Jean Paul Friedrich Richter
Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces: or the Married Life,
Death, and Wedding of the Advocate of the Poor, Firmian Stanislaus Siebenkäs.
Translated by Edward Henry Noel (Boston 1845), 137–50.
“Baireuth, 21st September, 1785.
“My dear brother, and cousin, and uncle, and father, and son, — The two ears and chambers of your heart are my whole genealogical tree; wherein you resemble Adam, who, when he went out walking, carried with him the whole future race of his relations, and his long line of successors (which even yet is not all drawn out and unwound), until he became a father, and his wife bore a child. Would to God I had been the first Adam! . . . Siebenkäs, I adjure you, let me follow up this thought as though I were crazed; and don’t expect another word in this letter except such as may assist in painting my portrait as the first father of mankind.
“Those scholars misunderstand me greatly who may suppose that I wish to be Adam, because, according to Puffendorf and many others, the whole earth would, then belong to me of right, — like an European possession in the India of the universe, — as my patrimonium Petri, Pauli, Juda, inasmuch as I, the only Adam and man, consequently as the first and last universal monarch (though as yet without subjects), could and might lay claim to the whole earth. The pope, as holy father, though not as first father, may think of such things; or rather, he did think about them centuries ago, when he appointed himself guardian and heir of all the lands incorporated into the earth; nay, and did not even blush to pile upon his earthly crown yet two others — a heavenly crown and a crown of hell.
“How little I desire! my sole motive for wishing to have been the old and oldest Adam, is, that on my marriage-evening I might have walked up and down with Eve outside the espalier of Paradise, in our green honey-moon aprons and skins, and have held a Hebrew wedding-oration to the mother of mankind.
“Before I begin my speech, I must preface with the remark, that before my fall the extraordinarily felicitous idea suggested itself to me of noting down the cream of my omniscience; for, in my state of innocence, I possessed a knowledge of all the arts and sciences, universal as wall as scholastic history, the several penal and other codes of law, and all the old dead languages, as well as the living: I was, as it were, a living Pindus and Pegasus, a movable lodge of sublime light, a royal literary society, a pocket-seat of the Muses, and a short golden siècle de Louis XIV. With the understanding I then possessed, it was therefore less to be wondered at, than to be considered as a piece of good luck, that in my leisure moments I consigned the best of my omniscience to paper; so that when I afterwards fell, and became silly, I had extracts, or a resumé, of my former knowledge at hand, to which I was enabled to refer.
“‘Virgin,’ thus, beyond the gates of Paradise, did I begin my discourse; ‘Virgin, we are indeed the first parents, and have a mind to beget other parents; but you think of nothing, as long as you can only stick your spoon into a forbidden mess of apple sweetmeat.
“‘I, as man and protoplast, reflect and ponder; and to-day, as I walk up and down, I will be the marriage-priest and preacher (I wish I had begotten another for this purpose) at our holy ceremony, and represent to you and myself, in a short wedding-discourse, the grounds of doubt and decision, the rationes Jubitandi and decidendi of the protoplasts, or first married pair (i. e. myself and thee), in the act of reflecting and considering; and, moreover, how they consider, in the first Pars, the grounds and reasons not to fructify the earth, but this very day to emigrate, the one into the old, the other into the new world; and, in the second Pars, the reasons nevertheless to leave it alone, and to marry; whereupon a short elench, or usus epanorthoticus, shall appear and conclude the night.
