1794 - Ann Radcliffe
We had a curiosity to see this place, which, under the name of Seltzer, is so celebrated throughout Europe, for its medicinal water. Though it is rather in the high road to Franckfort than to Mentz [Mainz], there seemed no probability of inconvenience in making this short departure from our route, when it was to be joined again from a place of such public access as Selters appeared likely to be found.
About seven miles from Limbourg, a descent commences, at the bottom of which stands this village. What a reproof to the expectations of comfort, or convenience in Germany! Selters, a spot, to which a valetudinarian might be directed, with the prospect of his finding not only abundant accommodation, but many luxuries, Selters is literally and positively nothing more than an assemblage of miserable cottages, with one inn and two houses for officers of the Elector, stuck in a dirty pass, which more resembles a ditch than a road. The village may be said to be near half a mile long, because the huts, being mostly separated from each other, continue as far; and this length would increase its inconvenience to invalids, if such should ever stay there longer than to see it, for there is nothing like a swept path-way, and the road, in which they must walk, is probably always deeply covered with mud, being so when we were there in the be
glnning of July. There was then, however, not one stranger, beside ourselves, in the place, and we found, that very rarely any aggravate the miseries of sickness by a stay at Selters.
The only lodgings to be had are at the inn, and fortunately for travellers this is not such as might be expected from the appearance of the village. Finding there the novelty of an obliging host and hostess, we were very well contented to have reached it, at night, though we were to stay there also the next day, being Sunday. The rooms are as good as those in the inns of German cities, and three, which are called Court Chambers, having been used by the Elector and lately by the King of Prussia, are better. These are as open as the others to strangers.
The spring is at the foot of one of several hills, which immediately surround the village, and is separated from the road by a small court yard. An oaken covering, at the height of ten or twelve feet, prevents rain from falling into the wooden basin, in which the stream rises; and two or three of the Elector's guards watch over it, that no considerable quantity may be taken, without payment of the duty, which forms a large part of his income. Many thousands of stone bottles are piled round this court, and, for the reputation of the spring, care is taken to fill them as immediately as poslible, before their removal for exportation.
The policy of keeping this income intire is said to be a motive for neglecting the condition of the village. A duty could not well be demanded of those, who should drink at the spring, but is easily collected before the water is bottled for removal; it is, therefore, not wished, that there should be many visitors, at Selters. We did not hear this reason upon the spot, but it is difficult otherwise to account for a negligence, which prevents the inhabitants of the neighbouring country from being enriched at the expence of wanderers from others.
Nor is it only a duty, but the whole profit of the traffick, till the water leaves the place, which rewards the care of the Elector. His office for the sale of it is established here, and his agents alone transmit it into foreign countries. The business is sufficient to employ several clerks, and the number of bottles annually filled is so immense, that, having omitted to write it down, we will not venture to mention it from memory. The water is brought to table constantly and at an easy price in all the towns near the Rhine. Mixed with Rhenish wine and sugar it forms a delightful, but not always a safe beverage, in hot weather. The acid of the wine, expelling the fixed air of other ingredients, occasions an effervescence, like that of Champagne, but the liquor has not a fourth part of the obnoxious strength of the latter. The danger of drinking it is, that the acid may be too powerful for some constitutions.
After being surprised by the desolateness of the village, we were not less so to find amongst its few inhabitants one, whose manners and information, so far from bearing the character of the dreariness around him, were worthy of the best society in the most intelligent cities. This was the Commissary and Privy Counsellor of the Elector for the district, who, having heard, that there were some English visitors at the well, very frankly introduced himself to us by his civilities, and favoured us with his company in the afternoon. He had been in England, with many valuable introductions, and had formed from the talents and accomplishments of a distinguished Marquis an high opinion of the national character; a circumstance, which probably united with his natural disposition, in inducing him to emulate towards us the general politeness of that truly honourable person.
A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany
Dublin 1795; Reprint 1975