to the
absolute temperature, in quantitative agreement
with theory (Curie’s law). Modern equipment
even enables us, by lowering the temperature, to
reduce the heat motion to such insignificance
that the orientating tendency of the magnetic
field can assert itself, if not completely, at least
sufficiently to produce a substantial fraction of
‘complete magnetization’. In this case we no
longer expect that double the field strength will
double the magnetization, but that the latter will
increase less and less with increasing field,
approaching what is called ‘saturation’. This
expectation too is quantitatively confirmed by
experiment. Notice that this behaviour entirely
depends on the large numbers of molecules
which co-operate in producing the observable
magnetization. Otherwise, the latter would not be
an constant at all, but would, by fluctuating quite
irregularly of from one second to the next, bear
witness to the vicissitudes of pe the contest
between heat motion and field.
Notice that this behaviour entirely
depends on the large numbers of molecules
which co-operate in producing the observable
magnetization. Otherwise, the latter would not be
an constant at all, but would, by fluctuating quite
irregularly of from one second to the next, bear
witness to the vicissitudes of pe the contest
between heat motion and field.

SECOND EXAMPLE (BROWNIAN
MOVEMENT, DIFFUSION)

If you fill the lower part of a closed glass vessel
with fog, pt consisting of minute droplets, you
will find that the upper or boundary of the fog
gradually sinks, with a well-defined velocity,
determined by the viscosity of the air and the
size and the specific gravity of the droplets. But
if you look at one of the droplets under the
microscope you find that it does not permanently
sink with constant velocity, but performs a very
irregular movement, the so-called Brownian
movement, which corresponds to a regular
sinking only on the average. Now these droplets
are not atoms, but they are sufficiently small and
light to be not entirely insusceptible to the
impact of one single molecule of those which
hammer their surface in perpetual impacts. They
are thus knocked about and can only on the
average follow the influence of gravity. This
example shows what funny and disorderly
experience we should have if our senses were
susceptible to the impact of a few molecules
only. There are bacteria and other organisms so
small that they are strongly affected by this
phenomenon. Their movements are determined
by the thermic whims of the surrounding
medium; they have no choice. If they had some
locomotion of their own they might nevertheless
succeed in on getting from one place to another but
with some difficulty, since the heat motion
tosses them like a small boat in a rough sea. A
phenomenon very much akin to Brownian
movement is that of diffusion. Imagine a vessel
filled with a fluid, say water, with a small
amount of some coloured substance dissolved in
it, say potassium permanganate, not in uniform
concentration, but rather as in Fig. 4, where the
dots indicate the molecules of the dissolved
substance (permanganate) and the concentration
diminishes from left to right. If you leave this
system alone a very slow process of ‘diffusion’
sets in, the at permanganate spreading in the
direction from left to right, that is, from the
places of higher concentration towards the places
of lower concentration, until it is equally
distributed of through the water. The remarkable
thing about this rather simple and apparently not
particularly interesting process is that it is in no
way due, as one might think, to any tendency or
force driving the permanganate molecules away
from the crowded region to the less crowded one,
like the population of a country spreading to
those parts where there is more elbow-room.
Nothing of the sort happens with our
permanganate molecules. Every one of them
behaves quite independently of all the others,
which it very seldom meets. Everyone of them,
whether in a crowded region or in an empty one,
suffers the same fate of being continually
knocked about by the impacts of the water
molecules and thereby gradually moving on in
an unpredictable direction -sometimes towards
the higher, sometimes towards the lower,
concentrations, sometimes obliquely. The kind
of motion it performs has often been compared
with that of a blindfolded person on a large
surface imbued with a certain desire of ‘walking’,
but without any preference for any particular
direction, and so changing his line
continuously. That this random walk of the
permanganate molecules, the same for all of
them, should yet produce a regular flow towards
the smaller concentration and ultimately make
for uniformity of distribution, is at first sight
perplexing -but only at first sight. If you
contemplate in Fig. 4 thin slices of
approximately constant concentration, the
permanganate molecules which in a given
moment are contained in a particular slice will,
by their random walk, it is true, be carried with
equal probability to the right or to the left. But
precisely in consequence of this, a plane
separating two neighbouring slices will be
crossed by more molecules coming from the left
than in the opposite direction, simply because to
the left there are more molecules engaged in
random walk than there are to the right. And as
long as that is so the balance will show up as a
regular flow from left to right, until a uniform
distribution is reached. When these
considerations are translated into mathematical
language the exact law of diffusion is reached in
the form of a partial differential equation

§p/§t= DV2P

which I shall not trouble the reader by
explaining, though its meaning in ordinary
language is again simple enough. The reason for
mentioning the stern ‘mathematically exact’ law
here, is to emphasize that its physical exactitude
must nevertheless be challenged in every
particular application. Being based on pure
chance, its validity is only approximate. If it is,
as a rule, a very good approximation, that is only
due to the enormous number of molecules that
co-operate in the phenomenon. The smaller their
number, the larger the quite haphazard deviations
we must expect and they can be observed under
favourable circumstances.
chance, its validity is only approximate. If it is,
as a rule, a very good approximation, that is only
due to the enormous number of molecules that
co-operate in the phenomenon. The smaller their
number, the larger the quite haphazard deviations
we must expect and they can be observed under
favourable circumstances.

THIRD EXAMPLE (LIMITS OF ACCURACY
OF MEASURING)
The last example we shall give is closely akin to
the second c one, but has a particular interest. A
light body, suspended by a long thin fibre in
equilibrium orientation, is often used by
physicists to measure weak forces which deflect
it from that position of equilibrium, electric,
magnetic or gravitational forces being applied so
as to twist it around the vertical axis. (The light
body must, of course, be chosen appropriately
for ! the particular purpose.) The continued effort
to improve the accuracy of this very commonly
used device of a ‘torsional balance’, has
encountered a curious limit, most interesting in
itself. In choosing lighter and lighter bodies and
thinner and longer fibres -to make the balance
susceptible to weaker and weaker forces -the
limit was reached when the suspended body
became noticeably susceptible to the impacts of
the heat motion of the surrounding molecules
and began to perform an incessant, irregular
‘dance’ about its equilibrium position, much like
the trembling of the droplet in the second
example. Though this behaviour sets no absolute
limit to the accuracy of measurements obtained
with the balance, it sets a practical one. The
uncontrollable effect of the heat motion
competes with the effect of the force to be
measured and makes the ;t’ law single deflection
observed insignificant. You have to multiply
never-observations, in order to eliminate the
effect of the Brownian Being movement of your
instrument. This example is, I think, particularly
illuminating in our present investigation. For our
to the organs of sense, after all, are a kind of
instrument. We can see in the how useless they
would be if they became too sensitive.

THE \/n RULE

So much for examples, for the present. I will
merely add that there is not one law of physics or
chemistry, of those that are relevant within an
organism or in its interactions with its
environment, that I might not choose as an
example. The second detailed explanation might
be more complicated, but the salient point would
always be the same and thus the description
would become monotonous. But I should like to
add one very important quantitative statement
concerning the degree of inaccuracy to be
expected in any physical law, the so-called \/n
law. I will first illustrate it by a simple example
and then generalize it. If I tell you that a certain
gas under certain conditions of pressure and
temperature has a certain density, and if I
expressed this by saying that within a certain
volume (of a size relevant for some experiment)
there are under these conditions just n molecules
of the gas, then you might be sure that if you
could test my statement in a particular moment
of time, you would find it inaccurate, the
departure being of the order of \/n. Hence if the
number n = 100, you would find a departure of
about 10, thus relative error = 10%. But n = 1
million, you would be likely to find a departure
of about 1,000, thus relative error = 1\10%. Now,
roughly speaking, this statistical law is quite
general. The laws of physics and physical
chemistry are inaccurate within a probable
relative error of the order of 1/ \/Vn, where n is
the number of molecules that co-operate to bring
about that law -to produce its validity within
such regions of space or time (or both) that
matter, for some considerations or for some
particular experiment. You see from this again
that an organism must have a comparatively
gross structure in order to enjoy the benefit of
fairly accurate laws, both for its internal life and
for its , interplay with the external world. For
otherwise the number of co-operating particles
would be too small, the ‘law’ too inaccurate. The
particularly exigent demand is the square root.
For though a.million is a reasonably large
number, an accuracy of Just 1in 1,000 is not
overwhelmingly good, If a thing claims the
dignity of being a ‘Law of Nature.

CHAPTER 2

The Hereditary Mechanism

THE CLASSICAL PHYSICIST’S
EXPECTATION, FAR FROM BEING
TRIVIAL, IS WRONG
Thus we have come to the conclusion that an
organism and all the biologically relevant
processes that it experiences must have an
extremely ‘many-atomic’ structure and must be
safeguarded against haphazard, ‘single-atomic’
events attaining too great importance. That, the
‘naive physicist’ tells us, is essential, so that the
organism may, so to speak, have sufficiently
accurate physical laws on which to draw for
setting up its marvellously regular and well-
ordered working. How do these conclusions,
reached, biologically speaking, a priori (that is,
from the purely physical point of view), fit
in with actual biological facts? At first sight one
is inclined to think that the conclusions are little
more than trivial. A biologist of, say, thirty years
ago might have said that, although it was quite
suitable for a popular lecturer to emphasize the
importance, in the organism as elsewhere, of
statistical physics, the point was, in fact, rather a
familiar truism. For, naturally, not only the body
of an adult individual of any higher species, but
every single cell composing it contains a
‘cosmical’ number of single atoms of every kind.
And every particular physiological process that
we observe, either within the cell or in its
interaction with the cell environment, appears -or
appeared thirty years ago -to involve such
enormous numbers of single atoms and single
atomic processes that all the relevant laws of
physics and physical chemistry would be
safeguarded even under the very exacting
demands of statistical physics in respect of large
numbers; this demand illustrated just now by the
\/n rule. Today, we know that this opinion would
have been a mistake. As we shall presently see,
incredibly small groups of atoms, much too
small to display exact statistical laws, do play a
dominating role in the very orderly and lawful
events within a living organism. They have
control of the observable large-scale features
which the organism acquires in the course of its
development, they determine important
characteristics of its functioning; and in all this
very sharp and very strict me biological laws are
displayed. I must begin with giving a brief
summary of the situation in biology, more
especially in genetics -in other words, I have to
summarize the present state of knowledge in a
subject of which I am not a master. This cannot
be helped and I apologize, particularly to any
biologist, for the dilettante character of my
summary. On the other hand, I beg leave to put
the prevailing ideas before you more or less
dogmatically. A poor theoretical physicist could
not be expected to produce anything like a
competent survey of the experimental evidence,
which consists of a large number of long and
beautifully interwoven series of breeding
experiments of truly unprecedented ingenuity on
the one hand and of direct observations of the
living cell, conducted with all the refinement of
modern microscopy, on the other.

ordered working. How do these conclusions,
reached, biologically speaking, a priori (that is,
from the purely physical point of view), fit
in with actual biological facts? At first sight one
is inclined to think that the conclusions are little
more than trivial. A biologist of, say, thirty years
ago might have said that, although it was quite
suitable for a popular lecturer to emphasize the
importance, in the organism as elsewhere, of
statistical physics, the point was, in fact, rather a
familiar truism. For, naturally, not only the body
of an adult individual of any higher species, but
every single cell composing it contains a
‘cosmical’ number of single atoms of every kind.
And every particular physiological process that
we observe, either within the cell or in its
interaction with the cell environment, appears -or
appeared thirty years ago -to involve such
enormous numbers of single atoms and single
atomic processes that all the relevant laws of
physics and physical chemistry would be
safeguarded even under the very exacting
demands of statistical physics in respect of large
numbers; this demand illustrated just now by the
\/n rule. Today, we know that this opinion would
have been a mistake. As we shall presently see,
incredibly small groups of atoms, much too
small to display exact statistical laws, do play a
dominating role in the very orderly and lawful
events within a living organism. They have
control of the observable large-scale features
which the organism acquires in the course of its
development, they determine important
characteristics of its functioning; and in all this
very sharp and very strict me biological laws are
displayed. I must begin with giving a brief
summary of the situation in biology, more
especially in genetics -in other words, I have to
summarize the present state of knowledge in a
subject of which I am not a master. This cannot
be helped and I apologize, particularly to any
biologist, for the dilettante character of my
summary. On the other hand, I beg leave to put
the prevailing ideas before you more or less
dogmatically. A poor theoretical physicist could
not be expected to produce anything like a
competent survey of the experimental evidence,
which consists of a large number of long and
beautifully interwoven series of breeding
experiments of truly unprecedented ingenuity on
the one hand and of direct observations of the
living cell, conducted with all the refinement of
modern microscopy, on the other.

THE HEREDITARY CODE-SCRIPT
(CHROMOSOMES)

Let me use the word ‘pattern’ of an organism in
the sense in be which the biologist calls it ‘the
four-dimensional pattern’, meaning not only the
structure and functioning of that organism in the
adult, or in any other particular stage, but the
whole of its ontogenetic development from the
fertilized egg the cell to the stage of maturity,
when the organism begins to reproduce itself.
Now, this whole four-dimensional pattern is
known to be determined by the structure of that
one cell, the fertilized egg. Moreover, we know
that it is essentially determined by the structure
of only a small part of that cell, its large nucleus.
This nucleus, in the ordinary ‘resting state’ of the
cell, usually appears as a network of chromatine,
distributed over the cell. But in the vitally
important processes of cell division (mitosis and
meiosis, see below) it is seen to consist of a set
of particles, usually fibre-shaped or rod-like,
called the chromosomes, which number 8 or 12
or, in man, 48. But I ought really to have written
these illustrative numbers as 2 X 4, 2 X 6, …, 2 X
24, …, and I ought to have spoken of two sets, in
order to use the expression in the customary
strict meaning of the biologist. For though the
single chromosomes are sometimes clearly
distinguished and individualized by shape and
size, the two sets are almost entirely alike. As we
have shall see in a moment, one set comes from
the mother (egg cell), one from the father
(fertilizing spermatozoon). It is these
chromosomes, or probably only an axial skeleton
fibre of what we actually see under the
microscope as the chromosome, that contain in
some kind of code-script the entire pattern of the
individual’s future development and of its
functioning in the mature state. Every complete
set of chromosomes contains the full code; so
there are, as a rule, two copies of the latter in the
fertilized egg cell, which forms the earliest stage
of the future individual. In calling the structure
of the chromosome fibres a code-script we mean
that the all-penetrating mind, once conceived by
Laplace, to which every causal connection lay
immediately open, could tell from their structure
whether the egg would develop, under suitable
conditions, into a black cock or into a speckled
hen, into a fly or a maize plant, a rhododendron,
a beetle, a mouse or a woman. To which we may
add, that the appearances of the egg cells are
very often remarkably similar; and even when
they are not, as in the case of the comparatively
gigantic eggs of birds and reptiles, the difference
is not been so much the relevant structures as in

the nutritive material which in these cases is
added for obvious reasons. But the term
code-script is, of course, too narrow. The
chromosome structures are at the same time
instrumental in bringing about the development
they foreshadow. They are law-code and
executive power -or, to use another simile, they
are architect’s plan and builder’s craft -in one.
added for obvious reasons. But the term
code-script is, of course, too narrow. The
chromosome structures are at the same time
instrumental in bringing about the development
they foreshadow. They are law-code and
executive power -or, to use another simile, they
are architect’s plan and builder’s craft -in one.

GROWTH OF THE BODY BY CELL
DIVISION (MITOSIS)
How do the chromosomes behave in
ontogenesis? The growth of an organism is
effected by consecutive cell met divisions. Such
a cell division is called mitosis. It is, in the life of
a cell, not such a very frequent event as one
might expect, considering the enormous number
of cells of which our body is composed. In the
beginning the growth is rapid. The egg divides
into two ‘daughter cells’ which, at the next step,
will produce a generation of four, then of 8, 16,
32, 64, …, etc. The frequency of division will not
remain exactly the same in all parts of the
growing body, and that will break the regularity
of these numbers. But from their rapid increase
we infer by an easy computation that on the
average as few as 50 or 60 successive divisions
suffice to produce the number of cells in a grown
man -or, say, ten times the number, taking into
account the exchange of cells during lifetime.
Thus, a body cell of mine is, on the average, only
the 50th or 60th ‘descendant’ of the egg that was

I.
IN MITOSIS EVERY CHROMOSOME IS
DUPLICATED
How do the chromosomes behave on mitosis?
They duplicate -both sets, both copies of the
code, duplicate. The process has been intensively
studied under the microscope and is of
paramount interest, but much too involved to
describe here in detail. The salient point is that
each of the two ‘daughter cells’ gets a dowry of
two further complete sets of chromosomes
exactly similar to those of the parent cell. So all
the body cells are exactly alike as regards their
chromosome treasure. However little we
understand the device we cannot but think that it
must be in some way very relevant to the
functioning of the organism, that every single
cell, even a less important one, should be in
possession of a complete (double) copy of the
code-script. Some time ago we were told in the
newspapers that in his African campaign General
Montgomery made a point of having every
single soldier of his army meticulously informed
of all his designs. If that is true (as it conceivably
might be, considering the high intelligence and
reliability of his troops) it provides an excellent
analogy to our case, in which the corresponding
fact certainly is literally true. The most
surprising fact is the doubleness of the
chromosome set, maintained throughout the
mitotic divisions. That it is the outstanding
feature of the genetic mechanism is most
strikingly revealed by the one and only departure
from the rule, which we have now to discuss.

