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only now add, that I still retain the sentiments I then delivered, and consider every word there written as the purest truth. The worthy Zimmermann is now no more." It must not be said, De mortuis nil nisi bene, but De mortuis nil nisi vere. I have no longer either good or evil to hope from him; and I may surely be believed, when I repeat from the fullness of my heart that he was an excellent man. Perhaps his eccentricities sometimes led him astray, but even his weaknesses were not those of a common mind. I could here relate an anecdote of him that would excite the utmost astonishment in the reader, and almost constrain him to fall down and worship the good man's ashes. And it should be related, were not the persons implicated in it, and who alone could perfectly understand me, yet living.
But enough.—My enthusiastic admiration of him was no crime, yet the noble spring was poisoned by a foreign hand. I dipped my glass into it, and emptied the baleful contents myself !—Yes, I–) alone have been injured by that hateful adventure, and it is yet some satisfaction to my soul that it cannot be deprived of this solamen miserum.
While I was myself preparing this scourge to embitter my whole life, the arm of fate was, in a still more fatal way, awfully extended over me. The best of wives was suddenly snatched from this earth, and poignant anguish for her loss drove me as a fugitive into the wide world. I fled to Paris, and might have remained for half a year amid the bustle of that capital without so much as giving a hint to our ambassador of my being there. But wearied, after a while, with living in the midst of such convulsions, I transferred my abode to Mentz, which then enjoyed profound peace and tranquillity. Here I arranged for the press a detail of the heavy calamity I had experienced, and of my consequent wanderings, which was soon after published under the title of My Flight to Paris.'
On this work, as usual, an ample share of absurd
and nonsensical remarks have been made ; in particular, it has been censured as an artificial description of false feelings. Upon the probable origin of this charge, so devoid of heart and soul, and which I feel to be utterly groundless, I have reflected much, and I think it may be traced to the same source which produces in general so much moral excrement, to the self-sufficient vanity by which the mass of mankind are always powerfully influenced.
Understanding and feeling, are things possessed by each individual only in the degree just sufficient to satisfy himself. That another excels him in understanding, many a man will acknowledge without hesitation or reluctance, since this is commonly a matter too palpable to be easily denied, and he finds no difficulty in consoling himself with the idea, that he at least possesses the same improveability of mind as the rest of his species, while this allowed superiority only arises from the advantages of education, or of being placed in a more fortunate situation in life, an effect of chance that he can readily pardon. But feeling being considered as a gift of nature, he cannot without humiliation to himself, allow another to possess it in a superior degree; consequently, if he meet with any thing into which the contracted sensibility of his own heart will not permit him to enter, he calls the whole matter fiction, and satisfies his self-love with a shrug of the shoulders. Perhaps I ought to have reflected upon these things sooner, and restrained my feelings within my own bosom, nor suffered the impetuous torrent to overflow its
bounds. Another description of men call in question the genuineness of such feelings from mere malice. They are sensible, that the poignant affliction of a husband deprived of his heart's whole treasure, must excite compassion and interest in every breast capable of sympathy. Of these treasures, their malignity would gladly ruh him; and this can only be done by pro. ving that they are bestuwed without reason. Thence arise the malevolent criticisms so liberally bestowed on this book, which yet, heaven knows! was dictated by real anguish of heart. This stamp it undeniably bears, and I call upon any the most ingenious fictionist, to write in a similar style, unless placed in a similar situation. But should fate ever plunge him into circumstances of like distress, he will find that art has no share in dictating the language employed to describe his feelings.
Deeply impressed with the unbridled puerilities of which I had myself been an eye-witness among the Parisians—while I resided at Mentz, I wrote · The Female Jacobin Club;' a little piece that I cannot think destitute of real humour, though Huber, who is of a directly opposite political creed with myself, has fallen upon it so unmercifully. Yet let me here avow, that I detest every species of tyranny no less heartily than does Huber himself, as I have sufficiently evinced in my · Philosophical Picture of the Reign of Louis the Fourteenth. But I never can make myself the partizan of any faction.
