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Mark Twain > A Tramp Abroad > Appendix

A Tramp Abroad


APPENDIX ----------

Nothing gives such weight and dignity to a book
as an Appendix. HERODOTUS

The Portier

Omar Khay'am, the poet-prophet of Persia, writing more
than eight hundred years ago, has said:

"In the four parts of the earth are many that are able
to write learned books, many that are able to lead armies,
and many also that are able to govern kingdoms and empires;
but few there be that can keep a hotel."

A word about the European hotel PORTIER. He is a most
admirable invention, a most valuable convenience.
He always wears a conspicuous uniform; he can always
be found when he is wanted, for he sticks closely to
his post at the front door; he is as polite as a duke;
he speaks from four to ten languages; he is your surest
help and refuge in time of trouble or perplexity.
He is not the clerk, he is not the landlord; he ranks above
the clerk, and represents the landlord, who is seldom seen.
Instead of going to the clerk for information, as we do at home,
you go to the portier. It is the pride of our average
hotel clerk to know nothing whatever; it is the pride
of the portier to know everything. You ask the portier
at what hours the trains leave--he tells you instantly;
or you ask him who is the best physician in town; or what
is the hack tariff; or how many children the mayor has;
or what days the galleries are open, and whether a permit
is required, and where you are to get it, and what you
must pay for it; or when the theaters open and close,
what the plays are to be, and the price of seats;
or what is the newest thing in hats; or how the bills
of mortality average; or "who struck Billy Patterson."
It does not matter what you ask him: in nine cases
out of ten he knows, and in the tenth case he will find
out for you before you can turn around three times.
There is nothing he will not put his hand to. Suppose you
tell him you wish to go from Hamburg to Peking by the way
of Jericho, and are ignorant of routes and prices--
the next morning he will hand you a piece of paper with
the whole thing worked out on it to the last detail.
Before you have been long on European soil, you find
yourself still SAYING you are relying on Providence,
but when you come to look closer you will see that in reality
you are relying on the portier. He discovers what is
puzzling you, or what is troubling you, or what your need is,
before you can get the half of it out, and he promptly says,
"Leave that to me." Consequently, you easily drift into
the habit of leaving everything to him. There is a certain
embarrassment about applying to the average American
hotel clerk, a certain hesitancy, a sense of insecurity
against rebuff; but you feel no embarrassment in your
intercourse with the portier; he receives your propositions
with an enthusiasm which cheers, and plunges into their
accomplishment with an alacrity which almost inebriates.
The more requirements you can pile upon him, the better he
likes it. Of course the result is that you cease from doing
anything for yourself. He calls a hack when you want one;
puts you into it; tells the driver whither to take you;
receives you like a long-lost child when you return;
sends you about your business, does all the quarreling
with the hackman himself, and pays him his money out
of his own pocket. He sends for your theater tickets,
and pays for them; he sends for any possible article
you can require, be it a doctor, an elephant, or a
postage stamp; and when you leave, at last, you will
find a subordinate seated with the cab-driver who will
put you in your railway compartment, buy your tickets,
have your baggage weighed, bring you the printed tags,
and tell you everything is in your bill and paid for.
At home you get such elaborate, excellent, and willing
service as this only in the best hotels of our large cities;
but in Europe you get it in the mere back country-towns just
as well.

What is the secret of the portier's devotion? It is
very simple: he gets FEES, AND NO SALARY. His fee
is pretty closely regulated, too. If you stay a week,
you give him five marks--a dollar and a quarter, or about
eighteen cents a day. If you stay a month, you reduce
this average somewhat. If you stay two or three months
or longer, you cut it down half, or even more than half.
If you stay only one day, you give the portier a mark.

The head waiter's fee is a shade less than the portier's;
the Boots, who not only blacks your boots and brushes
your clothes, but is usually the porter and handles your
baggage, gets a somewhat smaller fee than the head waiter;
the chambermaid's fee ranks below that of the Boots.
You fee only these four, and no one else. A German
gentleman told me that when he remained a week in a hotel,
he gave the portier five marks, the head waiter four,
the Boots three, and the chambermaid two; and if he
stayed three months he divided ninety marks among them,
in about the above proportions. Ninety marks make

None of these fees are ever paid until you leave the hotel,
though it be a year--except one of these four servants
should go away in the mean time; in that case he will
be sure to come and bid you good-by and give you the
opportunity to pay him what is fairly coming to him.
It is considered very bad policy to fee a servant while you
are still to remain longer in the hotel, because if you
gave him too little he might neglect you afterward,
and if you gave him too much he might neglect somebody
else to attend to you. It is considered best to keep his
expectations "on a string" until your stay is concluded.

I do not know whether hotel servants in New York get any
wages or not, but I do know that in some of the hotels there
the feeing system in vogue is a heavy burden. The waiter
expects a quarter at breakfast--and gets it. You have
a different waiter at luncheon, and so he gets a quarter.
Your waiter at dinner is another stranger--consequently
he gets a quarter. The boy who carries your satchel
to your room and lights your gas fumbles around and hangs
around significantly, and you fee him to get rid of him.
Now you may ring for ice-water; and ten minutes later
for a lemonade; and ten minutes afterward, for a cigar;
and by and by for a newspaper--and what is the result? Why,
a new boy has appeared every time and fooled and fumbled
around until you have paid him something. Suppose you
boldly put your foot down, and say it is the hotel's
business to pay its servants? You will have to ring your
bell ten or fifteen times before you get a servant there;
and when he goes off to fill your order you will grow old
and infirm before you see him again. You may struggle nobly
for twenty-four hours, maybe, if you are an adamantine
sort of person, but in the mean time you will have been
so wretchedly served, and so insolently, that you will
haul down your colors, and go to impoverishing yourself
with fees.

It seems to me that it would be a happy idea to import
the European feeing system into America. I believe it
would result in getting even the bells of the Philadelphia
hotels answered, and cheerful service rendered.