“‘Pious hearer! such as thou now beholdest me in my sheep-skin, full of earnest and deep thought, I am nevertheless full, not so much of follies as of fools, between whom a wise man is occasionally inserted by way of a parenthesis. It is true, I am small of stature,  and the ocean rose some way above my ankles, and wet my new wild-beast skin; but, by heaven! I walk up and down here, girded with a seed-bag, containing the seeds of all nations, and I carry the repertorium and treasury-chest of the whole human race, a little world, and an orbis pictus, before me, as pedlars carry their open warehouse on their stomach; for Bonnet, who lives within me, when he comes forth, will seat himself down at his writing-desk, and shew that all things are comprised one within the other, one parenthesis or box within the other; that the son is contained in the father, both in the grandfather, and consequently in the great grandfather both the grandfather and his insertions lie waiting; in the great-great-grandfather the great grandfather with the insertion of the insertion, and with all his episodes, and so on. Are not all religious sects, — for I cannot make myself too intelligible to thee, beloved bride, — incorporated in thy bridegroom here present, and with the exception of the Preadamites, even the Adamites,  — all giants, the great Christopher himself, — the people of all nations, all the ship-loads of negroes destined for America, and the red-marked packages, among which is the Anspach and Baireuth soldiery, bespoken by the English? When you contemplate my interior, Eve, do I not stand before you as a living street of Jews, a Louvre of governors and kings, all of whom I can beget if I please, supposing I am not decided to the contrary by this first Pars? You must admire me, though at the same time you may laugh, if you look at me attentively, and, placing your hand upon my shoulder, just consider: Here in this man and protoplast lie side by side, without quarrelling, all the faculties, and the whole race of man, — all the schools of philosophy, sewing-schools, and spinning-schools; the best and most ancient princely houses, though not yet cleanly picked out from the common ships’ companies; the whole free imperial order of knighthood, though still packed up with their vassals, cottiers, and tenants; convents of nuns, bound up with convents of monks; barracks, and county-deputies, not to mention the ecclesiastical chapters of provosts, deacons, priors, sub-priors, and canons! What a man and Anak! wilt thou say. Right, dear one, so I am indeed! I am, in fact, the nest-dollar of the whole human cabinet of coins; the tribunal of all the courts of justice, which are, moreover, all full without the absence of a single member; the living corpus juris of all civilians, canonists, feudalists, and publicists. Have I not Meusel’s learned Germany, and Jöcher’s learned school-lexicon, complete within me? and, more than that, Jöcher and Meusel in person, not to speak of supplementary volumes?
“‘I should like to shew you Cain. Supposing I am persuaded by the second Pars, he would be our first seedling and tendril, our prince of Wales, of Calabria, of Asturia, and of the Brazils. If he were transparent, as I believe, you would see how every thing fits in him, one within the other, like beer-glasses, — all ecumenic councils, and inquisitions, and propaganda, and the devil and his grandmother. But, lovely one, you did not note down any of your scientia media before your fall, as I did, and consequently you gaze into futurity as blind as a beetle; but I, who see through it quite clearly, perceive by my chrestomathy that if I really avail myself of my Blumenbach’s nisus formativus, and cast to-day a few protoplastic glances into the jus luxandae coxae, or primae noctis,  I shall not beget ten fools, like another person, but whole billions of tens, and the units besides, when one thinks of all the arrant Bohemians, Parisians, inhabitants of Vienna, Leipzic, Baireuth, Hof, Dublin, Kuhschnappel (together with their wives and daughters), who will come into life through me; amongst whom there are always a million for every five hundred who neither listen to reason nor possess it. Duenna, as yet you know but little of mankind; you only know two, for the snake is not one; but I know what I am about, and that with my limbus infantum I shall at the same time open a bedlam. By heaven! I tremble and groan when I take but a cursory glance between the leaves of the course of centuries, and see nothing there but stains of blood and patchwork quodlibets of fools; when I think of the trouble it will cost before an age learns to write a legible hand as good as that of an elephant’s trunk or of a minister — before poor humanity has passed through preparatory schools, and hedge-schools, and private French governesses, and can enter with honour the Latin lyceum, royal and Jesuit schools — before it can attend the fencing school, the dancing floor, a drawing academy, and a dogmaticum and clinicum. The devil! it makes me hot only to think of it! It is true nobody will call you the brood-hen of the future flight of starlings, the codfish spawner, wherein Leuwenhock counts nine millions and a half of stock-fish eggs; it will not be laid at your door, my little Eve; but your husband will bear all the blame. He ought to have been wiser, people will say, and rather not have begotten any thing at all than such a rabble as the greater number of these robbers are; such, for instance, as the crowned emperors on the Roman throne, and also the viceregents on the Roman chair; the former of whom will name themselves after Antoninus and Caesar, the latter after Christ and Peter, and amongst whom may be found some whose throne is a Lüneburg-chair of torture for humanity, and a birth-chair of the scaffold, if it be not indeed a Place de Grêve reversed, serving at one and the same time as a place of execution for the mass, and of pleasure for the individual.  