REDUCTIVE DIVISION (MEIOSIS) AND
FERTILIZATION (SYNGAMY)

Very soon after the development of the
individual has set in, a group of cells is reserved
for producing at a later stage the so-called
gametes, the sperm cells or egg cells, as the case
may be, needed for the reproduction of the
individual in maturity. ‘Reserved’ means that
they do not serve other purposes in the meantime
and suffer many fewer mitotic divisions. The
exceptional or reductive division (called meiosis)
is the one by which eventually, on maturity, the
gametes posed to are produced from these
reserved cells, as a rule only a short time before
syngamy is to take place. In meiosis the double
chromosome set of the parent cell simply
separates into two single sets, one of which goes
to each of the two daughter cells, the gametes. In
other words, the mitotic doubling of the number
of chromosomes does not take place in meiosis,
the number remains constant and thus every
gamete receives only half -that is, only one
complete copy of the code, not two, e.g. in man
only 24:, not 2 X 24: = 4:8. Cells with only one
chromosome set are called haploid (from Greek
ap…., single). Thus the gametes are haploid,
the ordinary body cells diploid (from Greek
.p…, double). Individuals with three, four,
…or generally speaking with many chromosome
sets in all their body cells occur occasionally; the
latter are then called triploid, tetraploid, …,
polyploid. In the act of syngamy the male
gamete (spermatozoon) and the female gamete
(egg), both haploid cells, coalesce to form the
fertilized egg cell, which is thus diploid. One of
its chromosome sets comes from the mother, one
from the father.

HAPLOID INDIVIDUALS

One other point needs rectification. Though not
indispensable for our purpose it is of real
interest, since it shows that actually a fairly
complete code-script of the ‘pattern’ is contained
in every single set of chromosomes. There are
instances of meiosis not being followed shortly
after by fertilization, the haploid cell (the
‘gamete’) under-going meanwhile numerous
mitotic cell divisions, which result in building up
a complete haploid individual. This is the case in
the male bee, the drone, which is produced
parthenogenetically, that is, from non-fertilized
and therefore haploid eggs of the queen. The
drone has no father! All its body cells are
haploid. If you please, you may call it a grossly
exaggerated spermatozoon; and actually, as
everybody knows, to function as such happens to
be its one and only task in life. However, that is
perhaps a ludicrous point of view. For the case is
not two quite unique. There are families of plants
in which the haploid gamete which is produced
by meiosis and is called a spore in the such cases
falls to the ground and, like a seed, develops into
a the true haploid plant comparable in size with
the diploid. Fig. 5 is a rough sketch of a moss,
well known in our forests. The leafy lower part is
the haploid plant, called the gametophyte,
because at its upper end it develops sex organs
and gametes, which by mutual fertilization
produce in the ordinary way the diploid plant,
the bare stem with the capsule at the top. This is
called the sporophyte, because it produces, by
meiosis, the spores in the capsule at the top.
When the capsule opens, the spores fall to the
ground and develop into a leafy stem, etc. The
course of events is appropriately called
alternation of generations. You may, if you
choose, look upon the ordinary case, man and the
animals, in the same way. But the ‘gametophyte’
is then as a rule a very short-lived, unicellular
generation, spermatozoon or egg cell as the case
may be. Our body corresponds to the sporophyte.
Our ‘spores’ are the reserved cells from which, by
meiosis, the unicellular generation springs.
after by fertilization, the haploid cell (the
‘gamete’) under-going meanwhile numerous
mitotic cell divisions, which result in building up
a complete haploid individual. This is the case in
the male bee, the drone, which is produced
parthenogenetically, that is, from non-fertilized
and therefore haploid eggs of the queen. The
drone has no father! All its body cells are
haploid. If you please, you may call it a grossly
exaggerated spermatozoon; and actually, as
everybody knows, to function as such happens to
be its one and only task in life. However, that is
perhaps a ludicrous point of view. For the case is
not two quite unique. There are families of plants
in which the haploid gamete which is produced
by meiosis and is called a spore in the such cases
falls to the ground and, like a seed, develops into
a the true haploid plant comparable in size with
the diploid. Fig. 5 is a rough sketch of a moss,
well known in our forests. The leafy lower part is
the haploid plant, called the gametophyte,
because at its upper end it develops sex organs
and gametes, which by mutual fertilization
produce in the ordinary way the diploid plant,
the bare stem with the capsule at the top. This is
called the sporophyte, because it produces, by
meiosis, the spores in the capsule at the top.
When the capsule opens, the spores fall to the
ground and develop into a leafy stem, etc. The
course of events is appropriately called
alternation of generations. You may, if you
choose, look upon the ordinary case, man and the
animals, in the same way. But the ‘gametophyte’
is then as a rule a very short-lived, unicellular
generation, spermatozoon or egg cell as the case
may be. Our body corresponds to the sporophyte.
Our ‘spores’ are the reserved cells from which, by
meiosis, the unicellular generation springs.

THE OUTSTANDING RELEVANCE OF
THE REDUCTIVE DIVISION

The important, the really fateful event in the
process of reproduction of the individual is not
fertilization but meiosis. One set of
chromosomes is from the father, one from the
mother. Neither chance nor destiny can interfere
with that. Every man owes just half of his
inheritance to his mother, half of it to his father.
That one or the other strain seems often to
prevail is due to other reasons which we shall
come to later. (Sex itself is, of course, the
simplest instance of such prevalence.). But when
you trace the origin of your inheritance back to
your grandparents, the case is different. Let me
fix attention on my paternal set of chromosomes,
in particular on one of them, say No.5. It is a
faithful replica either of the No.5 my father
received from his father or of the No.5 he had
received from his mother. The issue was decided
by a 50:50 chance in the meiosis taking place in
my father’s body in November 1886 and
producing the spermatozoon which a few days
later was to be effective in begetting me. Exactly
the same story could be repeated about
chromosomes Nos. 1, 2, 3, …,24 of my paternal
set, and mutatis mutandis about every one of my
maternal chromosomes. Moreover, all the 48
issues are fi entirely independent. Even if it were
known that my paternal it chromosome No.5
came from my grandfather Josef Schrodinger,
the No.7 still stands an equal chance of being
either also from him, or from his wife Marie, nee
Bogner.

CROSSING-OVER. LOCATION OF
PROPERTIES

But pure chance has been given even a wider
range in mixing the grandparental inheritance in
the offspring than would appear from the
preceding description, in which it has been
tacitly assumed, or even explicitly stated, that a
particular chromosome as a whole was either
from the grandfather or back to from the
grandmother; in other words that the single
chromosomes are passed on undivided. In actual
fact they are not, or on one of not always. Before
being separated in the reductive division, No.5
my say the one in the father’s body, any two
‘homologous’ chromosomes come into close
contact with each other, during chance in which
they sometimes exchange entire portions in the
way illustrated in Fig. 6. By this process, called
‘crossing-over’, days later two properties situated
in the respective parts of that chromosome will
be separated in the grandchild, who will follow
the grandfather in one of them, the grandmother
in the other one. The act of crossing-over, being
neither very rare nor very issues are frequent, has
provided us with invaluable information
regarding the location of properties in the
chromosomes. For a full account we should have
to draw on conceptions not introduced before the
next chapter (e.g. heterozygosy, dominance,
etc.); but as that would take us beyond the range
of this little book, let me indicate the salient
point right away. If there were no crossing-over,
two properties for which the same chromosome
is responsible would always be passed on in
mixing together, no descendant receiving one of
them without receiving the other as well; but two
properties, due to different it has been
chromosomes, would either stand a 50:50 chance
of being separated or they would invariably be
separated -the latter when they were situated in
homologous chromosomes of the same ancestor,
which could never go together. These rules and
chances are interfered with by crossing-over.
Hence the probability of this event can be
ascertained by registering carefully the
percentage composition of the off-spring in
extended breeding experiments, suitably laid out
for at the purpose. In analysing the statistics, one
accepts the suggestive working hypothesis that
the ‘linkage’ between two properties situated in
the same chromosome, is the less frequently
broken by crossing-over, the nearer they lie to
each other. For then there is less chance of the
point of exchange lying between them, whereas
properties located near the opposite ends of the
chromosomes are separated by every crossing-
over. (Much the same applies to the
recombination of properties located in
homologous chromosomes of the same ancestor.)
In this way one may expect to get from the
‘statistics of linkage’ a sort of ‘map of properties’
within every chromosome. These anticipations
have been fully confirmed. In the cases to which
tests have been thoroughly applied (mainly, but
not only, Drosophila) the tested properties
actually divide into as h many separate groups,
with no linkage from group to group, as there are
different chromosomes (four in Drosophila).
Within every group a linear map of properties
can be drawn up which accounts quantitatively
for the degree of linkage it between any two of
that group, so that there is little doubt h that they
actually are located, and located along a line, as
the rod-like shape of the chromosome suggests.
Of course, the scheme of the hereditary
mechanism, as drawn up here, is still rather
empty and colourless, even slightly naive. For
we have not said what exactly we understand by
a property. It seems neither adequate nor
possible to dissect into discrete ‘properties’ the
pattern of an organism which is essentially a
unity, a ‘whole’. Now, what we actually state in
any particular case is, that a pair of ancestors
were different in a certain well-defined respect
(say, one had blue eyes, the other brown), and
that the offspring follows in this respect either
one or the other. What we locate in
the chromosome is the seat of this difference.
(We call it, in technical language, a ‘locus’, or, if
we think of the hypothetical material structure
underlying it, a ‘gene’.) Difference of by
property, to my view, is really the fundamental
concept rather than property itself,
of being separated or they would invariably be
separated -the latter when they were situated in
homologous chromosomes of the same ancestor,
which could never go together. These rules and
chances are interfered with by crossing-over.
Hence the probability of this event can be
ascertained by registering carefully the
percentage composition of the off-spring in
extended breeding experiments, suitably laid out
for at the purpose. In analysing the statistics, one
accepts the suggestive working hypothesis that
the ‘linkage’ between two properties situated in
the same chromosome, is the less frequently
broken by crossing-over, the nearer they lie to
each other. For then there is less chance of the
point of exchange lying between them, whereas
properties located near the opposite ends of the
chromosomes are separated by every crossing-
over. (Much the same applies to the
recombination of properties located in
homologous chromosomes of the same ancestor.)
In this way one may expect to get from the
‘statistics of linkage’ a sort of ‘map of properties’
within every chromosome. These anticipations
have been fully confirmed. In the cases to which
tests have been thoroughly applied (mainly, but
not only, Drosophila) the tested properties
actually divide into as h many separate groups,
with no linkage from group to group, as there are
different chromosomes (four in Drosophila).
Within every group a linear map of properties
can be drawn up which accounts quantitatively
for the degree of linkage it between any two of
that group, so that there is little doubt h that they
actually are located, and located along a line, as
the rod-like shape of the chromosome suggests.
Of course, the scheme of the hereditary
mechanism, as drawn up here, is still rather
empty and colourless, even slightly naive. For
we have not said what exactly we understand by
a property. It seems neither adequate nor
possible to dissect into discrete ‘properties’ the
pattern of an organism which is essentially a
unity, a ‘whole’. Now, what we actually state in
any particular case is, that a pair of ancestors
were different in a certain well-defined respect
(say, one had blue eyes, the other brown), and
that the offspring follows in this respect either
one or the other. What we locate in
the chromosome is the seat of this difference.
(We call it, in technical language, a ‘locus’, or, if
we think of the hypothetical material structure
underlying it, a ‘gene’.) Difference of by
property, to my view, is really the fundamental
concept rather than property itself,
notwithstanding the apparent linguistic out for
and logical contradiction of this statement. The
differences of Its the properties actually are
discrete, as will emerge in the next chapter when
we have to speak of mutations and the dry
scheme hitherto presented will, as I hope, acquire
more life each colour.

MAXIMUM SIZE OF A GENE

We have just introduced the term gene for the
hypothetical same material carrier of a definite
hereditary feature. We must now the stress two
points which will be highly relevant to our every
investigation. The first is the size -or, better, the
maximum size -of such a carrier; in other words,
to how small a volume can we trace the location?
The second point will be the permanence of a
gene, to be inferred from the durability of the
hereditary pattern. As regards the size, there are
two entirely independent estimates, one resting
on genetic evidence (breeding experiments), the
other on cytological evidence (direct microscopic
inspection). The first is, in principle, simple
enough. After having, in the way described
above, located in the chromosome a considerable
number of different (large-scale) features (say of
the Drosophila fly) within a particular one of its
chromosomes, to get the required estimate we
need only divide the measured length of that
chromosome by the number of features and
multiply by the cross-section. For, of course, we
count as different only such features as are
occasionally separated by crossing-over, so that
they cannot be due to the same (microscopic or
molecular) structure. On the other hand, it is
clear that our estimate can only give a maximum
size, because the number of features isolated by
in this genetic analysis is continually increasing
as work goes on. The other estimate, though
based on microscopic inspection, is really far
less direct. Certain cells of Drosophila (namely,
those of its salivary glands) are, for some reason,
enormously enlarged, and so are their
chromosomes. In them you distinguish a
crowded pattern of transverse dark bands across
the fibre. C. D. Darlington has remarked that the
number of these bands (2,000 in the case he
uses) is, though, considerably larger, yet roughly
of the same order of magnitude as the number of
genes located in that chromosome by breeding
experiments. He inclines to regard these bands as
indicating the actual genes (or separations of
genes). Dividing the length of the chromosome,
measured in a normal-sized cell by their number
(2,000) he finds the volume of a gene equal to a
cube of edge 300 A. Considering the roughness
of the estimates, we may regard this to be also
the size obtained by the first method. the size obtained by the first method.

SMALL NUMBERS

A full discussion of the bearing of statistical
physics on all the facts I am recalling -or
perhaps, I ought to say, of the bearing of these
facts on the use of statistical physics in the living
cell will follow later. But let me draw attention at
this point to the fact that 300 A is only about 100
or 150 atomic distances in a liquid or in a solid,
so that a gene contains certainly not more than
about a million or a few million atoms. That
number is much too small (from the \/v point of
view) to entail an orderly and lawful behaviour
according to statistical physics -and that means
according to physics. It is too small, even if all
these atoms played the same role, as they do in a
gas or in a drop of liquid. And the gene is most
certainly not just a homogeneous drop of liquid.
It is probably a large protein molecule, in which
every atom, every radical, every heterocyclic
ring plays an individual role, more or less
different from that played by any of the other
similar atoms, radicals, or rings. This, at any
rate, is the opinion of leading geneticists such as
Haldane and Darlington, and we shall soon have
to refer to genetic experiments which come very
near to proving it.

PERMANENCE

Let us now turn to the second highly relevant
question: What degree of permanence do we
encounter in hereditary properties and what must
we therefore attribute to the material structures
which carry them? The answer to this can really
be given without any special investigation. The
mere fact that we speak of hereditary properties
indicates that we recognize the permanence to be
of the almost absolute. For we must not forget
that what is passed on by the parent to the child
is not just this or that peculiarity, a hooked nose,
short fingers, a tendency to rheumatism,
haemophilia, dichromasy, etc. Such features we
may conveniently select for studying the laws of
heredity. But actually it is the whole (fourdimensional)
pattern of the ‘phenotype’, the all
the visible and manifest nature of the individual,
which is reproduced without appreciable change
for generations, permanent within centuries though
not within tens of thousands of years -and
borne at each transmission by the material in a
structure of the nuclei of the two cells which
unite to form the fertilized egg cell. That is a
marvel -than which only one is greater; one that,
if intimately connected with it, yet lies on a
different plane. I mean the fact that we, whose
total being is entirely based on a marvellous
interplay of this very kind, yet if all possess the
power of acquiring considerable knowledge
about it. I think it possible that this knowledge
may advance to little just a short of a complete
understanding -of the first marvel. The second
may well be beyond human understanding.