The greatest American hotels keep a number of clerks
and a cashier, and pay them salaries which mount up
to a considerable total in the course of a year.
The great continental hotels keep a cashier on a trifling
salary, and a portier WHO PAYS THE HOTEL A SALARY.
By the latter system both the hotel and the public
save money and are better served than by our system.
One of our consuls told me that a portier of a great Berlin
hotel paid five thousand dollars a year for his position,
and yet cleared six thousand dollars for himself.
The position of portier in the chief hotels of Saratoga,
Long Branch, New York, and similar centers of resort,
would be one which the holder could afford to pay even more
than five thousand dollars for, perhaps.

When we borrowed the feeing fashion from Europe a dozen
years ago, the salary system ought to have been discontinued,
of course. We might make this correction now, I should think.
And we might add the portier, too. Since I first began
to study the portier, I have had opportunities to observe
him in the chief cities of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy;
and the more I have seen of him the more I have wished
that he might be adopted in America, and become there,
as he is in Europe, the stranger's guardian angel.

Yes, what was true eight hundred years ago, is just
as true today: "Few there be that can keep a hotel."
Perhaps it is because the landlords and their subordinates
have in too many cases taken up their trade without first
learning it. In Europe the trade of hotel-keeper is taught.
The apprentice begins at the bottom of the ladder
and masters the several grades one after the other.
Just as in our country printing-offices the apprentice
first learns how to sweep out and bring water;
then learns to "roll"; then to sort "pi"; then to set type;
and finally rounds and completes his education with
job-work and press-work; so the landlord-apprentice serves
as call-boy; then as under-waiter; then as a parlor waiter;
then as head waiter, in which position he often has
to make out all the bills; then as clerk or cashier;
then as portier. His trade is learned now, and by and
by he will assume the style and dignity of landlord,
and be found conducting a hotel of his own.

Now in Europe, the same as in America, when a man has
kept a hotel so thoroughly well during a number of years
as to give it a great reputation, he has his reward.
He can live prosperously on that reputation. He can let
his hotel run down to the last degree of shabbiness and
yet have it full of people all the time. For instance,
there is the Ho^tel de Ville, in Milan. It swarms with mice
and fleas, and if the rest of the world were destroyed
it could furnish dirt enough to start another one with.
The food would create an insurrection in a poorhouse;
and yet if you go outside to get your meals that hotel
makes up its loss by overcharging you on all sorts
of trifles--and without making any denials or excuses
about it, either. But the Ho^tel de Ville's old excellent
reputation still keeps its dreary rooms crowded with travelers
who would be elsewhere if they had only some wise friend
to warn them.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle must have been very beautiful before
the French battered and bruised and scorched it two hundred
years ago. The stone is brown, with a pinkish tint,
and does not seem to stain easily. The dainty and elaborate
ornamentation upon its two chief fronts is as delicately
carved as if it had been intended for the interior of a
drawing-room rather than for the outside of a house.
Many fruit and flower clusters, human heads and grim
projecting lions' heads are still as perfect in every detail
as if they were new. But the statues which are ranked
between the windows have suffered. These are life-size
statues of old-time emperors, electors, and similar
grandees, clad in mail and bearing ponderous swords.
Some have lost an arm, some a head, and one poor fellow
is chopped off at the middle. There is a saying that if
a stranger will pass over the drawbridge and walk across
the court to the castle front without saying anything,
he can made a wish and it will be fulfilled. But they
say that the truth of this thing has never had a chance
to be proved, for the reason that before any stranger can
walk from the drawbridge to the appointed place, the beauty
of the palace front will extort an exclamation of delight from

A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective.
This one could not have been better placed. It stands
upon a commanding elevation, it is buried in green words,
there is no level ground about it, but, on the contrary,
there are wooded terraces upon terraces, and one looks
down through shining leaves into profound chasms and
abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.
Nature knows how to garnish a ruin to get the best effect.
One of these old towers is split down the middle, and one
half has tumbled aside. It tumbled in such a way as to
establish itself in a picturesque attitude. Then all it
lacked was a fitting drapery, and Nature has furnished that;
she has robed the rugged mass in flowers and verdure,
and made it a charm to the eye. The standing half
exposes its arched and cavernous rooms to you, like open,
toothless mouths; there, too, the vines and flowers have
done their work of grace. The rear portion of the tower
has not been neglected, either, but is clothed with a
clinging garment of polished ivy which hides the wounds
and stains of time. Even the top is not left bare, but is
crowned with a flourishing group of trees and shrubs.
Misfortune has done for this old tower what it has done
for the human character sometimes--improved it.

A gentleman remarked, one day, that it might have been
fine to live in the castle in the day of its prime,
but that we had one advantage which its vanished
inhabitants lacked--the advantage of having a charming
ruin to visit and muse over. But that was a hasty idea.
Those people had the advantage of US. They had the fine
castle to live in, and they could cross the Rhine valley
and muse over the stately ruin of Trifels besides.
The Trifels people, in their day, five hundred years ago,
could go and muse over majestic ruins that have vanished,
now, to the last stone. There have always been ruins,
no doubt; and there have always been pensive people to sigh
over them, and asses to scratch upon them their names
and the important date of their visit. Within a hundred
years after Adam left Eden, the guide probably gave
the usual general flourish with his hand and said: "Place
where the animals were named, ladies and gentlemen;
place where the tree of the forbidden fruit stood;
exact spot where Adam and Eve first met; and here,
ladies and gentlemen, adorned and hallowed by the names
and addresses of three generations of tourists, we have
the crumbling remains of Cain's altar--fine old ruin!"
Then, no doubt, he taxed them a shekel apiece and let
them go.

An illumination of Heidelberg Castle is one of the
sights of Europe. The Castle's picturesque shape;
its commanding situation, midway up the steep and
wooded mountainside; its vast size--these features combine
to make an illumination a most effective spectacle.
It is necessarily an expensive show, and consequently
rather infrequent. Therefore whenever one of these exhibitions
is to take place, the news goes about in the papers and
Heidelberg is sure to be full of people on that night.
I and my agent had one of these opportunities, and improved it.

