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.”

Sunday Music

A true sign of the approach of winter is when I rummage through the drawers and take out my cap. It’s a bit worn and tattered, but keeps the head warm. And it comes with ear flaps – looks terrible, but helps to prevent nasty (and very payneful) cold ears and cold induced otitis media. Yes, my head is  weak in some respects.
The last week could have been better, and I have to confess that some things came too near; but a nice day of doing nothing helped to wind down, listening to Mr. ROWOHLT (Ger., Eng.) reading poems f.e. was very enjoyable. The coming week … we’ll see, Tuesday may be interesting.
After all perception is a marvellous thing. I watched this video – if you do not already know it, and  like to watch the clip, do yourself a favour and concentrate on the given task, it works only at the first time ! – and listened to a lecture (German only here) of Prof. WATZLAWICK (Ger., Eng., obit of FISCH and WATZLAWICK), who explains how a solution may be the problem, how we are limited by our perception (Wahrnehmung, das Für-Wahr-Nehmen).

This Sunday music is the aria “Vuol d’Elisa il sen fecondo” from the opera (not so much an opera, perhaps better called a festa pastorale; critique of  a German production from 2010 here (Ger. only, sorry)) “Il nascimento dell’Aurora” by Tomaso ALBINONI (Ger., Eng., bio) (1671-1751), sung by the countertenor Terry WEY (Ger.).
I like the Baroque, and I like countertenors, but this is one of the few videos I chose not because of the music alone, but because of the pictures too: The uploader OLTRE-IL-BAROCCO (link to his youtube channel) selected pictures of the works of Isabelle de BORCHGRAVE (Eng., Fr.;  video of the exhibition in SF 2011; there’s something about her on vimeo, but I could not see it) for his video, and I quite like her works of “Pulp Fashion”.
I hope you like it too, and do not hesitate to have a look at other Sunday Musics, here and here.
Have a peaceful, and lucky, week.




… as it’s just so … Looking at the wiki-list with people of the name “Hardy” I found Claude HARDY (Ger., Fr.) (1598 or 1604-1678), a mathematician and very talented linguist who is said to have been in command of 36 languages. He published his first book at the tender age of nine years, a translation of a text by ERASMUS’ under the title De la civilité morale des enfants. HARDY works as lawyer in Paris, at least from the mid-1620s on; he is a sought -after translator and specialised in mathematical treatises. He is connected with the learned circle around Marine MERSENNE (Ger., Eng.) (1588-1648), knows DESCARTES (Ger., Eng., SEP) (1596-1650) and Blaise PASCAL (Ger., Eng., SEP) (1623-1662). After DESCARTES’ death we hear nothing else about HARDY until his death twenty-five years later.
What piqued my curiosity is the last sentence in the biographical articles that mentions that he conducted alchemical experiments together with Annibal BARLET, who taught alchemy in Paris, and Pierre BOREL (Ger., Eng.) (1620-1671) – after all physician (Médecin ordinaire du Roi) to Louis XIV. since 1654. He brought together a very large hermetic library containing * around four thousands books and manuscripts.
BARLET wrote a book about the art of chemistry (Le vray et methodiqve covrs de la physiqve resolvtive, vvlgairement dite chymie. Representé par figures generales & particulieres. Povr connoistre la theotechnie ergocosmiqve, c’est à dire, l’art de Diev, en l’ovvrage de l’vnivers, Paris 1657*, link, woodcut, woodcut), that is characterized in the Getty image database as “for the most part good practical pharmaceutical chemistry”.
It is also mentioned there that one of the visitors of his science classes was the diarist John EVELYN (Ger., Eng.) (1620-1706), also an avid book collector. The manuscript of his diary is in the BL and not online accessible, there have been some editions**. He covers the years between 1641 and the late 1690s, so he certainly writes about his stay in Paris, and I wonder whether he describes some of the experiments he seemingly had witnessed***.

Where does this lead to? Nowhere; and it’s not intended to do so; it’s just an aimless rambling in the 17th century.
What happened to all these books?

* Because this was googelised it is not in the Europeana, here.
** Link to the edition by William BRAY (1879), pdf-isised by google, accessible via the Bodleiana.
*** Up to now I found no mention of alchemical experiments there, ach


If you are interested in European history of the 20th century, and especially the aftermath of WWII, the book by Igor LUKES On the Edge of the Cold War. American Diplomats and Spies in Postwar Prague, Oxford 2012, maybe interesting for you. The American ambassador STEINHARDT (Eng.) seems not to have been on top of the game, the services got it all wrong – they simply did not understand the special situation of the CSR (Ger., Eng.), STALIN’s aims and politics and the role of BENEŠ (Ger., Eng.). The review is very good, it seems worth a read.
Another topic that always comes up when speaking about the end of the war is the escape of war criminals to South America. A new study sheds light not on the escape routes (Rattenlinie, Ger., Eng.)), but how the American states (with an emphasis on Argentina) dealt with the problem: Daniel STAHL, Nazi-Jagd. Südamerikas Diktaturen und die Ahndung von NS-Verbrechen (= Beiträge zur Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts 15), Göttingen 2013. The reviewer calls it an “impressive work”.
And finally – if you have nothing else to do in the next spring, why not attend a conference on Schloß Kuenburg in Tamsweg (Ger., Eng.) (Austria) in April 2014 and discuss your favorite exploitation fillum Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält (Ger., Eng.) (1970). Of course, if you prefer the sequel from 1973 Hexen geschändet und zu Tode gequält (Eng.) you are at the right place too, and I am sure you’ll meet like-minded connoisseurs.
Next one will receive a BA for sitting through all that mondo-crap (Ger., Eng.).


Two titles dropped in that continue the cold-war-theme signalised in the previous works – of course not in the fillum, I wonder whether some cineast would dare to read Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält as cold war narrative, all is possible.
Anyway, the monograph by Toni PERUCCI Paul Robeson (Ger., Eng.) and the Cold War Performance Complex. Race, Madness, Activism, Ann Arbor 2012, looks at the early cold war and the McCarthy-“era” in a cultural-historic way and under the aspect of performance, as the title says. The reviewer calls the work innovative and inspiring.
Jon WIENER takes a look at what’s left from the cold war: How We Forgot the Cold War. A Historical Journey across America, Berkeley, CA 2012, visits 50 places that deal with the memory of those years. It is a journalistic travel book, not a scientific text,  that brings the reader into strange corners of the US, well written and impressionistic.
WIENER finds to his (and mine) astonishment that more than 30 original parts of the Berlin Wall are presented in the US, including the pissoir of a Las Vegas casino. Maybe someone took utilitarism a bit too far.