Thursday, December 25, 2008

Good Christian Men Rejoice!

We raise a Yuletide toast to all our noble cousins of the Imaginations of Urope. While challenges and opportunities remain before us, we have been delighted by the support and camaraderie of all our noble cousins in our great common endeavour.

Merry Christmas to all, and all best wishes for the coming year of grace!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Waldreck Subversives

24 Dezember, a date of no special significance in Waldreck, finds an anonymous man hard at work in his back workshop in an especially worn and unfashionable quarter of Bruttig, hidden there from the prying eyes of the agents of the Pfalzgraf and the Burgermeister.

From time to time throughout the grey, frigid day, hooded, furtive men masked by their frozen breath would pass by the building, some pausing to regard their reflections and the street behind them in the front shop windows presenting the legitimate face of a snuffshop to the public, and then turn down the winding alleyway leading to the rear entrance, a sober grey-painted and iron-bound door with a narrow sliding-panel peephole. Knocking there, and giving the muttered password "Kringle," they are hurriedly admitted into the back room.

Once inside, the prearranged transaction is swiftly consummated: hard pfalzthalers for assorted banned goods, outlawed for their indolent frivolity: hoops and wands, marbles, knucklebones, dolls, tops, tin soldiers or the exotic bandalore. Avoiding eye contact, the nameless customers finalise their transactions, secret their contraband within their bulky overcoats and melt back into grey, faceless crowds flowing viscously over the frosty and darkening streets.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Frohes Chanukkah!

His negotiations and brokerage on behalf of Herzog Ignaz completed, Hoffaktor Abraham Weißenheimer had left his equipage behind at Munich with the arrival of the first winter snows, and hired a sleigh and team to hasten his return to Hunsruck. Now after four days working down the Rhein valley, Weißenheimer promised the driver a handsome bonus to make Hunsruck before sundown. The sleigh team ploughed through the snow throughout the day, stopping only to change horses at a coaching inn at midday. As the sun tracked low across the southern sky, Weißenheimer consulted his pocketwatch with some concern.

As the sun dipped towards the Späterwald Hills beyond the Kernerfluss, the sleigh driver proved his word good, and, with a crack of his whip, directed his team through the gates of the Hunsrucker Judengasse, depositing Weißenheimer, his footmen and effects at the door of his townhouse just minutes before the sun vanished behind the hills, casting long shadows across the narrow street. The sleigh driver made his courtesies, thanking Weißenheimer profusely for the purse of pfalzthalers, and made for the gates, to make his exit before the gates closed at sundown.

Bounding past his old doorman Amschel, up the stairs to the door, Weißenheimer heard the cries of children's voices inside as he turned the doorknob. As he opened the door and entered, he was stampeded by the joyous horde of his children rushing to greet him.

"Papa's home!" cried his littlest daughter Judit.

"Father; you made it in time!" exulted his son Samuel.

"Yes, yes; it's nearly time isn't it?" responded Abraham. "Well, is everything ready?"

"Oh yes, Papa; Mama had us get everything ready earlier today."

"Well then, to the parlour!" ordered Weißenheimer; stopping only to embrace his wife Guttle, who directed the parade of children to the parlour to the left. The smell of latkes and fried pastries, tended by the servants in the dining room, filled the house, reminding Abraham sharply how little he had eaten the past day. But, swept up in the family momentum, Abraham and Guttle found themselves quickly led as well to the parlour.

"Samuel, bring a taper from the fire, then, and we'll begin."

His son obeyed, and Abraham, adjusting his hat, took the taper and turned to face the Menorah.

Bowing his head, Abraham prayed,

"Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu l'had'lik neir shel Chanukah. Amein"

"Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Chanukkah. Amen."

"Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam she'asah nisim la'avoteinu bayamim haheim baziman hazeh. Amein"

"Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time. Amen."

"Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh. Amein."

"Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. Amen."

Taking the taper to the shammus candle atop the menorah, Abraham then extinguished the taper and took the shammus to light the rightmost Chanukkah lamp.

"Frohes Chanukkah to us all!"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sinews of War

Hoffaktor Weißenheimer having concluded an innovative arrangement with the factors of the Duchy of Lagerburg-Slobbovia, 640 men recruited in surplus for the recent expansion of the Obersaynische grenadiers find themselves transferred to the arms of Lagerburg-Slobbovia, to bolster the defences of the duchy against recent depredations along the Dalmatian coast of dreaded Bizerccan corsairs.

Here the men make their final parade before the Skt. Cäcilienskirche in Hunsruck before beginning the march to Dalmatia.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Post to Schloß Moritzburg

Prinzessin Maria-Aurora to Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria
Dezember 4

What odd heads some people have!--Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria to be sacrificed in marriage to Pfalzgraf Friedrich von Waldreck!--Astonishing!