About half past seven on the appointed evening we
crossed the lower bridge, with some American students,
in a pouring rain, and started up the road which borders
the Neunheim side of the river. This roadway was densely
packed with carriages and foot-passengers; the former
of all ages, and the latter of all ages and both sexes.
This black and solid mass was struggling painfully onward,
through the slop, the darkness, and the deluge.
We waded along for three-quarters of a mile, and finally
took up a position in an unsheltered beer-garden directly
opposite the Castle. We could not SEE the Castle--or
anything else, for that matter--but we could dimly
discern the outlines of the mountain over the way,
through the pervading blackness, and knew whereabouts
the Castle was located. We stood on one of the hundred
benches in the garden, under our umbrellas; the other
ninety-nine were occupied by standing men and women,
and they also had umbrellas. All the region round about,
and up and down the river-road, was a dense wilderness of
humanity hidden under an unbroken pavement of carriage tops
and umbrellas. Thus we stood during two drenching hours.
No rain fell on my head, but the converging whalebone
points of a dozen neighboring umbrellas poured little
cooling steams of water down my neck, and sometimes into
my ears, and thus kept me from getting hot and impatient.
I had the rheumatism, too, and had heard that this was
good for it. Afterward, however, I was led to believe
that the water treatment is NOT good for rheumatism.
There were even little girls in that dreadful place.
A men held one in his arms, just in front of me, for as much
as an hour, with umbrella-drippings soaking into her clothing
all the time.

In the circumstances, two hours was a good while for us
to have to wait, but when the illumination did at last come,
we felt repaid. It came unexpectedly, of course--things
always do, that have been long looked and longed for.
With a perfectly breath-taking suddenness several mast
sheaves of varicolored rockets were vomited skyward out
of the black throats of the Castle towers, accompanied by
a thundering crash of sound, and instantly every detail of
the prodigious ruin stood revealed against the mountainside
and glowing with an almost intolerable splendor of fire
and color. For some little time the whole building was
a blinding crimson mass, the towers continued to spout
thick columns of rockets aloft, and overhead the sky
was radiant with arrowy bolts which clove their way to
the zenith, paused, curved gracefully downward, then burst
into brilliant fountain-sprays of richly colored sparks.
The red fires died slowly down, within the Castle,
and presently the shell grew nearly black outside;
the angry glare that shone out through the broken arches
and innumerable sashless windows, now, reproduced the
aspect which the Castle must have borne in the old time
when the French spoilers saw the monster bonfire which
they had made there fading and spoiling toward extinction.

While we still gazed and enjoyed, the ruin was suddenly
enveloped in rolling and rumbling volumes of vaporous
green fire; then in dazzling purple ones; then a mixture
of many colors followed, then drowned the great fabric
in its blended splendors. Meantime the nearest bridge
had been illuminated, and from several rafts anchored
in the river, meteor showers of rockets, Roman candles,
bombs, serpents, and Catharine wheels were being discharged
in wasteful profusion into the sky--a marvelous sight indeed
to a person as little used to such spectacles as I was.
For a while the whole region about us seemed as bright as day,
and yet the rain was falling in torrents all the time.
The evening's entertainment presently closed, and we
joined the innumerable caravan of half-drowned strangers,
and waded home again.

The Castle grounds are very ample and very beautiful;
and as they joined the Hotel grounds, with no fences
to climb, but only some nobly shaded stone stairways
to descend, we spent a part of nearly every day in
idling through their smooth walks and leafy groves.
There was an attractive spot among the trees where were
a great many wooden tables and benches; and there one could
sit in the shade and pretend to sip at his foamy beaker
of beer while he inspected the crowd. I say pretend,
because I only pretended to sip, without really sipping.
That is the polite way; but when you are ready to go,
you empty the beaker at a draught. There was a brass band,
and it furnished excellent music every afternoon.
Sometimes so many people came that every seat was occupied,
every table filled. And never a rough in the assemblace--all
nicely dressed fathers and mothers, young gentlemen
and ladies and children; and plenty of university
students and glittering officers; with here and there
a gray professor, or a peaceful old lady with her knitting;
and always a sprinkling of gawky foreigners.
Everybody had his glass of beer before him, or his cup
of coffee, or his bottle of wine, or his hot cutlet
and potatoes; young ladies chatted, or fanned themselves,
or wrought at their crocheting or embroidering;
the students fed sugar to their dogs, or discussed duels,
or illustrated new fencing tricks with their little canes;
and everywhere was comfort and enjoyment, and everywhere
peace and good-will to men. The trees were jubilant
with birds, and the paths with rollicking children.
One could have a seat in that place and plenty of music,
any afternoon, for about eight cents, or a family ticket
for the season for two dollars.

For a change, when you wanted one, you could stroll
to the Castle, and burrow among its dungeons, or climb
about its ruined towers, or visit its interior shows--the
great Heidelberg Tun, for instance. Everybody has heard
of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it,
no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some
traditions say it holds eighteen thousand bottles, and other
traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels.
I think it likely that one of these statements is
a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere
matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence,
since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty,
history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could
excite but little emotion in me. I do not see any wisdom
in building a monster cask to hoard up emptiness in,
when you can get a better quality, outside, any day,
free of expense. What could this cask have been
built for? The more one studies over that, the more
uncertain and unhappy he becomes. Some historians say
that thirty couples, some say thirty thousand couples,
can dance on the head of this cask at the same time.
Even this does not seem to me to account for the building
of it. It does not even throw light on it. A profound
and scholarly Englishman--a specialist--who had made
the great Heidelberg Tun his sole study for fifteen years,
told me he had at last satisfied himself that the ancients
built it to make German cream in. He said that the average
German cow yielded from one to two and half teaspoons of milk,
when she was not worked in the plow or the hay-wagon
more than eighteen or nineteen hours a day. This milk
was very sweet and good, and a beautiful transparent
bluish tint; but in order to get cream from it in the
most economical way, a peculiar process was necessary.
Now he believed that the habit of the ancients was to collect
several milkings in a teacup, pour it into the Great Tun,
fill up with water, and then skim off the cream from
time to time as the needs of the German Empire demanded.