I shall also have Borgia, Pizarro, St. Domenico, and Potemkin, brought up against me; and even granting that I could free myself from the reproach of these black exceptions, I must nevertheless concede (and anti-Adams will take hold of it utiliter) that my descendants and colonists cannot exist half an hour without either thinking or committing some folly; that in their giant war of passions they never establish a peace, seldom a truce; that the chief fault of man consists in his having so many little faults that his conscience scarcely serves him for anything else but to hate his neighbour, and to have a morbid sensitiveness for the faults of others; that he will never part with his evil habits until he is on his death-bed, alongside which is pushed a confessional, much as children are made to go to stool before they are put to bed; that he learns and loves the language of virtue, while he shews enmity to the virtuous — resembling in this the citizens of London, who hate the French, while they keep French masters to learn their language. Eve, Eve! we shall gain little honour by our marriage. According to the fundamental text, Adam signifies red earth; and verily my cheeks will be entirely composed thereof, and blush when I think of the inexpressible and uninterrupted vanity and self-conceit of our great grandchildren, — a vanity growing with every century. No one will pull his own nose but he who shaves himself; the high nobility will burn the family-escutcheon at the door of their secret chambers, and interweave the cruppers of their horses into their initials; reviewers will set themselves above the authors, the latter above the former; the Heimlicher von Blaise will present his hand for the orphan’s kiss; the ladies theirs to every one; and the highest will kiss the hem of the embroidered garment. Eve, I had barely finished writing down my prophetic extracts of the world’s history up to the sixth millennary, when you bit into the apple under the tree; and I, like an ass, followed your example, and then every thing escaped me. God knows what may be the semblance of the male arid female fools of the other millennaries. Virgin! wilt thou now use the sternocleidomastoideum, as Sömmering calls the nod of the head, and therewith say thy yea, when I ask thee, Wilt thou have this marriage-preacher to thy wedded lord and husband?
“‘You will answer, without doubt, We will at least listen to the second Pars, wherein the affair is considered from another point of view; and truly, pious reader, we had almost forgotten to proceed to
and together to weigh the grounds which induce protoplasts and first parents to be such, and to marry, serving Destiny in the capacity of sewing and spinning machines of linseed and hemp, of flax and tow, which she may wind in infinite coils and net-work round the earthly sphere. My chief motive, and I hope thine also, is my conception of the last day; for in case we two become the entrepreneurs of the human race, I shall behold all my descendants steaming up on the last day from the calcined earth into the nearest neighbouring planet, and arranging themselves in order for the last review; and in this blessed harvest of children and grandchildren I shall meet some who are gifted with understanding, and with whom one can exchange a word or two — men whose whole life passed under a thunder-cloud, and who lost it in a storm, as, according to the belief of the Romans, the favourites of the gods were struck dead by lightning — men who, nevertheless, neither bound their eyes or their ears in the tempest. Furthermore, I behold there the four glorious heathen evangelists, Socrates, Cato, Epictetus, and Antoninus, who went about to every house applying their throats, like the pipes of fire-engines 200 feet in length, to every damnable conflagration of the passions, and extinguishing them with the best and purest alpine water. In short, we shall, if we so please, be — I the grand-papa, and you the grandmamma, of the most excellent people. I tell thee, Eve, it is noted down here in my tracts and collectanea, black upon white, that I shall be the forefather, the ancestor, the Bethlehem, and plastic nature of an Aristotle, a Plato, a Shakspeare, Newton, Rousseau, Goethe, Kant, and Leibnitz, besides others who are still cleverer than their protoplast himself. Eve! thou acting and important member of this present fruitbearing society, or productive class in the state, consisting of you and the wedding-orator, I swear to you that I shall enjoy an hour of some blissful eternities when I stand upon the neighbouring planet, and cast my eyes flightily over the circle of classic and newborn men, and then kneel down in rapture upon the satellite, and exclaim, ‘Good morning, my children!’
