Pumpernickel am Rhein

Rheinische Tischsitten und Abendunterhaltung schildert kurz nach Thomas Hood auch William Makepeace Thackeray mit satirischer Note im 62. Kapitel „Am Rhein“ seines satten viktorianischen Gesellschaftsromans Vanity Fair, or, a Novel without a Hero, erschienen 1847/48. Wieder mal ist eine bunte Reisegesellschaft von London in die Sommerfrische aufgebrochen, um sich an zahlreichen Rheinzielen in je geeigneter Weise zu verlustieren. Die folgende Szene spielt im fürstlichen Flecken Pumpernickel, einem jener beinahe schon mythischen Orte am Mittelrhein, welche die gebildeten Engländer seinerzeit magisch anzogen: „It was at the little comfortable Ducal town of Pumpernickel (that very place where Sir Pitt Crawley had been so distinguished as an attache; but that was in early early days, and before the news of the Battle of Austerlitz sent all the English diplomatists in Germany to the right about) that I first saw Colonel Dobbin and his party. They had arrived with the carriage and courier at the Erbprinz Hotel, the best of the town, and the whole party dined at the table d’hote. Everybody remarked the majesty of Jos and the knowing way in which he sipped, or rather sucked, the Johannisberger, which he ordered for dinner. The little boy, too, we observed, had a famous appetite, and consumed schinken, and braten, and kartoffeln, and cranberry jam, and salad, and pudding, and roast fowls, and sweetmeats, with a gallantry that did honour to his nation. After about fifteen dishes, he concluded the repast with dessert, some of which he even carried out of doors, for some young gentlemen at table, amused with his coolness and gallant free- and-easy manner, induced him to pocket a handful of macaroons, which he discussed on his way to the theatre, whither everybody went in the cheery social little German place. The lady in black, the boy’s mamma, laughed and blushed, and looked exceedingly pleased and shy as the dinner went on, and at the various feats and instances of espieglerie on the part of her son. The Colonel–for so he became very soon afterwards–I remember joked the boy with a great deal of grave fun, pointing out dishes which he hadn’t tried, and entreating him not to baulk his appetite, but to have a second supply of this or that. It was what they call a gast-rolle night at the Royal Grand Ducal Pumpernickelisch Hof–or Court theatre–and Madame Schroeder Devrient, then in the bloom of her beauty and genius, performed the part of the heroine in the wonderful opera of Fidelio. From our places in the stalls we could see our four friends of the table d’hote in the loge which Schwendler of the Erbprinz kept for his best guests, and I could not help remarking the effect which the magnificent actress and music produced upon Mrs. Osborne, for so we heard the stout gentleman in the mustachios call her. During the astonishing Chorus of the Prisoners, over which the delightful voice of the actress rose and soared in the most ravishing harmony, the English lady’s face wore such an expression of wonder and delight that it struck even little Fipps, the blase attache, who drawled out, as he fixed his glass upon her, “Gayd, it really does one good to see a woman caypable of that stayt of excaytement.” And in the Prison Scene, where Fidelio, rushing to her husband, cries, “Nichts, nichts, mein Florestan,” she fairly lost herself and covered her face with her handkerchief. Every woman in the house was snivelling at the time, but I suppose it was because it was predestined that I was to write this particular lady’s memoirs that I remarked her.“