This began to look reasonable. It certainly began
to account for the German cream which I had encountered
and marveled over in so many hotels and restaurants.
But a thought struck me--

"Why did not each ancient dairyman take his own teacup
of milk and his own cask of water, and mix them,
without making a government matter of it?'

"Where could he get a cask large enough to contain
the right proportion of water?"

Very true. It was plain that the Englishman had studied
the matter from all sides. Still I thought I might catch
him on one point; so I asked him why the modern empire
did not make the nation's cream in the Heidelberg Tun,
instead of leaving it to rot away unused. But he answered
as one prepared--

"A patient and diligent examination of the modern German cream
had satisfied me that they do not use the Great Tun now,
because they have got a BIGGER one hid away somewhere.
Either that is the case or they empty the spring milkings
into the mountain torrents and then skim the Rhine
all summer."

There is a museum of antiquities in the Castle, and among
its most treasured relics are ancient manuscripts connected
with German history. There are hundreds of these,
and their dates stretch back through many centuries.
One of them is a decree signed and sealed by the hand
of a successor of Charlemagne, in the year 896.
A signature made by a hand which vanished out of this life
near a thousand years ago, is a more impressive thing than
even a ruined castle. Luther's wedding-ring was shown me;
also a fork belonging to a time anterior to our era,
and an early bookjack. And there was a plaster cast
of the head of a man who was assassinated about sixty
years ago. The stab-wounds in the face were duplicated
with unpleasant fidelity. One or two real hairs
still remained sticking in the eyebrows of the cast.
That trifle seemed to almost change the counterfeit into
a corpse.

There are many aged portraits--some valuable, some worthless;
some of great interest, some of none at all. I bought a
couple--one a gorgeous duke of the olden time, and the other
a comely blue-eyed damsel, a princess, maybe. I bought
them to start a portrait-gallery of my ancestors with.
I paid a dollar and a half for the duke and a half
for the princess. One can lay in ancestors at even
cheaper rates than these, in Europe, if he will mouse
among old picture shops and look out for chances.

The College Prison

It seems that the student may break a good many of the public
laws without having to answer to the public authorities.
His case must come before the University for trial
and punishment. If a policeman catches him in an unlawful
act and proceeds to arrest him, the offender proclaims that
he is a student, and perhaps shows his matriculation card,
whereupon the officer asks for his address, then goes
his way, and reports the matter at headquarters. If the
offense is one over which the city has no jurisdiction,
the authorities report the case officially to the University,
and give themselves no further concern about it.
The University court send for the student, listen to
the evidence, and pronounce judgment. The punishment
usually inflicted is imprisonment in the University prison.
As I understand it, a student's case is often tried
without his being present at all. Then something
like this happens: A constable in the service of the
University visits the lodgings of the said student,
knocks, is invited to come in, does so, and says politely--

"If you please, I am here to conduct you to prison."

"Ah," says the student, "I was not expecting it.
What have I been doing?"

"Two weeks ago the public peace had the honor to be
disturbed by you."

"It is true; I had forgotten it. Very well: I have been
complained of, tried, and found guilty--is that it?"

"Exactly. You are sentenced to two days' solitary confinement
in the College prison, and I am sent to fetch you."

STUDENT. "O, I can't go today."

OFFICER. "If you please--why?"

STUDENT. "Because I've got an engagement."

OFFICER. "Tomorrow, then, perhaps?"

STUDENT. "No, I am going to the opera, tomorrow."

OFFICER. "Could you come Friday?"

STUDENT. (Reflectively.) "Let me see--Friday--Friday.
I don't seem to have anything on hand Friday."

OFFICER. "Then, if you please, I will expect you on Friday."

STUDENT. "All right, I'll come around Friday."

OFFICER. "Thank you. Good day, sir."

STUDENT. "Good day."

So on Friday the student goes to the prison of his
own accord, and is admitted.

It is questionable if the world's criminal history can
show a custom more odd than this. Nobody knows, now,
how it originated. There have always been many noblemen
among the students, and it is presumed that all students
are gentlemen; in the old times it was usual to mar
the convenience of such folk as little as possible;
perhaps this indulgent custom owes its origin to this.

One day I was listening to some conversation upon this
subject when an American student said that for some time he
had been under sentence for a slight breach of the peace
and had promised the constable that he would presently
find an unoccupied day and betake himself to prison.
I asked the young gentleman to do me the kindness to go
to jail as soon as he conveniently could, so that I might
try to get in there and visit him, and see what college
captivity was like. He said he would appoint the very
first day he could spare.

His confinement was to endure twenty-four hours. He shortly
chose his day, and sent me word. I started immediately.
When I reached the University Place, I saw two gentlemen
talking together, and, as they had portfolios under
their arms, I judged they were tutors or elderly students;
so I asked them in English to show me the college jail.
I had learned to take it for granted that anybody in Germany
who knows anything, knows English, so I had stopped
afflicting people with my German. These gentlemen seemed
a trifle amused--and a trifle confused, too--but one
of them said he would walk around the corner with me
and show me the place. He asked me why I wanted to get
in there, and I said to see a friend--and for curiosity.
He doubted if I would be admitted, but volunteered to put
in a word or two for me with the custodian.

He rang the bell, a door opened, and we stepped into a paved
way and then up into a small living-room, where we were
received by a hearty and good-natured German woman of fifty.
She threw up her hands with a surprised "ACH GOTT,
HERR PROFESSOR!" and exhibited a mighty deference for my
new acquaintance. By the sparkle in her eye I judged
she was a good deal amused, too. The "Herr Professor"
talked to her in German, and I understood enough of it
to know that he was bringing very plausible reasons to bear
for admitting me. They were successful. So the Herr
Professor received my earnest thanks and departed.
The old dame got her keys, took me up two or three flights
of stairs, unlocked a door, and we stood in the presence
of the criminal. Then she went into a jolly and eager
description of all that had occurred downstairs, and what
the Herr Professor had said, and so forth and so on.
Plainly, she regarded it as quite a superior joke that I had
waylaid a Professor and employed him in so odd a service.
But I wouldn't have done it if I had known he was a Professor;
therefore my conscience was not disturbed.