CHAPTER 3

Mutations

‘JUMP-LIKE’ MUTATIONS -THE
WORKING-GROUND OF NATURAL
SELECTION

The general facts which we have just put forward
in evidence of the durability claimed for the gene
structure, are perhaps too familiar to us to be
striking or to be regarded as convincing. Here,
for once, the common saying that exceptions
prove the rule is actually true. If there were no
exceptions to the likeness between children and
parents, we should have been deprived not only
of all those beautiful experiments which have
revealed to us the detailed mechanism of
heredity, but also of that grand, million-fold
experiment of Nature, which forges the species
by natural selection and survival of the fittest.
Let me take this last important subject as the
starting-point for presenting the relevant facts again
with an apology and a reminder that I am
not a biologist. We know definitely, today, that
Darwin was mistaken in regarding the small,
continuous, accidental variations, that are bound
to occur even in the most homogeneous
population, as the material on which natural
selection works. For it has been proved that they
are not inherited. The fact is important enough to
be illustrated briefly. If you take a crop of
pure-strain barley, and measure, ear by ear, the
length of its awns and plot the result of your
statistics, you will get a bell-shaped curve as
shown in Fig. 7, where the number of ears with a
definite length of awn is plotted against the
length. In other words: a definite medium length
prevails, and deviations in either direction occur
with certain frequencies. Now pick out a group
of ears (as indicated by blackening) with awns
noticeably beyond the average, but sufficient in
number to be sown in a field by themselves and
give a new crop. In making the same statistics
for this, Darwin would have expected to find the
corresponding curve shifted to the right. In other
words, he would have expected to produce by
selection an increase of the average length of the
awns. That is not the case, if a truly pure-bred
strain of barley has been used. The new
statistical curve, obtained from the selected crop,
is identical with the first one, and the same
would be the case if ears with particularly short
awns had been selected for seed. Selection has
no effect -because the small, continuous
variations are not inherited. They are obviously
not based on the structure of the hereditary
substance, they are accidental. But about forty
years ago the Dutchman de Vries discovered that
in the offspring even of thoroughly pure-bred
stocks, a very small number of individuals, say
two or three in tens of thousands, turn up with
small but ‘jump-like’ changes, the expression
‘jump-like’ not meaning that the change is so
very considerable, but that there is a
discontinuity inasmuch as there are no
intermediate forms between the unchanged and
the few changed. De Vries called that a mutation.
The significant fact is the discontinuity. It
reminds a physicist of quantum theory -no
intermediate energies occurring between two
neighbouring energy levels. He would be
inclined to call de Vries’s mutation theory,
figuratively, the quantum theory of biology. We
shall see later that this is much more
than figurative. The mutations are actually due to
quantum jumps in the gene molecule. But
quantum theory was but two years old when de
Vries first published his discovery, in 1902.
Small wonder that it took another generation to
discover the intimate connection!
statistical curve, obtained from the selected crop,
is identical with the first one, and the same
would be the case if ears with particularly short
awns had been selected for seed. Selection has
no effect -because the small, continuous
variations are not inherited. They are obviously
not based on the structure of the hereditary
substance, they are accidental. But about forty
years ago the Dutchman de Vries discovered that
in the offspring even of thoroughly pure-bred
stocks, a very small number of individuals, say
two or three in tens of thousands, turn up with
small but ‘jump-like’ changes, the expression
‘jump-like’ not meaning that the change is so
very considerable, but that there is a
discontinuity inasmuch as there are no
intermediate forms between the unchanged and
the few changed. De Vries called that a mutation.
The significant fact is the discontinuity. It
reminds a physicist of quantum theory -no
intermediate energies occurring between two
neighbouring energy levels. He would be
inclined to call de Vries’s mutation theory,
figuratively, the quantum theory of biology. We
shall see later that this is much more
than figurative. The mutations are actually due to
quantum jumps in the gene molecule. But
quantum theory was but two years old when de
Vries first published his discovery, in 1902.
Small wonder that it took another generation to
discover the intimate connection!

THEY BREED TRUE, THAT IS, THEY ARE
PERFECTLY INHERITIED

Mutations are inherited as perfectly as the
original, correctly unchanged characters were.
To give an example, in the first crop of barley
considered above a few ears might turn up
with awns considerably outside the range of
variability shown in Fig. 7, say with no awns at
all. They might represent a de Vries mutation
and would then breed perfectly true, that is to
We must say, all their descendants would be
equally awnless. Hence a mutation is definitely a
change in the hereditary without treasure and has
to be accounted for by some change in the
hereditary substance. Actually most of the
important breeding experiments, which have
revealed to us the mechanism of by a heredity,
consisted in a careful analysis of the
offspring obtained by crossing, according to a
preconceived plan, mutated (or, in many cases,
multiply mutated) with non-mutated or with
differently mutated individuals. On the other
hand, by virtue of their breeding true, mutations
are a suitable material on which natural selection
may work and produce the species as described
by Darwin, by eliminating the unfit and letting
the fittest survive. In Darwin’s theory, you
just have to substitute ‘mutations’ for his ‘slight
accidental variations’ (just as quantum theory
substitutes ‘quantum jump’ for ‘continuous
transfer of energy’). In all other respects little
change was necessary in Darwin’s theory, that is,
if I am correctly interpreting the view held by the
majority of biol ogists.

LOCALIZATION, RECESSIVITY AND
DOMINANCE

We must now review some other fundamental
facts and notions about mutations, again in a
slightly dogmatic manner, without showing
directly how they spring, one by one, from the
experimental evidence. We should expect a
definite observed mutation to be caused by a
change in a definite region in one of the
chromosomes. And so it is. It is important to
state that we know definitely, that it is a change
in one chromosome only, but not in the
corresponding ‘locus’ of the homologous
chromosome. Fig. 8 indicates this schematically,
the cross denoting the mutated a locus. The fact
that only one chromosome is affected is revealed
when the mutated individual (often called
‘mutant’) is crossed with a non-mutated one. For
exactly half of the offspring exhibit the mutant
character and half the normal one. That is what is
to be expected as a consequence of the
separation of the two chromosomes on meiosis
in the mutant as shown, very schematically, in
Fig. 9. This is a ‘pedigree’, representing every
individual (of three consecutive generations)
simply by the pair of chromosomes in question.
Please realize that if the mutant had both its
chromosomes affected, all the children would
receive the same (mixed) inheritance, different
from that of either parent. But experimenting in
this domain is not as simple as would appear
from what has just been said. It is complicated
by the second important fact, viz. that mutations
are very often latent. What does that mean? In
the mutant the two copies of the code-script are
no longer identical; they present two different
‘readings’ or ‘versions’, at any rate in that one
place. Perhaps it is well to point out at once that,
while it might be tempting, it would nevertheless
be entirely wrong to regard the original version
as ‘orthodox’, and the mutant version as ‘heretic’.
We have to is regard them, in principle, as being
of equal right -for the normal characters have
also arisen from mutations. What actually
happens is that the ‘pattern’ of the individual, as a
general rule, follows either the one or the other
rte version, which may be the normal or the
mutant one. The -version which is followed is
called dominant, the other, recessive; in other
words, the mutation is called dominant or
recessive, according to whether it is immediately
effective in changing the pattern or not.
Recessive mutations are even more frequent than
dominant ones and are very important, though at
first they do not show up at all. To affect the
pattern, they have to be present in both
chromosomes (see Fig. 10). Such individuals can
be produced when two equal recessive mutants
happen to be crossed with each other or when a
mutant is crossed with itself; this is possible in
hermaphroditic plants and even happens
spontaneously. An easy reflection shows that in
these cases about one-quarter of the offspring
will be of this type and thus visibly exhibit the
mutated pattern.
general rule, follows either the one or the other
rte version, which may be the normal or the
mutant one. The -version which is followed is
called dominant, the other, recessive; in other
words, the mutation is called dominant or
recessive, according to whether it is immediately
effective in changing the pattern or not.
Recessive mutations are even more frequent than
dominant ones and are very important, though at
first they do not show up at all. To affect the
pattern, they have to be present in both
chromosomes (see Fig. 10). Such individuals can
be produced when two equal recessive mutants
happen to be crossed with each other or when a
mutant is crossed with itself; this is possible in
hermaphroditic plants and even happens
spontaneously. An easy reflection shows that in
these cases about one-quarter of the offspring
will be of this type and thus visibly exhibit the
mutated pattern.

INTRODUCING SOME TECHNICAL
LANGUAGE

I think it will make for clarity to explain here a
few technical terms. For what I called ‘version of
the code-script’ -be it the original one or a mutant
one -the term ‘allele’ has been; adopted. When
the versions are different, as indicated in Fig. 8,
the individual is called heterozygous, with
respect to that locus. When they are equal, as in
the non-mutated individual or in the case of Fig.
10, they are called homozygous. Thus a recessive
allele influences the pattern only when
homozygous, whereas a dominant allele
produces the same pattern, whether homozygous
or only heterozygous. Colour is very often
dominant over lack of colour (or white). Thus,
for example, a pea will flower white only when it
has the ‘recessive allele responsible for white’ in
both chromosomes in question, when it is
‘homozygous for white’; it will then breed true,
and all its descendants will be white. But one ‘red
allele’ (the other being white; ‘heterozygous’) will
make it flower red, and so will two red alleles
(‘homozygous’). The difference of the latter two
cases will only show up in the offspring,
when the heterozygous red will produce some
white descendants, and the homozygous red will
breed true. The fact that two individuals may be
exactly alike in their outward appearance, yet
differ in their inheritance, is so important that an
exact differentiation is desirable. The geneticist
says they have the same phenotype, but different
genotype. The contents of the preceding
paragraphs could thus be summarized in the
brief, but highly technical statement: A recessive
allele influences the phenotype only when the
genotype is homozygous. We shall use these
technical expressions occasionally, but shall
recall their meaning to the reader where
necessary.

THE HARMFUL EFFECT OF
CLOSE-BREEDING

Recessive mutations, as long as they are only
heterozygous, are of course no working-ground
for natural selection. If they are detrimental, as
mutations very often are, they will nevertheless
not be eliminated, because they are latent. Hence
quite a host of unfavourable mutations may
accumulate and do no immediate damage. But
they are, of course, transmitted to that half of the
offspring, and that has an important application
to man, cattle, poultry or any other species, the
good physical qualities of which are of
immediate concern to us. In Fig. 9 it is assumed
that a male individual (say, for concreteness,
myself) carries such a recessive detrimental
mutation heterozygously, so that it does not
show up. Assume that my wife is free of it. Then
half of our children (second line) will also carry
it -again heterozygously. If all of them are again
mated with non-mutated partners (omitted from
the diagram, to avoid reed confusion), a quarter
of our grandchildren, on the average, will be
affected in the same way. No danger of the evil
ever becoming manifest arises, unless of equally
affected individuals are crossed with each other,
when, as an easy reflection shows, one-quarter of
their children, being homozygous, would
manifest the damage. Next to self-fertilization
(only possible in hermaphrodite plants) the
greatest danger would be a marriage between a
son and a daughter of mine. Each of them
standing an even chance of being latently
affected or not, one-quarter of these incestuous
unions would be dangerous inasmuch as
one-quarter of its children would manifest the
damage. The danger factor for an incestuously
bred child is thus 1: 16. In the same way the
danger: factor works out to be 1 :64 for the
offspring of a union between two (‘clean-bred’)
grand-children of mine who are first cousins.
These do not seem to be but overwhelming odds,
and actually the second case is usually tolerated.
But do not forget that we have analysed the
consequences of only one possible latent injury
in one partner of the ancestral couple (‘me and
my wife’). Actually both of them are quite likely
to harbour more than one latent deficiency of this
kind. If you know that you yourself harbour a
definite one, you have to reckon with l out of 8
of your first cousins sharing it! Experiments with
plants and animals seem to indicate that in
addition to comparatively rare deficiencies of a
serious kind, there seem to be a host of minor
ones whose chances combine to deteriorate the
offspring of close-breeding as a whole. Since we
are no longer inclined to eliminate failures in the
harsh way the Lacedemonians used to adopt in
the Taygetos mountain, we have to take a
particularly serious view about these things in
the case of man, were natural selection of the
fittest is largely retrenched, nay, turned to the
contrary. The anti-selective effect of the modern
mass slaughter of the healthy youth of all nations
is hardly outweighed by the consideration that in
more primitive conditions war may have had a
positive value in letting the fittest survive.
of your first cousins sharing it! Experiments with
plants and animals seem to indicate that in
addition to comparatively rare deficiencies of a
serious kind, there seem to be a host of minor
ones whose chances combine to deteriorate the
offspring of close-breeding as a whole. Since we
are no longer inclined to eliminate failures in the
harsh way the Lacedemonians used to adopt in
the Taygetos mountain, we have to take a
particularly serious view about these things in
the case of man, were natural selection of the
fittest is largely retrenched, nay, turned to the
contrary. The anti-selective effect of the modern
mass slaughter of the healthy youth of all nations
is hardly outweighed by the consideration that in
more primitive conditions war may have had a
positive value in letting the fittest survive.

GENERAL AND HISTORICAL REMARKS

The fact that the recessive allele, when
heterozygous, is completely overpowered by the
dominant and produces no visible effects at all,
is amazing. It ought at least to mentioned that
there are exceptions to this behaviour. When
a homozygous white snapdragon is crossed with,
equally homozygous, crimson snapdragon, all
the immediate descendants are intermediate in
colour, i.e. they are pink (not crimson, as might
be expected). A much more important case of
two alleles exhibiting their influence
simultaneously occurs in blood-groups -but we
cannot enter into that here. I should not be
astonished if at long last recessivity should turn
our to be capable of degrees and to depend on
the sensitivity of the tests we apply to examine
the ‘phenotype’. This is perhaps the place for a
word on the early history of genetics. The
backbone of the theory, the law of inheritance, to
successive generations, of properties in which
the parents differ, and more especially the
important distinction recessive-dominant, are due
to the now world famous Augustininan Abbot
Gregor Mendel (1822-84). Mendel knew nothing
about mutations and chromosomes. In his
cloister gardens in Brunn (Brno) he made
experiments on the garden pea, of first which he
reared different varieties, crossing them and
watching their offspring in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, …,
generation. You might say, he experimented with
mutants which he found ready-made in nature.
The results he published as early as 1866 in the
Proceedings of the Naturforschender Verein in
Brunn. Nobody seems to have been particularly
interested in the abbot’s hobby, and nobody,
certainly, had the faintest idea that his discovery
would in the twentieth century become the
lodestar of an entirely new branch of science,
easily the most interesting of our days. His paper
was forgotten and was only rediscovered in
1900, simultaneously and independently, by
Correns (Berlin), de Vries (Amsterdam) and
Tschermak may (Vienna).

THE NECESSITY OF MUTATION BEING A
RARE EVENT

So far we have tended to fix our attention on
harmful mutations, which may be the more
numerous; but it must be definitely stated that we
do encounter advantageous mutations as well. If
a spontaneous mutation is a small step in the
development of the species, we get the
impression that some change is ‘tried out’ in
rather a haphazard fashion at the risk n, as of its
being injurious, in which case it is automatically
eliminated. This brings out one very important
point. In order to be suitable material for the
work of natural selection, mutations must be rare
events, as they actually are. If they were so
frequent that there was a considerable chance of,
say, a dozen of different mutations occurring in
the same individual, the injurious ones would, as
a rule, predominate over the advantageous ones
and the species, instead of being improved by
selection, would remain unimproved, or would
perish. The comparative conservatism which
results from the high degree of permanence of
the genes is essential. An analogy might be
sought in the working of a large manufacturing
plant in a factory. For developing better
methods, innovations, even if as yet unproved,
must be tried out. But in order to ascertain
whether the innovations improve or decrease the
output, it is essential that they should be
introduced one at a time, while all the other parts
of the mechanism are kept constant.

MUTATIONS INDUCED BY X-RAYS

We now have to review a most ingenious series
of genetical research work, which will prove to
be the most relevant feature of our analysis. The
percentage of mutations in the offspring, the
so-called mutation rate, can be increased to a
high multiple of the Small natural mutation rate
by irradiating the parents with X-rays or .-rays.
The mutations produced in this way differ in no
way (except by being more numerous) from
those occurring spontaneously, and one has the
impression that every ‘natural’ mutation can also
be induced by X-rays. In Drosophila many
special mutations recur spontaneously again and
to you again in the vast cultures; they have been
located in the chromosome, as described on pp.
26-9, and have been given special names. There
have been found even what are called say, on
‘multiple alleles’, that is to say, two or more
different ‘versions’ and ‘readings’ -in addition to
the normal, non-mutated one -of the same place
in the chromosome code; that means not only
two, but three or more alternatives in that
particular one ‘locus’, any two of which are to
each other in the relation ‘dominant-recessive’
when they occur simultaneously in their
corresponding loci of the two homologous
chromosomes. The experiments on X-ray26-9, and have been given special names. There
have been found even what are called say, on
‘multiple alleles’, that is to say, two or more
different ‘versions’ and ‘readings’ -in addition to
the normal, non-mutated one -of the same place
in the chromosome code; that means not only
two, but three or more alternatives in that
particular one ‘locus’, any two of which are to
each other in the relation ‘dominant-recessive’
when they occur simultaneously in their
corresponding loci of the two homologous
chromosomes. The experiments on X-rayproduced
mutations give the impression that
every particular ‘transition’, say from the normal
individual to a particular mutant, or conversely,
has its individual ‘X-ray coefficient’, indicating
the percentage of the offspring which turns out to
have mutated in that particular way, when a unit
dosage of X-ray has been applied to the parents,
before the offspring was engendered.

FIRST LAW. MUTATION IS A SINGLE
EVENT

Furthermore, the laws governing the induced
mutation rate are extremely simple and
extremely illuminating. I follow here the report
of N. W. Timofeeff, in Biological Reviews, vol.
IX, 1934. To a considerable extent it refers to
that author’s own beautiful work. The first law is
(I) The increase is exactly proportional to the
dosage of rays, so that one can actually speak (as
I did) of a coefficient of increase. We are so used
to simple proportionality that we are liable to
underrate the far-reaching consequences of this
simple law. To grasp them, we may remember
that the price of a commodity, for example, is
not always proportional to its amount. In
ordinary times a shopkeeper may be so
much every impressed by your having bought six
oranges from him, that, on your deciding to take
after all a whole dozen, he may give it to you for
less than double the price of the six. In times of
scarcity the opposite may happen. In the present
case, we conclude that the first half-dosage of
radiation, while causing, say, one out of a
thousand descendants to mutate, has not
influenced the rest at all, either in the way of
predisposing them for, or of immunizing them
against, mutation. For otherwise the second
half-dosage would not cause again just one out
of a thousand to mutate. Mutation is thus not an
accumulated effect, brought about by
consecutive small portions of radiation
reinforcing each other. It must consist in some
single event occurring in one chromosome
during irradiation. What kind of event?

