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- Peter Schlemihl etc. - 1/20 -


Transcribed from he 1889 Cassell & Company edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

PETER SCHLEMIHL ETC.

Contents: Introduction by Henry Morley Peter Schlemihl by Adelbert Chamisso Peter Schlemihl Appendix Preface by the Editor Brief Sketch of Chamisso's Life From the Baron de la Motte Fouque The Story Without An End by Carode translated by Sarah Austin Hymns To Night by Novalis translated by Henry Morley

INTRODUCTION.

"Peter Schlemihl," one of the pleasantest fancies of the days when Germany delighted in romance, was first published in 1814, and was especially naturalised in England by association with the genius of George Cruikshank, who enriched a translation of it with some of his happiest work as an illustrator. An account of the book and its author is here reprinted at the end of the tale, as originally given by the translator. To this account one or two notes may be added. Louis Charles Adelaide de Chamisso de Boncourt was born on the 27th of January, 1781, at the Chateau of Boncourt, in Champagne, which he made the subject of one of his most beautiful lyrics. He belonged to a family faithful to Louis XVI., that fled to Wurzburg from the fury of the French Revolution. Thus he was taken to Germany a child of nine, and was left there when the family, with other emigrants, returned to France in 1801. At fifteen he had Teutonised his name to Adelbert von Chamisso, and was appointed page to the Queen of Prussia. In the war that came afterwards, for a very short time he bore arms against the French, but being one of a garrison taken in the captured fort of Hamlin, he and his comrades had to pledge their honour that they would not again bear arms against France during that war. After the war he visited France. His parents then were dead, and though he stayed in France some years, he wrote from France to a friend, "I am German heart and soul, and cannot feel at home here." He wandered irresolutely, then became Professor of Literature in a gymnasium in La Vendee. Still he was restless. In 1812 he set off for a walk in Switzerland, returned to Germany, and took to the study of anatomy. In 1813, Napoleon's expedition to Russia and the peril to France from legions marching upon Paris caused to Chamisso suffering and confusion of mind.

It is often said that his sense of isolation between interests of the land of his forefathers and the land of his adoption makes itself felt through all the wild playfulness of "Peter Schlemihl," which was at this time written, when Chamisso's age was about thirty-two. A letter of his to the Councillor Trinius, in Petersburg, tells how he came to write it. He had lost on a pedestrian tour his hat, his knapsack, his gloves, and his pocket handkerchief--the chief movables about him. His friend Fouque asked him whether he hadn't also lost his shadow? The friends pleased their fancies in imagining what would have happened to him if he had. Not long afterwards he was reading in La Fontaine of a polite man who drew out of his pocket whatever was asked for. Chamisso thought, He will be bringing out next a coach and horses. Out of these hints came the fancy of "Peter Schlemihl, the Shadowless Man." In all thought that goes with invention of a poet, there are depths as well as shallows, and the reader may get now and then a peep into the depths. He may find, if he will, in a man's shadow that outward expression of himself which shows that he has been touched, like others, by the light of heaven. But essentially the story is a poet's whim. Later writings of Chamisso proved him to be one of the best lyric poets of the romance school of his time, entirely German in his tone of thought. His best poem, "Salas y Gomez," describes the feeling of a solitary on a sea-girt rock, living on eggs of the numberless sea-birds until old age, when a ship is in sight, and passes him, and his last agony of despair is followed by a triumph in the strength of God.

"Alone and world-forsaken let me die; Thy Grace is all my wealth, for all my loss: On my bleached bones out of the southern sky Thy Love will look down from the starry cross."

The "Story Without an End"--a story of the endless beauty of Creation--is from a writer who has no name on the rolls of fame. The little piece has been made famous among us by the good will of Sarah Austin. The child who enjoyed it, and for whom she made the delicate translation which here follows next after Chamisso's "Peter Schlemihl," was that only daughter who became Lady Duff-Gordon, and with whom we have made acquaintance in this Library as the translator of "The Amber Witch."