The last-mentioned work I sent in manuscript to my publisher at Strasburgh. This gave occasion to some correspondence between us, when I uniformly found, that his letters were opened before they came into my hands. I complained of this to our minister at Mentz, who enquired into the matter, but could procure me no satisfaction: it was affirmed, that they came thither opened. Never to this day have I been able to trace out hy what means it could happen that the honour of being suspected as a spy, or concealed Jacobin was conferred upon me; but it appears to be my hard fate, that while Huber, with his associates, proscribe me as the advocate of despotism, the real supporters of that monster consider me as a dangerous democrat, whom they cannot watch with too jealous an eye. I could cite many extraordinary incidents in corroboration of my position, if a man always dared to say all that he can.
While at Mentz, I was obliged to commence a law. suit, the event of which I intended to have communicated to the public; since, as it was instituted against a piratical publisher, it was deeply interesting to every author, as well as to every honest man. When first I menaced this prosecution, my pirate was extremely insolent, and in a manner defied me; but finding that I was very serious in the matter, he became equally crouching, and wrote me a most servile letter, to beg my compassion for a numerous family, who must be ruined, should the prosecution be continued. For their sakes I pardoned him, and let the matter rest, and for their sakes also I now forbear to mention his name and place of abode.
During the same period, I wrote “The Parrot,' • Sultan Wampum,' and 'The Knight of the Mirror.' Sultan Wampum has, of all my pieces, been the least successful with the public; and, to confess the truth, it is but a moderate performance. I relied much upon the music, having been accustomed to see the wretched productions of a Schikaneder, a Vulpius, and others, extremely well received when recommended by the good genius of the composer. The · Literary Intelligencer, true to its spirit of contradiction, amuses itself extremely with my calling Sultan Wampum a burlesque drama, and asserts it to be one of the most serious pieces I ever wrote. Had I called it a drama myself, they would have ridiculed it as a mere farce.
• The Knight of the Mirror' is a still inferior production. The plot, as I was very lately told, is taken from a romance by Vulpius. I solemnly protest, however, that if such a work do exist, I never saw it. In the first place, I never thought anything written by that author worth my attention; and, in the second place, I can account very satisfactorily for the manner in which I came by my story. Walter, a musician of great eminence, was desirous of composing an opera of my writing, a wish by which I considered myself as much honoured. I was perplexed to find a subject, when Christ, then an actor at Mentz, happening to come in, and hearing of my embarrassment, related this fairy tale, which he probably had recently been reading. As I well knew how little was expected of the text in an opera, I thought it would answer my purpose as well as anything else, and within a fortnight from that time the • Knight of the Mirror' was finished. Very willingly will I resign to Mr Vulpius the honour of inventing the story ; and, if he wish it, that also of having written the opera.
I mentioned, at the commencement of this sketch, that I never but once in my life wrote a work at the instigation of other people. This was my fragment upon Nobility. I could say much upon this subject, but I dare not. If it were known, and in time per. haps it may be known, in what an equivocal situation I was placed by my perseverance in certain opinions I had adopted, misapprehended as they were, so that even my most confidential private correspondence became dangerous to me: if it were known what encouragement I had to engage in this work, and from whom it was received, it would be considered in a very different point of view from that in which it now appears, and the writer would be contemplated, not merely in the light of an author, but in that of a citizen and a father.
Yet I cannot deny that I have been guilty of some instances of improper complaisance in it, and these the critics have not failed sufficiently to expose. For one thing only was I unprepared, that this chastisement should be inflicted by a man whom I regarded as my steady friend, and whose friendship I think I had deserved. This I own has been to me a bitter pill. It will easily be imagined that I refer to a work lately published upon Humanity. Had a general list of all living authors been laid before me, and I had been desired to select from among them the writer of this