1340.  EBB to Louis Cappel [1]

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 7, 259–260.

50 Wimpole Street.

July 29th 1843.

Dear Sir,

I cannot longer delay expressing to you my gratification on receiving your kind & cordial letter. I love Germany, as I see it in my dreams: and I more than love (although perhaps I am unworthy from my ignorance, of saying so,) those great poets of Germany, whose works I have read only a little of, & with a stammering tongue. I have read indeed your Goëthe’s Faust & his lyrics, & many of Schiller’s tragedies, & something besides: I guess at your greatness! And thus that a German should write such kind words to me, is a thing touching to my pride, as well as to feelings which are better & deeper in my heart than, I hope, pride is: and I thank Mr Cappel sincerely for this letter of a German, which I hold from his hands!

I must explain however that my translation of the Prometheus was not my gift to you. I believe my brother Henry to have offered that gift. I never give the book in question to anybody,—being ashamed of it: I could not give it to you,—desiring your esteem.

The truth is—it is an immature & imperfect work, & written when I was less capable of writing than I am now, & under hurried & unfavorable circumstances. It appears to me now, if faithful to the letter of Æschylus, a rebel to his spirit—nay, too cold & stiff & weak to be a noble rebel in an effectual sense– Thus I cast it behind my own back, & never make gifts of it to others. May it perish!

But, dear Mr Cappel, I must make a gift to you. And accordingly, here I send you the last volume I have published, & the only one in which my inward nature has spoken aloud & articulately. Oh! that the speech were loud & clear enough to be heard in your country! If that could ever be, it would be a proud day for me—and I write on, aspiring towards it!– Accept this book in the meantime. And in case you should still intend me the honor of translating any of my poems for your German periodicals [2] (and surely you could not do me a greater honor!) may I entreat you to select them from this volume of “The Seraphim,” [3] rather than from the former one– You appear to be a master of our language already—and, were it not for other evidence, I might be afraid from your letter that you are not really a German! which I should be very sorry for indeed!

With my brother’s regards, & hope of your returning to London before long,

allow me to remain dear Sir

your obliged & sincere

Elizabeth B Barrett.

Address: The Revd Louis Cappel / Fordington Vicarage / Dorchester.

Publication: None traced.

Source: Transcript in editors’ file.

1. After attending the universities of Halle and Giessen, Louis Cappel (1817-85) was attached to the staff of the German Ambassador in London. He later turned to theology, took the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and became pastor of St. George’s German church in Haley Street, Aldgate, in the East End of London. The contents of this letter lead us to surmise that his contact with the Moulton-Barretts stemmed from a meeting with Henry Moulton-Barrett while the latter was studying in Germany in 1837.

2. We have not been able to trace any such translations.

3. This copy of The Seraphim, with EBB’s manuscript corrections, is now at ABL (see Reconstruction, C156).


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