Supplementary Appendix 29.1

Concerning Pedro Hockel’s circumstances at the time, his seeming ill health about which Caroline speaks, and his overall character and the subsequent course of his life, see the account by one of his close friends, Piter Poel, in the latter’s memoirs, Bilder aus vergangener Zeit, 314–17 (this narrative picks up immediately after Poel’s account of Hockel’s affair with Lotte Michaelis [supplementary appendix 21.1]):

Few days passed that we did not spend several hours chatting in the evening, frequently returning to the plans whose salutary ends on behalf of the people also seemed quite worthy of the most resolute efforts and highest sacrifice on the part of noble spirits, albeit plans the means to whose end did not always find my unqualified approval. I was particularly, indeed vehemently opposed to his plans to change his religion [for the sake of political expediency].

It was not difficult for me to demonstrate that because one must not demand that someone promise to act contrary to duty, neither must such a promise be fulfilled, and that even from the perspective of utter indifference toward all positive religion such a change would taint a person’s conscience before God, and his honor before men, and that, finally, even if viewed simply as a means of advancement, experience shows that it is quite unreliable in any case, since one rarely trusts apostates, who invariably remain suspect to the party to which they have transferred their allegiance.

Although he doubtless felt the weight of my arguments, even when he occasionally seemed to give in to them, this particular part of his plans nonetheless was so intimately connected with the other parts that his deeply rooted ambition simply could not surrender it. I also objected to all conspiracy, regardless of how well intentioned its goals, and considered not a single one in history as having been justified that had not been generated by the urgent distress of the moment to thwart an imminent threat to the whole, or by a universal sense of indignation at humiliating oppression; I pointed out further that those least justified in getting involved in conspiracies were indeed those who, without power and standing in the state, lacked any real calling to become involved in public matters of that sort.

He maintained his own opinion with considerable stubbornness, however, adducing examples of justified and in part successful conspiracies that seem to support his position, and maintaining that little was ever accomplished in political matters with an overly delicate conscience, and that great things were always accomplished by ignoring normal rules. Moreover, the same things that destroy a conspiracy might with equal justification generate a new one; he applied this maxim to the intrigue through which [Marquês de] Pombal [1699–1782] had been toppled. Every man must feel in his breast the calling to participate in such cases as soon as circumstances be favorable.

His decision was irretrievably fixed. Our meetings often lasted deep into the night, their object of discussion almost always being the character of persons from history, novels, plays, and real life, for which we drew from our readings in practical philosophy, Montaigne, at the time my favorite writer, from [Jean de] La Bruyère, [François duc de] La Rochefaoucauld, and the memoirs of [Jean François Paul de Gondi,] Cardinal de Retz. Together we worked up character portrayals of almost all our acquaintances in Göttingen.

We spent the winter of 1781 and the initial months of the following year together in this manner [Caroline, however, recounts that Hockel left Göttingen in mid-December 1781] when I suddenly noticed a striking change in his entire personality. His countenance was brooding and unusually pale; he was distracted, ceased participating in our animated table discussions, and left without really finishing his meals. I sought him out in his apartment; he responded with denials.

After a few days, however, he came to me to respond in trust to the concern I had shown him and to pour out his heart. He had received letters from Lisbon relating that his father had forfeited most of his wealth through bankruptcy in the West Indies and was no longer in a position to support his son properly in the career path he had hitherto followed; his son was to leave Göttingen without delay, spend several months familiarizing himself with the operations of the branch bank of Süverkropp in Hamburg, a friend of his father’s, then return to Lisbon, where he would take over the business correspondence in his father’s firm and devote himself completely to commerce.

He told me that this news, though certainly not of a particularly pleasant nature, would nonetheless not have upset him so were there not another circumstance that could not but bring him to utter despair could he not find a way out. He then confided to me that he had accrued debts of approximately five thousand Thaler, which he must pay off at once even though he was not in a position to do so for another three months.

After he familiarized me with his sources of assistance, I quickly made my decision. I was able to get an advance of a couple of thousand Thaler from my old friend Glashoff, which covered the primary debt; I myself assumed responsibility for the rest.

He departed for Hamburg, where I followed him a couple of months later and stayed for several days. His affairs were completely resolved by Süverkropp, and he was planning to leave for Lisbon in the autumn. “Destiny is driving me,” he said, “and I will follow.” Alas! he did not suspect whither! We bade each other an emotional farewell.

Soon thereafter we learned that the Lisbon business had ceased its payments, and my friend was now trying to make his own way in the world. He genuinely did convert to Catholicism, made contacts that raised suspicions concerning him, and was put in a monastery, where according to the wish of the queen, who was concerned for the salvation of the talented young man’s soul, he was to become a monk.

He escaped, made his way to England, and there sought out Byng, who surprised me with this news when I myself arrived in London for a visit, but to whom Hoquel had related nothing else concerning his prospects or further plans. He may have wanted to seek his fortune in the Levant, for in the late 1780s news came to his family from Marseille that he had died of a plague-like illness in the quarantine hospital there.

Poor, deceived young man! Fortune did not smile upon you, and what I learned about you from afar broke my heart.

Fifty years have now passed, and I say to you: Happy art thou! that your life was accorded such an early goal. You were already standing on the threshold of the age that was to produce terrible upheavals. So many people who chased after that final goal, as did you, but not prudently, as did you, pursuing things instead according to their own, limited views and at any price, progressed step by step to ever higher degrees of crime and transgression, becoming men of terror, regicides, judges on revolutionary tribunals, and after the days of reprisal had come, and for the better among such men also days of circumspection, they were finally able to measure the depths of the abyss into which they had plunged; they perceived the universal imprecations round about them, and those spared by the righteous sword of vengeance, or who did not succumb before their time to the torment of conscience, bore the burden of a disgraced life with them in the form of the ineradicable sign of rejection on their faces, in either voluntary or forced exile.

You, however, were already lying safe and secure in your silent grave; having already grievously atoned in the here and now for the guilt you yourself incurred, and he who found you worthy of compassion purified your soul early, in the struggle of death. The shadow you pursued disappeared unattained. Though no voice of posthumous fame celebrates your name, neither does any human voice curse that name; those among the living who encountered you on your brief pilgrimage will fondly recall the image of so richly talented a young man, and those who, as I, had a more intimate bond with you, will linger with melancholy love in that recollection.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott