Letter from Charles S. Peirce to his mother Sarah Mills, Berlin, 09.04.1876

Letter from Charles S. Peirce to his mother Sarah Mills
(Berlin, 09.04.1876)

Spanish translation & annotations


Berlin, 1876 April 9

My dearest mother,

I am a poor letter writer and not very fond of boring my friends with my vague scrawls; but I love so much to get your letters that I must write if only to say that. It is interesting to be in Germany again after France. Far be it from me to pretend to understand these foreign peoples but I seem to get a further glimmer of what the Germans really are from contrasting them with the French. What strikes me most is their dense stupidity. The French are wonderfully intelligent & the Germans very much the reverse. Slow and dull. I went today to the new


National-Gallerie. I don’t often waste my time upon such amusements I assure you. It is a collection of modern German pictures & is considered a very fine one. Contrasting it with the collection of modern French pictures in the Luxembourg, which is certainly rather poor, one is so impressed with the toil the poor Germans have had to achieve something so very inferior, so little real artistic genius have they been able to develope, that one is tempted to ask wether it is worth while for them to strive after a thing they are so manifestly unfitted for. In fact I came away pondering whether it had been well for human culture that the Germans had been so passionately national. Wouldn’t they have done better to be content to follow after France as they began by doing. I wouldn’t presume to say or even think so but


such were the ideas which a survey of German art in one department suggested to my mind. The Gemans represent Industry and are a singular example of what dull plodding can do. I really don’t know what the English & Americans are thinking just now about the French & Germans but in five years from now I think the Germans will be held up to us as a signal example of a nation which has gone wrong & the French as one which has gone right. I don’t mean to say I think such a judgment will be just. But I feel convinced that Germany has got to change her courses, give up this large army & have one a good deal smaller than France & change her tone & draw in her horns. On the other hand, the Republic in five years will be acknowledged a settled thing & a permanency in France. It is astonishing


what nonsense is talked about it. I admit the Assembly are disgracing themselves but I always said they would, before the elections. It is just what I expected. Still on the whole they will be found not so frightfully Jacobin, I think.

I confess the Emperor here interests me very much. He does seem to me a very wise man & I hope History will not let him be eclipsed by the brilliancy of Bismark’s greatness. They like the emperor here but they worship Bismark. He seems to me more popular than ever.

You will like to know who I see here. First there is old General Baeyer and Miss Baeyer. Genl. Baeyer I adore. He is a wonderful old fellow of about 80. He is just now brushing up his French (he has I think been more in communication with the French lately) and every


night he learns a list of words. He is a man of much force and has a certain kindliness which beams out in the most beautiful way. Miss Baeyer is as good humored as instruite as awkward and as ugly as a well brought up young German lady can well be. I like her too thoroughly. But I am in love with the old gentleman.

Förster, the director of the observatory, is a great administrator. The amount of business he contrives to get through is really astonishing. Besides carrying on the observatory, he has charge of the German Nautical Almanac, and also of the office of weights & measures which last is the most absorbing of the three. He has something extremely agreeable about


him & does everything possible for me.

These German handles to people’s names are amusing. Genl. Baeyer is not a soldier at all but he is always adressed as His Excellency & is

Lieut. Gen. Dr. Baëyer

I had occasion to write to Oppolzer of Vienna the other day and directed the letter to


Den Königlicher Kaiserlicher Regierungs Rath

Herrn. Professor Dr. Ritter von Oppolzer

He is a young man not much older than I am & don’t knock you down at all by his appearance.

Another pleasant acquaintance is my German teacher a young lady who gives me a daily hour for a very small sum and is prettier than I supposed any Berlinerian could be. She has two inseparable friends, one is an unmarried German lady



of near forty, who always interests me. To describe her I might say she was like Zina if you take away from Zina her superior qualities and make her only an interesting & peculiar person but make her rather weak than strong in her upper story. She has none of Zina’s ideas, but a good deal of her temperament and of some qualities which I know & care for but which perhaps other people don’t fully see the beauty of. Anyway there is something about her which makes me like to see her. The third young lady is English & she don’t interest me. There you have pretty much the list of everybody but Farquhar etc. whom I frequently see.

If you know of anybody who is coming abroad and is afraid they will have have too much time to spend in Galleries & the like


I wish you would just advice them to print a book on photometry en voyage & see if that don’t occupied their iddle minutes a little. When it is done nothing shall ever tempt me to undertake anything at all outside my Coast Survey work to which I will stick & which I will reduce to a practicable shape too.

Among all my faults there is none of which the folly presents itself to me in a stronger light than that of undertaking speculative & scientific work beyond what it is my immediate duty to do. I will leave that for men whose brains weigh more than mine do. If I was ambitious there might be some excuse for me but as I don’t care a snap for anything of that sort I will give up that nonsense. My book is rather a foolish one too. It has been too much worked up & elaborated.

With love to Father, Aunt Lizzie, Jim, Bert, Helen, Will, Aunt Margaret, Aunt Anna & all. I remain,

Your very loving


My address remains Care of

Messrs. McCulloch & Co.

41 Lombard St.



Please send this letter to Zina



Traducción de Sara Barrena (2014)
Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores transcripciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a sbarrena@unav.es
Proyecto de investigación "Charles S. Peirce en Europa (1875-76): comunidad científica y correspondencia" (MCI: FFI2011-24340)

Fecha del documento: 8 de abril 2014
Última actualización: 8 de abril 2014

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