November, 30th 1763 from Comedy Central in Berlin

(this post is a follow-up to this one and that one.)

I spent the whole day on Letter 16 from von Buch to Beausobre. There were several long interruptions, but still. I am not done. And I should be working on it right now, instead of which I am trying to convince myself (by blogging) that the day was not worth nothing. That even if “people” are likely to criticize the edition in the end, I will have given the best I could to make it meet my standards – somehow.

The King of Poland just died and von Buch is disappointed because he just arrived in Dresden, where the King came from, and everyone there is depressed. No one is going out, no one is giving cool receptions. Plus, as much as he had hoped for Saxony to be a good place to purchase interesting things to read, it turns out this might be true for Leipzig, but not for Dresden, where there are only few decent booksellers, who sell almost nothing interesting – and if they do, then it is at an impossible price. Von Buch is terribly bored – so he is telling Beausobre about books he read, asking for more books on the fly. Which is just why these letters are interesting. And endless to encode.

First, the history section. “La continuation de l’histoire du bas-Empire par Le Beau” was the first candidate. The book, like almost all the other ones he quotes, just came out of press – that I concluded after painfully trying to figure out what that book was and deciding he must have meant vols 5 and 6 of this voluminous work. Took me forever to get anything on Le Beau, whom some people consider is called Claude and others Charles, while he himself signs his books with “Monsieur le Beau”, en toute simplicité. Then came “L’histoire de la maison de Tudor de Hume”. As I had no idea David Hume had written history books, I seriously considered his homonym David Hume, a historian who seems to have lived a century or so before him, to be the author. And at that point, I started to get worried about PND and homonyms. So the book was indeed by Mister Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – in a brand new French translation by “Madame B***” who turned out to be Octavie Bélot (a very interesting translator, hope to get to cross her road more in the future). Hume was also the author of the “histoire de la maison de Stuart” – but I could not find anything as to whether Octavie Bélot had translated that one too. Come on girls, put your names on your work!!

What comes next is an interesting mixture of gossip and actual knowledgeableness. Von Buch states that he is disappointed to have been able to acquire “que la traduction allemande des lettres de Lady Montagu”. I had no idea who Lady Montagu was and would definitely like to get more into this (just as into the Bélot thing – somehow it gets much more interesting when women are involved!). Of course, Lady Montagu’s Turkish Letters were probably a great homage to her knowledge of fare-away-countries and civilization, Persian Letters-style I suppose. But what seems to interest von Buch is her life (he tells about information he has from a Milady Stormont – still no idea who this one is btw – or what she might have been doing in Dresden in 1763) and the way it influenced the constitution of her authorship. She had an illegitimate child, was sent to Venice by the husband after the child’s birth, discovered inoculation, which she brought back to England when she got back – only after the husband’s death – and was then, according to Milady Stormont, not at all a sweet old lady, but a cranky one, not at all worldly and nice. And now it is getting Foucault-esque (inbetween the encoding…). Von Buch writes:

Elle est <supplied
reason=”border of page; bound too tight”>morte</supplied>
<lb/>il y a peu de tems et a laissé 9 Volumes de Manuscrits, parmi lesquels il y
avoit un Traité sur le bonh<supplied reason=”border of page; bound too tight”
>heur</supplied>
<lb/>de l’amour conjugal: <persName ref=”#p0066″>Milady Bute</persName>, sa
fille a eu soin de retirer tous ces manuscrits des mains des librai<supplied
reason=”border of page; bound too tight”>res</supplied>
<lb/>à grands fraix, parce qu’elle ne jugea pas, qu’ils contribueroient à
l’honneur de sa mere, s’ils devenoient <pb n=”3″ facs=”00000340.jpg”/>publics;
ce n’est, que malgré elle, que les <rs ref=”#w00023″>lettres</rs> ont paru.

That would make me want to stop everything and try to reconstruct what actually happened to these manuscripts. Just hoping somebody has done that before and I will be able to find the right book at some point. Alas,  just as for the repeated use of Horace-quotations, I don’t have the time to get into it now (but would it not be a good idea to look closer into the way Horace was quoted in the 18th century, on a larger scale?)

And now for the finale, guess who is my guest tonight? Well, I saw “Moise” again. But Moise was someone with a PND number, for sure, this time. Just “Moise” is in fact Moses Mendelssohn, whose essay of 1763 on the obviousness of metaphysical sciences (first prize of Berlin Academy of Science in the year 1763, even before Kant!) von Buch is trying to purchase as soon as they finished printing it. I spare you the last book he is trying to purchase – Rousseau again, which was a happy occasion to see that the PND number I could get through wikipedia was different from the one I would get through the PND-search of the Geman National Library (DNB)(and no, it was not Jean-Baptiste Rousseau I compared with Jean-Jacques). So today’s lesson will be: Beware of homonyms! – I will tell you about the booksellers later, and get back to the end of my letter now…


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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2 Responses

  1. “Lady Stormont” might be “Henrietta Frederica, daughter of Henry Graf Bunau”, (perhaps Heinrich Graf von Bünau, 1697-1762, PND 100061753), wife of David Murray, Viscount Stormont, (no PND), see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Murray,_2nd_Earl_of_Mansfield. Her husband was British ambassador at the court of Dresden from 1755 to 1763 (J. Irving, The book of Scotsmen, 1881, snippet available at WBIS).

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