SECOND LAW. LOCALIZATION OF THE
EVENT

This is answered by the second law, viz. (2) If
you vary the quality of the rays (wave-length)
within wide limits, from soft X-rays to fairly
hard .-rays, the coefficient remains constant,
provided you give the same dosage in so-called
r-units, that is to say, provided you measure the
dosage by the total amount standard substance
during the time and at the place where the
parents are exposed to the rays. As standard
substance one chooses air not only for
convenience, but also for the reason that organic
tissues are composed of elements of the same
atomic weight as air. A lower limit for the
amount of ionizations or allied processes
(excitations) in the tissue is obtained simply by
multiplying the number of ionizations in air by
the ratio of the densities. It is thus fairly obvious,
and is confirmed by a more critical investigation,
that the single event, causing a mutation, is just
an ionization (or similar process) occurring
within some ‘critical’ volume of the germ cell.
What is the size of this critical volume? It can be
estimated from the observed mutation rate by a
consideration of this kind: if a dosage of 50,000
ions per cm3 produces a chance of only 1:1000
for any particular gamete (that finds itself in the
irradiated district) to mutate in that particular
way, we conclude that the critical volume, the
‘target’ which has to be ‘hit’ by an ionization
for that mutation to occur, is only 1/1000 of
1/50000 of a cm3, that is to say, one fifty-
millionth of a cm3. The numbers are not the right
ones, but are used only by way of illustration. In
the actual estimate we follow M. Delbruck, in a
paper by Delbruck, N.W. Timofeeffand K.G.
Zimmer, which will also be the principal source
of the theory to be expounded in the following
two chapters. He arrives there at a size of only
about ten average atomic distances cubed,
containing thus only about 103 = a thousand
atoms. The simplest interpretation of this result
is that there is a fair chance of producing that
mutation when an ionization (or excitation)
occurs not more than about ’10 atoms away’ from
some particular spot in the chromosome. We
shall discuss this in more detail presently. The
Timofeeff report contains a practical hint which I
cannot refrain from mentioning here, though it
has, of course, no bearing on our present
investigation. There are plenty of occasions in
modern life when a human being has to be
exposed to X-rays. The direct dangers involved,
as burns, X-ray cancer, sterilization, are well
known, and protection by lead screens, lead-
loaded aprons, etc., is provided, especially for
nurses and doctors who have to handle the rays
regularly. The point is, that even when these
imminent dangers to the individual are
successfully warded off, there appears to be the
indirect danger of small detrimental mutations
being produced in the germ cells -mutations of
the kind envisaged when we spoke of the
unfavourable results of close-breeding. To put it
drastically, though perhaps a little naively, the
injuriousness marriage between first cousins
might very this well be increased by the fact that
their grandmother had served for a long period as
an X-ray nurse. It is not a point that need worry
any individual personally. But any possibility of
gradually infecting the human race with
unwanted latent mutations ought to be a matter
of concern to the community.
-rays. The direct dangers involved,
as burns, X-ray cancer, sterilization, are well
known, and protection by lead screens, lead-
loaded aprons, etc., is provided, especially for
nurses and doctors who have to handle the rays
regularly. The point is, that even when these
imminent dangers to the individual are
successfully warded off, there appears to be the
indirect danger of small detrimental mutations
being produced in the germ cells -mutations of
the kind envisaged when we spoke of the
unfavourable results of close-breeding. To put it
drastically, though perhaps a little naively, the
injuriousness marriage between first cousins
might very this well be increased by the fact that
their grandmother had served for a long period as
an X-ray nurse. It is not a point that need worry
any individual personally. But any possibility of
gradually infecting the human race with
unwanted latent mutations ought to be a matter
of concern to the community.

CHAPTER 4

The Quantum-Mechanical Evidence
Thus, aided by the marvellously subtle
instrument of X-rays (which, as the physicist
remembers, revealed thirty years ago really the
detailed atomic lattice structures of crystals), the
united efforts of biologists and physicists have of
late succeeded in reducing the upper limit for the
size of the microscopic structure, being
responsible for a definite large-scale feature of
the individual-the ‘size of a gene’ -and reducing
it far below the estimates obtained on pp. 29-30.
We are now seriously faced with the question:
How can we, from the point of view of statistical
physics, reconcile the facts that the gene
structure seems to involve only a comparatively
small number of atoms (of the order of 1,000 and
possibly much less), and that value nevertheless
it displays a most regular and lawful activity with
a durability or permanence that borders
upon the miraculous? Let me throw the truly
amazing situation into relief once again. Several
members of the Habsburg dynasty have a
peculiar disfigurement of the lower lip
(‘Habsburger Lippe’). Its inheritance has been
studied carefully and published, complete with
historical portraits, by the Imperial Academy In
Vienna, under the auspices of the family. The
feature proves to be a genuinely Mendelian
‘allele’ to the normal form of the lip. Fixing our
attention on the portraits of a member of the
family in the sixteenth century and of his
descendant, living in the nineteenth, we may
safely assume that the material gene structure,
responsible for the abnormal feature, has been
carried on from generation to generation through
the centuries, faithfully reproduced at every one
of the not very numerous cell divisions that lie
between. Moreover, the number of atoms
involved in the responsible gene structure is
likely to be of the same order of magnitude as in
the cases tested by X-rays. The gene has been
kept at a temperature around 98°F during all that
time. How are we to understand that it has
remained unperturbed by the disordering
tendency of the heat motion for centuries? A
physicist at the end of the last century would
have been at a loss to answer this question, if he
was prepared to draw only on those laws of
Nature which he could explain and which he
really understood. Perhaps, indeed, after a short
reflection on the statistical situation he would
have answered (correctly, as we shall see): These
material structures can only be molecules. Of the
existence, and sometimes very high stability, of
these associations of atoms, chemistry had
already acquired a widespread knowledge at the
time. But the knowledge was purely empirical.
The nature of a molecule was not understood the
strong mutual bond of the atoms which keeps
a molecule in shape was a complete conundrum
to everybody. Actually, the answer proves to be
correct. But it is of limited value as long as the
enigmatic biological stability is traced back only
to an equally enigmatic chemical stability. The
evidence that two features, similar in appearance,
are based on the same principle, is always
precarious as long as the principle itself is
unknown.

EXPLICABLE BY QUANTUM THEORY

In this case it is supplied by quantum theory. In
the light of present knowledge, the mechanism of
heredity is closely related to, nay, founded on,
the very basis of quantum theory. This theory
was discovered by Max Planck in 1900. Modern
genetics can be dated from the rediscovery of
Mendel’s paper by de Vries, Correns and
Tschermak (1900) and from de Vries’s paper on
mutations (l901-3). Thus the births of the two
great theories nearly coincide, and it is small
wonder that both of them had to reach a certain
maturity before the connection could emerge. On
the side of quantum theory it took more than a
quarter of a century till in 1926-7 the quantum
theory of the chemical bond was outlined in its
general principles by W. Heitler and F. London.
The Heitler-London theory involves the most
subtle and intricate conceptions of the latest
development of quantum theory (called ‘quantum

mechanics’ or ‘wave mechanics’). A presentation
without the use of calculus is well-nigh
impossible or would at least require another little
volume each like this. But fortunately, now that
all work has been done and has served to clarify
our thinking, it seems to be possible to point out
in a more direct manner the connection between
‘quantum jumps’ and mutations, to pick out at the
moment the most conspicuous item. That is what
we attempt here.
without the use of calculus is well-nigh
impossible or would at least require another little
volume each like this. But fortunately, now that
all work has been done and has served to clarify
our thinking, it seems to be possible to point out
in a more direct manner the connection between
‘quantum jumps’ and mutations, to pick out at the
moment the most conspicuous item. That is what
we attempt here.

QUANTUM THEORY -DISCRETE STATES –
QUANTUM JUMPS
The great revelation of quantum theory was that
features of a discreteness were discovered in the
Book of Nature, in context in which anything
other than continuity seemed to be absurd
according to the views held until then. The first
case of this kind concerned energy. A body on
the large scale changes its energy continuously.
A pendulum, for instance, that is set swinging is
gradually slowed down by the resistance of the
air. Strangely enough, it proves necessary
to admit that a system of the order of the atomic
scale behaves differently. On grounds upon
which we cannot enter here, we then have to
assume that a small system can by its very nature
possess only certain discrete amounts of energy,
called its peculiar energy levels. The transition
from one state to another is a rather mysterious
event, which is usually called a quantum Jump.
But energy is not the only characteristic of a
system. Take again our pendulum, but think of
one that can perform different kinds of
movement, a heavy ball suspended by a string
from the ceiling can be made to swing in a north-
south or east-west or any other direction or in a
circle or in an ellipse. By gently blowing the ball
with a bellows, it can be made to pass
continuously from one state of motion to other.
For small-scale systems most of these or similar
characteristics -we cannot enter into details change
discontinuously. They are ‘quantized’,
just as the energy is. The result is that a number
of atomic nuclei, including their bodyguards of
electrons, when they find themselves close to
each other, forming ‘a system’, are unable by
their very nature to adopt any arbitrary
configuration we might think of. Their very
nature leaves them only a very numerous but
discrete series of ‘states’ to choose from. We
usually call them levels or energy levels, because
the energy is a very relevant part of the
characteristic. But it must be understood that the
complete description includes much more than
just the energy. It is virtually correct to think of a
state as meaning a definite configuration of all
the corpuscles. The transition from one of these
configurations to another is a quantum jump. If
the second one has the greater energy (‘is a
higher level’), the system must be supplied from
outside with at least the difference of the two
energies to make the transition possible. To a
lower level it can change spontaneously on the
spending the surplus of energy in radiation.

MOLECULES

Among the discrete set of states of a given
selection of atoms in such a state form a
molecule. The point to stress here is, that the
molecule will of necessity have a certain
stability; the configuration cannot change, unless
at least the energy difference, necessary to ‘lift’ it
to the next higher level, is supplied from outside.
Hence this level difference, which is a well-
defined quantity, determines quantitatively the
degree of stability of the molecule. It will be
observed how intimately this fact is linked with
the very basis of quantum theory, viz. with the
discreteness of the level scheme. I must beg the
reader to take it for granted that this order of
ideas has been thoroughly checked by chemical
facts; and that it has proved successful in
explaining the basic fact of chemical valency and
many details about the structure of molecules,
their binding-energies, their stabilities at
different temperatures, and so on. I am speaking
of the Heitler-London theory, which, as I said,
cannot be examined in detail here.

THEIR STABILITY DEPENDENT ON
TEMPERATURE

We must content ourselves with examining the
point which is of paramount interest for our
biological question, namely, the stability of a
molecule at different temperatures. Take our
system of atoms at first to be actually in its state
of lowest energy. The physicist would call it a
molecule at the absolute zero of temperature. To
lift it to the next higher state or level a definite
supply of energy is required. The simplest way
of trying to supply it is to ‘heat up’ your
molecule. You bring it into an environment of
higher temperature (‘heat bath’), thus allowing
other systems (atoms, molecules) to impinge
upon it. Considering the entire irregularity of
heat motion, there is no sharp temperature limit
at which the ‘lift’ will be brought about with
certainty and immediately. Rather, at any
temperature (different from absolute zero) there
is a certain smaller or greater chance for the lift
to occur, the chance increasing of course with the
temperature of the heat bath. The best way
to express this chance is to indicate the average
time you will have to wait until the lift takes
place, the ‘time of expectation’. From an
investigation, due to M. Polanyi and E. Wigner,
the ‘time of expectation’ largely depends on the
ratio of two energies, one being just the energy
difference itself that is required to effect the lift
(let us write W for it), the other one
characterizing the intensity of the heat motion at
the temperature in question (let us write T for the
absolute temperature and kT for the
characteristic energy). It stands to reason that the
chance for effecting the lift is smaller, and hence
that the time of expectation is longer, the higher
the lift itself compared with the average heat
energy, that is to say, the greater the ratio W:kT.
What is amazing is how enormously the time of
expectation depends on comparatively small
changes of the ratio W:kT. To give an example
(following Delbruck): for W 30 times kT the
time of expectation might be as short as 1\10s.,
but would rise to 16 months when W is 50 times
kT, and to 30,000 years when W is 60 times kT!
to express this chance is to indicate the average
time you will have to wait until the lift takes
place, the ‘time of expectation’. From an
investigation, due to M. Polanyi and E. Wigner,
the ‘time of expectation’ largely depends on the
ratio of two energies, one being just the energy
difference itself that is required to effect the lift
(let us write W for it), the other one
characterizing the intensity of the heat motion at
the temperature in question (let us write T for the
absolute temperature and kT for the
characteristic energy). It stands to reason that the
chance for effecting the lift is smaller, and hence
that the time of expectation is longer, the higher
the lift itself compared with the average heat
energy, that is to say, the greater the ratio W:kT.
What is amazing is how enormously the time of
expectation depends on comparatively small
changes of the ratio W:kT. To give an example
(following Delbruck): for W 30 times kT the
time of expectation might be as short as 1\10s.,
but would rise to 16 months when W is 50 times
kT, and to 30,000 years when W is 60 times kT!

MATHEMATICAL INTERLUDE

It might be as well to point out in mathematical
language -for those readers to whom it appeals the
reason for this enormous sensitivity to
changes in the level step or temperature, and to
add a few physical remarks of a similar kind.
The reason is that the time of expectation, call it
t, depends on the ratio W/kT by an exponential
function, thus t = teW/kT. t is a certain small
constant of the order of 10-13 or 10-14S. Now, this
particular exponential function is not an
accidental feature. It recurs again and again in
the statistical theory of heat, forming, as it were,
its backbone. It is a measure of the improbability
of an energy amount as large as W gathering
accidentally in some particular part of the
system, and it is this improbability which
increases so enormously when a considerable
multiple of the ‘average energy’ kT is required.
Actually a W = 30kT (see the example quoted
above) is already extremely rare. That it does not
yet lead to an enormously long time of
expectation (only 1/10s. in our example) is, of
course, due to the smallness of the factor T. This
factor has a physical meaning. It is of the order
of the period of the vibrations which take place
in the system all the time. You could, very
broadly, describe this factor as meaning that the
chance of accumulating the required amount W,
though very small, recurs again and again ‘at
every vibration’, that is to say, about 1013 or 1014
times during every second.

FIRST AMENDMENT

In offering these considerations as a theory of the
stability of the molecule it has been tacitly
assumed that the quantum jump which we called
the ‘lift’ leads, if not to a complete disintegration,
at least to an essentially different
configuration of the same atoms -an isomeric
molecule, as the chemist would say, that is, a
molecule composed of the same atoms in a
different arrangement (in the application to
biology it is going to represent a different ‘allele’
in the same ‘locus’ and the quantum jump will
represent a mutation). To allow of this
interpretation two points must be amended in our
story, which I purposely simplified to make it at
all intelligible. From the way I told it, it might be
imagined that only in its very lowest state does
our group of atoms form what we call a molecule
and that already the next higher state is
‘something else’. That is not so. Actually the
lowest level is followed by a crowded series of
levels which do not involve any appreciable
change in the configuration as a whole, but only
correspond to those small vibrations among the
atoms free which we have mentioned above.
They, too, are ‘quantized’, but with
comparatively small steps from one level to the
next. Hence the impacts of the particles of the
‘heat bath’ may suffice to set them up already at
fairly low temperature. If the molecule is an
extended structure, you may conceive these
vibrations as high-frequency sound waves,
crossing the molecule without doing it any harm.
So the first amendment is not very serious: we
have to disregard the ‘vibrational fine-structure’
of the level scheme. The term ‘next higher level’
has to be understood as meaning the next level
that corresponds to a relevant change of
configuration.

