Изображения страниц

Byron, Wallis, Carteret, Bougainville, decision: "Much sooner apothecary than and Cook had awakened.

chamberlain.” The perseverance with which Cook A gentleman named Kunth, comparasailed three successive times round the tively little known among educationists, world, (1768–71, 1772-75, 1776–79,) tore but who deserves the highest commendathe veil from the unknown half of the tion for the services he rendered to the globe, and kindled the civilized world brothers Humboldt, was the master who with inspiration. The example set by directed the education of the two lads. Cook, and his companions Banks, Solander, He entered the family in 1777, at the age Sparrman, and the two Forsters, stimu- of 22. Wilhelm was then ten, and Alexlated to imitation, and led Vancouver ander eight years of age, and continued and Flinders on the coast of New Holland in his post after the death of Major von and New Zealand.

Humboldt, in 1779. The spirit of exploration was, however, Kunth was no mean scholar. He had by no means confined to the ocean. considerable acquaintance with the GerCatharine of Russia received information man, Roman, and French literature, and about Northern Asia through the travels also with philosophy and history; but it of the St. Petersburg Academicians, is very likely that he did not personally Gmelin, Pallas, and Georgi. Themberg instruct his pupils much in any thing. He brought reports about Eastern Asia. The was always modest enough to claim only East India Company and the British a small share in the mental superiority ambassadors contributed to the know- which both brothers reached in after life. ledge of India, Persia, and Java. The Henriette Hertz mentions that when Alexmost instructive revelations about the ander von Humboldt delivered his wonnatural geography and history of Pales- derful lectures to a mixed Berlin audience, tine, Syria, and Asia Minor were made in the winter of 1827–28, and having at by Niebuhr, Volney, Choiseul, Gouffer, one moment excited the admiration of his and Le Chevalier; and, in fact, every- hearers to an extraordinary pitch, Kunth where discoveries were made, and know-whispered to her: “From me he has cerledge added and heaped upon the exist-tainly not learnt this.” ing store; while national vanity, political The real value of Kunth consisted in interests, commercial speculations, and his persevering but judicious efforts to enthusiasm for knowledge and science, obtain for his pupils all that Berlin could all tended towards opening for the Eu- yield for increasing their knowledge and ropean spirit of discovery free access in improving their minds; and in these every direction, in every branch of efforts he received the kindest and most science, and in all parts of the world, and considerate support from the Baroness. stimulated it to still greater enterprise. Thus the most able men were selected as What wonder, therefore, if the love of tutors, and most of them occupied a high travel and the desire for knowledge and position in German literature; the chief scientific discoveries of the boy, as of the of them were Engel, David Friedlaender, youthful Humboldt, should have proceed- the pupil and friend of Mozes Mened to develop themselves in continuously delssohn; the mathematician Fischer, increasing intensity.

the botanist Willdenow, the jurist Klein, In addition to these propensities, Hum- the political economist, Dohm, were all boldt had, from his earliest childhood, a engaged in the instruction of Wilhelm great fondness for natural history, and he and Alexander von Humboldt, and all devoted himself with the most extraordi- retained, to the end of their existence, nary ardor to the pursuit of physical in the friendship and grateful fondness of structions, so much so, that he was, as a their pupils. child, playfully called “the little apothe- Alexander received also, with the best cary.” On one occasion, his aunt, whose results, instructions in the fine arts. He husband was a royal chamberlain, asked contributed to the first Berlin art exhibithe boy, jocularly, whether he really tion in 1786, under the division Amateurs intended to become an apothecary, and to (No 290); a picture, “Friendship weeps occupy himself always with plants and o'er the ashes of a deceased,” drawn in stones, with herbs, small boxes and bot- black chalk, after Angelica Kauffmann. tles. He replied with warm and sarcastic His botanical, zoological, anatomical, and other drawings, as well as his cartho- | hood may have laid the foundation of that graphic works and landscape sketches, indomitable perseverance and assiduity are known to all who are acquainted with which distinguishes him, even at the preshis scientific labors; it is, however, not ent moment, is an interesting inquiry; generally known that he at a later period our own impression is, that the apparent amused himself by painting and drawing backwardness of Humboldt, and the still with Gerard at Paris; that he finished greater deficiency of the great men we some of the most severe studies from have mentioned, were in reality advantamodels as well as from life; and that he ges, as regards the formation of their produced some very good things, even in minds and characters, because they fosportrait painting. We have seen his por- tered thought and induced perseverance, trait, the size of life, in black chalk, drawn and that they were to be attributed rather by himself, with an autograph inscription, to their distinctive order of mind than to “ Alexander von Humboldt, by myself, in mental weakness. Men like Albertus, the looking-glass;" this may be ranked Newton, Linne, and Humboldt, do not among the best portraits of himself. A belong to the naturally perceptive, but hasty but more remote view of the youth of rather to the naturally inquiring order of Alexander von Humboldt is obtained in men; hence, the first, from their earliest inthe biography of the formerly celebrated fancy, involuntarily see and remark all that Doctor at Berlin, who is still remembered is presented to them; their faculties are, under the name of “The Old Heim.” In as it were, exterior, while the inquiring his diary, under the date 30 July, 1781, he mind is as necessarily interior, less able to says: “Rode to Tegel and dined with the acquire knowledge until the mind is capaBaroness von Humboldt; explained to the ble of an intellectual effort and a process young Humboldts the twenty-four classes of comparison; the first sees because he of plants according to the Linnæan system, cannot avoid it, the other because he which the eldest understood very easily, seeks; in the one case it is intuition, in and remembered the names directly.” On the other design ; in the one case curiosity, the 19th May, 1785: “Rode with the in the other inquiry: the one is perceptive, friends at Tegel Herrn Kunth and his cel the other conceptive; it follows, therefore, ebrated pupils to Spandau, to examine that the first commences to learn when he minutely the Special Review.”

