Deadly Compliments

We know that archives and libraries are dangerous places. GRILLPARZER (Ger., Eng.) for example fell off a ladder and only survived because he let go the fascicle. Others died. Besides death by drop there is (still today) the serious danger of inhaling spores of mold, yes it’s a tough life in the field.
But that making one’s compliments also is a dangerous task was new to me. At least that is what Julius Bernhard von ROHR (Ger.) speaks about in paragraph 44, chapter 5, part 1 of his  Einleitung zur Ceremoniel-Wissenschafft der Privat-Personen, Berlin 1728 (digitised, world cat). And we can assume that von ROHR, a life-long and experienced man of the court, knows what he’s talking about. You find the German text at the end * of this little post, I paraphrase it here as follows :
“A young cavalier should take care not to suffer harm on his health or even his life, when he makes his compliments. After having spoken to the high Eminence or grand minister he has to leave and is not allowed to take his eyes from the high person & simply turn his back ; so he has to move a little sideways or must have taken care of the position of chairs, desks and other ameublement in the room ; especially when it comes to stairs he has to take good care not to fall down :

inmaßen ja unterschiedene Exempel vorhanden, daß einige diese Unvorsichtigkeit, da sie die Treppe herunter gestürtzt, das Leben gekostet.
especially while there are different examples that this carelessness that led to them falling down the steps, has cost them their lives.”

Hours or even days of Antichambrieren – “bow & scrape” my dictionary says very fittingly. Finally one is allowed in, to meet the important person. Compliments spoken without stutter or other un-pleasantries. Perhaps even a small smile, a small nod by the eminence. Then retreat, as learned : backwards, without bumping into a chair or knocking off the ming vase ; the staircase at last – wrong step, keeling over, broken neck, final end of carrière.

What “unterschiedene Exempel” may Herr von ROHR thought of ? I am pretty sure that he knew of some – but to my knowledge there is no survey of these accidents.
Sources could be memoirs, (auto)~biographies, letters, maybe official files ? Gossip is seen as an important source for life at the court in the 18th century (Hofkultur), not only by modern scholars but by the contemporaries too. I know of no reader on this special topic. Maybe I found just a Desiderat der Forschung, a blank space ?
Would someone sponsor my research, please ?

* “§.44. Endlich mag sich ein junger Mensch, und ein jedweder angelegen seyn lassen, mit der Manierlichkeit und Wohlanständigkeit, auch die Behutsamkeit zu vereinigen, damit er seine Complimen[t]s so einrichte, daß er über den vielen Complimentiren an seinem Leibe keinen Schaden leide, oder gar des Lebens verlustig werde. Daher muß er im Zuwillgehen aus ein Gemach einer Fürstlichen Person oder eines großen Ministris, die er stets in Augen behalten, und ihr nicht den bloßen Rücken zukehren muß, vorher Acht haben, was ihm e[t]wan an Tischen, Stühlen, und andern Meublen bey dieser Passage im Wege stehe, oder ein wenig seithalben gehen;  insonderheit aber sich bey den Treppen wohl wahrnehmen soll, daß er nicht hinunter schmeisse, inmaßen ja unterschiedene Exempel vorhanden, daß einige diese Unvorsichtigkeit, da sie die Treppe herunter gestürtzt, das Leben gekostet.”

11 thoughts on “Deadly Compliments

  1. Oh yes, doors – also pretty difficult at times, LX. There’s always the need for some liveried trabant to hold it open. Better give them a little extra so that they’ll take care of this, and not accidentially close that thing while one walks through backwards …

    I think one is allowed to search for the eminence’s eye, but of course it should not become a staring contest, dear Melanie:

    Sounds as if he was heavy on pals, dear Norma

    It would be a very unusual thing for a Lady to come into audience alone. Perhaps you and Melanie should use a servant, would also make a better entrèe & could be helpful for the retirade. The servant should wear a nice uniform and an aigrette. But careful with the colours, would be a bit inconvenient when you visit e.g. the Prince-Bishop here and wear purple …

  2. I’m sure my family colors of azure and white will get me trouble. I will still make appropriate contacts and disappear from custody in the middle of the night and find myself adopting a new country to call home.

  3. When they held the Delhi durbar , the ruler of the state I am originally from, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, refused to do the kowtowing and exit bending routine. I believe a stiff fine was imposed.

  4. Azure & White may point towards Bavaria or Scottland, definitely not Franconia (Red-White), dear Melanie.

    Oh these small things were nice XL ! What an impressive collection. I think the Japanese still have some cars in this tradition, like the unforgotten Copen. I always wanted a 4-stroke Rumen.

    No need for them to worry Foam, they are ab-solutus, ent-bunden, standing over the law.

    He is embodying as good a majesty as the others, Austere. von ROHR wrote a second book about the “Ceremoniel” for “hohe Herren”, when majesties clash …

    Concise summary, dear Eros !

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