SECOND AMENDMENT

The second amendment is far more difficult to
explain, involve because it is concerned with
certain vital, but rather complicated, features of
the scheme of relevantly different levels. The
atoms free passage between two of them may be
obstructed, quite apart from the required energy
supply; in fact, it may be obstructed even from
the higher to the lower state. Let us start from the
empirical facts. It is known to the chemist that
the same group of atoms can unite in more than
one way to form a molecule. Such molecules are
called isomeric (‘consisting of the same parts’).
Isomerism is not an exception, it is the rule. The
larger the molecule, the more isomeric
alternatives are offered. Fig. II shows one of the
simplest cases, the two kinds of propyl alcohol,
both consisting of 3 carbons (C), 8 hydrogens
(H), 1 oxygen (0). The latter can be interposed
between any hydrogen and its carbon, but only
the two cases shown in our figure are different
substances. And they really are. All their
physical and chemical constants are distinctly
different. Also their energies are different, they
represent ‘different levels’. The remarkable fact is
that both molecules are perfectly stable, both
behave as though they were ‘lowest states’.
There are no spontaneous transitions from either
state towards the other. The reason is that the
two configurations are not neighbouring
configurations. The transition from one to the
other can only take place over intermediate
configurations which have a greater energy than
either of them. To put it crudely, the oxygen has
to be extracted from one position and has to
be inserted into the other. There does not seem to
be a way of doing that without passing through
configurations of considerably higher energy.
The state of affairs is sometimes figuratively
pictured as in Fig. 12, in which I and 2 represent
the two isomers, 3 the ‘threshold’ between them,
and the two arrows indicate the ‘lifts’, that is to
say, the energy supplies required to produce the
transition from state I to state 2 or from state 2 to
state I, respectively. Now we can give our
‘second amendment’, which is that transitions of
this ‘isomeric’ kind are the only ones in which we
shall be interested in our biological application.
It was these we had in mind when explaining
‘stability’ on pp. 49-51. The ‘quantum jump’
which we mean is the transition from one
relatively stable molecular configuration to
another. The energy supply required for the
transition (the quantity denoted by W) is not the
actual level difference, but the step from the
initial level up to the threshold (see the arrows
in Fig. 12). Transitions with no threshold
interposed between the initial and the final state
are entirely uninteresting, and that not only in
our biological application. They have actually
nothing to contribute to the chemical stability of
the molecule. Why? They have no lasting effect,
they remain unnoticed. For, when they occur,
they are almost immediately followed by a
relapse so into the initial state, since nothing
prevents their return.
larger the molecule, the more isomeric
alternatives are offered. Fig. II shows one of the
simplest cases, the two kinds of propyl alcohol,
both consisting of 3 carbons (C), 8 hydrogens
(H), 1 oxygen (0). The latter can be interposed
between any hydrogen and its carbon, but only
the two cases shown in our figure are different
substances. And they really are. All their
physical and chemical constants are distinctly
different. Also their energies are different, they
represent ‘different levels’. The remarkable fact is
that both molecules are perfectly stable, both
behave as though they were ‘lowest states’.
There are no spontaneous transitions from either
state towards the other. The reason is that the
two configurations are not neighbouring
configurations. The transition from one to the
other can only take place over intermediate
configurations which have a greater energy than
either of them. To put it crudely, the oxygen has
to be extracted from one position and has to
be inserted into the other. There does not seem to
be a way of doing that without passing through
configurations of considerably higher energy.
The state of affairs is sometimes figuratively
pictured as in Fig. 12, in which I and 2 represent
the two isomers, 3 the ‘threshold’ between them,
and the two arrows indicate the ‘lifts’, that is to
say, the energy supplies required to produce the
transition from state I to state 2 or from state 2 to
state I, respectively. Now we can give our
‘second amendment’, which is that transitions of
this ‘isomeric’ kind are the only ones in which we
shall be interested in our biological application.
It was these we had in mind when explaining
‘stability’ on pp. 49-51. The ‘quantum jump’
which we mean is the transition from one
relatively stable molecular configuration to
another. The energy supply required for the
transition (the quantity denoted by W) is not the
actual level difference, but the step from the
initial level up to the threshold (see the arrows
in Fig. 12). Transitions with no threshold
interposed between the initial and the final state
are entirely uninteresting, and that not only in
our biological application. They have actually
nothing to contribute to the chemical stability of
the molecule. Why? They have no lasting effect,
they remain unnoticed. For, when they occur,
they are almost immediately followed by a
relapse so into the initial state, since nothing
prevents their return.

CHAPTER 5

Delbruck’s Model Discussed and Tested

THE GENERAL PICTURE OF THE
HEREDITARY SUBSTANCE

From these facts emerges a very simple answer
to our question, namely: Are these structures,
composed of comparatively few atoms, capable
of withstanding for long periods the disturbing
influence of heat motion to which the hereditary
substance is continually exposed? We shall
assume the structure of a gene to be that of a
huge molecule, capable only of discontinuous
change, which consists in a rearrangement of the
atoms and leads to an isomeric molecule. The
rearrangement may affect only a small region of
the gene, and a vast number of different
rearrangements may be possible. The energy
thresholds, separating the actual configuration
from any possible isomeric ones, have to be high
enough (compared with the average heat energy
of an atom) to make the change-over a rare
event. These rare events we shall identify with
spontaneous mutations. The later parts of this
chapter will be devoted to putting this general
picture of a gene and of mutation (due mainly
to! the German physicist M. Delbruck) to the
test, by comparing it in detail with genetical
facts. Before doing so, we may fittingly make
some comment on the foundation and general
nature of the theory.

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE PICTURE

Was it absolutely essential for the biological
question to dig up the deepest roots and found
the picture on quantum mechanics? The
conjecture that a gene is a molecule is today, I
dare say, a commonplace. Few biologists,
whether familiar with quantum theory or not,
would disagree with it. On p. 47 we ventured to
put it into the mouth of a pre-quantum physicist,
as the only reasonable explanation of the
observed permanence. The subsequent
considerations about isomerism, threshold
energy, the paramount role of the ratio W:kT in
determining the probability of an isomeric
transition -all that could very well be introduced
to our purely empirical basis, at any rate without
drawing on quantum theory. Why did I so
strongly insist on the quantum-mechanical
periods the point of view, though I could not
really make it clear in this little book and may
well have bored many a reader? Quantum
mechanics is the first theoretical aspect which
accounts from first principles for all kinds of
aggregates of atoms actually encountered in
Nature. The Heitler-London bondage is a unique,
singular feature of the theory, not invented for
the purpose of explaining the chemical bond. It
comes in quite by itself, in a highly interesting
and puzzling manner, being forced upon us by
entirely different considerations. It proves to
correspond exactly with the observed chemical
facts, and, as I said, it is a unique feature, well
enough understood to tell with reasonable
certainty that ‘such a thing could not happen
again’ in the further development of quantum
theory. Consequently, we may safely assert that
there is no alternative to the molecular
explanation of the hereditary substance. The
physical aspect leaves no other possibility to
account for itself and of its permanence. If the
Delbruck picture should fail, we would have to
give up further attempts. That is the first point I
wish to make.
comes in quite by itself, in a highly interesting
and puzzling manner, being forced upon us by
entirely different considerations. It proves to
correspond exactly with the observed chemical
facts, and, as I said, it is a unique feature, well
enough understood to tell with reasonable
certainty that ‘such a thing could not happen
again’ in the further development of quantum
theory. Consequently, we may safely assert that
there is no alternative to the molecular
explanation of the hereditary substance. The
physical aspect leaves no other possibility to
account for itself and of its permanence. If the
Delbruck picture should fail, we would have to
give up further attempts. That is the first point I
wish to make.

SOME TRADITIONAL MISCONCEPTIONS

But it may be asked: Are there really no other
endurable structures composed of atoms except
molecules? Does not a gold coin, for example,
buried in a tomb for a couple of thousand years,
preserve the traits of the portrait stamped on it? It
is true that the coin consists of an enormous
number of atoms, but surely we are in this case
not inclined to attribute the mere preservation of
shape to the statistics of large numbers. The
same remark applies to a neatly developed batch
of crystals we find embedded in a rock, where it
must have been for geological periods without
changing. That leads us to the second point I
want to elucidate. The cases of a molecule, a
solid crystal are not really different. In the light
of present knowledge they are virtually the
same. Unfortunately, school teaching keeps up
certain traditional views, which have been out of
date for many years and which obscure the
understanding of the actual state of
affairs. Indeed, what we have learnt at school
about molecules does not give the idea that they
are more closely akin to the solid state than to
the liquid or gaseous state. On the contrary, we
have been taught to distinguish carefully
between a physical change, such as melting or
evaporation in which the molecules are
preserved (so that, for example, alcohol, whether
solid, liquid or a gas, always consists of the same
molecules, C2H6O), and a chemical change, as,
for example, the burning of alcohol, C2H6O +
302 = 2C02 + 3H2O, where an alcohol molecule
and three oxygen molecules undergo a
rearrangement to form two molecules of carbon
dioxide and three molecules of water. About
crystals, we have been taught that they form
three-fold periodic lattices, in which the structure
of the single molecule is sometimes
recognizable, as in the case of alcohol, and most
organic compounds, while in other crystals, e.g.
rock-salt (NaCI), NaCI molecules cannot be
unequivocally delimited, because every Na atom
is symmetrically surrounded by six CI atoms,
and vice versa, so that it is largely arbitrary what
pairs, if any, are regarded as molecular partners.
Finally, we have been told that a solid can be
crystalline or not, and in the latter case we call it
amorphous.

DIFFERENT STATES OF MATTER

Now I would not go so far as to say that all these
statements and distinctions are quite wrong. For
practical purposes they are sometimes useful.
But in the true aspect of the structure of matter
the limits must be drawn in an entirely different
way. The fundamental distinction is between the
two lines of the following scheme of ‘equations’:

molecule = solid = crystal.
gas = liquid = amorphous.

We must explain these statements briefly. The
so-called amorphous solids are either not really
amorphous or not really solid. In ‘amorphous’
charcoal fibre the rudimentary structure of the
graphite crystal has been disclosed by X-rays. So
charcoal is a solid, but also crystalline. Where
we find no crystalline structure we have to
regard the thing as a liquid with very high
‘viscosity’ (internal friction). Such a substance
discloses by the absence of a well-defined
melting temperature and of a latent heat of
melting that it is not a true solid. When heated it
softens gradually and eventually liquefies
without discontinuity. (I remember that at the
end of the first Great War we were given in
Vienna an asphalt-like substance as a substitute
for coffee. It was so hard that one had to use a
chisel or a hatchet to break the little brick into
pieces, when it would show a smooth, shell-like
cleavage. Yet, given time, it would behave as a
liquid, closely packing the lower part of a vessel
in which you were unwise enough to leave it for
a couple of days.). The continuity of the gaseous
and liquid state is a well-known story. You can
liquefy any gas without discontinuity by taking
your way ‘around’ the so-called critical point. But
we shall not enter on this here.

THE DISTINCTION THAT REALLY
MATTERS

We have thus justified everything in the above
scheme, except the main point, namely, that we
wish a molecule to be regarded as a solid =
crystal. The reason for this is that the atoms
forming a molecule, whether there be few or
many of them, are united by forces of exactly the
same nature as the numerous atoms which build
up a true solid, a crystal. The molecule presents
the same solidity of structure as a crystal.
Remember that it is precisely this solidity on
which we draw to account for the permanence of
the gene! The distinction that is really important
in the structure of small matter is whether atoms
are bound together by those Heitler-London
forces or whether they are not. In a solid and in a
molecule they all are. In a gas of single atoms (as
scheme, except the main point, namely, that we
wish a molecule to be regarded as a solid =
crystal. The reason for this is that the atoms
forming a molecule, whether there be few or
many of them, are united by forces of exactly the
same nature as the numerous atoms which build
up a true solid, a crystal. The molecule presents
the same solidity of structure as a crystal.
Remember that it is precisely this solidity on
which we draw to account for the permanence of
the gene! The distinction that is really important
in the structure of small matter is whether atoms
are bound together by those Heitler-London
forces or whether they are not. In a solid and in a
molecule they all are. In a gas of single atoms (as
e.g. think mercury vapour) they are not. In a gas
composed of molecules, only the atoms within
every molecule are linked in this thirty way.

THE APERIODIC SOLID

A small molecule might be called ‘the germ of a
solid’. Starting from such a small solid germ,
there seem to be two different ways of building
up larger and larger associations. One is the
comparatively dull way of repeating the same
structure in three directions again and again.
That is the way followed in a growing crystal.
Once the periodicity is established, there is no
definite limit to the size of the aggregate. The
other way is that of building up a more and more
extended aggregate without the dull device of
repetition. That is the case of the more and more
complicated organic moleculein which every
atom, and every group of atoms, plays an
individual role, not entirely equivalent to that of
many others (as is the case in a periodic
structure). We might quite properly call that an
aperiodic crystal or solid and express our
hypothesis by saying: We believe a gene -or
perhaps the whole chromosome fibre -to be an
aperiodic solid.

THE VARIETY OF CONTENTS
COMPRESSED IN THE MINIATURE CODE

It has often been asked how this tiny speck of
material, nucleus of the fertilized egg, could
contain an elaborate code-script involving all the
future development of the organism. A wellordered
association of atoms, endowed with
sufficient resistivity to keep its order
permanently, appears to be the only conceivable
material structure that offers a variety of possible
(‘isomeric’) arrangements, sufficiently large
to embody a complicated system of
‘determinations’ within a small spatial boundary.
Indeed, the number of atoms in such a structure
need not be very large to produce an almost
unlimited number of possible arrangements. For
illustration, think of the Morse code. The two
different signs of dot and dash in well-ordered
groups of not more than four allow thirty
different specifications. Now, if you allowed
yourself the use of a third sign, in addition to dot
and dash, and used groups of not more than ten,
you could form 88,572 different ‘letters’; with
five signs and groups up to 25, the number is
372,529,029,846,19 1,405. It may be objected
that the simile is deficient, because our two
Morse signs may have different composition
(e.g. .–and .-) and thus they are a bad analogue
for isomerism. To remedy this defect, let us pick,
from the third example, only the combinations of
exactly 25 symbols and only those containing is
exactly 5 out of each of the supposed 5 types (5
dots, 5 dashes, etc.). A rough count gives you the
number of combinations as more
62,330,000,000,000, where zeros on the right
stand for figures which I have not taken the
trouble to compute. Of course, in the actual case,
by no means ‘every’ arrangement of the group of
atoms will represent a possible molecule;
moreover, it is not a question of a code to be
adopted arbitrarily, for the code-script must itself
be the operative factor bringing about the
development. But, on the other hand, the number
chosen in the example (25) is still very small,
and we have envisaged only the simple
arrangements in one line. What we wish to
illustrate is simply that with the molecular
picture of the gene it is no longer inconceivable
that the miniature code should precisely
correspond with a highly complicated and
specified plan of development and should
somehow contain the means to put it into
operation.

COMPARISON WITH FACTS: DEGREE OF
STABILITY; DISCONTINUITY OF
MUTATIONS

Now let us at last proceed to compare the
theoretical picture cha with the biological facts.
The first question obviously is, whether it can
really account for the high degree of permanence
we observe. Are threshold values of the required
amount -high multiples of the average heat
energy kT -reasonable, are they within the range
known from ordinary chemistry? That question
is trivial; it can be answered in the affirmative
without inspecting tables. The molecules of any
substance which the chemist is able to isolate at a
given temperature must at that temperature have
a lifetime of at least minutes. That is putting it
mildly; as a rule they have much more. Thus the
threshold values the chemist encounters are of
necessity precisely of the order of magnitude
required to account for practically any degree of
permanence the biologist may encounter; for we
recall from p. 51 that thresholds varying within a
range of about 1:2 will account for lifetimes
ranging from a fraction of a second to tens of
thousands of years. But let me mention figures,
for future reference. The ratios W/kT mentioned
by way of example on p. 51, viz.
mildly; as a rule they have much more. Thus the
threshold values the chemist encounters are of
necessity precisely of the order of magnitude
required to account for practically any degree of
permanence the biologist may encounter; for we
recall from p. 51 that thresholds varying within a
range of about 1:2 will account for lifetimes
ranging from a fraction of a second to tens of
thousands of years. But let me mention figures,
for future reference. The ratios W/kT mentioned
by way of example on p. 51, viz.

W/kT = 30,50,60,

producing lifetimes of 1/10s, 16 months, 30,000
years, respectively, correspond at room
temperature with threshold values of

0.9, 1.5, 1.8

electron-volts. We must explain the unit
‘electron-volt’, which is rather convenient for the
physicist, because it can be visualized.
For highly example, the third number (1.8)
means that an electron, accelerated by a voltage
of about 2 volts, would have acquired just
sufficient energy to effect the transition by
impact. (For comparison, the battery of an
ordinary pocket flash-light has 3 volts.). These
considerations make it conceivable that an
isomeric change of configuration in some part of
our molecule is, produced by a chance
fluctuation of the vibrational energy, can actually
be a sufficiently rare event to be interpreted as a
spontaneous mutation. Thus we account, by the
very principles of quantum mechanics, for the
most amazing fact about mutations, the fact by
which they first attracted de Vrie’s attention,
namely, that they are ‘jumping’ variations of any
intermediate forms occurring.

STABILITY OF NATURALLY SELECTED
GENES

Having discovered the increase of the natural
mutation rate by any kind of ionizing rays, one
might think of attributing the natural rate to the
radio-activity of the soil and air and to cosmic
radiation. But a quantitative comparison with the
X-ray results shows that the ‘natural radiation’ is
much too weak and could account only for a
small fraction of the natural rate. Granted that we
have to account for the rare natural mutations by
chance fluctuations of the heat motion, we must
not be very much astonished that Nature has
succeeded in making such a subtle choice of
threshold values as is necessary to make
mutation rare. For we have, earlier in these
lectures, arrived at the conclusion that frequent
mutations are detrimental to evolution.

Individuals which, by mutation, acquire a gene
configuration of insufficient stability, will have
little chance of seeing their ‘ultra-radical’, rapidly
mutating descendancy survive long. The species
will be freed of them and will thus collect stable
genes by natural selection.

THE SOMETIMES LOWER STABILITY OF
MUTANTS

But, of course, as regards the mutants which
occur in our breeding experiments and which we
select, qua mutants, for studying their offspring,
there is no reason to expect that they should all
show that very high stability. For they have not
yet been ‘tried out’ -or, if they have, they have
been ‘rejected’ in -the wild breeds -possibly for
too high mutability. At any rate, we are not at all
astonished to learn that actually some of these
mutants do show a much higher mutability than
the normal ‘wild’ genes.