I must not, you say, give my advice in favour of this man!--You now convince me, my dear, that you are nearer of kin than I thought you, to the family that could think of so preposterous a match, or you would never have had the least notion of my advising in his favour.

Ask for his picture. You know I have a good hand at drawing an ugly likeness. But I'll see a little further first: for who knows what may happen, since matters are in such a train; and since you have not the courage to oppose so overwhelming a torrent?

You ask me to help you to a little of my spirit. Are you in earnest? But it will not now, I doubt, do you service.--It will not sit naturally upon you. You are your mother's girl, think what you will; and have violent spirits to contend with. Alas! my dear, you should have borrowed some of mine a little sooner;--that is to say, before you had given the management of your estate into the hands of those who think they have a prior claim to it. What though a father's!--Has not the father other children?--And do they not all bear more of his stamp and image than you do?--Pray, my dear, call me not to account for this free question; lest your application of my meaning, on examination, prove to be as severe as that.

Now I have launched out a little, indulge me one word more in the same strain--I will be decent, I promise you. I think you might have know, that Avarice and Envy are two passions that are not to be satisfied, the one by giving, the other by the envied person's continuing to deserve and excel.--Fuel, fuel both, all the world over, to flames insatiate and devouring.

But since you ask for my opinion, you must tell me all you know or surmise of their inducements. And if you will not forbid me to make extracts from your letters for the entertainment of my aunt and cousin in the little island, who long to hear more of your affairs, it will be very obliging.

But you are so tender of some people who have no tenderness for any body but themselves, that I must conjure you to speak out. Remember, that a friendship like ours admits of no reserves. You may trust my impartiality. It would be an affront to your own judgment, if you did not: For do you not ask my advice? And have you not taught me that friendship should never give a bias against justice?--Justify them, therefore, if you can. Let us see if there be any sense, whether
sufficient reason or not in their choice. At present I cannot (and yet I know a good deal of your family) have any conception how all of them, your mother and your grandmother in particular, can join with the rest against judgments given. As to some of the others, I cannot wonder at any thing they do, or attempt to do, where self is concerned.

You are all too rich to be happy, child. For must not each of you, by the constitutions of your family, marry to be still richer? People who know in what their main excellence consists, are not to be blamed (are they) for cultivating and improving what they think most valuable?--Is true happiness any part of your family view?--So far from it, that none of your family but yourself could be happy were
they not rich. So let them fret on, grumble and grudge, and accumulate; and wondering what ails them that they have not happiness when they have riches, think the cause is want of more; and so go on heaping up, till Death, as greedy an accumulator as themselves, gathers them into his garner.

Well then once more I say, do you, my dear, tell me what you know of their avowed and general motives; and I will tell you more than you will tell me of their failings! Your grandmother has told you: Why must I ask you to let me know them, when you condescend to ask my advice on the occasion?

We have heard before you wrote, that all was not right between your relations and you at your coming home: that Prinz Friedrich visited you, and that with a prospect of success. But I concluded the mistake lay in the person; and that his address was to Arabella, the daughter of the the Duke of Birkenstock. And indeed had she been as good-natured as your plump ones generally are, I should have thought her too good for him by half. This must certainly be the thing, thought I; and my beloved friend is sent for to adviseand assist in her nuptial preparations. Who knows, said I to my mother, but that when the man has thrown aside his yellow full-buckled peruke, and his broad-brimmed beaver (both of which I suppose were his father's best of long standing) he may cut a tolerable figure dangling to the altar with Prinzessin Bell!--The woman, as she observes, should excel the man in features: and where can she match so well for a foil?

I indulged this surmise against rumour, because I could not believe that the absurdest people in Christendom could be so very absurd as to think of this man for you.

We heard, moreover, that you received no visiters. I could assign no reason for this, except that the preparations for your cousin were to be private, and the ceremony sudden, for fear this man should, as another man did, change his mind. others were with me to inquire what I knew of this; and of your not being in attendance at the parade of the Neuweinsfest after your return from us; to the disappointment of a little hundred of your admirers, to use their words. It was easy for me to guess the reason to be what you confirm--their apprehensions that Prinz Friedrich would intercept you there, and attempt to wait on you home.

My mother takes very kindly your compliments in your letter to her. Her words upon reading it were, 'Prinzessin Sophie is an admirable young lady: wherever she goes, she confers a favour: whomever she leaves, she fills with regret.'--And then a little comparative reflection--'O my Aurora, that you had a little of her sweet

No matter. The praise was yours. You are me; and I enjoyed it. The more enjoyed it, because--Shall I tell you the truth?--Because I think myself as well as I am--were it but for this reason, that had I twenty sisters, not one of them, nor all of them joined together, would dare to treat me as yours presume to treat you. The person who will bear much shall have much to bear all the world through; it is your own sentiment, grounded upon the strongest instance that can be given in your own family; though you have so little improved by it.