To make up the tale of pages in this little book without breaking its uniformity, I have added a translation of the "Hymns to Night" of Novalis. It is a translation made by myself seven-and-forty years ago, and printed in a student's magazine that I then edited. "Novalis" was the name assumed by a poet, Friedrich von Hardenberg, who died on the 25th March, 1801, aged twenty-nine. He was bred among the Moravian brethren, and then sent to the University of Jena. Two years after his marriage to a young wife, Sophie von Kuhn, she died. That was in 1797. At the same time he lost a brother who was very dear to him. It was then--four years before his own death--that he wrote his "Hymns to Night."

H. M.

PETER SCHLEMIHL, THE SHADOWLESS MAN.

INTRODUCTORY EPISTLE FROM A. VON CHAMISSO TO JULIUS EDWARD HITZIG.

You, who forget nobody, must surely remember one Peter Schlemihl, whom you used to meet occasionally at my house--a long-legged youth, who was considered stupid and lazy, on account of his awkward and careless air. I was sincerely attached to him. You cannot have forgotten him, Edward. He was on one occasion the hero of our rhymes, in the hey-day of our youthful spirits; and I recollect taking him one evening to a poetical tea-party, where he fell asleep while I was writing, without even waiting to hear my effusion: and this reminds me of a witticism of yours respecting him. You had already seen him, I know not where or when, in an old black frock- coat, which, indeed, he constantly wore; and you said, "He would be a lucky fellow if his soul were half as immortal as his coat," so little opinion had you of him. _I_ loved him, however: and to this very Schlemihl, of whom for many years I had wholly lost sight, I am indebted for the little volume which I communicate to you, Edward, my most intimate friend, my second self, from whom I have no secrets;--to you, and of course our Fouque, I commit them, who like you is intimately entwined about my dearest affections,--to him I communicate them only as a friend, but not as a poet; for you can easily imagine how unpleasant it would be if a secret confided to me by an honest man, relying implicitly on my friendship and honour, were to be exposed to the public in a poem.

One word more as to the manner in which I obtained these sheets: yesterday morning early, as soon as I was up, they were brought to me. An extraordinary-looking man, with a long grey beard, and wearing an old black frock-coat with a botanical case hanging at his side, and slippers over his boots, in the damp, rainy weather, had just been inquiring for me, and left me these papers, saying he came from Berlin.

ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO.

CHAPTER I.

After a prosperous, but to me very wearisome, voyage, we came at last into port. Immediately on landing I got together my few effects; and, squeezing myself through the crowd, went into the nearest and humblest inn which first met my gaze. On asking for a room the waiter looked at me from head to foot, and conducted me to one. I asked for some cold water, and for the correct address of Mr. Thomas John, which was described as being "by the north gate, the first country-house to the right, a large new house of red and white marble, with many pillars." This was enough. As the day was not yet far advanced, I untied my bundle, took out my newly-turned black coat, dressed myself in my best clothes, and, with my letter of recommendation, set out for the man who was to assist me in the attainment of my moderate wishes.

After proceeding up the north street, I reached the gate, and saw the marble columns glittering through the trees. Having wiped the dust from my shoes with my pocket-handkerchief and readjusted my cravat, I rang the bell--offering up at the same time a silent prayer. The door flew open, and the porter sent in my name. I had soon the honour to be invited into the park, where Mr. John was walking with a few friends. I recognised him at once by his corpulency and self-complacent air. He received me very well--just as a rich man receives a poor devil; and turning to me, took my letter. "Oh, from my brother! it is a long time since I heard from him: is he well?--Yonder," he went on,--turning to the company, and pointing to a distant hill--"Yonder is the site of the new building." He broke the seal without discontinuing the conversation, which turned upon riches. "The man," he said, "who does not possess at least a million is a poor wretch." "Oh, how true!" I exclaimed, in the fulness of my heart. He seemed pleased


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