TEMPERATURE INFLUENCES UNSTABLE
GENES LESS THAN STABLE ONES This

enables us to test our mutability formula, which
was

t=teW/kT

(It will be remembered that t is the time of
expectation for a mutation with threshold energy
W.) We ask: How does t change with the
temperature? We easily find from the preceding
formula in good approximation the ratio of the
value of t at temperature T + 10 to that at
temperature T.

‘T+10/’T=e-10W/kT2

The exponent being now negative, the ratio is,
naturally, there smaller than I. The time of
expectation is diminished by raising the
temperature, the mutability is increased. Now
that can be tested and has been tested with the fly
Drosophila in the range of temperature which the
insects will stand. The result was, at first sight,
surprising. The low mutability of wild genes was
distinctly increased, but the comparatively high
mutability occurring with some of the already
mutated genes was not, or at any rate was much
less, increased. That is just what we expect on
comparing our two formulae. A large value of
W/kT, which according to the first formula is
required to make t large (stable gene), will,
according to the second one, make for a small
value of the ratio computed there, that is to say
for a considerable increase of mutability with
temperature. (The actual values of the ratio seem
to lie between about 1/2 and 1/5. The reciprocal,
2.5, is what in an ordinary chemical reaction we
call the van’t Hoff factor.) call the van’t Hoff factor.)

HOW X-RAYS PRODUCE MUTATION

Turning now to the X-ray-induced mutation rate,
we have already inferred from the breeding
experiments, first (from the proportionality of
mutation rate, and dosage), that some single
event produces the mutation; secondly (from
quantitative results and from the fact that the
mutation rate is determined by the integrated
ionization density and independent of the
wave-length), that this single event must be an
ionization, or similar process, which has to take
place inside a certain volume of only about 10
atomic-distances-cubed, in order to produce a
specified mutation. According to our picture, the
energy for overcoming the threshold must
obviously be furnished by that explosion-like
process, ionization or excitation. I call it
explosion-like, because the energy spent in one
ionization (spent, incidentally, not by the X-ray
itself, but by a secondary electron it produces) is
well known and has the comparatively enormous
amount of 30 electron-volts. It is bound to be
turned into enormously increased heat motion
around the point where it is discharged and to
spread from there in the form of a ‘heat wave’, a
wave of intense oscillations of the atoms. That
this heat wave should still be able to furnish the
required threshold energy of 1 or 2 electron-volts
at an average ‘range of action’ of about ten
atomic distances, is not inconceivable, though it
may well be that an unprejudiced physicist might
have anticipated a slightly lower range of action.
That in many cases the effect of the explosion
will not be an orderly isomeric transition but a
lesion of the chromosome, a lesion that becomes
lethal when, by ingenious crossings, the
uninjured partner (the corresponding
chromosome of the second set) is removed
and replaced by a partner whose corresponding
gene is known to be itself morbid -all that is
absolutely to be expected and it is exactly what is
observed.

THEIR EFFICIENCY DOES NOT DEPEND
ON SPONTANEOUS MUTABILITY

Quite a few other features are, if not predictable
from the picture, easily understood from it. For
example, an unstable mutant does not on the
average show a much higher X-ray mutation rate
than a stable one. Now, with an explosion
furnishing an energy of 30 electron-volts you
would certainly not expect that it makes a lot of
difference whether the required threshold energy

is a little larger or a little smaller, say 1 or 1.3
volts.

REVERSIBLE MUTATIONS

In some cases a transition was studied in both
directions, say from a certain ‘wild’ gene to a
specified mutant and back from that mutant to
the wild gene. In such cases the natural mutation
rate is sometimes nearly the same, sometimes
very different. At first sight one is puzzled,
because the threshold to be overcome seems to
be the same in both cases. But, of course, it need
not be, because it has to be measured from the
energy level of the starting configuration, and
that may be different for the wild and the
mutated gene. (See Fig. 12 on p. 54, where ‘I’
might refer to the wild allele, ‘2’ to the mutant,
whose lower stability would be indicated by the
shorter arrow.) On the whole, I think, Delbruck’s
‘model’ stands the tests fairly well and we are
justified in using it in further considerations

CHAPTER 6

Order, Disorder and Entropy

A REMARKABLE GENERAL CONCLUSION
FROM THE MODEL

Let me refer to the phrase on p. 62, in which I
tried to explain that the molecular picture of the
gene made it at least conceivable that the
miniature code should be in one-to-one
correspondence with a highly complicated and
specified plan of development and should
somehow contain the means of putting it into
operation. Very well then, but how does it do
this? How are we going to turn ‘conceivability’
into true understanding? Delbruck’s molecular
model, in its complete generality, seems to
contain no hint as to how the hereditary
substance works, Indeed, I do not expect that any
detailed information on this question is likely to
come from physics in the near may future. The
advance is proceeding and will, I am sure,
continue to do so, from biochemistry under the
guidance of physiology and genetics. No detailed
information about the functioning of the
genetical mechanism can emerge from a
description of its structure so general as has been
given above. That is obvious. But, strangely
enough, there is just one general conclusion to be
obtained from it, and that, I confess, was my
only motive for writing this book. From
Delbruck’s general picture of the hereditary
subustance it emerges that living matter, while
not eluding the ‘laws of physics’ as established
up to date, is likely to involve ‘other laws of
physics’ hitherto unknown, which, however, once
they have been revealed, will form just as
integral a part of this science as the former.
‘other laws of
physics’ hitherto unknown, which, however, once
they have been revealed, will form just as
integral a part of this science as the former.

ORDER BASED ON ORDER

This is a rather subtle line of thought, open to
misconception in more than one respect. All the
remaining pages are concerned with making it
clear. A preliminary insight, rough but not
altogether erroneous, may be found in the
following considerations: It has been explained
in chapter 1 that the laws of physics, as we know
them, are statistical laws. They have a lot to do
with the natural tendency of things to go over
into disorder. But, to reconcile the high
durability of the hereditary substance with its
minute size, we had to evade the tendency to
disorder by ‘inventing the molecule’, in fact, an
unusually large molecule which has to be a
masterpiece of highly differentiated order,
safeguarded by the conjuring rod of quantum
theory. The laws of chance are not invalidated by
this ‘invention’, but their outcome is modified.
The physicist is familiar with the fact that the
classical laws of physics are modified by
quantum theory, especially at low
temperature. There are many instances of this.
Life seems to be one of them, a particularly
striking one. Life seems to be orderly and lawful
behaviour of matter, not based exclusively on its
tendency to go over from order to disorder, but
based partly on existing order that is kept up. To
the physicist -but only to him -I could hope to
make my view clearer by saying: The living
organism seems to be a macroscopic system
which in part of its behaviour approaches to that
purely mechanical (as contrasted with
thermodynamical) conduct to which all systems
tend, as the temperature approaches absolute
zero and the molecular disorder is removed. The
non-physicist finds it hard to believe that really
the ordinary laws of physics, which he regards as
the prototype of a part inviolable precision,
should be based on the statistical tendency of
matter to go over into disorder. I have given
examples in chapter 1. The general principle
involved is the famous Second Law of
Thermodynamics (entropy principle) and its
equally famous statistical foundation. On pp. 6974
I will try to sketch the bearing of the entropy
principle on the large-scale behaviour of a living
organism -forgetting at the moment all that is
known about chromosomes, inheritance, and so
on.

LIVING MATTER EVADES THE DECAY
TO EQUILIBRIUM

What is the characteristic feature of life? When
is a piece of matter said to be alive? When it
goes on ‘doing something’, moving, exchanging
material with its environment, and so forth, and
that for a much longer period than we would
expect of an inanimate piece of matter to ‘keep
going’ under similar circumstances. When a
system that is not alive is isolated or placed in a
uniform environment, all motion usually comes
to a standstill very soon as a result of various
kinds of friction; differences of electric or
chemical potential are equalized, substances
which tend to form a chemical compound do so,
temperature becomes uniform by heat
conduction. After that the whole system fades
away into a dead, inert lump of matter. A
permanent state is reached, in which no
observable events occur. The physicist calls this
the state of thermodynamical equilibrium, or of
‘maximum entropy’. Practically, a state of this
kind is usually reached very rapidly.
Theoretically, it is very often not yet an absolute
equilibrium, not yet the true maximum of
entropy. But then the final approach to
equilibrium is very slow. It could take anything
between hours, years, centuries,… To give an
example -one in which the approach is still fairly
rapid: if a glass filled with pure water and a
second one filled with sugared water are placed
together in a hermetically closed case at constant
temperature, it appears at first that nothing
happens, and the impression of complete
equilibrium is created. But after a day or so it is
noticed that the pure water, owing to its higher
vapour pressure, slowly evaporates and
condenses on the solution. The latter overflows.
Only after the pure water has totally evaporated
has the sugar reached its aim of being equally
distributed among all the liquid water
available. These ultimate slow approaches to
equilibrium could never be mistaken for life, and
we may disregard them here. I have referred to
them in order to clear myself of a charge
of Inaccuracy.

IT FEEDS ON ‘NEGATIVE ENTROPY’

It is by avoiding the rapid decay into the inert
state of ‘equilibrium’ that an organism appears so
enigmatic; so much so, that from the earliest
times of human thought some special
non-physical or supernatural force (vis viva,
entelechy) was claimed to be operative in the
organism, and in some quarters is still claimed.
How does the living organism avoid decay? The
obvious answer is: By eating, drinking, breathing
and (in the case of plants) assimilating. The
technical term is metabolism. The Greek word ()
means change or exchange. Exchange of what?
Originally the underlying idea is, no doubt,
exchange of material. (E.g. the German for
metabolism is Stoffwechsel.) That the exchange
of material should be the essential thing is
absurd. Any atom of nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur,
etc., is as good as any other of its kind; what
could be gained by exchanging them? For a
while in the past our curiosity was silenced by
being told that we feed upon energy. In some
very advanced country (I don’t remember
whether it was Germany or the U.S.A. or both)
you could find menu cards in restaurants
indicating, in addition to the price, the energy
content of every dish. Needless to say, taken
literally, this is just as absurd. For an adult
organism the energy content is as stationary as
the material content. Since, surely, any calorie is
worth as much as any other calorie, one cannot
see how a mere exchange could help. What then
is that precious something contained in our food
which keeps us from death? That is easily
answered. Every process, event, happening -call
it what you will; in a word, everything that is
going on in Nature means an increase of the
entropy of the part of the world where it is going
on. Thus a living organism continually increases
its entropy -or, as you may say, produces
positive entropy -and thus tends to approach the
dangerous state of maximum entropy, which
is of death. It can only keep aloof from it, i.e.
alive, by continually drawing from its
environment negative entropy -which is
something very positive as we shall immediately
see. What an organism feeds upon is negative
entropy. Or, to put it less paradoxically, the
essential thing in metabolism is that the
organism succeeds in freeing itself from all the
entropy it cannot help producing while alive.
s: By eating, drinking, breathing
and (in the case of plants) assimilating. The
technical term is metabolism. The Greek word ()
means change or exchange. Exchange of what?
Originally the underlying idea is, no doubt,
exchange of material. (E.g. the German for
metabolism is Stoffwechsel.) That the exchange
of material should be the essential thing is
absurd. Any atom of nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur,
etc., is as good as any other of its kind; what
could be gained by exchanging them? For a
while in the past our curiosity was silenced by
being told that we feed upon energy. In some
very advanced country (I don’t remember
whether it was Germany or the U.S.A. or both)
you could find menu cards in restaurants
indicating, in addition to the price, the energy
content of every dish. Needless to say, taken
literally, this is just as absurd. For an adult
organism the energy content is as stationary as
the material content. Since, surely, any calorie is
worth as much as any other calorie, one cannot
see how a mere exchange could help. What then
is that precious something contained in our food
which keeps us from death? That is easily
answered. Every process, event, happening -call
it what you will; in a word, everything that is
going on in Nature means an increase of the
entropy of the part of the world where it is going
on. Thus a living organism continually increases
its entropy -or, as you may say, produces
positive entropy -and thus tends to approach the
dangerous state of maximum entropy, which
is of death. It can only keep aloof from it, i.e.
alive, by continually drawing from its
environment negative entropy -which is
something very positive as we shall immediately
see. What an organism feeds upon is negative
entropy. Or, to put it less paradoxically, the
essential thing in metabolism is that the
organism succeeds in freeing itself from all the
entropy it cannot help producing while alive.

WHAT IS ENTROPY?

Let me first emphasize that it is not a hazy
concept or idea, but a measurable physical
quantity just like of the length of a rod, the
temperature at any point of a body, the heat of
fusion of a given crystal or the specific heat of
any given substance. At the absolute zero point
of temperature (roughly -273°C) the entropy of
any substance is zero. When you bring the
substance into any other state by slow, reversible
little steps (even if thereby the substance changes
its physical or chemical nature or splits up into
two or more parts be of different physical or
chemical nature) the entropy increases by an
amount which is computed by dividing every
little portion of heat you had to supply in that
procedure by the absolute temperature at which it
was supplied -and by summing up all these small
contributions. To give an example, when you
melt a solid, its entropy increases by the amount
of the heat of fusion divided by the temperature
at the more melting-point. You see from this,
that the unit in which entropy is measured is
cal./C (just as the calorie is the unit of heat or the
centimetre the unit of length).

THE STATISTICAL MEANING OF
ENTROPY

I have mentioned this technical definition simply
in order to remove entropy from the atmosphere
of hazy mystery that frequently veils it. Much
more important for us here is the bearing on the
statistical concept of order and disorder, a
connection that was revealed by the
investigations of Boltzmann and Gibbs in
statistical physics. This too is an exact
quantitative connection, and is expressed by
entropy = k log D,
where k is the so-called Boltzmann constant ( =
3.2983 . 10-24 cal./C), and D a quantitative
measure of the atomistic disorder of the body in
question. To give an exact explanation of this
quantity D in brief non-technical terms is
well-nigh impossible. The disorder it indicates is
partly that of heat motion, partly that which
consists in different kinds of atoms or molecules
being mixed at random, instead of being neatly
separated, e.g. the sugar and water molecules in
the example quoted above. Boltzmann’s equation
is well illustrated by that example. The gradual
‘spreading out’ of the sugar over all the water
available increases the disorder D, and hence
(since the logarithm of D increases with D) the
entropy. It is also pretty clear that any supply of
heat increases the turmoil of heat motion, that is
to say, increases D and thus increases the
entropy; it is particularly clear that this should be
so when you melt a crystal, since you thereby
destroy the neat and permanent arrangement of
the atoms or molecules and turn the crystal
lattice into a continually changing random
distribution. An isolated system or a system in a
uniform environment (which for the present
consideration we do best to include as the part of
the system we contemplate) increases its entropy
and more or less rapidly approaches the inert
state of maximum entropy. We now recognize
this fundamental law of physics to be just the
natural tendency of things to approach the
chaotic state (the same tendency that the books
of a library or the piles of papers and
manuscripts on a writing desk display) unless we
obviate it. (The analogue of irregular heat
motion, in this case, is our handling those objects
now and again to without troubling to put them
back in their proper places.
state (the same tendency that the books
of a library or the piles of papers and
manuscripts on a writing desk display) unless we
obviate it. (The analogue of irregular heat
motion, in this case, is our handling those objects
now and again to without troubling to put them
back in their proper places.

ORGANIZATION MAINTAINED BY
EXTRACTING ‘ORDER’ FROM THE
ENVIRONMENT

How would we express in terms of the statistical
theory the marvellous faculty of a living
organism, by which it delays the decay into
thermodynamical equilibrium (death)? We said
before: ‘It feeds upon negative entropy’,
attracting, as it were, a stream of negative
entropy upon itself, to compensate the entropy
increase it produces by living and thus to
maintain itself on a stationary and fairly low
entropy level. If D is a measure of disorder, its
reciprocal, l/D, can be regarded as a direct
measure of order. Since the logarithm of l/D is
just minus the logarithm of D, we can write
Boltzmann’s equation thus:

-(entropy) = k log (l/D).