The result is this, that I am fitter for this world than you; you for the next than me:--that is the difference.--But long, long, for my sake, and for hundreds of sakes, may it be before you quit us for company more congenial to you and more worthy of you!

I communicated to my mother the account you give of your strange reception; also what a horrid wretch they have found out for you; and the compulsory treatment they give you. It only set her on magnifying her lenity to me, on my tyrannical behaviour, as she will call it [mothers must have their way, you know, my dear] to the man whom she so warmly recommends, against whom it seems there can be no just
exception; and expatiating upon the complaisance I owe her for her indulgence. So I believe I must communicate to her nothing farther--especially as I know she would condemn the correspondence between us as clandestine and undutiful proceedings, and divulge our secret besides; for duty implicit is her cry.

Yet is this not the right policy neither. For people who allow nothing will be granted nothing: in other words, those who aim at carrying too many points will not be able to carry any.

Now, my dear, I know you will be upon me with your grave airs: so in for the lamb, as the saying is, in for the sheep; and do you yourself look about you; for I'll have a pull with you by way of being aforehand. Hannibal, we read, always advised to attack the Romans upon their own territories.

You are pleased to say, and upon your word too! that your regards (a mighty quaint word for affections) are not so much engaged, as some of your friends suppose, to another person. What need you give one to imagine, my dear, that the last month or two has been a period extremely favourable to that other person, whom it has made an obliger of the daughter for his solicitude for her father.

But, to pass that by--so much engaged!--How much, my dear?--Shall I infer? Some of your friends suppose a great deal. You seem to own a little.

Don't be angry. It is all fair: because you have not acknowledged to me that little. People I have heard you say, who affect secrets, always excite curiosity.

But you proceed with a kind of drawback upon your averment, as if recollection had given you a doubt--you know not yourself, if they be [so much engaged]. Was it necessary to say this to me?--and to say it upon your word too?--But you know best.--Yet you don't neither, I believe. For a beginning love is acted by a subtle spirit; and oftentimes discovers itself to a by-stander, when the person possessed (why should I not call it possessed?) knows not it has such a demon.

But further you say, what preferable favour you may have for him to any other person, is owing more to the usage he has received, and for your sake borne, than to any personal consideration.

This is generously said. It is in character. But, O my friend, depend upon it, you are in danger. Depend upon it, whether you know it or not, you are a little in for't. Your native generosity and greatness of mind endanger you: all your friends, by fighting against him with impolitic violence, fight for him. And St. Germain, my life for yours, notwithstanding all his veneration and assiduities, has seen
further than that veneration and those assiduities (so well calculated to your meridian) will let him own he has seen--has seen, in short, that his work is doing for him more effectually than he could do it for himself. And have you not before now said, that nothing is so penetrating as the eye of a lover who has mystery? And who says St. Germain lacks mystery?

In short, my dear, it is my opinion, and that from the easiness of his heart and behaviour, that he has seen more than I have seen; more than you think could be seen--more than I believe you yourself know, or else you would let me know it.

Already, in order to restrain him from resenting the indignities he has received, and which are daily offered him, he has prevailed upon you to correspond with him privately. I know he has nothing to boast of from what you have written: but is not his inducing you to receive his letters, and to answer them, a great point gained? By your insisting that he should keep the correspondence private, it appears there is one secret which you do not wish the world should know: and he is master of that secret. He is indeed himself, as I may say, that secret! What an intimacy does this beget for the lover! How is it distancing the parent!

Yet who, as things are situated, can blame you?--Your condescension has no doubt hitherto prevented great mischiefs. It must be continued, for the same reasons, while the cause remains. You are drawn in by a perverse fate against inclination: but custom, with such laudable purposes, will reconcile the inconveniency, and make an inclination.--And I would advise you (as you would wish to manage on an occasion so critical with that prudence which governs all your actions) not to be afraid of entering upon a close examination into the true springs and grounds of this your generosity to that happy man.

It is my humble opinion, I tell you frankly, that on inquiry it will come out to be LOVE--don't start, my dear!--Has not your man himself had natural philosophy enough to observe already to you, that love takes the deepest root in the steadiest minds? The deuce take his sly penetration, I was going to say; for this was six or seven weeks ago.

I have been tinctured, you know. Nor on the coolest reflection, could I account how and when the jaundice began: but had been over head and ears, as the saying is, but for some of that advice from you, which I now return you. Yet my man was not half so--so what, my dear--to be sure St. Germain is a charming fellow. And were he only--but I will not make you glow, as you read--upon my word I will not.--Yet, my dear,
don't you find at your heart somewhat unusual make it go throb, throb, throb, as you read just here?--If you do, don't be ashamed to own it--it is your generosity, my love, that's all.--But as the Roman augur said, Caesar, beware of the Ides of March!

