Travel Letters: Continuing At Hotel Du Nord, Berlin (1882)

DEAR WILLIAM, — Just think of its being four months ago yesterday since you saw the Servia sail. More than a quarter of my long vacation gone. Why, I shall be walking in on you before you know it ! And when I hear the report of the first Sunday of October at Trinity, and all about Bishop Beckwith’s long and eloquent sermon, it seems as if I were within speaking distance of you all the time.

I reached here yesterday, after ‘one of the pleasantest journeys I have ever made. Now it seems like getting home, to come to this familiar Berlin again. The folks seem to recognize me upon the streets, and all the swell guards about the royal palace looked as if they wanted to salute me, but were not quite sure that it was right. I spent three days this last week at Leipsic. It is a very curious town, full of business, I believe, but apparently given up to music and education. The hosts of students on the streets, and the multitudes of concerts everywhere, seem to shut out every-thing else. I actually went to two concerts myself, one of them a high Wagner affair, with the most select and high-toned musical audience. I thought I should be glad to see what it was like, and I was surprised to find that I rather liked it. I saw one or two professors, who were very civil, and showed me all there was to see. It is rather a depressing place, I think, to one who is conscious of knowing nothing in particular, and having only a general smattering of a lot of things. Everybody there is a specialist. One man is giving himself up to Arabic, another to Sanskrit, another to cuneiform inscriptions, and another to a particular sort of bug. So every man has some subject, on which he talks you out of your depth in half a minute. It must be a delightful thing to think that you know anything, however small, through and through. If I were twenty-five years younger, and not minister of Trinity Church, I should go to Leipsic and stay there till I knew something, so that no scholar in the world could puzzle me. Then I would come home and go into general life with that one little corner of omniscience always kept to fall back upon when I was reminded in some one of the ways (in which I am constantly reminded) of what an ignoramus I am. But it is no use now. And I must go on with my basket of broken victuals to the end.

So you are back in Boston, and the summer was a great success. I am very glad of it. Who knows but some day the old Andover house may be our summer home, as a fixed thing, with a pretty little establishment that will make summer as domestic and regular a time as winter. It would certainly not be bad. I am glad the children were pleased with the book. I thought they might like it.

Affectionately, P.