Smashing stuff

Posted on 21st February 2012 by simonbeattie

The Oxford Companion to German Literature describes Christian Ludwig Liscow (1701–1760) as ‘a lively and reckless satirist’.  This is surely one of his best books, a wonderful attack on Heinrich Jakob Sivers, ‘a bigoted publicity-seeking scrawler’ as the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie calls him, who reported having discovered a ‘musical stone’ (i.e. with musical notation on it) on the Baltic coast.  The book ostensibly presents the reader with a translation of a letter from one Sir Robert Clifton to a correspondent on the Russian island of Novaya Zemlya regarding an apocalyptic image he has seen in a frozen window pane (illustrated in the frontispiece), but is a thinly-veiled denouncement of Sivers (here ‘Mr Makewind’ of Cambridge University) and the Berliner Akademie, which had recently admitted him as a member.

The book is perhaps the first I’ve had to cover all my interests: Germany, Russia, Britain, music, and I like satire.  Oh, and it’s very, very rare.  The English angle is actually pretty strong, and points to the influence of Swift.  A Tale of a Tub had appeared in German translation only a few years before, in 1729.  ‘Swift was becoming fashionable, and England was seen as the home of satire.  It is possible, even probable, that reading Swift made Liscow publish his satire as if a translation from the English’ (Berthold Litzmann, Christoph Ludwig Liscow in seiner litterarischen Laufbahn, 1883, p. 46).

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One response to “Smashing stuff”

  1. […] like books based on conceits.  See, for example, my earlier post on a 1732 German satire in the form of a translation of a letter from one Sir Robert Clifton to a correspondent on the […]

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