Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Letters—To His Wife, 1862–70
By Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898)
BIARRITZ, August 4th, 1862.    
I AM afraid I have caused some confusion in our correspondence, as I induced you to write too soon to places where I have not yet arrived. It will be better for you to address your letters to Paris, just as though I were there; the embassy then sends them after me, and I can more quickly send word there if I alter my route. Yesterday evening I returned from St. Sebastian to Bayonne, where I slept, and am now sitting here in a corner-room of the Hôtel de l’Europe, with charming view on the blue sea, which drives its white foam through the curious cliffs against the lighthouse. I have a bad conscience for seeing so many beautiful things without you. If one could transport you here through the air, I would go directly back again to St. Sebastian, and take you with me. Fancy the Siebengebirge with the Drachenfels placed by the sea; close by, Ehrenbreitstein, and between the two, pushing its way into the land, an arm of the sea, somewhat broader than the Rhine, and forming a round bay behind the mountains. In this you bathe in transparently clear water, so heavy and so salt that you swim on the top of it by yourself, and look through the broad gate of rocks into the sea, or landward where the mountain chains top each other, always higher, always bluer.
  The women of the middle and lower classes are strikingly pretty, occasionally beautiful; the men surly and uncivil; and the comforts of life to which we are accustomed are missing. The heat is not worse here than there, and I do not mind it; find myself, on the contrary, very well, thank God. The day before yesterday there was a storm, such as I have never seen anything like. I had to take a run three times before I could succeed in getting up a flight of three steps on the jetty; pieces of stone and large fragments of trees were carried through the air. Unfortunately, therefore, I countermanded my place in a sailing vessel to Bayonne, for I could not suppose that after four hours all would be quiet and cheerful. I lost thus a charming sail along the coast, remained a day more at St. Sebastian, and left yesterday in the diligence, rather uncomfortably packed between nice little Spanish women, with whom I could not talk a syllable. So much Italian, however, they understood that I could demonstrate to them my satisfaction with their exterior. I looked to-day at a railway guide to see how I could get from here—that is, from Toulouse—by railway over Marseilles to Nice, then by boat to Genoa; from there over Venice, Trieste, Vienna, Breslau, Posen, Stargard to Cöslin! If it were only possible to go over Berlin! I cannot very well pass through there just now.  2
HOHENMAUTH, Monday, July 9th, 1866.    
DO you still remember, my heart, how nineteen years ago we passed through here on the way from Prague to Vienna? No mirror showed the future, neither when, in 1852, I went along this line with the good Lynar. Matters are going well with us; if we are not immoderate in our demands, and do not imagine that we have conquered the world, we shall acquire a pace which will be worth the trouble. But we are just as quickly intoxicated as discouraged, and I have the ungrateful task of pouring water in the foaming wine, and making them see that we are not living alone in Europe, but with three neighbors still. The Austrians are in Moravia, and we are already so bold that their positions to-day are fixed for our headquarters to-morrow. Prisoners are still coming in, and one hundred and eighty guns since the 3d up to to-day. If they call up their southern army, with God’s good help we shall beat them again. Confidence is universal. I could hug our fellows, each facing death so gallantly, so quiet, obedient, well-behaved, with empty stomachs, wet clothes, wet camp, little sleep, the soles of their boots falling off, obliging to everybody, no looting, no incendiarism, paying where they can, and eating moldy bread. There must after all abide in our man of the soil a rich store of the fear of God, or all that would be impossible. News of acquaintances is difficult to obtain; people are miles apart from one another; no one knows where the other is, and nobody to send; men enough, but no horses. I have had Philip searched for, for four days; he is slightly wounded in the head by a lance, as G—— wrote to me, but I cannot find out where he is, and now we are already forty miles farther on.
