W1333 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his friend Dr. George O. Moody
Dec 10 1871
To: Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten, New York
From: Dresden, [Saxony], Germany
My dear Mac,
Your kind letter commenced on the 14th and finished on the 17th of last month was received with much rejoicing day before yesterday. I can only explain this 3 days interruption by supposing that it was spent in the study of geography in order to learn where the city of Dresden is situated. Dresden (I will just state for your information) is in Saxony, but Saxony, since the formation of the German Empire, of which you may not yet have heard, is regarded as part of Germany and hence Dresden is in Germany. For an explanation of the above syllogism see Whitney's logic.
Dresden is a city of about 170,000 inhabitants and is the capital of Saxony and the place of residence of the King of Saxony, whose name is John and who is of about as much importance politically as a dry stick in the desert of Sahara. The political wire pullers of the German Empire, at present are Kaiser William and Bismark.
Dresden has some things in it worth seeing and many that a man would never care to see more than once. It has one of the finest picture Galleries in Europe, where we could spend a month with pleasure and profit. In this gallery is the wonderful Sisteme Madonna of Raphael. There is here also one of the finest collections of rare works of art, jewels etc. in the world.
The Court Theater, which Whit and I attend 2 or 3 times every week, because we hear there the most perfect German spoken, has at present no star Actors but I have never been in a theater in America where every part of the play is so perfectly performed. There is not a poor actor connected with the theater. If there are no Booths,1 there are certainly no small fry. One reason of this is, because the Theater is kept up at the expense of the King and all the actors have a fixed salary, none of course being employed who are not up to the mark.
Dr. Sauer, with whom we are boarding, told me that it cost the King from 75,000 to 120,000 thalers (a thaler is .72 cts. in gold) every year more than he received from the Theater to keep it in working order. The Operas are very fine indeed--truly the Germans are a musical nation.
We go out very little as our object here is study and thus far we have fully carried out our plan. I never studied so hard in my life as I have for the last two months. And now my dear fellow let me, as a friend, give you one word of practical advice, Mac, don't you do it!--don't you think of doing it! Keep the idea henceforth and forever out of your head. I mean never attempt to learn this confounded and confounding Dutch.2 Mark my word, if you do, you will wish you had never been born. I have dislocated my jaw, broken my teeth and paralysed [sic] my tongue trying to utter Dutch gutterale [sic]--I have wearied my eyes, softened my brain and worn out my parts in my frantic efforts to search out the mysteries of this wonderful language and as yet all in vain. I hope light may dawn on my benighted mind sometime and when it does then will be a day of rejoicing. But should this never happen you must see that it is inscribed on my tombstone, Sacrificed to Dutch.
I have 10 or 12 old friends here in Dresden at present but see very little of them, although probably more than I should, as it would no doubt be better not to hear a word of English spoken. We are in a German family, consisting only of a man and wife and I will leave it to Whit to describe our style of living as he seems to appreciate it better than I do. We speak no English in the family and you can take it for granted that our meals are very quiet as well as simple--I think it is a great mistake not to make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the German grammar before coming here. I knew really nothing of grammar when I began study as I had not looked at it for 12 yrs. and never knew much and if I had been through with Otto's grammar it would have saved a month's time here.
We shall remain where we are until about the 20th of January, what we shall do after that is not yet fully determined. We may go up to Berlin (about 5 hours ride from here) and spend a month listening to medical lectures and perfecting our knowledge of the language and we may remain here till the last of Feb'y. By that time we hope to be able to understand enough to go on with our med. Studies. We intend to take a vacation of a month in March and visit Italy, returning to Vienna by the first of April to begin study there.
You asked about the weather here. I have never seen colder weather a this time of year in New England than we have had here for nearly 2 weeks. I had no idea of finding such weather--My rheumatism has troubled me more than it ever did at home--I have suffered much with it and sometimes for days at a time have been unable to go out at all. I have tried everything without benefit.
Please write us as soon as you get this for we are always glad to hear from you. I will give Whit. the last page to have his say about dutch living--He sometimes gets eloquent over it. I wish I could have a few hours talk with you, I could give you many illustrations of his eloquence that would surprise you. I wish you would send me Harper's Weekly sometimes--but I must stop.
Your fellow [?]
[name illegible, corner of page torn]
[George O. Moody]
[The letter following W1336 was in the same envelope with W1333.]
1 The writer is likely referring to the American family of actors: "The Booth family name in the 19th Century was strongly identified with the American theater scene; there was no greater name among American actors at this time. Junius Brutus Booth, Sr. came to the United States from England in 1821 and established the Booth name upon the American stage. He left his legacy to be carried by his sons Edwin, John Wilkes, and Junius Brutus, Jr. John Wilkes Booth was born on May 10, 1838 in a log house.
John Wilkes Booth is America's most infamous assassin, the killer of perhaps the greatest president of the United States on April 14, 1865." http://www.nps.gov/foth/booth.htm
Also see W-MCP4-6.065,
See note on John Wilkes Booth, his association with Senator Hale and his daughter Lucy, and the mystery surrounding his diary, W-MCP4-6.064.
2 "Dutch" is an archaic use for the German "Deutsch." It is also a slightly derogatory use in the U.S. for "German," which is also suggested by the context of this letter.