Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jean Paul Richter's "Extra-Thoughts" on inkstands and pens

When Fenk came, the _deceased_ Regent made him all he wanted to be: for
it was in this way: When the departed father of his people had become
in the physiological sense a child of the people, _i. e_., had returned
to the age of which he was when they had hung upon him the first
order-ribbon instead of leading-strings, namely, six and a half years,
the eternal signing of his cabinet decrees became much too disagreeable
to the Prince, and at last impossible. As, however, he must after all
still govern, when he could no longer write, the court-engraver cut his
decreeing name so well in stone that he had only to dip the stamp in
ink and press it while moist under the edict: then he had his edict
before him. In this way he governed fifteen per cent. easier; but the
minister one hundred per cent., who, at last, out of gratitude, in
order to relieve the enfeebled Prince even of the heavy handling of the
stamp, dipped, himself, the beautiful seal (which he preferred to
Michael Angelo's) into his own ink-stand; so that the old lord,
several days after his death, had subscribed sundry vocations and
rescripts--but this modeling-stamp of men in general became the
insect's-laying-sting[24] and father of the best government officials,
and at last spawned the Pestilentiary.

                  Extra-Thoughts Upon Regents' Thumbs.

Not the crown but the inkstand oppresses Princes, Grand Masters and
Commanders; not the Sceptre, but the Pen do they find so much
difficulty in wielding, because with the former they merely command,
but with the latter they have to sign what is commanded. A cabinet
councillor would not wonder if a tormented crowned scribe should, like
Roman recruits, amputate his thumb, in order to be freed from the
eternal making of his mark, as _they_ do to escape fighting. But the
reigning and writing heads keep the thumb; they see that the welfare of
the land requires their dipping the pen,--the little illegibleness on
cabinet orders which one calls their name, opens and shuts, like a
magic formula, money-chests, hearts, gates, warehouses, ports; the
black drop of their pen manures and forces or macerates whole fields.
Professor Hoppedizel had, when he was first teacher of morals to the
Scheerau Infante, a good idea, although only in his last month:
might not the princely tutor command the sub-tutor to let the
crown-abecedarian, who of course must one day learn to write, instead
of useless bills of feoffment merely scrawl his name in the middle of
every blank leaf? The child would write his signature without disgust
on as many pages as would be needed in his whole administration--the
sheets might be laid away against the child's coronation--and then (he
continued) when he had bespattered pages enough, as a college would
often require his signature yearly, if, accordingly on New Year's day
the necessary number of signed reams had been distributed among the
colleges to last the whole year--what more would the child need to do
in his whole administration?

                     _End of the Extras-thoughts_.

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