Now the dame left us to ourselves. The cell was not a roomy one;
still it was a little larger than an ordinary prison cell.
It had a window of good size, iron-grated; a small stove;
two wooden chairs; two oaken tables, very old and
most elaborately carved with names, mottoes, faces,
armorial bearings, etc.--the work of several generations
of imprisoned students; and a narrow wooden bedstead
with a villainous straw mattress, but no sheets, pillows,
blankets, or coverlets--for these the student must furnish
at his own cost if he wants them. There was no carpet, of

The ceiling was completely covered with names, dates,
and monograms, done with candle-smoke. The walls were
thickly covered with pictures and portraits (in profile),
some done with ink, some with soot, some with a pencil,
and some with red, blue, and green chalks; and whenever
an inch or two of space had remained between the pictures,
the captives had written plaintive verses, or names
and dates. I do not think I was ever in a more elaborately
frescoed apartment.

Against the wall hung a placard containing the prison laws.
I made a note of one or two of these. For instance:
The prisoner must pay, for the "privilege" of entering,
a sum equivalent to 20 cents of our money; for the privilege
of leaving, when his term had expired, 20 cents; for every
day spent in the prison, 12 cents; for fire and light,
12 cents a day. The jailer furnishes coffee, mornings,
for a small sum; dinners and suppers may be ordered
from outside if the prisoner chooses--and he is allowed
to pay for them, too.

Here and there, on the walls, appeared the names
of American students, and in one place the American
arms and motto were displayed in colored chalks.

With the help of my friend I translated many of the inscriptions.

Some of them were cheerful, others the reverse.
I will give the reader a few specimens:

"In my tenth semester (my best one), I am cast here
through the complaints of others. Let those who follow
me take warning."

he had a curiosity to know what prison life was like;
so he made a breach in some law and got three days for it.
It is more than likely that he never had the same
curiosity again.

(TRANSLATION.) "E. Glinicke, four days for being too eager
a spectator of a row."

"F. Graf Bismarck--27-29, II, '74." Which means that
Count Bismarck, son of the great statesman, was a prisoner
two days in 1874.

(TRANSLATION.) "R. Diergandt--for Love--4 days."
Many people in this world have caught it heavier than
for the same indiscretion.

This one is terse. I translate:

the sufferer had explained a little more fully.
A four-week term is a rather serious matter.

There were many uncomplimentary references, on the walls,
to a certain unpopular dignitary. One sufferer had got
three days for not saluting him. Another had "here two days
slept and three nights lain awake," on account of this
same "Dr. K." In one place was a picture of Dr. K. hanging
on a gallows.

Here and there, lonesome prisoners had eased the heavy time
by altering the records left by predecessors. Leaving the
name standing, and the date and length of the captivity,
they had erased the description of the misdemeanor,
and written in its place, in staring capitals, "FOR THEFT!"
or "FOR MURDER!" or some other gaudy crime. In one place,
all by itself, stood this blood-curdling word:

"Rache!" [1]

1. "Revenge!"

There was no name signed, and no date. It was an
inscription well calculated to pique curiosity.
One would greatly like to know the nature of the wrong
that had been done, and what sort of vengeance was wanted,
and whether the prisoner ever achieved it or not.
But there was no way of finding out these things.

Occasionally, a name was followed simply by the remark,
"II days, for disturbing the peace," and without comment
upon the justice or injustice of the sentence.

In one place was a hilarious picture of a student of the
green cap corps with a bottle of champagne in each hand;
and below was the legend: "These make an evil fate endurable."

There were two prison cells, and neither had space left on
walls or ceiling for another name or portrait or picture.
The inside surfaces of the two doors were completely
covered with CARTES DE VISITE of former prisoners,
ingeniously let into the wood and protected from dirt
and injury by glass.

I very much wanted one of the sorry old tables which
the prisoners had spent so many years in ornamenting
with their pocket-knives, but red tape was in the way.
The custodian could not sell one without an order from
a superior; and that superior would have to get it from
HIS superior; and this one would have to get it from
a higher one--and so on up and up until the faculty
should sit on the matter and deliver final judgment.
The system was right, and nobody could find fault with it;
but it did not seem justifiable to bother so many people,
so I proceeded no further. It might have cost me more than
I could afford, anyway; for one of those prison tables,
which was at the time in a private museum in Heidelberg,
was afterward sold at auction for two hundred and fifty dollars.
It was not worth more than a dollar, or possibly a dollar
and half, before the captive students began their work
on it. Persons who saw it at the auction said it was
so curiously and wonderfully carved that it was worth
the money that was paid for it.

Among them many who have tasted the college prison's
dreary hospitality was a lively young fellow from one
of the Southern states of America, whose first year's
experience of German university life was rather peculiar.
The day he arrived in Heidelberg he enrolled his name
on the college books, and was so elated with the fact
that his dearest hope had found fruition and he was
actually a student of the old and renowned university,
that he set to work that very night to celebrate the event
by a grand lark in company with some other students.
In the course of his lark he managed to make a wide
breach in one of the university's most stringent laws.
Sequel: before noon, next day, he was in the college
prison--booked for three months. The twelve long weeks
dragged slowly by, and the day of deliverance came at last.
A great crowd of sympathizing fellow-students received
him with a rousing demonstration as he came forth,
and of course there was another grand lark--in the course
of which he managed to make a wide breach of the CITY'S
most stringent laws. Sequel: before noon, next day,
he was safe in the city lockup--booked for three months.
This second tedious captivity drew to an end in the course
of time, and again a great crowd of sympathizing fellow
students gave him a rousing reception as he came forth;
but his delight in his freedom was so boundless that he
could not proceed soberly and calmly, but must go hopping
and skipping and jumping down the sleety street from sheer
excess of joy. Sequel: he slipped and broke his leg,
and actually lay in the hospital during the next three

When he at last became a free man again, he said he believed
he would hunt up a brisker seat of learning; the Heidelberg
lectures might be good, but the opportunities of attending
them were too rare, the educational process too slow;
he said he had come to Europe with the idea that the
acquirement of an education was only a matter of time,
but if he had averaged the Heidelberg system correctly,
it was rather a matter of eternity.