is able to feel, the other when he is able to Wilhelm was sixteen and Alexander contemplate, compare, and think; and, fourteen years of age at that time; we therefore, that precocious children are seltherefore suspect in the word “ celebrated" dom the fathers of great minds, while pupils, an interpolation of modern polite- great thinkers have seldom been early obness, for Alexander mentions himself, servers. Many great minds perish by the that his instructors quite despaired, during way; some, because their real powers are the first years of his childhood, that even mistaken, and they are placed beyond the moderate mental powers would ever be reach of development; others, because developed in him; but the divine light surrounding circumstances are adverse to seemed to have entered his soul all at once. their acquiring information, or exercising

Instances might be given where the their faculties, and all because it is much blossoming of some of the fairest flowers more difficult to display thought than perwas delayed until a very late period. Al- ception, the first being rarely understood bertus Magnus was so weak-minded in his and seldom appreciated. childhood, that he seemed incapable of It is a well-known fact that contemplative acquiring even the alphabet. Newton's powers must be mighty indeed to make genius was, in early youth, so obscured, themselves felt; and it is owing to this that his mother took him from school, with that many first-rate thinkers, but devoid the idea of making him a farmer. Linne's perhaps of transcendent ability, or lacking father had for similar reasons intended to opportunity, have never been able to acapprentice his son to a shoemaker; and Mo- complish much for themselves or the lière only learned reading and writing in his world. fourteenth year. Alexander von Hum- Fortunate is it for Humboldt that he boldt was, indeed, not so apparently de- lived in an age when scientific pursuits void of parts, but he had to exert him- were so various as to afford room for a self very much in order to acquire infor- universalist, and when materialism is so mation. How far this necessity in child- much the order of the day, that even the very highest speculative philosophy finds ring the last winter, and I am bound to few admirers, and none but the very high devote my little leisure to study.” Even est is able to make itself felt at all; and as late as the 17th September, 1799, Humboldt would never have attained to Kunth seems to have been anxious about his present high eminence had he devoted his health ; he writes to Moll: “If his himself either to pure contemplative phi- health does not give way under the clilosophy, or to any single scientific pursuit; mate and the hardships of his journey, he wants some of the faculties which what may natural philosophy, in its most make the philosopher; and he is too mani extended range, not promise itself from fold to have devoted all his energies to the observations of a man who, possessing one science; he, therefore, chose the me- his vast knowledge, and animated by the dium path, but the one leading to the most intense passion for natural science, safest goal, and for which he is preëmi- has dwelt for years in foreign regions » nently qualified, and has no rival. He Some years prior to their going to the devoted himself to acquire a sufficient university, the Humboldts resided chiefly knowledge of all the sciences, in order to at Berlin, for here alone could they enlist generalize upon them; he built with the the services of men qualified to instruct materials of many masters, and designed them in the various branches of knowby the natural laws which control all ; ledge fitting them for the academic caleaving metaphysics to

to more subtle, reer. deeper, and loftier, minds, he has seldom, Wilhelm von Humboldt writes to the if ever, strayed beyond reach of the pre- lady already mentioned: “You desire to cincts of science and induction.

