…in 18th century Germany, that is. Dr John Moore was Scottish physcian who lived in Europe with the Duke of Hamilton in the 1770’s and left a record of his impressions in ‘A view of Soceity and Manners in France, Switzerland and Germany.’ He is an often very entertaining read. He talks about the Duke of Hamilton accepting the invitations of a number of the local gentry in Frankfort to see their cabinets of curiosities. These were collections of, well, anything really, like the contents of a small town museum, minerals, monsters, bits of petrified wood. The emphasis being on natural philosophy, which distinguishes them from a picture gallery etc. So the Duke, obviously a friendly sort of man, had said he’d love to see some of these without realising these would lead to his hosts lecturing him for several hours. Dr Moore says:
‘I began this letter in Frankfort, not suspecting that our departure would be so sudden. But as the day approached on which we had been promised the sight of another cabinet of curiosities, I found the Duke’s impatience to be gone increase every moment.’
I love the idea of the Duke fleeing the city wild-eyed. There’s a character in Instruments who has an extensive collection of beetles that he likes to show in great detail, so I imagine the Duke scarpering, with Sir Stephen’s German cousins on his tail, bad wigs and all. The journey onward was apparently even more unpleasant and frustrating than usual, but the Duke dealt with it all ‘… with a wonderful serenity contemplating the happy evasion he had made from the cabinets at Frankfort. A slave who had escaped the mines could not have shown greater satisfaction.’
It’s these sorts of passages that make the research fun for me. I can see it. And if I can see it, I can write it.