The Awful German Language

A little learning makes the whole world kin.
        --Proverbs xxxii, 7.

I went often to look at the collection of curiosities
in Heidelberg Castle, and one day I surprised the keeper
of it with my German. I spoke entirely in that language.
He was greatly interested; and after I had talked a while
he said my German was very rare, possibly a "unique";
and wanted to add it to his museum.

If he had known what it had cost me to acquire my art,
he would also have known that it would break any
collector to buy it. Harris and I had been hard at
work on our German during several weeks at that time,
and although we had made good progress, it had been
accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance,
for three of our teachers had died in the mean time.
A person who has not studied German can form no idea
of what a perplexing language it is.

Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod
and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp.
One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most
helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured
a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid
the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech,
he turns over the page and reads, "Let the pupil make
careful note of the following EXCEPTIONS." He runs his
eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the
rule than instances of it. So overboard he goes again,
to hunt for another Ararat and find another quicksand.
Such has been, and continues to be, my experience.
Every time I think I have got one of these four confusing
"cases" where I am master of it, a seemingly insignificant
preposition intrudes itself into my sentence, clothed with
an awful and unsuspected power, and crumbles the ground
from under me. For instance, my book inquires after
a certain bird--(it is always inquiring after things
which are of no sort of no consequence to anybody): "Where
is the bird?" Now the answer to this question--according
to the book--is that the bird is waiting in the blacksmith
shop on account of the rain. Of course no bird would
do that, but then you must stick to the book. Very well,
I begin to cipher out the German for that answer. I begin
at the wrong end, necessarily, for that is the German idea.
I say to myself, "REGEN (rain) is masculine--or maybe it
is feminine--or possibly neuter--it is too much trouble
to look now. Therefore, it is either DER (the) Regen,
or DIE (the) Regen, or DAS (the) Regen, according to which
gender it may turn out to be when I look. In the interest
of science, I will cipher it out on the hypothesis that it
is masculine. Very well--then THE rain is DER Regen,
if it is simply in the quiescent state of being MENTIONED,
without enlargement or discussion--Nominative case;
but if this rain is lying around, in a kind of a general
way on the ground, it is then definitely located,
it is DOING SOMETHING--that is, RESTING (which is one
of the German grammar's ideas of doing something), and
this throws the rain into the Dative case, and makes it
DEM Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is
doing something ACTIVELY,--it is falling--to interfere
with the bird, likely--and this indicates MOVEMENT,
which has the effect of sliding it into the Accusative case
and changing DEM Regen into DEN Regen." Having completed
the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer up
confidently and state in German that the bird is staying
in the blacksmith shop "wegen (on account of) DEN Regen."
Then the teacher lets me softly down with the remark
that whenever the word "wegen" drops into a sentence,
it ALWAYS throws that subject into the GENITIVE case,
regardless of consequences--and therefore this bird stayed in
the blacksmith shop "wegen DES Regens."

N.B.--I was informed, later, by a higher authority,
that there was an "exception" which permits one to say "wegen
DEN Regen" in certain peculiar and complex circumstances,
but that this exception is not extended to anything
BUT rain.

There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome.
An average sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime
and impressive curiosity; it occupies a quarter of a column;
it contains all the ten parts of speech--not in regular order,
but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructed
by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any
dictionary--six or seven words compacted into one,
without joint or seam--that is, without hyphens;
it treats of fourteen or fifteen different subjects,
each enclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and
there extra parentheses, making pens with pens: finally,
all the parentheses and reparentheses are massed together
between a couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed
in the first line of the majestic sentence and the other
in the middle of the last line of it--AFTER WHICH COMES
THE VERB, and you find out for the first time what the man
has been talking about; and after the verb--merely by way
of ornament, as far as I can make out--the writer shovels
or words to that effect, and the monument is finished.
I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature of the
flourish to a man's signature--not necessary, but pretty.
German books are easy enough to read when you hold them
before the looking-glass or stand on your head--so as
to reverse the construction--but I think that to learn
to read and understand a German newspaper is a thing
which must always remain an impossibility to a foreigner.

Yet even the German books are not entirely free from attacks
of the Parenthesis distemper--though they are usually so mild
as to cover only a few lines, and therefore when you at
last get down to the verb it carries some meaning to your
mind because you are able to remember a good deal of what
has gone before. Now here is a sentence from a popular
and excellent German novel--which a slight parenthesis
in it. I will make a perfectly literal translation,
and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens
for the assistance of the reader--though in the original
there are no parenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader
is left to flounder through to the remote verb the best way he

"But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-
government counselor's wife MET," etc., etc. [1]

1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide
    gehuellten jetz sehr ungenirt nach der neusten mode
    gekleideten Regierungsrathin begegnet.

That is from THE OLD MAMSELLE'S SECRET, by Mrs. Marlitt.
And that sentence is constructed upon the most approved
German model. You observe how far that verb is from
the reader's base of operations; well, in a German
newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page;
and I have heard that sometimes after stringing along the
exciting preliminaries and parentheses for a column or two,
they get in a hurry and have to go to press without getting
to the verb at all. Of course, then, the reader is left
in a very exhausted and ignorant state.

We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one
may see cases of it every day in our books and newspapers:
but with us it is the mark and sign of an unpracticed
writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas with the Germans
it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen
and of the presence of that sort of luminous intellectual
fog which stands for clearness among these people.
For surely it is NOT clearness--it necessarily can't
be clearness. Even a jury would have penetration enough
to discover that. A writer's ideas must be a good
deal confused, a good deal out of line and sequence,
when he starts out to say that a man met a counselor's
wife in the street, and then right in the midst of this
so simple undertaking halts these approaching people
and makes them stand still until he jots down an inventory
of the woman's dress. That is manifestly absurd.
It reminds a person of those dentists who secure your instant
and breathless interest in a tooth by taking a grip on it
with the forceps, and then stand there and drawl through
a tedious anecdote before they give the dreaded jerk.
Parentheses in literature and dentistry are in bad taste.

