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.

P. Becker, Stone house in the Judengasse, 1872

P. Becker, Frankfurt on the Main, View of Sachsenhausen as seen from the Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge), 1872

The city with its old bridge, and the uncompleted cathedral tower, in 1860 []

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

View of the Main, 1935

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

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.


  2. mafalda says:

    Thank you! And any suggestions are always welcome…


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