  The King exposed himself very much indeed on the 3d, and it was a very good thing that I was with him; for all warnings on the part of others were of no avail, and no one would have ventured to speak as I allowed myself to do the last time, and with success, after a heap of ten men and fifteen horses of the Sixth Regiment of cuirassiers were wallowing in their blood near us, and the shells whizzed round the sovereign in the most unpleasant proximity. The worst luckily did not burst. But after all I like it better than if he should err on the other side. He was enchanted with his troops, and rightly, so that he did not seem to remark all the whistling and bursting about him; as quiet and comfortable as on the Kreuzberg, and kept constantly finding battalions that he wanted to thank and say good evening to, until there we were again under fire. But he has had to hear so much about it, that he will leave it alone for the future, and you can be at ease; besides, I hardly believe in another real battle.  4
  If you have no news of a person, you can all implicitly believe that he lives and is well, as all casualties occurring to one’s acquaintances are known in twenty-four hours at the longest. We have not come at all into communication with Herwarth and Steinmetz, but know that they are both well. G—— quietly leads his squadron with his arm in a sling. Good-bye, I must go on duty.
  Note.—This letter did not reach its destination, but, together with the entire post, was captured by franc-tireurs and published by a French newspaper.
VENDRESSE, 3 September [1870].    
My Dear Heart:
I LEFT my present quarters before early dawn the day before yesterday, came back to-day, and have in the mean time witnessed the great battle of Sedan, in which we made about thirty thousand prisoners, and threw the remainder of the French army, which we have been pursuing since Bar-le-Duc, into the fortress, where they had to surrender themselves, along with the Emperor, prisoners of war. Yesterday morning at five o’clock, after I had been negotiating until one o’clock A.M. with Moltke and the French generals about the capitulation to be concluded, I was awakened by General Reille, with whom I am acquainted, to tell me that Napoleon wished to speak with me. Unwashed and unbreakfasted, I rode towards Sedan, found the Emperor in an open carriage, with three aides-de-camp and three in attendance on horseback, halted on the road before Sedan. I dismounted, saluted him just as politely as at the Tuileries, and asked for his commands. He wished to see the King; I told him, as the truth was, that his Majesty had his quarters fifteen miles away, at the spot where I am now writing. In answer to Napoleon’s question where he should go to, I offered him, as I was not acquainted with the country, my own quarters at Donchéry, a small place in the neighborhood, close by Sedan. He accepted, and drove, accompanied by his six Frenchmen, by me and by Carl (who in the mean time had ridden after me) through the lonely morning towards our lines. Before coming to the spot, he began to hesitate on account of the possible crowd, and he asked me if he could alight in a lonely cottage by the wayside; I had it inspected by Carl, who brought word that it was mean and dirty. “N’importe,” said N., and I ascended with him a rickety, narrow staircase. In an apartment of ten feet square, with a deal table and two rush-bottomed chairs, we sat for an hour; the others were below. A powerful contrast with our last meeting in the Tuileries in 1867. Our conversation was a difficult thing, if I wanted to avoid touching on topics which could not but affect painfully the man whom God’s mighty hand had cast down. I had sent Carl to fetch officers from the town and to beg Moltke to come. We then sent one of the former to reconnoitre, and discovered two and one-half miles off, in Fresnois, a small château situated an a park. Thither I accompanied him with an escort of the cuirassier regiment of life-guards, which had meantime been brought up; and there we concluded with the French general-in-chief, Wimpffen, the capitulation by virtue of which forty to sixty thousand Frenchmen,—I do not know it accurately at present,—with all they possess, became our prisoners. Yesterday and the day before cost France one hundred thousand men and an Emperor. This morning the latter, with all his suite and horses and carriages, started for Wilhelmshöhe, near Cassel.
  It is an event of great weight in the world’s history, a victory for which we will humbly thank the Almighty, and which decides the war, even if we have to carry it on against France shorn of her Emperor.  7
  I must conclude. With heartfelt joy I learnt from your and Maria’s letters that Herbert has arrived among you. Bill I spoke to yesterday, as already telegraphed, and embraced him from horseback in his Majesty’s presence, while he stood motionless in the ranks. He is very healthy and happy. I saw Hans and Fritz Carl, both Bülows, in the Second dragoon guards, well and cheerful.  8
  Good-by, my heart; love to the children.