The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they
make by splitting a verb in two and putting half of it
at the beginning of an exciting chapter and the OTHER
HALF at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything
more confusing than that? These things are called
"separable verbs." The German grammar is blistered
all over with separable verbs; and the wider the two
portions of one of them are spread apart, the better
the author of the crime is pleased with his performance.
A favorite one is REISTE AB--which means departed.
Here is an example which I culled from a novel and reduced
to English:

"The trunks being now ready, he DE- after kissing his
mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom
his adored Gretchen, who, dressed in simple white muslin,
with a single tuberose in the ample folds of her rich
brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale
from the terror and excitement of the past evening,
but longing to lay her poor aching head yet once again
upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly than
life itself, PARTED."

However, it is not well to dwell too much on the
separable verbs. One is sure to lose his temper early;
and if he sticks to the subject, and will not be warned,
it will at last either soften his brain or petrify it.
Personal pronouns and adjectives are a fruitful nuisance
in this language, and should have been left out.
For instance, the same sound, SIE, means YOU, and it means SHE,
and it means HER, and it means IT, and it means THEY,
and it means THEM. Think of the ragged poverty of a
language which has to make one word do the work of six--and
a poor little weak thing of only three letters at that.
But mainly, think of the exasperation of never knowing
which of these meanings the speaker is trying to convey.
This explains why, whenever a person says SIE to me,
I generally try to kill him, if a stranger.

Now observe the Adjective. Here was a case where simplicity
would have been an advantage; therefore, for no other reason,
the inventor of this language complicated it all he could.
When we wish to speak of our "good friend or friends,"
in our enlightened tongue, we stick to the one form and have
no trouble or hard feeling about it; but with the German
tongue it is different. When a German gets his hands
on an adjective, he declines it, and keeps on declining
it until the common sense is all declined out of it.
It is as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:


Nominative--Mein gutER Freund, my good friend.
Genitives--MeinES GutEN FreundES, of my good friend.
Dative--MeinEM gutEN Freund, to my good friend.
Accusative--MeinEN gutEN Freund, my good friend.


N.--MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends. G.--MeinER gutEN
FreundE, of my good friends. D.--MeinEN gutEN FreundEN,
to my good friends. A.--MeinE gutEN FreundE, my good friends.

Now let the candidate for the asylum try to memorize
those variations, and see how soon he will be elected.
One might better go without friends in Germany than take
all this trouble about them. I have shown what a bother
it is to decline a good (male) friend; well this is
only a third of the work, for there is a variety of new
distortions of the adjective to be learned when the object
is feminine, and still another when the object is neuter.
Now there are more adjectives in this language than there
are black cats in Switzerland, and they must all be as
elaborately declined as the examples above suggested.
Difficult?--troublesome?--these words cannot describe it.
I heard a Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of
his calmest moods, that he would rather decline two drinks
than one German adjective.

The inventor of the language seems to have taken pleasure
in complicating it in every way he could think of.
For instance, if one is casually referring to a house,
HAUS, or a horse, PFERD, or a dog, HUND, he spells these
words as I have indicated; but if he is referring to them
in the Dative case, he sticks on a foolish and unnecessary
E and spells them HAUSE, PFERDE, HUNDE. So, as an added
E often signifies the plural, as the S does with us,
the new student is likely to go on for a month making
twins out of a Dative dog before he discovers his mistake;
and on the other hand, many a new student who could ill
afford loss, has bought and paid for two dogs and only
got one of them, because he ignorantly bought that dog
in the Dative singular when he really supposed he was
talking plural--which left the law on the seller's side,
of course, by the strict rules of grammar, and therefore
a suit for recovery could not lie.

In German, all the Nouns begin with a capital letter.
Now that is a good idea; and a good idea, in this language,
is necessarily conspicuous from its lonesomeness. I consider
this capitalizing of nouns a good idea, because by reason
of it you are almost always able to tell a noun the minute
you see it. You fall into error occasionally, because you
mistake the name of a person for the name of a thing,
and waste a good deal of time trying to dig a meaning
out of it. German names almost always do mean something,
and this helps to deceive the student. I translated
a passage one day, which said that "the infuriated tigress
broke loose and utterly ate up the unfortunate fir forest"
(Tannenwald). When I was girding up my loins to doubt this,
I found out that Tannenwald in this instance was a
man's name.

Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system
in the distribution; so the gender of each must be
learned separately and by heart. There is no other way.
To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book.
In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.
Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip,
and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it
looks in print--I translate this from a conversation
in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

"Gretchen. Wilhelm, where is the turnip?

"Wilhelm. She has gone to the kitchen.

"Gretchen. Where is the accomplished and beautiful English

"Wilhelm. It has gone to the opera."

To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds
are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless,
dogs are male, cats are female--tomcats included, of course;
a person's mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet,
and body are of the male sex, and his head is male
or neuter according to the word selected to signify it,
and NOT according to the sex of the individual who wears
it--for in Germany all the women either male heads or
sexless ones; a person's nose, lips, shoulders, breast,
hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair,
ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience
haven't any sex at all. The inventor of the language
probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.

Now, by the above dissection, the reader will see that in
Germany a man may THINK he is a man, but when he comes to look
into the matter closely, he is bound to have his doubts;
he finds that in sober truth he is a most ridiculous mixture;
and if he ends by trying to comfort himself with the
thought that he can at least depend on a third of this
mess as being manly and masculine, the humiliating second
thought will quickly remind him that in this respect
he is no better off than any woman or cow in the land.