Adieu, my dearest friend.--Forgive, and very speedily, by the new found expedient, tell me that you forgive,

Your ever-affectionate,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Post to Schloß Veldenz

Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria von Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn, to Prinzessin Maria-Aurora von Sachsen-Veldenz
December 1

I have been hindered from prosecuting my intention. Neither nights nor mornings have been my own. My mother has been very ill; and would have no other nurse but me. I have not stirred from her bedside (for she kept her bed); and two nights I had the honour of sharing it with her.

Her disorder was a very violet colic. The contentions of these fierce, these masculine spirits, and the apprehension of mischiefs that may arise from the increasing animosity which all here have against Prinz Friedrich, and his too well known resenting and intrepid character, she cannot bear. Then the foundations laid, as she dreads, for jealousy and heart-burnings in her own family, late so happy and so united, afflict exceedingly a gentle and sensible mind, which has from the beginning, on all occasions, sacrificed its own inward satisfaction to outward peace. My sisters and grandmother, who used very often to jar, are now so entirely one, and are so much together, (caballing was the word that dropt from my mother's lips, as if at unawares,) that she is very fearful of the consequences that may follow;--to my prejudice, perhaps, is her kind concern; since she sees that they behave to me every hour with more and more shyness and reserve: yet, would she but exert that authority which the superiority of her fine talents gives her, all these family feuds might perhaps be extinguished in their but yet beginnings; especially as she may be assured that all fitting concessions shall be made by me, not only as my obvious due to my grandmother, but for the sake of so excellent and so indulgent a mother.

For, if I may say to you, my dear, what I would not to any other person living, it is my opinion, that had she been of a temper that would have borne less, she would have had ten times less to bear, than she has had. No commendation, you'll say, of the generosity of those spirits which can turn to its own disquiet so much condescending goodness.

Upon my word I am sometimes tempted to think that we may make the world allow for and respect us as we please, if we can but be sturdy in our wills, and set out accordingly. It is but being the less beloved for it, that's all: and if we have power to oblige those we have to do with, it will not appear to us that we are. Our flatterers will tell us any thing sooner than our faults, or what they know we do not like to hear.

Were there not truth in this observation, is it possible that my sisters could make their very failings, their vehemences, of such importance to all the family? 'How will my daughter, how will my niece, take this or that measure? What will she say to it? Let us consult her about it;' are references always previous to every resolution taken by their superiors, whose will ought to be theirs. Well may they expect to be treated with this deference by every other person, when my father himself, generally so absolute, constantly pays it to them; and the more since their grandmother's bounty has given independence to a spirit that was before under too little restraint.--But whither may these reflections lead me!--I know you do not love any of us but my mother and me; and, being above all disguises, make me sensible that you do not oftener than I wish.--Ought I then to add force to your dislikes of those whom I wish you to like?--of my father especially; for he, alas! has some excuse for his impatience of contradiction. He is not naturally an ill-tempered man; and in his person and air, and in his conversation too, when not under the torture of a gouty paroxysm, every body distinguishes the Prince born and educated.

Our sex perhaps must expect to bear a little--uncourtliness shall I call it?--from the husband whom as the lover they let know the preference their hearts gave him to all other men.--Say what they will of generosity being a manly virtue; but upon my word, my dear, I have ever yet observed, that it is not to be met with in that sex one time in ten that it is to be found in ours.--But my father was soured by the cruel distemper I have named; which seized him all at once in the very prime of life, in so violent a manner as to take from the most active of minds, as his was, all power of activity, and that in all appearance for life.--It imprisoned, as I may say, his lively spirits in himself, and turned the edge of them against his own peace; his extraordinary prosperity adding to his impatiency. Those, I believe, who want the fewest earthly blessings, most regret that they want any.

But my sisters! What excuse can be made for their haughty and morose temper? They are really, my dear, I am sorry to have occasion to say it, an ill-temper'd coterie of young ladies; and treat my mother sometimes--Indeed they are not dutiful.--But, possessing every thing, they have the vice of age, mingled with the ambition of youth, and enjoy nothing--but their own haughtiness and ill-temper, I was going to say.--Yet again am I adding force to your dislikes of some of us.--Once, my dear, it was perhaps in your power to have moulded them as you pleased.--Could you have been
my sister!--Then had I friend in a sister.

But no more of this. I will prosecute my former intention in my next; which I will sit down to as soon as breakfast is over; dispatching this by the messenger whom you have so kindly sent to inquire after us on my silence. Mean time, I am,

Your most affectionate and obliged
friend and servant,