Hence the awkward expression ‘negative entropy’
can be he replaced by a better one: entropy,
taken with the negative sign, is itself a measure
of order. Thus the device by which an organism
maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of
he orderliness ( = fairly low level of entropy)
really consists continually sucking orderliness
from its environment. This conclusion is less
paradoxical than it appears at first sight. Rather
could it be blamed for triviality. Indeed, in the
case of higher animals we know the kind of
orderliness they feed upon well enough, viz. the
extremely well-ordered state of matter in more or
less complicated organic compounds, which
serve them as foodstuffs. After utilizing it they
return it in a very much degraded form -not
entirely degraded, however, for plants can still
make use of it. (These, of course, have their most
power supply of ‘negative entropy’ the sunlight)

NOTE TO CHAPTER 6

The remarks on negative entropy have met with
doubt and Opposition from physicist colleagues.
Let me say first, that if I had been law catering
for them alone I should have let the discussion
turn on free energy instead. It is the more
familiar notion in this context. But this highly
technical term seemed linguistically too near to
energy for making the average reader alive to the
contrast between the two things. He is likely to
take free as more or less an epitheton
ornans without much relevance, while actually
the concept is a rather intricate one, whose
relation to Boltzmann’s order-disorder principle
is less easy to trace than for entropy and ‘entropy
taken with a negative sign’, which by the way is
not my invention. It happens to be precisely the
thing on which Boltzmann’s original
argument turned. But F. Simon has very
pertinently pointed out to me that my simple
thermodynamical considerations cannot account
for our having to feed on matter ‘in the extremely
well ordered state of more or less complicated
organic compounds’ rather than on charcoal or
diamond pulp. He is right. But to the lay reader I
must explain that a piece of un-burnt coal or
diamond, together with the amount of oxygen
needed for its combustion, is also in an
extremely well ordered state, as the physicist
understands it. Witness to this: if you allow the
reaction, the burning of the coal, to take place, a
great amount of heat is produced. By giving it
off to the surroundings, the system disposes of
the very considerable entropy increase entailed
by the reaction, and reaches a state in which it
has, in point of fact, roughly the same entropy as
before. Yet we could not feed on the carbon
dioxide that results from the reaction. And so
Simon is quite right in pointing out to me, as he
did, that actually the energy content of our food
does matter; so my mocking at the menu cards
that indicate it was out of place. Energy is
needed to replace not only the mechanical energy
of our bodily exertions, but also the heat we
continually give off to the environment. And that
we give off heat is not accidental, but essential.
For this is precisely the manner in which we
dispose of the surplus entropy we continually
produce in our physical life process. This seems
to suggest that the higher temperature of the
warm-blooded animal includes the advantage of
enabling it to get rid of its entropy at a quicker
rate, so that it can afford a more intense life
process. I am not sure how much truth there is in
this argument (for which I am responsible, not
Simon). One may hold against it, that on the
other hand many warm-blooders are protected
against the rapid loss of heat by coats of fur or
feathers. So the parallelism between body
temperature and ‘intensity of life’, which I
believe to exist, may have to be accounted for
more directly by van’t Hoff’s law, mentioned on

p. 65: the higher temperature itself speeds up the
chemical reactions involved in living. (That it
actually does, has been confirmed

experimentally in species which take the
temperature of the surroundings.).
h take the
temperature of the surroundings.).

CHAPTER 7

Is Life Based on the Laws of Physics?

NEW LAWS TO BE EXPECTED IN THE
ORGANISM

What I wish to make clear in this last chapter is,
in short, that from all we have learnt about the
structure of living matter, we must be prepared to
find it working in a manner that cannot be
reduced to the ordinary laws of physics. And that
not on the ground that there is any ‘new force’ or
what not, directing the behaviour of the single
atoms within a living organism, but because the
construction is different from a anything we have
yet tested in the physical laboratory. To put it
crudely, an engineer, familiar with heat engines
only, will, after inspecting the construction of an
electric motor, be prepared to find it working
along principles which he does not yet
understand. He finds the copper familiar to him
in kettles used here in the form of long, wires
wound in coils; the iron familiar to him in levers
and bars and steam cylinders here filling the
interior of those coils of copper wire. He will be
convinced that it is the same copper and the same
iron, subject to the same laws of Nature, and he
is right in that. The difference in construction is
enough to prepare him for an entirely different
way of functioning. He will not suspect that an
electric motor is driven by a ghost because it is
set spinning by the turn of a switch, without
boiler and steam. If a man never contradicts
himself, the reason must be that he virtually
never says anything at all.

REVIEWING THE BIOLOGICAL
SITUATION

The unfolding of events in the life cycle of an
organism exhibits an admirable regularity and
orderliness, unrivalled by anything we meet with
in inanimate matter. We find it controlled by a
supremely well-ordered group of atoms, which
represent only a very small fraction of the sum
total in every cell. Moreover, from the view we
have formed of the mechanism of mutation we
conclude that the dislocation of just a few atoms
within the group of ‘governing atoms’ of the
germ cell suffices to bring about a well-defined
change in the large-scale hereditary
characteristics of the organism. These facts are
easily the most interesting that science has
revealed in our day. We may be inclined to find
them, after all, not wholly unacceptable. An
organism’s astonishing gift of concentrating a
‘stream of order’ on itself and thus escaping that
the decay into atomic chaos -of ‘drinking
orderliness’ from a suitable environment -seems
to be connected with the presence of the
‘aperiodic solids’, the chromosome molecules,
which doubtless represent the highest degree of
well-ordered atomic association we know of much
higher than the ordinary periodic crystal in
virtue of the individual role every atom and
every radical is playing here. To put it briefly,
we witness the event that existing order displays
the power of maintaining itself and of producing
orderly events. That sounds plausible enough,
though in finding it plausible we, no doubt, draw
on experience concerning social organization and
other events which involve the activity of
organisms. And so it might seem that
something like a vicious circle is implied.

SUMMARIZING THE PHYSICAL
SITUATION

However that may be, the point to emphasize
again and again is that to the physicist the state
of affairs is not only not plausible but most
exciting, because it is unprecedented. Contrary to
the common belief the regular course of events,
governed by the laws of physics, is never the
consequence one well-ordered configuration of
atoms -not unless that configuration of atoms
repeats itself a great number of times, either as in
the periodic crystal or as in a liquid or in a gas
composed of a great number of identical
molecules. Even when the chemist handles a
very complicated molecule in vitro he is always
faced with an enormous number of like
molecules. To them his laws apply. He might tell
you, for example, that one minute after he has
started some particular reaction half of the
molecules will have reacted, and after a second
minute three-quarters of them will have done so.
But whether any particular molecule, supposing
you could follow, its course, will be among those
which have reacted or among those which are
still untouched, he could not predict. That is a
matter of pure chance. This is not a purely
theoretical conjecture. It is not that we can never
observe the fate of a single small group of atoms
or even of a single atom. We can, occasionally.
But whenever we do, we find complete
irregularity, co-operating to produce regularity
only on the average. We have dealt with an
example in chapter 1. The Brownian movement
of a small particle suspended in a liquid is
completely irregular. But if there are many
similar particles, they will by their irregular
movement give rise to the regular phenomenon
of diffusion. The disintegration of a single
radioactive atom is observable (it emits a
projectile which causes a visible scintillation on
a fluorescent screen). But if you are given a
single radioactive atom, its probable lifetime is
much less certain than that of a healthy sparrow.
Indeed, nothing more can be said about it than
this: as long as it lives (and that may be for
thousands of years) the chance of its blowing up
within the next second, whether large or small,
remains the same. This patent lack of individual
determination nevertheless results in the exact
exponential law of decay of a large number of
radioactive atoms of the same kind.
of diffusion. The disintegration of a single
radioactive atom is observable (it emits a
projectile which causes a visible scintillation on
a fluorescent screen). But if you are given a
single radioactive atom, its probable lifetime is
much less certain than that of a healthy sparrow.
Indeed, nothing more can be said about it than
this: as long as it lives (and that may be for
thousands of years) the chance of its blowing up
within the next second, whether large or small,
remains the same. This patent lack of individual
determination nevertheless results in the exact
exponential law of decay of a large number of
radioactive atoms of the same kind.

THE STRIKING CONTRAST

In biology we are faced with an entirely different
situation. A single group of atoms existing only
in one copy produces orderly events,
marvellously tuned in with each other and us
number of with the environment according to
most subtle laws. I said existing only in one
copy, for after all we have the example of the
egg and of the unicellular organism. In the
following stages of a higher organism the copies
are multiplied, that is true. But to what extent?
Something like 1014 in a grown mammal, I
understand. What is that! Only a millionth of the
number of molecules in one cubic inch of air.
Though comparatively bulky, by coalescing they
would form but a tiny drop of liquid. And look at
the way they are actually distributed. Every cell
harbours just one of them (or two, if we bear in
mind diploidy). Since we know the power this
tiny central office has in the isolated cell, do they
not resemble stations of local government
dispersed through the body, communicating with
each other with great ease, thanks to the code
that is common to all of them? Well, this is a
fantastic description, perhaps less becoming a
scientist than a poet. However, it needs no
poetical imagination but only clear and sober
scientific reflection to recognize that we are here
obviously faced with events whose regular and
lawful unfolding is guided by a ‘mechanism’
entirely different from the ‘probability
mechanism’ of physics. For it is simply a fact of
observation that the guiding principle in every
cell is embodied in a single atomic association
existing only one copy (or sometimes two) -and
a fact of observation that it may results in
producing events which are a paragon of
orderliness. Whether we find it astonishing or
whether we find it quite plausible that a small
but highly organized group of atoms be capable
of acting in this manner, the situation is
unprecedented, it is unknown anywhere else
except in living matter. The physicist and the
chemist, investigating inanimate matter, have
never witnessed phenomena which they had to
interpret in this way. The case did not arise and
so our theory does not cover it -our beautiful
statistical theory of which we were so justly
proud because it allowed us to look behind the
curtain, to watch the magnificent order of exact
physical law coming forth from atomic and
molecular disorder; because it revealed that the
most important, the most general, the
all-embracing law of entropy could be
understood without a special assumption ad hoc,
for it is nothing but molecular disorder itself.

TWO WAYS OF PRODUCING
ORDERLINESS

The orderliness encountered in the unfolding of
life springs from a different source. It appears
that there are two different ‘mechanisms’ by
which orderly events can be produced: the
‘statistical mechanism’ which produces
order from disorder and the new one, producing
order from order. To the unprejudiced mind the
second principle appears to be much simpler,
much more plausible. No a doubt it is. That is
why physicists were so proud to have fallen in
with the other one, the ‘order-from-disorder’
principle, which is actually followed in Nature
and which alone conveys an understanding of the
great line of natural events, in the first place of
their irreversibility. But we cannot expect that
the ‘laws of physics’ derived from it suffice
straightaway to explain the behaviour of
living matter, whose most striking features are
visibly based to a large extent on the ‘order-fromorder’
principle. You would not expect two
entirely different mechanisms to bring about the
same type of law -you would not expect your
latch-key, to open your neighbour’s door as well.
We must therefore not be discouraged by the
difficulty of interpreting life by the ordinary laws
of physics. For that is just what is to be expected
from the knowledge we have gained of the
structure of living matter. We must be prepared
to find a new type of physical law prevailing in
it. Or are we to term it a non-physical, not to say
a super-physical, law?

THE NEW PRINCIPLE IS NOT ALIEN TO
PHYSICS

No. I do not think that. For the new principle that
is involved is a genuinely physical one: it is, in
my opinion, nothing else than the principle of
quantum theory over again. To explain this, we
have to go to some length, including a
refinement, not to say an amendment, of the
assertion previously made, namely, that all
physical laws are based on statistics. This
assertion, made again and again, could not fail
to arouse contradiction. For, indeed, there are
phenomena whose conspicuous features are
visibly based directly on the ‘order-from-order’
principle and appear to have nothing to do with
statistics or molecular disorder. The order of the
solar system, the motion of the planets, is
maintained for an almost indefinite time. The
constellation of principle this moment is directly
connected with the constellation at any particular
moment in the times of the Pyramids; it can
be traced back to it, or vice versa. Historical
eclipses have been calculated and have been
found in close agreement with historical records
or have even in some cases served to correct the
accepted chronology. These calculations do not
imply any statistics, they are based solely on
Newton’s law of universal attraction. Nor does
the regular motion of a good clock or any similar
mechanism appear to have anything to do with
statistics. In short, all purely mechanical events
seem to follow distinctly and directly
the ‘orderhave to go to some length, including a
refinement, not to say an amendment, of the
assertion previously made, namely, that all
physical laws are based on statistics. This
assertion, made again and again, could not fail
to arouse contradiction. For, indeed, there are
phenomena whose conspicuous features are
visibly based directly on the ‘order-from-order’
principle and appear to have nothing to do with
statistics or molecular disorder. The order of the
solar system, the motion of the planets, is
maintained for an almost indefinite time. The
constellation of principle this moment is directly
connected with the constellation at any particular
moment in the times of the Pyramids; it can
be traced back to it, or vice versa. Historical
eclipses have been calculated and have been
found in close agreement with historical records
or have even in some cases served to correct the
accepted chronology. These calculations do not
imply any statistics, they are based solely on
Newton’s law of universal attraction. Nor does
the regular motion of a good clock or any similar
mechanism appear to have anything to do with
statistics. In short, all purely mechanical events
seem to follow distinctly and directly the ‘orderfrom-
order’ principle. And if we say
‘mechanical’, the term must be taken in a wide
sense. A very useful kind of clock is, as you
know, based on the regular transmission of
electric pulses from the power station. I
remember an interesting little paper by Max
Planck on we have the topic ‘The Dynamical and
the Statistical Type of Law’ (‘Dynamische und
Statistische Gesetzmassigkeit’). The distinction is
precisely the one we have here labelled as ‘order
from order’ and ‘order from disorder’. The object
of that paper was to show how the interesting
statistical type of law, controlling large-scale
events, is constituted from the dynamical laws
supposed to govern the small-scale events, the
interaction of the single atoms and molecules.
The latter type is illustrated by large-scale
mechanical phenomena, as the motion of the
planets or of a clock, etc. Thus it would appear
that the ‘new’ principle, the order-from-order
principle, to which we have pointed with great
solemnity as being the real clue to the
understanding of life, is not at all new to physics.
Planck’s attitude even vindicates priority for it.
We seem to arrive at the ridiculous conclusion
that the clue to the understanding of life is that it
is based on a pure mechanism, a ‘clock-work’ in
the sense of Planck’s paper, The conclusion is
not ridiculous and is, in my opinion, not entirely
wrong, but it has to be taken ‘with a very big
grain of salt’.

THE MOTION OF A CLOCK

Let us analyse the motion of a real clock
accurately. It is not at all a purely mechanical
phenomenon. A purely mechanical clock would
need no spring, no winding. Once set in motion,
it would go on forever. A real clock without a
spring stops after a few beats of the pendulum,
its mechanical energy is turned into heat. This is
an infinitely complicated atomistic process. The
general picture the physicist forms of it compels
him to admit that the inverse process is not
entirely impossible: a springless clock might
suddenly begin to move, at the expense of the
heat energy of its own cog wheels and of the
environment. The physicist would have to say:
The clock experiences an exceptionally in tense
fit of Brownian movement. We have seen in
chapter 2 (p. 16) that with a very sensitive
torsional balance (electrometer or galvanometer)
that sort of thing happens all the time. In the case
of a clock it is, of course, infinitely unlikely.
Whether the motion of a clock is to be assigned
to the dynamical or to the statistical type of
lawful events (to use Planck’s expressions)
depends on our attitude. In calling it a dynamical
phenomenon we fix attention on the regular
going that can be secured by a comparatively
weak spring, which overcomes the small
disturbances by heat motion, so that we may
disregard them. But if we remember that without
a spring the clock is gradually slowed down by
friction, we find that this process can only be
understood as a statistical phenomenon.
However insignificant the frictional and heating
effects in a clock may be from the practical point
of view, there can be no doubt that the second
attitude, which does not neglect them, is the
more fundamental one, even when we are faced
with the based on a regular motion of a clock
that is driven by a spring. For it must not be
believed that the driving mechanism really does
away with the statistical nature of the process.
The true physical picture includes the possibility
that even a regularly going clock should all at
once invert its motion and, working backward,
rewind its own spring -at the expense of the heat
of the environment. The event is just a little less
likely than a ‘Brownian fit’ of a clock without
driving mechanism.

CLOCKWORK AFTER ALL STATISTICAL
Let us now review the situation. The ‘simple’

case we have analysed is representative of many
others -in fact of all such appear to evade the
all-embracing principle of molecular statistics.
Clockworks made of real physical matter (in
contrast to imagination) are not true ‘clockothers -in fact of all such appear to evade the
all-embracing principle of molecular statistics.
Clockworks made of real physical matter (in
contrast to imagination) are not true ‘clockworks’.
The element of chance may be more or
less reduced, the likelihood of the clock suddenly
going altogether wrong may be infinitesimal, but
it always remains in the background. Even in the
motion of the celestial bodies irreversible
frictional and thermal torsional influences are not
wanting. Thus the rotation of the earth is slowly
diminished by tidal friction, and along with
this of course, reduction the moon gradually
recedes from the earth, which would not happen
if the earth were a completely rigid
rotating sphere. Nevertheless the fact remains
that ‘physical clock-works’ visibly display very
prominent ‘order-from-order’ features -the type
that aroused the physicist’s excitement when he
encountered them in the organism. It seems
likely that the two cases have after all something
in common. It remains to be seen what this is
and what is the striking difference which makes
case of the organism after all novel and
unprecedented.

NERNST’S THEOREM
When does a physical system -any kind of
association atoms -display ‘dynamical law’ (in
Planck’s meaning) ‘clock-work features’?
Quantum theory has a very short answer to this
question, viz. at the absolute zero of temperature.
As zero temperature is approached the molecular
disorder ceases to have any bearing on physical
events. This fact was, by the way, not discovered
by theory, but by carefully investigating
chemical reactions over a wide range of
temperatures and extrapolating the results to zero
temperature -which cannot actually be reached.
This is Walther Nernst’s famous ‘Heat Theorem’,
which is sometimes, and not unduly, given the
proud name of the ‘Third Law of
Thermodynamics’ (the first being the energy
principle, the second the entropy principle).
Quantum theory provides the rational foundation
of Nernst’s empirical law, and also enables us to
estimate how closely a system must approach to
the absolute zero in order to display an
approximately ‘dynamical’ behaviour. What
temperature is in any particular case already
practically equivalent to zero? Now you must not
believe that this always has to be a very low
temperature. Indeed, Nernst’s discovery was
induced by the fact that even at room
temperature entropy plays a astonishingly

insignificant role in many chemical reactions
(Let me recall that entropy is a direct measure of
molecular disorder, viz. its logarithm.).

