The most courageous men in the world must be entomologists

During his summer holiday, in 1872, RLS visits Germany: here is a letter from Frankfurt am Main.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 104].

To his mother [Colvin 1911, pp. 44-45]

Hotel Landsberg, Frankfurt, Monday, 29th July 1872.

My dear Mamma,

[…] Last night I met with rather an amusing adventurette. Seeing a church door open, I went in, and was led by most importunate finger-bills up a long stair to the top of the tower. The father smoking at the door, the mother and the three daughters received me as if I was a friend of the family and had come in for an evening visit. The youngest daughter (about thirteen, I suppose, and a pretty little girl) had been learning English at the school, and was anxious to play it off upon a real, veritable Englander; so we had a long talk, and I was shown photographs, etc., Marie and I talking, and the others looking on with evident delight at having such a linguist in the family. As all my remarks were duly translated and communicated to the rest, it was quite a good German lesson. There was only one contretemps during the whole interview – the arrival of another visitor, in the shape of (surely) the last of God’s creatures, a wood-worm of the most unnatural and hideous appearance, with one great striped horn sticking out of his nose like a boltsprit. If there are many wood-worms in Germany, I shall come home. The most courageous men in the world must be entomologists. I had rather be a lion-tamer. […]

Frankfurt am Main, the Railroad Station, 1870 ca.
[http://www.altfrankfurt.com/]

P. Becker, Stone house in the Judengasse, 1872
[http://upload.wikimedia.org&]

P. Becker, Frankfurt on the Main, View of Sachsenhausen as seen from the Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge), 1872
[http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

The city with its old bridge, and the uncompleted cathedral tower, in 1860 [http://www.altfrankfurt.com/]

To-day I got rather a curiosity – Lieder un Balladen von Robert Burns, translated by one Silbergleit, and not so ill done either. Armed with which, I had a swim in the Main, and then bread and cheese and Bavarian beer in a sort of cafe, or at least the German substitute for a cafe; but what a falling off after the heavenly forenoons in Brussels!

Robert Burns’ Lieder und Balladen, transl. Silbergleit, 1869-1870
[http://img.zvab.com/]

View of the Main, 1935
[http://www.altfrankfurt.com/]

I have bought a Meerschaum out of local sentiment, and am now very low and nervous about the bargain, having paid dearer than I should in England, and got a worse article, if I can form a judgment. […]

A German Meerschaum pipe, 19th century
[http://img.carters.com.au/]

Do write some more, somebody. To-morrow I expect I shall go into lodgings, as this hotel work makes the money disappear like butter in a furnace. – Meanwhile believe me, ever your affectionate son,

R.L. Stevenson

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2 Responses to The most courageous men in the world must be entomologists

  1. rdury says:

    Congratulations on the excellent contemporary images—it makes reading the letter a different experience.

    Like

  2. mafalda says:

    Thank you! And any suggestions are always welcome…

    Like

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