When the Swiss lawyer Albin Schram died in 2005, he left behind an extraordinary collection of letters by some of Western civilisation’s greatest minds. They will soon go under the hammer – but here are the highlights of the collection…
From The Independent:
Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine de Beauharnais, following a row during the preparations for their marriage on 9 March 1796. Translated from the French.
“So you thought that I did not love you for yourself! For what, then? Oh Madame, did you really think this? Could such an unworthy feeling have been conceived by such a pure spirit? I am still astonished at it, but less however than at the feeling which on my awakening brings me back to your feet, without resentment and without willpower. It is certainly impossible to be weaker or further abased. What then is your strange power, incomparable Josephine? One of your thoughts poisons my life, tears my soul apart… but a stronger feeling, a less sensitive mood, takes hold of me, draws me back and rules me again as if I were guilty. I truly feel that if we quarrel I should close my heart… And you mio dolce amor – Have you spared me even two thoughts?!!! I kiss you three times, once on your heart, once on your lips and once on your eyes.”
Albert Einstein to his childhood friend Paul Habicht, written in Connecticut, 5 July, 1935. The reference in the first sentence is to Habicht’s ill-health.
“I heard recently that the Devil – the only one who is never without work these days – has had his claws firmly in you. He will let you go again sooner or later, as in the long period of our separation has already happened to me twice, although he seemed to have me firmly in his paws. Do you still remember when we were young, and we were working together on those nice little electrostatic machines? Do you also remember our conversation about the politics of Germany, which you were still defending during the war, while I had already got to know at first hand the consequent dangers? I weighed anchor just at the right moment from there, so that I at least didn’t get to feel the claws of the clean-cut heroes in my back. I have now set up home in this curious new world and am still brooding like an old hen on the same old scientific eggs, even if the bodily warmth which one needs for brooding has rather diminished over the years. What is so nice in this country is that the people don’t sit so much on top of one another and, as a result, feel more comfortable with each other. So I sit here the whole summer in a quiet bay and sail in a little sailing boat as much as I want to. And one becomes some sort of Indian in this sun.”