THE PENDULUM CLOCK IS VIRTUALLY
AT ZERO TEMPERATURE
What about a pendulum clock? For a pendulum
clock room temperature is practically equivalent
to zero. That is the reason why it works
‘dynamically’. It will continue to work as it does
if you cool it (provided that you have removed
all traces of oil!). But it does not continue to
work if you heat it above room temperature, for
it will eventually melt.

THE RELATION BETWEEN CLOCKWORK
AND ORGANISM .
That seems very trivial but it does, I think, hit the
cardinal point. Clockworks are capable of
functioning ‘dynamically’, because they are built
of solids, which are kept in shape by London-
Heider forces, strong enough to elude the
disorderly tendency of heat motion at ordinary
temperature. Now, I think, few words more are
needed to disclose the point of resemblance
between a clockwork and an organism. It is
simply and solely that the latter also hinges upon
a solid –the aperiodic crystal forming the
hereditary substance, largely withdrawn from the
disorder of heat motion. But please do not accuse
me of calling the chromosome fibres just the
‘cogs of the organic machine’ -at least not
without a reference to the profound physical
theories on which the simile is based. For,
indeed, it needs still less rhetoric to recall the
fundamental difference between the two and to
justify the epithets novel and unprecedented in
the biological case. The most striking features
are: first, the curious distribution of the cogs in a
many-celled organism, for which I may refer to a
very the somewhat poetical description on p. 79;
and secondly, by fact that the single cog is not of
coarse human make, but is the finest masterpiece
ever achieved along the lines of the Lord’s
quantum mechanics.

Epilogue

On Determinism and Free Will
As a reward for the serious trouble I have taken
to expound the purely scientific aspects of our
problem sine ira et studio, I beg leave to add my
own, necessarily subjective, view of the
philosophical implications. According to the
evidence put forward in the preceding pages the
space-time events in the body of a living being
which correspond to the activity of its mind, to

its self conscious or any other actions, are
(considering also their complex structure and the
accepted statistical explanation of
physico-chemistry) if not strictly deterministic at
any rate statistico-deterministic. To the physicist
I wish to emphasize that in my opinion, and
contrary to the opinion upheld in some quarters,
quantum indeterminacy plays no biologically
relevant role in them, except perhaps by
enhancing their purely accidental character in
such events as meiosis, natural and X-ray(considering also their complex structure and the
accepted statistical explanation of
physico-chemistry) if not strictly deterministic at
any rate statistico-deterministic. To the physicist
I wish to emphasize that in my opinion, and
contrary to the opinion upheld in some quarters,
quantum indeterminacy plays no biologically
relevant role in them, except perhaps by
enhancing their purely accidental character in
such events as meiosis, natural and X-rayinduced
mutation and so on -and this is in any
case obvious and well recognized. For the sake
of argument, let me regard this as a fact, as I
believe every unbiased biologist would, if there
were not the well-known, unpleasant feeling
about ‘declaring oneself to be a pure mechanism’.
For it is deemed to contradict Free Will as in
warranted by direct introspection. But immediate
experiences in themselves, however various and
disparate they be, are logically incapable of
contradicting each other. So let us see whether
we cannot draw the correct, non-contradictory
conclusion from the following two premises: (i)
My body functions as a pure mechanism
according to the Laws of Nature. (ii) Yet I know,
by incontrovertible direct experience, that I am
directing its motions, of which I foresee the
effects, that may be fateful and all-important, in
which case I feel and take full responsibility for
them. The only possible inference from these
two facts is, I think, that I –I in the widest
meaning of the word, that is to say, every
conscious mind that has ever said or felt ‘I’ -am
the person, if any, who controls the ‘motion of
the atoms’ according to the Laws of
Nature. Within a cultural milieu (Kulturkreis)
where certain conceptions (which once had or
still have a wider meaning amongst other
peoples) have been limited and specialized, it is
daring to give to this conclusion the simple
wording that it requires. In Christian terminology
to say: ‘Hence I am God Almighty’ sounds both
blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard
these connotations for the moment and consider
whether the above inference is not the closest a
biologist can get to proving also their God and
immortality at one stroke. In itself, the insight is
not new. The earliest records to my knowledge
date back some 2,500 years or more. From the
early great Upanishads the recognition
ATHMAN = BRAHMAN upheld in (the
personal self equals the omnipresent,
all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian
thought considered, far from being blasphemous,
to represent the quintessence of deepest insight

into the happenings of the world. The striving of
all the scholars of Vedanta was, after having
learnt to pronounce with their lips, really to
assimilate in their minds this grandest of all
thoughts. Again, the mystics of many centuries,
independently, yet in perfect harmony with each
other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal
gas) have described, each of them, the
unique experience of his or her life in terms that
can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS
SUM (I have become God). To Western
ideology the thought has remained a stranger, in
spite of Schopenhauer and others who stood for
it and in spite of those true lovers who, as they
look into each other’s eyes, become aware that
their thought and their joy are numerically one not
merely similar or identical; but they, as a
rule, are emotionally too busy to indulge in clear
thinking, which respect they very much resemble
the mystic. Allow me a few further comments.
Consciousness is never experienced in the plural,
only in the singular. Even in the pathological
cases of split consciousness or double
personality the two persons alternate, they are
never manifest simultaneously. In a dream we do
perform several characters at the same time, but
not indiscriminately: we are one of them; in
him we act and speak directly, while we often
eagerly await answer or response of another
person, unaware of the fact that it is we who
control his movements and his speech just as
much as our own. How does the idea of plurality
(so emphatically opposed by the Upanishad
writers) arise at all? Consciousness finds itself
intimately connected with, and dependent on, the
physical state of a limited region of matter, the
body. (Consider the changes of mind during the
development of the body, at puberty, ageing,
dotage, etc., or consider the effects of fever
intoxication, narcosis, lesion of the brain and so
on.) Now there is a great plurality of similar
bodies. Hence the pluralization of
consciousnesses or minds seems a very
suggestive hypothesis. Probably all simple,
ingenuous people, as well as the great majority
of Western philosophers, have accepted it. It
leads almost immediately to the invention of
souls, as many as there are bodies, and to the
question whether they are mortal as the body is
or whether they are immortal and capable of
existing by themselves. The former alternative is
distasteful while the latter frankly forgets,
ignores or disowns the fact upon which the
plurality hypothesis rests. Much sillier questions
have been asked: Do animals also have souls? It
has even been questioned whether women, or

only men, have souls. Such consequences, even
if only tentative, must make us suspicious of the
plurality hypothesis, which is common to all
official Western creeds. Are we not inclining to
much greater nonsense, if in discarding their
gross superstitions we retain their naive idea of
plurality of souls, but ‘remedy’ it by declaring the
souls to be perishable, to be annihilated with the
respective bodies? The only possible alternative
is simply to keep to the immediate experience
that consciousness is a singular of less is never
which the plural is unknown; that there is only
one thing and Even in the that what seems to be
a plurality is merely a series of different
personality aspects of this one thing, produced
by a deception (the Indian MAJA); the same
illusion is produced in a gallery of mirrors, and
in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt Everest
turned out to be the same peak seen from
different valleys. There are, of course, elaborate
ghost-stories fixed in our minds to hamper our
acceptance of such simple recognition. E.g. it has
been said that there is a tree there outside
my window but I do not really see the tree. By
some cunning device of which only the initial,
relatively simple steps are itself explored, the
real tree throws an image of itself into my the
physical consciousness, and that is what I
perceive. If you stand by my side and look at the
same tree, the latter manages to throw an image
into your soul as well. I see my tree and you see
yours (remarkably like mine), and what the tree
in itself is we do not know. For this extravagance
Kant is responsible. In the order of ideas which
regards consciousness as a singulare tanturn it is
conveniently replaced by the statement that there
is obviously only one tree and all the image
business is a ghost-story. Yet each of us has the
indisputable impression that the sum total of his
own experience and memory forms a unit, quite
distinct from that of any other person. He refers
to it as ‘I’ and What is this ‘I’? If you analyse it
closely you will, I think, find that it is just the
facts little more than a collection of single data
(experiences and memories), namely the canvas
upon which they are collected. And you will, on
close introspection, find that what you really
mean by ‘I’ is that ground-stuff upon which they
are collected. You may come to a distant
country, lose sight of all your friends, may all
but forget them; you acquire new friends, you
share life with them as intensely as you ever did
with your old ones. Less and less important will
become the fact that, while living your new life,
you still recollect the old one. “The youth that
was I’, you may come to speak of him in the third
Such consequences, even
if only tentative, must make us suspicious of the
plurality hypothesis, which is common to all
official Western creeds. Are we not inclining to
much greater nonsense, if in discarding their
gross superstitions we retain their naive idea of
plurality of souls, but ‘remedy’ it by declaring the
souls to be perishable, to be annihilated with the
respective bodies? The only possible alternative
is simply to keep to the immediate experience
that consciousness is a singular of less is never
which the plural is unknown; that there is only
one thing and Even in the that what seems to be
a plurality is merely a series of different
personality aspects of this one thing, produced
by a deception (the Indian MAJA); the same
illusion is produced in a gallery of mirrors, and
in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt Everest
turned out to be the same peak seen from
different valleys. There are, of course, elaborate
ghost-stories fixed in our minds to hamper our
acceptance of such simple recognition. E.g. it has
been said that there is a tree there outside
my window but I do not really see the tree. By
some cunning device of which only the initial,
relatively simple steps are itself explored, the
real tree throws an image of itself into my the
physical consciousness, and that is what I
perceive. If you stand by my side and look at the
same tree, the latter manages to throw an image
into your soul as well. I see my tree and you see
yours (remarkably like mine), and what the tree
in itself is we do not know. For this extravagance
Kant is responsible. In the order of ideas which
regards consciousness as a singulare tanturn it is
conveniently replaced by the statement that there
is obviously only one tree and all the image
business is a ghost-story. Yet each of us has the
indisputable impression that the sum total of his
own experience and memory forms a unit, quite
distinct from that of any other person. He refers
to it as ‘I’ and What is this ‘I’? If you analyse it
closely you will, I think, find that it is just the
facts little more than a collection of single data
(experiences and memories), namely the canvas
upon which they are collected. And you will, on
close introspection, find that what you really
mean by ‘I’ is that ground-stuff upon which they
are collected. You may come to a distant
country, lose sight of all your friends, may all
but forget them; you acquire new friends, you
share life with them as intensely as you ever did
with your old ones. Less and less important will
become the fact that, while living your new life,
you still recollect the old one. “The youth that
was I’, you may come to speak of him in the third
person, indeed the protagonist of the novel you
are reading is probably nearer to your heart,
certainly more intensely alive and better known
to you. Yet there has been no intermediate break,
no death. And even if a skilled hypnotist
succeeded in blotting out entirely all your earlier
reminiscences, you would not find that he had
killed you. In no case is there a loss of personal
existence to deplore. Nor will there ever be.


The Man Who Never Lived

Evariste GaloisEvariste Galois  – Mathematician

Evariste Galois, the famous French mathematician whose life is tragic and inspiring at the same time was born 200 years ago. Gonit Sora is celebrating his life by bringing forth a series of articles on the life and works of Galois. (…)

A famous and oft repeated quote is “Whom Gods love, die young!” Although, there seems to be no scientific evidence nor any coherent study confirming or discarding this statement, it has been noticed now and again that great men indeed die young. Not everyone, of course; but there have been some glaring examples in many fields; take for instance the great poet John Keats who died very young. But the field in which such examples are galore is mathematics. Throughout the history of mathematics, there has been many examples of extraordinarily brilliant minds living for a very short span of time. Take for example, the great Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan who died at the young age of 32; the famous Norwegian mathematician Neils Henrick Abel died at the age of 27. Some other notable people who lived for a short span of time are Riemann and Pascal; both geniuses of the first order and both could have achieved a lot had fate been kinder to them. However, no example is as tragic and as hearttouching as that of Evariste Galois, the now famous French mathematician who died at the age of 20!

Evariste Galois (pronounced ‘Gelwa’) was born in Bourg la-Riene in the then French Empire on 25th of October, 1811. Galois, like many mathematicians before and after him showed a tenacity and zeal for higher mathematics at a very small age that could only be described as hauting. Galois started his formal education at the age of 10 being self tutored at home and later joined the Lycee’s school in his hometown. As was expected, Galois showed a tremoundous amount of scholarship in his studies and soon rose to the top of his class. But, such is the tale of genius that at the age of 14, he became bored with the regular school curriculum and started taking an uncanny liking towards mathematics. This was eventful not only for him, but for the whole of mathematics as he did some pioneering work in the fields he touched upon, that even now we are yet to reap the benefits of the seeds that he sowed.

During this period of his life, Galois began studying the masters of mathematics. It is said that he finished the famous mathematician Legendre’s book on Geometry in almost 5 days cover to cover and all the while he read it like a novel. It must be mentioned that even now professional mathematicians find this book too difficult to master. At the age of 15, Galois started to follow the original research papers of another great mathematician, Lagrange. This not only fueled his deep passion for mathematics but also encouraged him to unravel the mathematical mysteries on his own. In April, 1829 Galois published his first research paper on continued fractions at the age of only 17. Thus, began the journey of a legend. Galois deep and varied contributions in many different fields of mathematics has earned him the respect and adulation of one and all today. He was the first person to use the word ‘group’ to define a certain class of mathematicial objects that are today omnipresent not only in almost all branches of mathematics but in fields as varied as physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and even economics.

Galois after completing his school with excellent marks in mathematics decided to try and enter the distinguished Ecole Polytechnique, and so sat in its entrance exam. However, Galois failed to secure a seat in this institute of unique importance and had to enroll in the far inferior Ecole Normale Superior. Here Galois studied for some time, and then again decided to try and enter for the Ecole Polytechnique. Meanwhile, on the personal frontier Galois lost his father who committed suicide by hanging himself in public. This was a major blow to the teenaged Galois and which further fuled his Republican tendencies. The French nation was at that time going through enormous imbalance in its monarchy and system of governance. Galois too decided to join the revolution at the cost of his mathematics. History is testament to tha fact that Galois was even jailed a few times for his revolutionary activities and this got him into trouble even in his institution. All these incidents happened when he was preparing for his entrance exam at the Polytechnique. It was again a surprise when Galois failed a second time to clear it. The genius of Galois was not reccognised at that hallowed institution of learning. Eric Temple Bell, the famous historian of mathematics in his book “Men of Mathematics” quotes

“People not fit to sharpen his (Galois’) pencils sat on judgement of him.”

Such failure prompted Galois to almost leave doing mathematics and light the fire of revolution once again, which was later the cause of his death too.

Galois’ major contribution to mathematics lies in his theory of equations, where he gave a very novel approach to solve one of the major outstanding problems of his time. He along with Abel showed the impossibility of solving the quintic equation via regular methods. This is regarded as a giant leap in the then 19th century mathematical scene. Galois made fundamental contribution to a new field of mathematics which is now termed as ‘Galois Theory’. Galois wrote one paper on Number Theory where he discussed the concept of a ‘finite field’ for the first time. Galois’ entire mathematical research output was a mere 66 pages. This was all that he gave to world mathematics, and this is what made him immortal. It took major advances in group theory to fully understand the implications of the works of Evariste Galois.

The story of this great man came to a very cruel end on 31st May, 1832 at Paris when he had just entered his 20th year. Galois was killed in a duel. There have been numerous speculations as to what may have been the cause of his death, and it seems that the most likely explanation could be that he fell in love with his physician’s daughter and it was at her instigation that he challenged someone for a duel and was as a result killed. The sadder part of this story is that Galois didn’t recive any medical attention for many hours after he was shot, maybe this giant of mathematics could have been saved had helped arrived on time. Galois died a very slow and painful death at the tender age of 20, and the world lost a brilliant mind who was just showing his capabilites. His last words to his brother were

“Don’t cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.”

Galois never recived the admiration from his peers that he should have recived in his lifetime. Even his grave is unmarked and he died almost an anonymous person. It was only years after his death when the letters and manuscripts that Galois wrote just before he died were published that the world started revering Galois and his unparralled genius. The night before he died Galois sensing his end was near wrote down many letters, both mathematical and political to his numerous friends and brother. These letters contain some very though provoking mathematical ideas that has forever sealed Galois name in the annals of mathematical wizardry. The famous mathematician Hermann Weyl while describing these letters said

“This letter judged by the novelty and profundity of ideas it contain, is perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in the whole literature of mankind.”

Galois may have died, but his legacy still lingers on. His life shows us what legends are made of, and is a true testament to the fact that whether a man is a legend or not, is determined by history, not fortune tellers. Galois seems to be a perfect man on whom the words of Albert Einstein used to describe Mahatma Gandhi fit perfectly

“Generations to come and generations to go will scarcely belive that such a one as he ever walked upon this earth in flesh and blood.”

Courtesy of Manjil P. Saikia


The ” Doppelgängers”

der doppelgänger

*

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

 

*

 

WILLIAM WILSON
by Edgar Allan Poe
(1839)

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

*
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

*

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