Travel Letters: Around Hotel Du Nord, Berlin (1882)

DEAR WILLIAM, — How the weeks go, don’t they ? It seems impossible that seven days have slipped by since I wrote you last Sunday. But they have, and they have been very pleasant ones here. Delightful weather, — a sort of Indian summer, such as we used to look for in Boston, and never quite knew whether we had it or not. I can hear father and aunt Susan at the old table in Rowe Street, debating about it now.

Berlin is quite different on my return from what it was when I left it. The people are back, the streets are crowded, and everything is in full blast. The university lectures began last Monday, and there are no end of them all the time. It is the freest sort of institution. The doors of every lecture-room stand wide open, and any stranger may go in. This week I have been like a college student, going to hear what the great men have to say about theology and other things. I have German enough now to follow a lecture quite satisfactorily, and you do not know how I enjoy it. Of course I have not taken up any systematic course of attendance. My time is too short for that. I only roam round and pick up what I can and fill it out with reading from the books of the same men, a good many of which I have. There are four thousand other students here in Berlin, so that one can go and come in the great university quite as he pleases, and be entirely unnoticed.

A good many people who were away when I was here before have come back, so that I have as much social life as I want. The Bunsens have gone to England, but Dr. Abbott is here. I go there when I feel like it, and always meet pleasant people. Then there is a certain Dr. Kapp, who used to live in New York, and is now a member of Parliament here, who has been very civil; Professor Hermann Grimm, who wrote the Life of Michael Angelo and other things, and one of the university provosts, Dr. Gneist, who styles himself on his card ” Oberverwaltuugsgerichtsrath,” — that ‘s his title.

It is very pleasant to see how quietly and simply these scholars live, and what cordial, earnest folks they are. I have also seen something of the ministers, but I do not think I like them so much as the scholars. German religion seems to be eaten up with controversy, and is hampered everywhere by its connection with the state. There is a certain Pastor Stocke here, at whose house I have been, who is the political character of the town. . . . He and the rest are doing very good work among the poor.

They have just been having an election for members of the Reichstag, or Parliament, which has been very interesting to follow in the papers and in the talk of the people, though one saw nothing to indicate election day in the streets.

This week I leave here for good, and go to Dresden, where I shall get a week for art. The beautiful gallery there I have never thoroughly seen. I shall have my books too, and do some studying. Then Vienna, where there are splendid pictures also, then Venice and India.

My heart stood still for a minute the other day when I opened the paper which you sent me and saw ” Trinity Church on Fire.” When I found that they had put it out and that it was only going to cost the Corporation $50, I sang a small Te Deum, and concluded to go on with my journey. Thank you for all your letters. They always tell me just what I want to know, and cheer me immensely.

Think of me on Thanksgiving Day in Venice. I shall think of you and wish that we were all in Clarendon Street. My love to M and the children.

Affectionately, P.