In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor
of the language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife (Weib)
is not--which is unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex;
she is neuter; so, according to the grammar, a fish
is HE, his scales are SHE, but a fishwife is neither.
To describe a wife as sexless may be called under-description;
that is bad enough, but over-description is surely worse.
A German speaks of an Englishman as the ENGLAENDER; to change
the sex, he adds INN, and that stands for Englishwoman--
ENGLAENDERINN. That seems descriptive enough, but still
it is not exact enough for a German; so he precedes the
word with that article which indicates that the creature
to follow is feminine, and writes it down thus: "die
Englaenderinn,"--which means "the she-Englishwoman."
I consider that that person is over-described.

Well, after the student has learned the sex of a great
number of nouns, he is still in a difficulty, because he
finds it impossible to persuade his tongue to refer
to things as "he" and "she," and "him" and "her," which
it has been always accustomed to refer to it as "it."
When he even frames a German sentence in his mind,
with the hims and hers in the right places, and then works
up his courage to the utterance-point, it is no use--
the moment he begins to speak his tongue files the track
and all those labored males and females come out as "its."
And even when he is reading German to himself, he always
calls those things "it," where as he ought to read in this way:


2. I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and
    ancient English) fashion.

It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail,
how he rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along,
and of the Mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife,
it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its Basket
of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales
as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale
has even got into its Eye. and it cannot get her out.
It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound comes
out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm.
And now a Tomcat has got one of the Fishes and she
will surely escape with him. No, she bites off a Fin,
she holds her in her Mouth--will she swallow her? No,
the Fishwife's brave Mother-dog deserts his Puppies and
rescues the Fin--which he eats, himself, as his Reward.
O, horror, the Lightning has struck the Fish-basket;
he sets him on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the
doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue; now she
attacks the helpless Fishwife's Foot--she burns him up,
all but the big Toe, and even SHE is partly consumed;
and still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues;
she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys IT; she attacks
its Hand and destroys HER also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg
and destroys HER also; she attacks its Body and consumes HIM;
she wreathes herself about its Heart and IT is consumed;
next about its Breast, and in a Moment SHE is a Cinder;
now she reaches its Neck--He goes; now its Chin--
IT goes; now its Nose--SHE goes. In another Moment,
except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more.
Time presses--is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy,
joy, with flying Feet the she-Englishwoman comes! But alas,
the generous she-Female is too late: where now is
the fated Fishwife? It has ceased from its Sufferings,
it has gone to a better Land; all that is left of it
for its loved Ones to lament over, is this poor smoldering
Ash-heap. Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap! Let us take him
up tenderly, reverently, upon the lowly Shovel, and bear
him to his long Rest, with the Prayer that when he rises
again it will be a Realm where he will have one good square
responsible Sex, and have it all to himself, instead of
having a mangy lot of assorted Sexes scattered all over him
in Spots.


There, now, the reader can see for himself that this pronoun
business is a very awkward thing for the unaccustomed tongue.
I suppose that in all languages the similarities of look
and sound between words which have no similarity in meaning
are a fruitful source of perplexity to the foreigner.
It is so in our tongue, and it is notably the case in
the German. Now there is that troublesome word VERMAEHLT:
to me it has so close a resemblance--either real or
fancied--to three or four other words, that I never know
whether it means despised, painted, suspected, or married;
until I look in the dictionary, and then I find it means
the latter. There are lots of such words and they are
a great torment. To increase the difficulty there are
words which SEEM to resemble each other, and yet do not;
but they make just as much trouble as if they did.
For instance, there is the word VERMIETHEN (to let,
to lease, to hire); and the word VERHEIRATHEN (another way
of saying to marry). I heard of an Englishman who knocked
at a man's door in Heidelberg and proposed, in the best
German he could command, to "verheirathen" that house.
Then there are some words which mean one thing when you
emphasize the first syllable, but mean something very
different if you throw the emphasis on the last syllable.
For instance, there is a word which means a runaway,
or the act of glancing through a book, according to the
placing of the emphasis; and another word which signifies
to ASSOCIATE with a man, or to AVOID him, according to
where you put the emphasis--and you can generally depend
on putting it in the wrong place and getting into trouble.

There are some exceedingly useful words in this language.
SCHLAG, for example; and ZUG. There are three-quarters
of a column of SCHLAGS in the dictonary, and a column
and a half of ZUGS. The word SCHLAG means Blow, Stroke,
Dash, Hit, Shock, Clap, Slap, Time, Bar, Coin, Stamp, Kind,
Sort, Manner, Way, Apoplexy, Wood-cutting, Enclosure,
Field, Forest-clearing. This is its simple and EXACT
meaning--that is to say, its restricted, its fettered meaning;
but there are ways by which you can set it free,
so that it can soar away, as on the wings of the morning,
and never be at rest. You can hang any word you please
to its tail, and make it mean anything you want to.
You can begin with SCHLAG-ADER, which means artery,
and you can hang on the whole dictionary, word by word,
clear through the alphabet to SCHLAG-WASSER, which means
bilge-water--and including SCHLAG-MUTTER, which means

Just the same with ZUG. Strictly speaking, ZUG means Pull,
Tug, Draught, Procession, March, Progress, Flight, Direction,
Expedition, Train, Caravan, Passage, Stroke, Touch, Line,
Flourish, Trait of Character, Feature, Lineament, Chess-move,
Organ-stop, Team, Whiff, Bias, Drawer, Propensity, Inhalation,
Disposition: but that thing which it does NOT mean--when
all its legitimate pennants have been hung on, has not been
discovered yet.

One cannot overestimate the usefulness of SCHLAG and ZUG.
Armed just with these two, and the word ALSO, what cannot
the foreigner on German soil accomplish? The German word
ALSO is the equivalent of the English phrase "You know,"
and does not mean anything at all--in TALK, though it
sometimes does in print. Every time a German opens his
mouth an ALSO falls out; and every time he shuts it he bites
one in two that was trying to GET out.

Now, the foreigner, equipped with these three noble words,
is master of the situation. Let him talk right along,
fearlessly; let him pour his indifferent German forth,
and when he lacks for a word, let him heave a SCHLAG into
the vacuum; all the chances are

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