V. B.    
OFEN, June 23d, 1852.    
I HAVE just come from the steamer, and do not know how better to employ the moment I have at my disposal before Hildebrand follows with my things, than by sending you a little sign of life from this very easterly but very beautiful world. The Emperor has been graciously pleased to assign me quarters in his castle; and here I am in a large vaulted hall, sitting at an open window through which the evening bells of Pesth are pealing. The outlook is charming. The castle stands high; beneath me, first, the Danube, spanned by the suspension bridge; across it, Pesth; and further off the endless plain beyond Pesth, fading away into the purple haze of evening. To the left of Pesth I look up the Danube; far, very far away on my left,—that is, on its right bank,—it is first bordered by the town of Ofen; back of that are hills, blue and still bluer, and then comes the brown-red in the evening sky that glows behind them. Between the two towns lies the broad mirror of water, like that at Linz, broken by the suspension bridge and a wooded island. The journey here, too, at least from Gran to Pesth, would have delighted you. Imagine the Odenwald and the Taunus pushed near to each other, and the space between filled with the waters of the Danube. The shady side of the trip was its sunny side; it was as hot as if Tokay was to be grown on the boat: and the number of tourists was great, but—only think of it—not an Englishman! They cannot yet have discovered Hungary. There were, however, odd customers enough, of all races, oriental and occidental, greasy and washed. A very amiable general was my chief traveling companion; I sat and smoked with him nearly the whole time, up on the paddle-box.
  I am growing impatient as to what has become of Hildebrand; I lean out of the window, partly mooning and partly watching for him as if he were a sweetheart, for I crave a clean shirt—if you could only be here for a moment, and if you too could now see the dull silver of the Danube, the dark hills on a pale-red background, and the lights that shine up from below in Pesth, Vienna would go down a good way in your estimation as compared with “Buda-Pesth,” as the Hungarians call it. You see that I too can go into raptures over nature. Now that Hildebrand has really turned up, I shall calm my fevered blood with a cup of tea, and soon after go to bed.  11
JUNE 24TH: Evening.    
AS yet I have had no opportunity to send this off. Again the lights are gleaming up from Pesth; on the horizon, in the direction of the Theiss, there are flashes of lightning; above us the sky is clear and the stars are shining. I have been a good deal in uniform to-day; presented my credentials, in formal audience, to the young ruler of this country, and received a very agreeable impression. After dinner the whole court made an excursion into the hills, to the “Fair Shepherdess”—who, however, has long been dead; King Matthias Corvinus loved her several hundred years ago. There is a view from there (over wooded hills, something like those by the Neckar) of Ofen, its hills, and the plain. A country festival had brought together thousands of people; they pressed about the Emperor, who had mingled with the throng, with ringing shouts of “eljen” [vive]; they danced the csardas, waltzed, sang, played music, climbed into the trees, and crowded the court. On a grassy slope there was a supper table for some twenty persons, with seats on one side only, while the other was left free for the view of forest, castle, city, and country. Above us were tall beeches, with climbing Hungarians on the branches; behind and quite near us, a closely crowded and crowding mass of people; further off, music from wind instruments, alternating with song—wild gipsy melodies. Illumination—moonlight and sunset-red, with torches scattered through the forest. It might all be produced without a change as grand scenic effect in a romantic opera. Next to me sat the white-haired Archbishop of Gran, in a black silk gown with a red hood; on the other side a very amiable, trig cavalry general. You see the picture was rich in contrasts. Then we drove home in the moonlight with an escort of torches….
  It is very quiet and comfortable up here now; I hear nothing but the ticking of a clock on the wall, and the distant rumble of carriages below. May angels watch over you; over me, a grenadier in a bearskin does it, six inches of whose bayonet I see projecting above the window-sill, a couple of arm’s-lengths from me, and reflecting a ray of light. He is standing above the terrace on the Danube, and thinking perhaps of his Nancy.  13

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