Dresden, 1829

Herr Stauber rushed into the Cafe, and breathless, announced: "He's dead! They killed him."

"Who? What are you talking about, Stauber?"

"Dear Countess; dear Theresa Leopoldine, if you only knew the trouble I'm in!
My closest friend I studied with at Oxford back between 1815 and 1820 was murdered. I just found out..."

"Pray, tell, Stauber, so sorry to hear your friend is dead, but how does it involve you? How are you implicated, and in danger?"

"Well, it's a very long, convoluted story. Actually, there were three of us, friends at Oxford, Germans, studying there at that time. Now, the two of us left, may well be next because this culprit's arm extends far!"

"I see that you're taking this step by step. No way of getting to the point?"

"You will not know who I'm talking about if I take a short cut without some explanation before hand, dear Countess. Well, then, here it is: it's about an English poet, the name is: Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley.."

"But he's been dead these past seven years already, dear Stauber. What's the connection to you three friends at Oxford?"

"You know Shelley, and about Shelley's life?!"

Yes, actually. Professor Faraday had informed me about it in one of his letters some three years after the poet's death.
My English was not so good then but my schematics I supplemented were all in German. We managed since he liked the science discussed."

"Mein Gott, Countess, you're full of surprises! I had no idea you corresponded with Michael Faraday...!

"Well, Stauber, we still don't know an awful lot about each other after all these years, do we?"

"No, that's the truth, dear Theresa Leopoldine, we sure don't."

"Let me make my story short, Stauber, and tell you that I've been studying English since I turned thirteen, at the request of my tutor who had always made it clear to me that the great works of Shakespeare, John Donne, and many excellent English philosophers would not be available in translation. And he was right, my dear, dear Herr Derza. He rescued me from total darkness and ignorance, in more ways than one..."

"That is a good story, indeed. But, please tell now, if you have actually read any of poor Percy Shelley's works?"

"Yes, again, thanks to Professor Faraday's letters. He sent me copies of two major works of Master Shelley: Prometheus Unbound, and The Mask of Anarchy."

"I'm astounded, Countess, and happily so, because, now my story will make so much more sense to you, now that you have read some of his major works. But you have not read Frankenstein, his wife's novel?"

"I found it at a bookseller's in Leipzig a couple of years ago. In English. The owner informed me that it was the general public consensus that Mary Shelley couldn't have written it without Percy's knowledge of what was taking place at Ingolstadt when the secret meetings were taking place there then."

"Oh, and you know all that, dear Countess! We shall have to celebrate that last piece of information that you have imparted to me with some strong brandy to take this all in!"

"Ale might hit the spot, dear Stauber. Much obliged."

* * *

"But wait a minute, Countess! If your tutor, Herr Derza, taught you humanities, how did you get to correspond with Faraday?!"
"Don't laugh like that, Countess! Mock me then, but please explain."

"I don't mock you, Stauber. I'm a bit amused. You obviously didn't know that Radu Derza, my dear tutor, still alive now, is a polymath, like his own tutor, professor, life-long advisor, and friend. Nobody taught me humanities; though I had Radu's wonderful library to read whatever was there..."

"Who!? Who was Derza's professor! Please, I'm at my wits end, suspense is killing me."

Rudjer Boscovich, you might know his work..."

"Mein Gott, Theresa Leopoldine, you are far better educated than had you studied at Oxford, like me! I'm unduly flustered, it's like you drugged me with your information.
Boscovich is considered as good a mathematician as Leibniz, and far better than Newton. Popes, and large cities' Prelates have all consulted him on repairs of domes of cathedrals, broken levies of rivers, and more!"

"Yes, architectural repairs or stability, including repairs to St Peter's Dome, then the stability of the Duomo of Milan, repairs to the library of Cesarea di Vienna, and a report on the damage to sectors of Rome in summer of 1749 due to a whirlwind. There were actually as many as ten to twelve engineering projects that he was actively involved with. They just didn't trust anybody else with their math!. Amazing, would you agree!?"

"Oh, countess! So what did Derza teach you then? Not everything that Boscovich knew!"

"You'd be surprised, dear Stauber...
Let me start with how they met, Radu and Boscovich: Derza met the professor at Pavia, in 1765, when as a fifteen-year-old, he entered his higher studies in mathematics.
Radu Derza is a Serb, like the professor, and already then he spoke fluent Italian and French, like some Serbs still do. That is important, since the professor wrote almost exclusively in French, Italian, and Latin. By that time, Boscovich had written a number of excellent math textbooks for his pupils. And he found Derza to be a really talented pupil.

To continue, Derza followed Boscovich to Milan, where he assisted him at the Brera Observatory, until six years later, in 1775, they moved to Paris, where Boscovich became the director of Naval Optics for the French navy.
In 1783, they returned to Italy; the professor's health was failing. After he had buried his mentor, in 1787, Derza returned to Italy and worked at the Observatory. Then he ended up in Cambridge for a while, before he finally settled down in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Radu Derza was already sixty five, when he met the six-year-old me, in 1815."

"And he's still alive? Herr Derza? He's 79!"

"Yes, Stauber. Radu Derza is 79...
Just one more thing you need to know, Stauber, when I was a little girl, and even now sometimes, I used to pray and thank Rudjer Boscovich for sending Radu my way to teach me what he knew. You've no idea what an incredible 'against all odds' situation it was considering my life then!

"Oh, please tell, Countess. Your story is already too fascinating!"

"Let us save it for next time we see each other, Stauber. And, I have yet to hear your scary story about 'the monster who might be threatening you and your friend, from Oxford. But now, I have to leave. Auf Wiedersehen, dear friend!"

* * *


11/30 - 12/7, 2019


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