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Adelbert von Chamisso

  • German poet
  • Born January 30, 1781
  • Died August 21, 1838

Adelbert von Chamisso (German pronunciation: [ˈaːdl̩bɛʁt fɔn ʃaˈmɪso]; 30 January 1781 – 21 August 1838) was a German poet and botanist, author of Peter Schlemihl, a famous story about a man who sold his shadow. He was commonly known in French as Adelbert de Chamisso (or Chamissot) de Boncourt, a name referring to the family estate at Boncourt.


All possible means were used by the infatuated parents to conclude the bargain; and deception put an end to these usual artifices.




My vanity was flattered by having been mistaken for our revered sovereign. I ordered a banquet to be got ready for the following evening, under the trees before my house, and invited the whole town.




A person without a shadow should keep out of the sun, that is the only safe and rational plan.




In this watering-place I acted an heroic character, badly studied; and being a novice on such a stage, I forgot my part before a pair of lovely blue eyes.




On recovering my senses, I hastened to quit a place where I hoped there was nothing further to detain me. I first filled my pockets with gold, then fastened the strings of the purse round my neck, and concealed it in my bosom.




I will give you three days to seek your shadow. Return to me in the course of that time with a well-fitted shadow, and you shall receive a hearty welcome; otherwise, on the fourth day - remember, on the fourth day - my daughter becomes the wife of another.




This man, although he appeared so humble and embarrassed in his air and manners, and passed so unheeded, had inspired me with such a feeling of horror by the unearthly paleness of his countenance, from which I could not avert my eyes, that I was unable longer to endure it.




After a prosperous, but to me very wearisome, voyage, we came at last into port. Immediately on landing I got together my few effects; and, squeezing myself through the crowd, went into the nearest and humblest inn which first met my gaze.




The word majesty was now dropped; but, with the deepest respect and humility, I was addressed as the count. What could I do? I accepted the title, and from that moment I was known as Count Peter.




I ordered gold in the meantime to be showered down without ceasing among the happy multitude.




When I spoke, I was listened to; and I was at a loss to know how I had so easily acquired the art of commanding attention, and giving the tone to the conversation.




Because it appears to me a hazardous thing to exchange my soul for my shadow.




My first care the following morning was, to devise some means of discovering the man in the grey cloak.




Of what use were wings to a man fast bound in chains of iron?



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