know where I really resided in 1786, and Humboldt was, as a boy, very weakly the succeeding years. I was at Berlin; and ailing

my mother resided there in the winter George Forster writes on the 14th July, time, and in the summer I also remained 1790, to Heyne: "Baron von Humboldt, in town with my younger brother and who desires to be remembered to you, is our tutor. We rode generally, on Sunwith me, and has kept up pretty well days, to Tegel. I lived thus until the during the journey, but still not so well autumn of 1788. Then, I and my brother, as I could wish. He tells me, however, accompanied by the same tutor, went to that he has been continually ailing since Frankfort-on-the-Oder, which had at that his fifth year, and only enjoyed compara- time a university, and remained until tive health directly after a severe illness, Easter, 1789 ;* when I went with my and that he soon relapsed until a new ill tutor, but without my brother, to Gottinness relieved him again for a time. I am, gen; there my tutor left me, and from however, convinced that his body suffers that time, in my 22d year, I first combecause his mind is too active, and be- menced to live alone, and thus you saw cause his brain has been far too much me in 1789 at Pyrmont. At Easter, 1789, harassed by the logical training in fashion my brother followed me to Gottingen.” at Berlin.” And on the 6th of August, Thus had Kunth completed the educa1791, he writes to Jacobi : “ Alexander tion of his pupils in ten years, without von Humboldt is at Freiburg, and com- their ever having visited a gymnasium, or mences to be passing away from me. any public school. Wilhelm has long ceased to exist for me; During a subsequent career of upwards he is about marrying a lady from Erfurt, of forty years, occupying at times a high a Fraulein of Dachröden, and he has a position among the greatest men of the mind to forego all public employment, day—until the last hour of his existence which, considering his talent, is much to-Kunth continued his attachment, and be regretted. Alexander will be all the never ceased to feel the greatest anxiety more active and persevering, but wants and interest in his former pupils. physical power.” In 1795, Humboldt Maternal gratitude induced the Baroncomplains about his health, in a letter to ess, as early as 1782, to settle an annuity Fraulein Willdenow: “You have cause for life on Kunth, and she confirmed this to be offended at my writing so seldom, amongst other marks of regard in her but if you knew my circumstances you will, as an acknowledgment of her high would excuse, if you could not justify me. I am for ever moving about, had a

*In a subsequent letter he corrects these dates, most severe illness for three months du- they being all one year too late.

[ocr errors]

appreciation of the care and faithfulness into the inner circles of their families, and with which he had discharged the onerous there was, in fact, no general social interduties incident to the intellectual and course. moral education of her children.

What charm or incitement could such Kunth remained through life the ad- a state of things present to young and ministrator of Alexander's property. gifted minds like those of the Humboldts? . When he entered the service of the state, What inducement could even the more nine years before the death of the Ba- enlightened circles, who had banished roness, 1796, he continued an inmate of Lessing as a free-thinker, offer to youths her dwelling, and at his own decease, in who were already moved by the prompt1829, his last resting-place was selected ings of a new mental world? in the family vault at Tegel, close to the The picture drawn by George Forster, grave of Wilhelm von Humboldt. although severe, may give some indication

of the state of society in the Prussian THE SOCIAL CONDITION OF BERLIN IN 1780. capital, and of the impression it made

upon an intelligent Englishman. He writes Ere we follow the brothers Humboldt to his friend Jacobi, during his stay in to the university, a glance may well be Berlin, in 1779: "I have deceived myself thrown at the position of Berlin society very much in the opinion I brought with as forming the historic back-ground to me about this great city. Thus, I found the bright picture presented by the bro- the exterior much handsomer, and the inthers.

terior far blacker, than I had pictured to The influence of the great king was myself. Berlin is, no doubt, one of the still felt during Humboldt's youth. He handsomest cities in Europe. But the inbelonged, as he expressed it at the cele- habitants! Hospitality and rational enbration of the centennial jubilee in honor joyment degenerated into licentiousness of Frederick ascending the throne, “to and gluttony-I might almost say vorathat old generation whose souls still re- ciousness-free and enlightened thinking ceived the image of the great monarch into barreif wantonness and unbridled infrom personal youthful contemplation." fidelity. And then the sensible, clever But although Berlin may then already, clergymen, who, out of the plenty of their and especially since the time of Lessing virtue and moral perfection, purify reliand Mendelssohn, have made some pro- gion and wish to make it perfectly comgress in an enlightened way of answering prehensible to the common understandreligious, social, scientific, artistic, and ing! I expected to find here extraordinary even political questions, yet these pulsa- men, pure, noble, inspired with God's Holy tions of a higher life were very weak and Spirit, simple and full of child-like humiintermittent; they exhibited themselves lity, and lo! I meet with the pride and so rarely and so isolated that there could conceit of the wise and learned ; and these have been no idea of a universal preva- wise men, they are blind, yet possessing lence of the higher affections. The num- clear sight, and deaf with sound hearing. ber of really enlightened men was very The French Academy! Permit me to small, and the domestic social circles in shake the dust from my feet, and proceed which they could permit their lights to further. About the fair sex I would shine were still fewer. The court was rather not speak at all. If ever they were composed of and limited to a few friends, thoroughly corrupt anywhere they are chiefly Frenchmen. The high court and so at Berlin, where selfishness and coquetry military officials, who formed the aristo- are as much at home as in Paris—where cracy, were deficient in all intellectual and the tone of good society proceeds in exengaging sociabilities. The inferior em- actly the same footsteps, inclined to insipid ployés were underpaid and overworked, witticisms and compliments, and to an unand business and general distress checked interrupted effort after the so-called jolis every effort at intellectual or moral im- riens—where nothing is thought of, and, provement. The wealthier portion of the except the grossest sensuousness, nothing mercantile community distinguished itself is felt; and this from the princely circles only in the extravagance with which they down to the lowest citizen." educated their children; but there were It need excite no surprise that such a not even the remotest symptoms of real society should have generally disliked a cultivation. The men of science withdrew | man like Goethe during his stay at Berlin, or that the great poet should have felt dis- particularly valued owing to the excellence gusted and discontented with the degener- of the experiments which accompanied ate brood. He expressed his dislike of the them, and among others they attracted Berliners in one of the coarsest sentences: the two Humboldts to the Herz dwelling. “I swear,” he says “no obscenity, no The immediate cause was the consultation donkeyism of the Jack-pudding kind is about a lightning conductor at Tegel, a so disgusting. I have prayed to the gods safeguard then little known at Berlin. that they may sustain my courage and up- Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt rightness unto the end, and rather to entered almost from the very first moment change the destination than allow me to into the most intimate relations with the creep so miserably along the last stage of Herz family. Surrounded from their earmy journey."

