letters from a Parkomaniac

1bc92dd0-1725-4c2e-b9ac-b07c77be4bf8Leslie Pitchell at Literary Review:

Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau is not a name that trips lightly off the tongue, or, indeed, is widely known at all. This is a great pity. As this handsomely produced and, in all senses, weighty book proves, he was a traveller whose company can only be relished. His observations, here presented in letters home, are critical of what he finds distasteful and admiring of the congenial. He is sharp, witty and has an ear for a good story. What more could be asked of a companion?

In 1826, the prince faced bankruptcy. A self-styled ‘parkomaniac’, he had ruined himself by trying to turn several square miles of sand and pine forest in Muskau in Silesia into English parkland. In the process, he had gone through his own patrimony and his wife’s dowry. Something drastic was called for and a dramatic scheme was decided on. He and his adored wife, his ‘precious and constant one’, would divorce. Once free, the prince would set off for England to find a new, rich wife, who would be brought back to Muskau to live in harmony with the old one. It would be a very original variation on the ménage à trois.

He was to pursue his Dulcinea in England for just over two years. That country was chosen quite simply because it was the richest in Europe, and allegedly awash with heiresses. The prince openly admitted that his journey owed everything ‘to the profound respect we all have … for English money’.

more here.