In November 1852 Thackeray left for his first lecture-tour of the United States; and one of the first evenings out that he had there was devoted to hearing Henriette Sontag sing at the Boston Melodeon. He had obviously not been permanently put off by that lack of freshness in her ageing voice which he had noticed, with regret, more than two years before (LPP ii. 655—6, iii. 112). In New York he used his knowledge of German to confound the ‘dire humbug & imposture’ of a séance, asking questions of the ‘spirit’ who allegedly spoke through the medium, in that language as well as in Latin. ‘What pained me was to see kind good people believing—to see what folly satisfied them, what childish ideas of God they have’ (to Jane Elliot and Kate Perry, 28 Nov.—1 Dec. 1852; LPP iii. 134). He had left his daughters in Paris, looked after by his mother and stepfather; a letter from Anne assured him that even in that English-French atmosphere his injunctions about keeping up their German had not been forgotten; she describes her younger sister’s ‘bursting into German’ with the maid of some other children they were playing with. She also delighted her father by saying her fellow-pupils in classes she attended with her grandmother’s Protestant pastor, Adolphe Monod, included ‘Miss Stumff, the stupid one—isn’t it a good name?’ Since ‘stumpf’ means ‘dull’, it seems likely that Anne made up the name, using her father’s favourite ‘oomph’ sound (30 Nov. 1852; LPP iii. 138—9). Thackeray himself, it appears, fell back on his use of German as a kind of secret language when he reminded his young friend in New York, Lucy Baxter, how he had once kissed her: ‘Das ich dich mein liebes schönes Mädchen so herzlich einmal gekusst habe—that’s between you & me, isn’t it though you may show it to your mamma if you like’ (Jan. 1853; LPP iii. 163). Lucy had been taking German lessons from 394a teacher whom Thackeray mischievously and predictably nicknames ‘Herr Strumpf and to whom he attributes his own cod German when hearing that his young pupil is indisposed: ‘Ach du lieber Himmel! says Herr Strumpf—die schöne Fräulein ist krank and bursts into tears on the Pianofortifyers when they hear the news (through his sobs) from black John’ (to Lucy Baxter, 19 Feb. 1853; LPP iii. 207). Among the German gobbets he strews into his letters to the Baxters is one addressed to Lucy’s elder sister Sally, with whom he carried on a playful flirtation with sexual undertones: ‘Wir haben uns alle so lieb’—‘we all love one another so much’. The recipient may not have recognized this as a line from a poem by Kotzebue significantly entitled ‘Trost beim Scheiden’—‘Consolation at Parting’ (3 Nov. 1853; LPP iii. 314).