liest infancy by all the elements of a higher Scarcely had Frederick the Great cultivation, it followed that the brothers breathed his last when a stop was put to were, even at the ages of eighteen and intellectual progress, and all the elements sixteen, distinguished for the elegance of of mischief broke loose; shallow bureau- their manners, their vivacity and intellicratic politics, arrogant barrack patriotism, gence, and, in fact, for their amiability and governmental and ecclesiastical interfer-comprehensive range of knowledge. To ence with the affairs and liberties of men, their love of the sublime and beautiful, canting hypocrisy and fraudulent mysticism, there was, no doubt, also added some inalchemists, and “illuminati,” back-stairs terest for beauty itself. Alexander, particintrigue and depraved female influences, ularly, was a graceful dancer; he taught censorship and mental oppression--all ran Mrs. Herz the new minuette' à la reine; riot with brazen effrontery, and blunted and he had in the affairs of the heart a peand stifled every free and noble aspira- culiarly keen instinct. The reminiscences tion.

of other ladies, in later times, who saw him This view of Berlin is confirmed by at his brother Wilhelm's residence at Jena, Forster in 1788, ten years after his first where he visited often, picture him, the visit, in a letter to the then celebrated great naturalist who was continually occuanatomist Sommering, and, also, in a letter pied with galvanic and electric batteries, written to a friend in 1788, by Professor and other implements of science, as a most Fischer, the tutor of both the Humboldts. engaging, handsome man- unquestion

A limited few, who belonged to the ably as the handsomest of the two brothers. school of Lessing and Kunth, kept alive A peculiar feature of the society we have the smouldering flame of a higher intelli- here described is the fact that the chief gence. The chief among these were Engel, elements were composed of Jews and JewBiester, Mendelssohn, David Friedlander, esses; and it is remarkable that at the time Marcus, Herz, and Zöllner. The great we speak of, the intelligence which procharm of these circles was the influence perly proceeded from Lessing was concenexercised in them by some of their female trated in Jewish circles. members. We need only mention the Henriette Herz mentions, through her daughters of Mendelssohn, the pious and biographer, how at that time Jewish society romantic Doreathea Schlegel, Henriette in Berlin was sought after in preference to Mendelssohn, the instructress of the un- every other. How free Humboldt was fortunate Duchess of Praslin, Fraulein from all religious prejudice, may be inBriess (afterwards Frau von Rochow, and ferred from the words of the same lady; then Frau von Fouqué), Henriette Herz, shementions: “That when Alexander von the friend of Schleiermacher and the two Humboldt in these past years correspond. Humboldts, and the great Rehel, a lady ed with a mutual lady friend and myself of, perhaps, the most extraordinary men- from his family seat, Tegel, he generally tal powers.

headed his letters, ‘Castle Tedious;' cerThe social réunions of Rehel became in tainly, he only did this in such letters as time an historical element of Berlin edu- were written in Hebrew characters, for in cation, and the lectures on philosophy and those I had given him and his brother natural history delivered by Marcus Herz Wilhelm the first instructions, which were in his own house, from the commencement subsequently continued with considerable of the eighth decade, became the resort of success by another.” Several of the letters the most select portion of Berlin society. addressed to Mrs. Herz and David Fried.

The lectures on natural philosophy were lander are still in existence, and are cha

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »