Lockstedt — Game of Rabusche — Bells of Hamburg — Tricks upon Travellers — The Burghers — Exorbitant Demand at the Börsen-Halle — Excursion through the Alster Villages

Lockstedt, in Holstein, 26. June 1820.
MY DEAR J * * * *,
BEHOLD me seated in my bed-chamber, in a lovely Danish village, about the same distance from Hamburg that Dundrum is from Dublin. Tall lindens, ash, and other trees — planted at intervals through the area which surrounds the cottage — are waving and rustling close to my window; and, beyond them, I have a view of some horse-chestnuts, which environ a green field on the opposite side of the road that winds through this sequestered and beautiful retreat. The window itself is a picturesque object. It is not similar to ours, but opens right and left like a pair of folding doors. A curtain, or rather festoon, of a snowy whiteness — with a fringe equally white — adorns it on the inside; and the entire scene, at this hour of faded light, is not devoid of solemnity.

Social, especially when combined with rural life, in Germany, is everything which we conceived it to be during those romantic moments of early youth, — when the mind, unfettered by solicitude, forms for itself creations frail as they are fascinating, and innocent as they are unsubstantial. Were you but here, I believe that, in spite of increased years and cares, those impressions would be awakened within me which have so long lain dormant,—and which even now, encompassed by the most tender and considerate of friends, I feel but half excited. Indeed, while on my rambles, I involuntarily exclaim as often as any interesting object exhibits itself — “O, wenn J**** hier wäre!” [“O, if J**** were here!”] and the question is constantly put to me — “Wer ist J****?” ['”Who is J ****?”] — but I must become more orderly and chronological.

I shall not present to you that tissue of interjections, half-uttered questions, and notes of interrogation and admiration, which alone could adequately express the effect our appearance produced upon our friends, — who had received no intimation whatever of our approaching visit to Germany. On the evening of the day we arrived, we drove out of town to see some relatives, and took coffee in the open air at this sweet village. We have since been invited to spend a week here at a gentleman’s “garden” — for it is thus that the country-seats of the Germans are usually designated. This novel application of the word may be easily accounted for. Owing to the dryness of the climate the villagers pass most of their time, and even partake of their meals, in the open air: the garden consequently is the apartment of prime importance, to which the house itself is to be considered as a mere appendage. Hence even those citizens' boxes which have not a particle of land attached to them bear the same denomination. This custom enables the Germans to expose themselves to the damp and dew at all hours with impunity; insomuch that I have known young persons to walk three or four miles after sunset, without any covering whatever on the head, exempt from all fear of what seems to be the exclusive privilege of the British subject — the “catch-cold.”

On our return to town we went to a friend’s house, where I was initiated in the mysteries of a German supper. Were you, like our [mutatismutandis,) favourite Rousseau, even “un peu gourmand,” I should present you with a descriptive catalogue of the viands; but, as. that, is not the case, I shall content myself with stating — that I witnessed the playing of a game called Rabusche, which requires no fewer than twenty-four packs of cards; and that we groped along to our hotel, about midnight, through streets not better lighted than those of the Irish provincial towns.

Next morning, about five o’clock, I was awakened by the sweetest of all sweet harmonies, issuing from the belfry of one of the churches. It was neither ringing nor chiming, but a regular piece of composition — first and second. This “music with its silver sound” — which was repeated frequently during the day — would be admirably calculated to forward the object recommended by the musical professors at Pestalozzi’s establishment at Yverdun; who inculcate the propriety of disciplining the ears of a child, almost from his infancy, with “all concords of sweet sounds,” — and insist that he should be habituated, for example, to the melody of birds warbling afar off, and to the ringing of distant bells *).

*) The passage alluded to occurs in a volume drawn up by Messrs. Nageli and Pfeiffer, of Yverdun; which was some time since translated for publication by the writer of these letters. As the work is but little known in this country, and the passage in itself curious, the original words are subjoined: — “Man mache es darauf so wie überhaupt auf alles Feinklingende aufmerksam, z. B. auch auf den fernher tönenden Gesang der Vögel im Freien, oder auf fernes Glockengeläute. Dagegen schone man die Ohren und das Gefühl der Kinder mit aller volltönenden, rauschenden, lärmenden Musik, selbst wenn es die beste Konzert-Musik wäre.“

I shall pass rapidly over the incidents of the two succeeding days, as I wish to reserve all my fire for the description of the festivities that took place here last Saturday, being the birthday of our worthy host's daughter; who is a “bride,” that is — “betrothed,” in the German acceptation of the word. The return of this season, like that of the name-day or baptismal anniversary, is celebrated with great solemnity in this country, — and I promise myself much amusement on the ensuing occasion. A curious adventure, which befel me on the morning after my arrival, is worth relating. There was to be a review of Die Burger [“the burghers,” or “volunteers”] about half a mile without one of the gates, — and I accordingly set off on foot to see it, with my plaid mantle on my arm. Near the cemetery of St. Nicholas, where a multitude of people was streaming to and fro, I was overtaken by a shower. Judging that from the great resort of foreigners to Hamburg no modification of costume would be remarkable, I threw the aforesaid mantle round me, — and was innocently trudging along, when I was assailed by exclamations of surprise from all quarters — „Mein Gott!” — “Sieh’ das an!“ —“Welche Mode!“ [„My God!“ — “Look at that!“ — „What a fashion!“] — so that on arriving at my destination I was fain to escape into a tent, where, abandoning my disguise, I screened myself from further observation amidst the smoke of the cigars. The sequel is more purely tragical. As the rain continued unabated, I called a chaise-driver, and inquired the fare to the Jungfernstieg. „Half a dollar,“ replied he. I was posed, not being yet well versed in the German table-book. However, after a little hesitation, I resolved to throw myself upon his mercy. „How many marks is that?“ inquired I. „Two,“ answered he. The charge appeared exorbitant, and I was walking away, when he shouted after me —“ I will take a mark and a half.“ „Very well:“ — and I stepped into the vehicle. Upon reaching my friend’s house on the Jungfernstieg, I learned that the fellow had contrived to extort his original demand, as „a mark and a half“ is precisely „half a dollar.“ I may observe in passing that, even without my outlandish accent, my addressing him in High-German might have revealed that I was a foreigner, — as individuals of the inferior ranks are very frequently addressed in a peculiar dialect called Low-German, although this practice has latterly been falling into disuse. However, I have since applied myself diligently to my table-book, and am now a match for all drivers of chaises in the whole republic.

These corps of burghers, or volunteers, have continued incorporated since the period of the French occupation of Hamburg. The uniform of the infantry is blue, faced with red,—that of the cavalry and yagers — green. At the muzzle of the musquet barrels there are tufts of various colours, which serve to distinguish the different regiments. The bands as they play along the streets have the music fastened to the breast, or attached to the instrument. The regular troops are called the Hanseatic.

In the afternoon I was taken by a friend to Die Raabe [“the Raven”] — a house of entertainment handsomely situated on the Eppendorf road, near the river Alster. Next day I was, at my own request, introduced into the BörsenHalle [“Exchange-Hall”] — presuming that, as at Liverpool and Hull, strangers were admitted gratuitously. I was therefore much surprised on being obliged to pay six marks (about eight shillings,) for liberty to read the newspapers, and a few pamphlets and periodicals, during one month. In the evening we accompanied a party on a circuitous drive to this retired spot, where we have since remained. The weather was beautiful, and our excursion equally so. We first wound along the margin of the Alster, and then through an avenue of noble oaks, which — to judge by their height, their ramification, and the knarling and mossiness of their trunks — seemed coeval with the soil they rose from. We emerged from the oaks, to be immerged in the lindens which succeeded, — and shortly after greeted the favourite tree of Hagedorn the poet, whose works you were once so fond of translating. It is at Herbsthude, one of his usual haunts, which I propose revisiting. On passing a rural coffee-house near Eppendorf, our ears were saluted by a fine waltz, which some unseen musicians stationed in one of the arbours were performing — no unusual accessory to the pleasures, which attend a summer evening’s ramble through the sweet environs of Hamburg. We traversed this village, which is too civic and fashionable to be interesting, and at length reached Lockstedt. I afterwards walked back to Eppendorf. There was a mist rising from the Alster as I and my companion approached it — which, as he informed me, is held as a prognostic of fine weather. They have a proverb here expressive of this appearance — Der Fuchs badet sich [“The fox is bathing”]. While returning towards Lockstedt, we conversed on the politics of the different German states — a topic on which you may judge I was not particularly eloquent.

I find that I must, after all, reserve my account of the birth-day for another sheet and opportunity. Believe me, meanwhile,
Yours, &c. &c.