Thursday, February 7, 2019

John L. Motley to Lady William Russell, May 31, 1863

May 31, 1863.

Dear Lady william: If I have not written of late, it is simply and purely because I am so very stupid. I don't know whether you ever read a very favorite author of mine — Charles Lamb. He says somewhere, “I have lived to find myself a disreputable character.”' Now, I don't know (nor very much care) whether I am disreputable or not, but I am conscious of being a bore, both to myself and others. It has been growing steadily upon me. I always had a natural tendency that way, and the development in the Vienna atmosphere has been rapid. As I know you hate bores worse than anything else human (if they are human), I have been disposed to suppress myself. What can I say to you about Vienna? I don't wish to say anything against people who have civilly entreated me, who are kindly in manner, and are certainly as well dressed, as well bred, as good-looking as could be desired. A Vienna salon, with its Comtessen Zimmer adjoining, full of young beauties, with their worshipers buzzing about them like great golden humblebees, is as good a specimen of the human tropical-conservatory sort of thing as exists. But I must look at it all objectively, not subjectively. The society is very small in number. As you know, one soon gets to know every one — gets a radiant smile from the fair women and a pressure of the hand from the brave men; exchanges a heartfelt word or two about the Prater, or the last piece at the Burg; groans aloud over the badness of the opera and the prevalence of the dust, und damit Punktum.

Your friend Prince Paul is better of late. But he has been shut up all the winter. A few nights ago we saw him at the Opera. You are at the headquarters of intelligence, so you know better than I do whether you are going to war about Poland. I take it for granted that no sharper instrument than the pen will be used by the two “great powers,” and that they will shed nothing more precious than ink this year, which can be manufactured very cheap in all countries. At any rate, people talk very pacifically here, except in the newspapers. The Duc de Gramont has gone to Karlsbad to drink the waters for six weeks; the first secretary of his embassy is absent; Lord Bloomfield has gone into the country; Count Rechberg has been ailing for some weeks; and meantime we are informed this morning by telegraph that engineer officers in London and Paris have arranged the plan of the campaign. Finland is at once to be occupied, a great battle is to be fought, in which the Allies are to be victorious, after which St. Petersburg is to be immediately captured — simple comme bonjour. The newspapers give you this telegram, all of them exactly as I state it. Ah, if campaigning in the field were only as easy and bloodless as in the newspapers! But the poor Poles are shedding something warmer than ink, and I can't say it seems very fair to encourage them to go on, if you are going to help them with nothing harder than fine phrases, which have small effect on Cossacks; for what is called in the jargon of the day “moral influence” (whatever it may be) is no doubt a very valuable dispensation, but gunpowder carries nearer to the mark.

There seems something very grand in this occult power, called the Committee of Public Safety, at Warsaw, a new vehmgericht. I am told that General Berg, on being asked the other day by Grand Duke Constantine if he had made any discoveries yet as to the people who composed the Committee, replied in the affirmative. “Who are they?” said the grand duke. “Let me first tell you who don't belong to it,” said the general. “I don't, for one; your Imperial Highness does not, I think, for another; but for all the rest of Warsaw I can't say.” A comfortable situation for a grand duke! This invisible Committee send as far as Vienna for recruits, and men start off without a murmur, go and get themselves shot, or come back again, as the case may be, and nobody knows who sent for them or how. I have heard of several instances of this occurring in high and well-known families. I am just now much interested in watching the set-to between crown and Parliament in Berlin. By the way, Bismarck-Schonhausen is one of my oldest and most intimate friends.

We lived together almost in the same rooms for two years, — some ages ago, when we were both juvenes imberbes, — and have renewed our friendship since. He is a man of great talent and most undaunted courage. We have got a little parliament here, which we call the Beichsrath, and are as proud as Punch of it. It has worked two years admirably well, only the opposition members, who make up two thirds of it, never come, which makes it easier for the administration. My wife and daughters join me in warmest regards and most fervent wishes for your happiness and restoration to health, and I remain

Most sincerely and devotedly yours,
Varius Variorum.

SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 332-5

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