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The Clarence Darrow Letters

Karl K. Darrow to Ruby J. Splitstone, November 14, 1905

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.

31 Motz-Strasse, W.30, Berlin.

Tuesday, November 14th.

Dear Ruby:

Your favour of the 31st at hand. This being Tuesday, I suppose I must take my typewriter in hand again and try to think up something to say, though it is only three days since I wrote last. I hope this gets out on the Tuesday boat of the North German Lloyd. I don't think it will get to Bremen in time, but possibly they will send it to Cherbourg and catch it. (Not the steamer, but my letter). Your letter came yesterday at 2.30, while we were eating our fried chicken at dinner. We at excused ourselves at once or nearly so, and read it, together with the mail from Aunt Jennie and Uncle George. Apropos of the former, it appears the fashion at present for the people at home to be kicking themselves because of their imagined bad treatment of Uncle Hubert. Aunt Mary has written three letters and thrown rocks at herself, for staying over in Michigan last summer and other things, in every one of them. Now Aunt Jennie says in her last letter that she was cruel to Uncle Hubert and other things of the same calibre. I was unable to see at the time that they did not do anything they could have done, but I shall begin to think they are confirmed villains pretty soon.

Your letter is at my side, and I shall try to answer your questions in order. No, I am NOT a Deutscher Man yet. If you were here, Ruby, you would know it was impossible for any foreigner ever to speak the German language as rapidly as the natives. There are two German fraus here who fire off polysyllables at the rate of three hundred per minute. The landlady and her sister do it at about two hundred. The sister is about as old as you, and appears to take a malicious delight in addressing


German remarks to me. I smile intelligently and reply ich danke, ach, ja, and other interesting things. Still, perhaps it is not quite so bad as I make it. The following is the composition of our dinner-table -- German-speaking people: The Consul from Mexico, his wife, and two daughters; two fraus; two German officers; the landlady, a Fraulein Koch, and her sister, ten in all. The English-speaking people are represented, by a girl from London, about your age, who is here to learn the language; three Americans from Terre Haute, and three others from 6036 Jefferson Av., Chicago -- seven, or seventeen in all. And as the English all get down to the east end of our table, and leave the west end to the Germans, and we all speak our own languages, we get more English than German, down at our end. However, at supper, the Terre Hautians do not come, and the English are limited to ourselves and the London girl. I think she knows a little more German than I do, and so she converses with the Germans; but as her vocabulary is, like mine, limited, she fills in the interspaces with English, and the Germans only understand because they can speak English too,. She & the landlady's sister invited me to play Halma last night -- I do not know what Halma is, but think it is either a game or a musical instrument -- but owing to something or other it has been postponed till this evening.

I perceive that there is a pushing colony of stamp-collectors down your way. There are three or four more English letters coming for the boys who were too late for the 2 1/2d, and I expect to be in Berlin -- at all events in Germany -- long enough to supply a whole coterie of philatelists with albums.

YES, we have been shivering just as much over here as you have over there. What's more, we have no steam-heat, although they call it that; the temperature in our room rarely rises above 60d. Yesterday it was only two degrees above zero. What do you think of that for weather?


And it has gone below zero once or twice. But let me explain. They use Resumur's thermometer entirely over here, and the zero of that thermometer is freezing, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit; and as a Resumur degree is twice as large as a Fahrenheit degree, it was only 36, after all.

It is almost as had to find news in Berlin, with two million people, as in Kinsman, with her five hundred -- or is it two hundred and fifty? I've really forgotten.

I perceive by your reference to Adam Bede, that the letter you had gotten was the one from Matlock of about the 12th, (of October, of course). But you must have received the one after that Was it from Warwick, Oxford, or London? I think it was from the latter, but am not sure. Kindly state in your letters hereafter the date of the last letter of mine you received, so I can get an idea of how long it takes to get a letter over the ocean.

I see you had a gay old Hallowe'en time. In Brussels, where I spent Hallowe'en, there was nothing of that sort. In France they call it Toussaint (pronounced Tusan). It is a general holiday; schools, shops, bank all closed, everyone (they are Roman Catholics in Brussels) goes to church once in the day, and spends the rest in promenading Brussels boulevards or in some other happy way. About one or two p.m. -- you know Mid-Europe time, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Vienna, etc., is xxxx seven hours ahead of Chicago time -- I thought back to home, where it was 7 a.m., and saw in my mind's eye the myriads of white beans in the grass, the planks and fence rails across the sidewalk, the householders gloomily meandering around contemplating the destruction, and so on. There was a good deal of difference between it and the crowds that P.M. on the Boulvard d'Anvers and the Boulevard du Midi. It was also the first Hallowe''en evening for four years that I hadn't taken a soda at Aunt Mary's evening , down at Bancroft, with the 61st St. cars backing in and the crowds of toughs hanging around. Good old home. 60th St. is better than Unter den Linden any day.


So you had your first snow on the 31st of October. We had ours last night, but it melted immediately. Good old snow. I wish it would keep on snowing and get some real snow on the ground.

Your place, Darrowville, does not suit. It will have to be Karldarrowville.

Why didn't you keep on writing till 9 p.m.? Eight isn't very late. Let's see, eight P.M. in Kinsman is 3 A.M. the next day in Berlin. We weren't in Berlin then, though. We were in Brussels.

It is now 10.52 a.m. -- in Kinsman, 3.52, the wee small hours of the A.M. If you were very industrious you would be getting up now; but if you were only as industrious as I, you would not be up for four hours yetx.

One of our chief amusements is in imagining what the people at home are doing. Until two p.m. we think of you all peacefully snozzing; at that hours we can, by listening hard, hear the alarm-clock. By Kinsman time, we breakfast at two o'clock in the morning. At seven o'clock, as you are getting up, we sit down to a table d'hote which lasts till eight. At half-past nine we sit down again to coffee and rolls, in our own room. At one o'clock we sit down again to supper; and if ever you happen to lunch at that hour, you can imagine me also eating, the landlady's sister addressing unintelligible German remarks to me, Father translating, and I answering with the monosyllable that appears most appropriate for the occasion; the consul and the German ladies talking like the wind at the head of the table with the landlady, and a Welsbach shedding light on the proceedings.

Well, I must stop. It is now 11.01 a.m., or 4.01 in Kinsman and Chicago. I hope to hear from you next week. Keep writing weekly.