“Ye Jews formerly had the habit of uttering an ejaculatory prayer when ye met a wise man; but what prayer can I utter long enough, when I behold at one glance all the wise men and members of faculties, all of them, moreover, my relations, who, in spite of the wolfish hunger of the passions, yet knew how to renounce the forbidden apple and pear and ananas, and who, in their thirst after truth, committed no garden-robbery from the tree of knowledge, like their first parents, who seized the forbidden fruit though they felt no hunger, and attacked the tree of knowledge although they already possessed all knowledge, excepting that of the snake’s nature. Then I shall rise from the ground, and rush among the crowd of my descendants, and fall on the bosom of one chosen one, and throw my arms round him, and say, ‘Thou true, good, contented, gentle son, if, in the second Pars of my wedding-discourse, I could have shewn my Eve, the queen-mother of the present swarm of bees around us, none other but thee, sitting in thy breeding-cell, verily the woman would have taken it to heart, and listened to reason:’ and the true good son art thou, Siebenkäs; and thou wilt ever lie on the warm, hairy breast of
“Postscript and clausula salutaris.
“I beg you will not take this, my merry ball and witches’ dance on the rubbishy paper, amiss, in spite of your being, alas, an infinitesimal part of the German race! and as such, therefore, one who can neither endure nor comprehend such a dance of ideas. This is my reason for not publishing any thing for the German unwieldiness; but I throw whole sheets spawned full of such little playful idea-fishes, not into the press, but into that place where such works onry arrive in their old age, on account of their first exercising their right of transit through the bookseller’s shop.
“I was eight days in Hof, and am now living privately at Baireuth; in both towns I cut out faces, that is, strangers’ profiles: but most of the heads which sat or stood to my paper-scissors opined that all was not right in mine. Pray write me the truth of the thing, for it is not a matter of indifference to me; since, should it really be the case that, as I have said, I am not quite right in my mind, I should be impeded not only in executing testaments, but in other civil functions. I conclude with a thousand greetings and kisses to your pious and lovely Lenette, and compliments to Mr. Schulrath Stiefel, together with a query whether he be not distantly related to the Magister Stiefel, rector of Holzdorf and Lochau near Wittenberg, who prophesied (and methinks erroneously) that the end of the world would take place early, at eight o’clock on the first morning of the year 1533, and, after all, only lived to meet his own end. I also enclose for you both, and for the Advertiser, two programmes — one of Professor Lang, of this place, concerning the Superintendent-General of Baireuth; and the other of Dr. Frank of Pavia.
“A charming girl — full of power, and wit, and soul — dwells here in the Sun Hotel; she in the front rooms, I in the back. I and my face please her inexpressibly, which I can readily believe, being so like you, and only distinguished by halting with one foot. With beauties, therefore, I only boast of my own weakness and of my resemblance to you. If I have been well informed, the lady is a poor niece of the old uncle with the broken glass wig, who has placed her out to be educated at his expense for a marriage with some Kuhschnappler of rank. It may be that the bill of lading will soon send her to you as bridegroom’s ware. So far my oldest news; the newest may still be to come, viz. yourself to me at Baireuth, when I and the spring return there together (for the day after to-morrow I am going far away to meet it in Italy), and we, i. e. I and the spring, so beautify the world in common, that you will certainly be happy in Baireuth; so much to be admired are its houses and mountains. Fare thee somewhat well!”
 The French academician Nicolas Henrion stretched out Adam to the length of 123 feet, 9 inches; Heram, 118 feet, 9 ¾ inches. The above is related by the Rabbis, viz. that Adam after the fall ran through the ocean: vide the 4th Bibl. Disc, of Saurin. Back.
 The well-known sect which went naked to church. Back.
 Literally the “first night,” because, according to many scholars, Eve becama the fruit-thief on the very morning of her creation. Back.
 It seems almost emblematic of the incorporation of the fierce earnest tiger and the playful ape, that the Place de Grêve in Paris is at once the place of execution for criminals, and the pleasure-ground for the public festivals: that on one and the same spot a king’s assassin is torn asunder by horses, and a king’s fête is celebrated by the citizens; and that the fire-wheels of the victims broken on the wheel and the fire-wheels of the fire-works play together In close fellowship. Horrible contrasts! which we must not accumulate, lest we fall into the error of those who have given occasion for this rebuke. Back.
© 2014 Doug Stott