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November 3, 2005 by AK

Far from the raging crowds of Paris

From Letters of a Russian Traveller by Nikolai M. Karamzin (1793):

The town is rather small and, apart from the duke’s castle, one can’t find a single huge house here. — I was interrogated at the town gate, after which I offered the sergeant on guard my own questions, namely: “Is Wieland here? Is Herder here? Is Goethe here?” — “Yes, yes, yes,” he replied, and I told the coachman to take me to “The Elephant’s” pub.

Without delay, I dispatched a hired servant to Wieland to ask if he was at home. — “No, he’s in the palace.” — “Is Herder at home?” — “No, he’s in the palace.” — “Is Goethe at home?” — “No, he’s in the palace.”

“In the palace! In the palace!” I repeated, mocking the servant, took my walking cane and went out into the garden. I grew very fond of the large green meadow with trees planted around, called a star; but even more fond of the wild, grim banks of a swiftly flowing creek under whose noise, seated on a mossy stone, I read the first book of Fingal. The people I met in the garden looked at me with such curiousity as people never get looked at in big cities, where one meets strange faces at every step. On learning that Herder was at last at home, I went to see him.

The young Karamzin’s Letters is an amazing account of his encounters with Europe’s star intellectuals — no wonder the man would grow into one of Russia’s most important literary figures and produce a greatly influential history of Russia.

Karamzin visited Weimar in July 1789…


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