The Defier of Ghosts

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The Defier of Ghosts  (1824) 
by Friedrich August Schulze, translated by Thomas De Quincey

A partial draft translation by Thomas De Quincey of Friedrich August Schulze's "Der Gespensterläugner" first published in the Gespensterbuch (vol. 3, 1811). The deletion at the end of the final page indicates that more was translated, but the translation was not published, and no other pages of it are known to have survived.

The Defier of Ghosts.

Mr. Counsellor Gerstensaft was rela reclining in a window-seat, having just finished his sixth pipe, and was considering with himself—what a great man the world had lost in himself: “Or perhaps not lost!” said he. Grant thatIf Ruhethal, his birth-place, werewas blind to his merits,—Ruhehthal was a dark ignor poor—ignorant—benighted town. All pla towns were not like Ruhethal: there were towns that of a very different descriptioncharacter; for instance Klatschausen a—a town in the highest degree enlightened; “a truly discriminating town!” exclaimed he; for there only had Mr. Counsellor Gerstensatft met with any success in his profession. So much indeed, that the corporation had given him hopes that that on the ensuing of electing him their Recorder on: and the late record Recorder’s widow had given him hopes of a still more flattering to his heartfeeling.——The day of election, as the Almanack informed him, must by this time have passed: and he was just a breath beginning to “make his moan” on the tardiness of the Post-Officer, when he heard the sound of a horse’s hoofs and his name own name loudly pronounced in the street;;—“which was the house of Mr. Counsellor Gerstensaft?” The nextIn the same moment after the rider dis horseman dismounted, ran up the steps, and rang the bell. Every heavy boots of a courier were heard clattering up the steps, and the door-bell rang out an alarum of joyous agitation to the Counsellor’s hopesheart. His hopes were not decievedconfirmed: it was anIt was an express d from the town-council of Klatschhausen, announcing to him histo his elect appointment to the Recordership—and conveying the general congratulations of the corporation, and withtheir their wishes the general expression of their wishes that he would soon arrive to take up his abode amongst them.

The last day of his residence in Ruhethal had at length arrived; and from the top-most window of his house Mr. Recorder threw down a looks of indulgent tender pity upon the poor infatuated town that lay ben beneath him. “Poor erring place!” said he; most certainly as the Horation Flaccus observed Quos deus vult perdere, prius dementat. But bitterly I shall be avenged. Soon, too soon (I fear), will Ruhethal be taught to know be taught—whom it is that she has lost in losing me. But who will pity her? For when did she show any reverence for my counsels? (illegible text) Have I Have I not in vain for Ruhethal insisted on (illegible text) propounded my theory on great political project for the domestic culture of coffeetobacco? (illegible text) nay my greater project for that ofthe tobacco? Nay, my greatest of all—for the total extirpation of ghosts? Have I ever ceased to wage war upon superstition? Has not the Weekly Advertiser carried my lessons on this to the very ends of Germany; and doubtless with the brilliant effect? But, as far as this Ruhethal is concerned, what has come of it? AbsolutelyWhy nothing: not a soul in the place pay any heed to my wordsthem: ghosts are as plenty as ever. But bitterly shall I now be avenged terribly shall the Klatschhausen Gazetteer avenge me: and it shall now be shown what consequencea weight in the (illegible text) scale of illumination even small states (illegible text) may attain when great men stand at their head!”

Here his soliloquy was not unpleasantly interrupted by the sound of the rattling of a the post-chaise which was to ca bear him from his ungrateful countryaway to the scene of his future gloriestriumphs. The (illegible text) door was opened; the steps were let down; and the Recorder ascended the chaise with the air of a Roman Consul mounting his (illegible text) triumphal car. But more mortification pursued him to the last. To With a magnificent air he said to the man with whom he had lodged—“that he should not forget him; that he could assure him that he should continue to extend his favor to and countenance to him; and might even find a time to write him a few lines.” Painful it was to observe the cool indifference of the brute, (illegible text) who seemed as if he would have much preferred to these this vision of honors in revision—sixpence in hand, or (s prose pudor!) a pint of ‘stout’.—On passing through the town-gate, the man on guard shewed equal ins levity of mind: “Mr. Gerstensaft, I think?” was his the easy style of his interrogation. “Mr. Recorder Gerstensalft” was the haughty indignant reply: What? is all reverence for dignities extinct in this To in this vicious town?

The postillions had spared their horses so much on the two first days of the journey, that on entering upon the last stage evening had already commenced; the stage was a long one; the road bad; (illegible text); and the Recorder soon became aware that, in order to unless he desired his jou entrance into Klatschhausen a day beyond the appointed time, he must borrow largely of the night.—Some miles they had now slowly advanced, (illegible text) the road growinggrew continually worse, plun plunging at times into dark lanes, and at timesonly to emerging upon dreary tracts of heath; the light was fast decaying; and at length the last gleam of had vanished from streaks long slips of light had faded from in the western skyin the horizon. The Recorder could not see his own hand; and he began to have some uneasy thoughts; for, though a great man and a defier of ghosts, he was mortal mortal—as well as Philip of Macedon.

“I say, driver, (illegible text)” demanded the Recording Recorder, letting down one of the Frontfront glasses,—“I say driver driver,—do you consider these this road quite safe?—These lanes now, and these wild-looking heaths,—is there no danger in them: (illegible text) eh eh,aye, boy? what do you think, boy?”

The “boy”, who was a young gentleman of sixty odd, scratched his head—thenthen cleared his throat—then spat—then again cleared his throat, and finally replied by thisa question: “What was it your worship said?”

“What was it I said, boy? Why I say, boy, what sort of roads are these ? that we are coming upon for the next sixteen miles?

“Why thereafter as they be, your honor.”

“Well, is that bad or good?”

“Why so so, your worship. Some journeystimes we stick fast a dozen times; other some a score of times; other some two score: it’s all luck, your honor; all luck. nothing at all but luck.”

“Well; but now in other aspects,—you understand me me, boy,—what sort of character do these roads bearhave they? Pretty good,—ah?”

“Oh, very bad, your worship; very bad character; shocking character, your worship.”

“You don’t say so, boy? You don’t say so?—But why didn’t you tell me before I set off? By But I say, boy, do you know know what I mean? Are there their there ever any footpads seen on these roads—any highwaymen—robbers, or what is it you call ’em?”

“Oh Lord, your honor, plenty plenty; according to season, plenty: of a clear night I’ve seen ’em stand behind the hedges as rank as blackberries.”

“Is it possible?”

“Aye sure enough: but we don’t call un’em robbers in these parts: we call un murderers, if it please your worship.”

Why“Murderer! Why, boy, surely you’re dreaming. You don’t mean to say that they ever go so far as to kill people?”

“Why ax any body, your honor. Aye Kill? Aye: kills and cuts their throats.Yes, yes: on dark winter nights, the like of this, many’s the throat that has been cut in these lanes since I can think on. Else, what’s the meaning of the gibbets that we stand a mile futher on; and the nine pretty scoundrelsgentlemen that are dancing upon nothing to the music of their own chains? Egad, I hear ’em now. But there’s an ugly bit of road, two miles ahead, where your honor may chance to see something worse.”

“Worse!, what c boy!—what can be worse?”

“Why ghosts “Boggarts, your honor.”

“Boggarts! what are boggarts? I never heard of such things?.”

“Ghosts, and please your worship.” “The gentlemen on the gibbets were

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.